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Home Design with Kevin Sharkey

Decorating with Wallpaper

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Wallpaper has had many incarnations.

The decorative wall covering gained popularity during Renaissance Europe amongst the social elite. It was a natural evolution of the large tapestries the gentry used to hang on their walls during the Middle Ages. Not only did these tapestries and later rolls of paper add visual interest, but they acted as insulating layer between the cold, stone walls and the interior of the room.

While many of the first wallpapers depicted nature scenes or was flocked ( a velvet-like pattern on paper), today the myriad of patterns and colors will fit any space or style of home.

And while many may think that wallpaper is limited to just that...the wall, I think some of it's most clever and impactful examples can be found on shelves, lamps, and many other places that the 14th-century Europeans would've never dreamed of.

Remember to play with scale and think outside the roll when decorating with wallpaper. I hope you enjoy these inspired ideas and projects.

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I love this idea. Wallpapering a door really makes a bright touch. (marthastewart.com)

1 I love this idea. Wallpapering a door really makes a bright touch. (marthastewart.com)

Adelphi Paper Hangings in Sharon Springs, NY crafts incredible wallpapers by hand. Here is a shot of one of their showrooms.

2 Adelphi Paper Hangings in Sharon Springs, NY crafts incredible wallpapers by hand. Here is a shot of one of their showrooms.

Wallpaper borders can be used for more than trimming walls. You can make unique furniture accents like the treatment on this chest. (Martha Stewart Living, April 2006)

3 Wallpaper borders can be used for more than trimming walls. You can make unique furniture accents like the treatment on this chest. (Martha Stewart Living, April 2006)

Here is another way to utilize a wallpaper border. It looks like this border was made for this lamp! (Martha Stewart Living, April 2006)

4 Here is another way to utilize a wallpaper border. It looks like this border was made for this lamp! (Martha Stewart Living, April 2006)

Detailed wallpaper borders make beautiful window valences. (Martha Stewart Living, April 2006)

5 Detailed wallpaper borders make beautiful window valences. (Martha Stewart Living, April 2006)

Some wallpapers stand well on their own as art. (Martha Stewart Living, September 2000)

6 Some wallpapers stand well on their own as art. (Martha Stewart Living, September 2000)

Instead of using a traditional wallpaper border, use a regular roll for a bold visual impact along your molding. (marthastewart.com)

7 Instead of using a traditional wallpaper border, use a regular roll for a bold visual impact along your molding. (marthastewart.com)

Wallpaper can dress up areas that are often underconsidered, like the closet. (marthastewart.com)

8 Wallpaper can dress up areas that are often underconsidered, like the closet. (marthastewart.com)

Dress up plain wastebaskets and umbrella stands with a covering of wallpaper. (marthastewart.com)

9 Dress up plain wastebaskets and umbrella stands with a covering of wallpaper. (marthastewart.com)

A wallpaper headboard is a more affordable and less bulky option for beds. (marthastewart.com)

10 A wallpaper headboard is a more affordable and less bulky option for beds. (marthastewart.com)

Pretty wallpaper patterns can be cut out to make these easy sconces. (marthastewart.com)

11 Pretty wallpaper patterns can be cut out to make these easy sconces. (marthastewart.com)

Bring some pattern to your switchplates with wallpaper. (marthastewart.com)

12 Bring some pattern to your switchplates with wallpaper. (marthastewart.com)

Covering an old table with wallpaper is a great way to disguise scratches. (marthastewart.com)

13 Covering an old table with wallpaper is a great way to disguise scratches. (marthastewart.com)

Even the most common items (the clipboard) can have a sophisticated air with the help of wallpaper. It's a great idea for small, leftover scraps. (marthastewart.com)

14 Even the most common items (the clipboard) can have a sophisticated air with the help of wallpaper. It's a great idea for small, leftover scraps. (marthastewart.com)

Rebecca Robertson and family sit in front of a wall -- covered in  the

15 Rebecca Robertson and family sit in front of a wall -- covered in the "Cactus Paisley" paper from Neisha Crosland. (Martha Stewart Living)

Inexpensive magazine holders get a romantic upgrade with a pretty floral paper. (Martha Stewart Living)

16 Inexpensive magazine holders get a romantic upgrade with a pretty floral paper. (Martha Stewart Living)

Want to create your own view? Attach a beautiful wallpaper sheet to a roller shade. (Martha Stewart Living)

17 Want to create your own view? Attach a beautiful wallpaper sheet to a roller shade. (Martha Stewart Living)

The flowers in this paper create the perfect spot for antique hooks. Voila, an entryway is created. (Blueprint Magazine)

18 The flowers in this paper create the perfect spot for antique hooks. Voila, an entryway is created. (Blueprint Magazine)

Muted color keeps these two wallpapers from competing. (Blueprint Magazine)

19 Muted color keeps these two wallpapers from competing. (Blueprint Magazine)

A instant chair rail is created with dramatic floral border paper. (Blueprint Magazine)

20 A instant chair rail is created with dramatic floral border paper. (Blueprint Magazine)

Add a splash of personality to a lackluster work space by covering plain floating bookshelves with wallpaper.

21 Add a splash of personality to a lackluster work space by covering plain floating bookshelves with wallpaper.

I found some wallpaper products that are fun, chic, and best of all...available for order online.

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An elegant pattern on a Mylar base makes this design a modern twist. walnutwallpaper.com)

1 An elegant pattern on a Mylar base makes this design a modern twist. walnutwallpaper.com)

A graphic pattern is perfect for an accent wall or small space. (dwellstudio.com)

2 A graphic pattern is perfect for an accent wall or small space. (dwellstudio.com)

This damask wallpaper is paintable, so you can customize the color to work with your decor. (Martha Stewart Living, homedepot.com)

3 This damask wallpaper is paintable, so you can customize the color to work with your decor. (Martha Stewart Living, homedepot.com)

A herringbone pattern is inspired by men's suiting -- making it ideal for a library or office. It can also be painted a bespoke color. (Martha Stewart Living, homedepot.com)

4 A herringbone pattern is inspired by men's suiting -- making it ideal for a library or office. It can also be painted a bespoke color. (Martha Stewart Living, homedepot.com)

Don't be afraid to use a bold color and pattern simultaneously. This one works well because the pattern is not too intense. (kremelife.com)

5 Don't be afraid to use a bold color and pattern simultaneously. This one works well because the pattern is not too intense. (kremelife.com)

This dot pattern also comes in a neutral taupe color. (dwellstudio.com)

6 This dot pattern also comes in a neutral taupe color. (dwellstudio.com)

This is a fun take on a malachite pattern. (walnutwallpaper.com)

7 This is a fun take on a malachite pattern. (walnutwallpaper.com)

If an ornate pattern is too much for your entire room, consider using it on an accent piece. You can line a bookshelf or drawer for a surprise kick of pattern. (kremelife.com)

8 If an ornate pattern is too much for your entire room, consider using it on an accent piece. You can line a bookshelf or drawer for a surprise kick of pattern. (kremelife.com)

I think this paper would be so pretty on a dining-room ceiling. (kremelife.com)

9 I think this paper would be so pretty on a dining-room ceiling. (kremelife.com)

The flowing pattern on this paper is so soothing -- perfect for any bedroom or bathroom. (kremelife.com)

10 The flowing pattern on this paper is so soothing -- perfect for any bedroom or bathroom. (kremelife.com)

The whimsy and color palette of this pattern don't take away from its sophisticated look. (anthropologie.com)

11 The whimsy and color palette of this pattern don't take away from its sophisticated look. (anthropologie.com)

Here's a close up. (anthropologie.com)

12 Here's a close up. (anthropologie.com)

A trellis pattern with a Moroccan twist. (kremelife.com)

13 A trellis pattern with a Moroccan twist. (kremelife.com)

This color is so beautiful, subtle, and neutral. (walnutwallpaper.com)

14 This color is so beautiful, subtle, and neutral. (walnutwallpaper.com)

Wainscoting is so classic. This wallpaper version is a more affordable option and can also be painted any color you like. (Martha Stewart Living, homedepot.com)

15 Wainscoting is so classic. This wallpaper version is a more affordable option and can also be painted any color you like. (Martha Stewart Living, homedepot.com)

Vintage wallpapers are always a great option. Isn't this tufted pattern clever? (secondhandrose.com)

16 Vintage wallpapers are always a great option. Isn't this tufted pattern clever? (secondhandrose.com)

A simple and elegant trellis pattern always looks chic. (ballarddesigns.com)

17 A simple and elegant trellis pattern always looks chic. (ballarddesigns.com)

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Comments (5)

  • Thanks for these endless ideas for wallpaper use! I just might use a few if I find just the right pattern. I already put up the wainscoting in three bathrooms after watching you demo it on the show one day. I love it finished off with the wood molding. The paint below my towel racks at one time was not water resistant and therefore the drywall got damaged. Putting new drywall in is a pain so the bead board wallpaper was great. All I did was sand and patch the wall to make it smooth first. I have this old sewing machine table that I don't want to paint but I could put some wallpaper on the top. I love doing home improvement projects or big crafting jobs and you have inspired me! I can just hear my suspicious sister asking, "What's with all the wallpaper?" And then she might lock her bedroom door to make sure I stay out of there! (She's not fond of wallpaper.)

  • very interesting patterns of wallpaper.

  • Wallpaper seems to be more popular again, and I think it is because wallpaper is actually very useful in certain areas, like below the towel rack in the bathroom. A vinyl wallpaper will definitely hold up better than any washable paint. So to protect your wall, it makes much more sense to install wallpaper in certain areas.

  • Great idea. I'm looking for the perfect wallpaper to line the inside of a very dull hutch. I first wanted to paint it, but it really is a nice wood. I think a bold, bright wallpaper (in red & white) is just the thing. And I don't think I'll actually paper the inside, but attach the wallpaper to poster board and maybe use a glue gun to hold it on (don't want to ruin the inside wood, either). What do you think?

  • I love the malachite print! That one is most definitely going on my closet door, thank you for the idea :]

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