Design Consultant Abigail Hall shares her essential and practical advice on how to choose and install the best wallpaper and wall decor to make your home sing
IMAGES: (LEFT) ‘BALEANA’ WALLPAPER IN THE CHILDREN’S ROOM AT THE HOME OF HOUSE OF HACKNEY FOUNDERS FRIEDA GORMLEY AND JAVVY M ROYLE (RIGHT) CUSHIONS, CERAMICS AND LIGHTSHADE FROM WICKLEWOOD / JON BOND PHOTOGRAPHY
After almost 15 years working as a designer, I still get a buzz from seeing wallpapers used in innovative ways and discovering exciting new ranges. I’ve just covered my hallway ceiling with an agate design paper, based on some online inspiration, and it looks fab. However, while there are no shortage of creative ideas to be found online, the practicalities of prepping, buying and installing wallpaper, murals and decals is often overlooked. So let me offer some advice…
Wallpaper: How to calculate amounts and the importance of samples
Small rooms benefit from a confident paper, so go big and bold on pattern and colour. I love opening a door and being wowed by a strong choice. But remember that the smaller the space the bigger the wastage, so make sure you measure well and don’t be surprised if a small room takes three or more rolls. Densely pigmented and designed papers tend to come at a higher price, which means that a small project can cost more than a larger room in a plain paper.
Use a wallpaper calculator which includes the pattern repeat (this is the vertical distance between where the pattern is repeated again) to ensure you order the correct amount; Style Library has a very good one. As wallpaper is made in batches, between which there can be slight colour or pattern spacing variation, it’s important to order all your paper at the same time to ensure it’s from the same batch.
Just as you wouldn’t paint a room without first trying a tester pot, don’t buy wallpaper without first ordering a sample. No matter how good a photo on the brand’s website or brochure, you won’t be able to tell if it’s right for you until you have a piece of it in your hand. Tape it to the wall where you would like it to go, to check it’s going to give you the look you want.
Murals: How to choose designs and prepare to hang
Scenic mural papers, whether printed or hand painted, benefit from being used in a large space such as hallways, dining and living rooms. This is a maximalist style, even when done in grey scale, so if you’re nervous of pattern do consider carefully if this is for you. The investment can also be significant; papers from De Gourney can easily be £1,000 per drop (drop being the paper section width from ceiling to floor).
Ask the mural supplier to recommend a trained tradesperson to hang their particular paper and make sure to check if there are any special requirements, such as having to using a starch-based paste or similar. I always cross line walls with lining paper, which means hanging lining paper horizontally, to ensure a smooth and even base for the mural. This also reduces the chance of the paper edges lifting. To save money consider papering only the top half of the wall – after all, you are paying by the square metre.
Decals: When and where they work best
Vinyl or fabric stickers – or decals as they are often referred – are fun, easy to fix and removable. They are a great temporary addition where you want to add pattern in a space which is likely to get marked, so they’re perfect for children’s rooms and also ideal in rental homes.
The reason decals are so on trend is that they are generally inexpensive and add interest to plain emulsion painted walls. They have the benefit that the walls can be touched up and any scuff marks can be concealed around the stickers. Sadly, I’ve yet to find a decal which can be removed after several months and then reapplied. While their adhesive allows them to be applied and adjusted when first installed, they seem to lose that stickiness over time.
Designer, speaker and author Abigail Hall is a disrupter, challenging the way building fit out and interior design has been done over recent decades. Abi works in two worlds; in construction, where the technical specification and price are the driving factors and in design, where the aesthetic finish is everything. The reality of a great product is ‘function first and aesthetic after’ and Abi’s years of experience commissioning, designing and fitting out properties across the globe has given her a sharp eye for quality, function and form. Visit www.abigailhall.design where you can find access to her podcast, Every Day Design, a link to her book and more on her design philosophy.