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Pattern Pointers: five ways to use wallpaper

There’s an art to wallpaper in every sense of the word. Inigo advises on how to get it right

Pattern Pointers: five ways to use wallpaper

Use it wrong and you’ll end up with something that resembles your grandmother’s house (and not the glamorous one). Use it right and you’ll bring character and depth to your interior, an instant layer of interest to which to build on. Here, we’ve scoured our sales listings and Almanac features to bring you five ways to use wallpaper, from all-out options to more tentative steps for the uninitiated.

Narborough Hall, Narborough, Norfolk

In the otherwise restrained interiors of this Grade II-listed country house dating back to the 16th-century, a moment of whimsical abandon is indulged in the kitchen and dining room. The wallpaper of choice is a pretty rose-patterned number with the repeated detail of pink-petalled flowers set against a yellow background. The dainty feeling is built upon with 18th-century French dining chairs, a floral tablecloth and a chandelier overhead.

Carlyle Mansions, London SW3

Covering an entire room in an intricate filigree wallpaper when it is also tasked with accommodating Baroque cabinetry, heavily patterned curtains and upholstered furniture might strike one as ill-advised, but such was the style of British designer and academic Bernard Nevill that it somehow works. He was design director of Liberty London in 1965, revitalising their traditional prints; his love for pattern, colour and fabric is unabashedly expressed at his former home in Chelsea – a lesson in following one’s interests wholeheartedly.

Edward Bulmer’s downstairs toilet

It’s no secret that, for those new to wallpaper, the downstairs loo makes for a fertile training ground. A small room, the cost of decorating it is normally more manageable than committing to a bedroom or living area, plus you can get away with being more outlandish, more experimental. You needn’t even use conventional wallpaper – fabric can work too.

Why not take the lead of paint expert Edward Bulmer? He discovered a Rubelli fabric while on holiday and decided to cover his WC in it: “My wife, Emma, and I saw it used in a chateau we stayed at in France. It was hung all the way down this big gallery on the first floor and looked stunning, so we asked them what it was. When we got the price, we decided that perhaps it would suit a small room best!”

The floral interiors of No Feature Walls founder Laura Hunter

We could devote a whole feature to the pearls of wisdom that wallpaper expert Laura Hunter has to share on the matter of decorating with prints and patterns. In fact, we did. When we visited Laura for our ‘A Room of One’s Own’ series, she shared how her childhood fascination with William Morris spawned a life-long interest in heritage and artisan patterns and gave advice on how to design an interior with wallpaper in mind.

Our favourite nugget? “I wanted the wallpaper to be the main feature in the room, and for it to be the focus. There aren’t any other factors to contend with, such as en suite doors and the like, so I wanted the room to be completely cocooned in wallpaper,” Laura said. So, perhaps your next redecoration project can begin with wallpaper selection before anything else.

Beach Lawn, Liverpool, Merseyside

We’re enchanted by the liberal use of wallpaper throughout this Grade II-listed Victorian villa in Liverpool, where decorative art nouveau patterns take centre stage in much of the hallway and corridor spaces. But if we had to choose, it would be the use of this William Morris’ ‘Michaelmas Daisy’ wallpaper in Indigo/Red that we admire most. The restrained furnishings keep the focus firmly on the elaborate pattern of red flowers and blue stems – when it’s this good, why distract?


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