Design 101: ABW (Always be Wallpapering)

Oscar Wilde once said, ‘This wallpaper is terrible, one of us will have to go’. I’d be inclined to agree with him on that sentiment if we were 5 years in the past; however, today, the wallpaper scene has cast off it’s boring grandma stigma and reinvented itself as a true artist’s palate. Today, finding the right pattern can be as easy as finding or creating an image you fancy and sending it off to be digitally re-mastered and rendered on a 15’ roll. Or as I have found, there’s a fantastic new breed of wallpaper designers who will seemingly stop at nothing to keep us in awe and amazement at how they’ve ushered in a veritable wallpaper renaissance. As many of you may have seen this weekend through VW&F’s various social media outlets, I had a little heart-to-heart with the panels of the interior doors at the shop and decided they were due for a much needed facelift… and by facelift, I mean I got out my wallpaper paste and one of my favorite rolls from designer Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co… Now that I’m a pro, that is... But it didn't start out that way... Check out the pattern in context below from Hygge & West:

About five years ago, Jamie and I bought our dream home, what we jokingly refer to as McVersa Manor, in the historic Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh; A Queen Anne Victorian with tons of charm, finishes, fixtures and… 1960s wallpaper… I mean the former owner went for broke and papered every inch of the house. To make matters worse, clearly the dining room was her focal point, as she papered every inch, floor AND ceiling and painted the trim a color to match what can only be described as ‘grape soda’. Last, but certainly not least, she finished the room by outfitting each window with bishop’s sleeve drapes (now illegal in most states and Canada). After a week and a shameful amount of Diff, our walls were clean and ready for 2012. I must note that the ceiling in the dining room remains to this day, because in all the chaos of the walls, trim and drapes, the ceiling was truly a Bradbury Masterpiece, and as a student of History & Art, I felt both the ceiling and the house deserved each other and it truly is quite stunning; it is the home’s Piéce de Résistance!

So what to do now? Just as we were ready to go all-out latex, I thought of a memory I had of my grandparent’s farmhouse back in NH. My grandmother had and still has to this day, impeccable taste and she used wallpaper like a true artist… An accent wall here, the wall up the staircase there. I can remember her putting it up and taking it down and what style and beauty it brought to the house – it made it the home I am still ever so fond of – warm, relaxing and beautiful. Since this was before the shop was even a zygote, I had really no clue where to start looking (and for those of you who are thinking Home Depot, sadly the answer is a snarky no… I love me some HD, but sadly it’s not in their wheelhouse). So I found this AP called Houzz.. and the clouds lifted ... and I think I saw a unicorn… it was magical and eye-opening. Anyway I stumbled upon several fantastic designers and brokers, but none so wonderful as Hygge & West. Hygge & West is a design house and broker for some of the most beautiful wallpaper on the market today. They represent several lines that we carry in the shop as part of our relationship with them. They have fantastic website imagery, both up-close and in context, they have great tips and customer service, ridiculously fast shipping and a stunning social media and blogosphere presence… Yes, VW&F LOVES these guys & ladies... Swoon!

So how do you choose the right pattern? The right color? Here are some key items to keep in mind when you’re getting ready to get going:

  • Know the size of your room. I’m not one for going full monty (or the reverse, actually), but think about highlighting a feature or accent wall in a room. When you’re measuring, measure floor to ceiling and don’t subtract for windows or doors… and then measure it again.
  • What is the room used for? Are you trying to sleep here, eat here, entertain? In other words, what’s the sentiment you want to convey and feel in the space? This will help you identify color and pattern for your paper... You’re not going to paint your bedroom red (because that’s wrong) or use a busy pattern in a place you use to relax and rest... well maybe, but case in point, Hygge & West has an ADORABLE dog wallpaper called Dog Park (Blue) by designer Julia Rothman – I cannot wait to redo our dogs’ room (yes, they have their own playroom) in this paper… it’s like that dog book when I was a kid… they're dogs - they lived in a tree and drove cars… am I the only person who remembers this? My husband thinks I’m crazy… Moving on… Oh, this picture is from Hygge & West… SOOO CUTE!



  • Is there a color in the room you want to compliment? If you can manage it and have a color painted that you already love, look for paper colors that accentuate the prevailing color scheme, but add just the right pop of contrasting color
  • Once you’ve figured out how many rolls you need, round up (2.1 rolls means you need 3 rolls)
  • Order all of your rolls at the same time or in the same ‘lot’… don’t piece this project together. You want to be sure the rolls you order are printed together (in the same ‘lot), so as not to run the risk of any color variations, no matter how slight they may be, from printing at one time, versus printing at another time… It happens… don’t be that guy.
  • Wallpaper isn’t just for walls! This is my favorite! You can line drawers, the backs of open cabinets or shelves, door panels, stair kicks.. I even papered my entire sink cabinet base at the shop… talk about goin’ for broke, right?
  • Order a sample!! Samples are cheap and let you really see the paper up close and get a realistic understanding of the color and pattern. We have the shop all papered up and we have a fantastic sample book you can thumb through.
  • Work with an online designer. Online designers or brokers typically show you the paper in context or how it will look in a room with trim and a window and some décor items. It’s a daunting task to try and visualize how a pattern will actually look from a swatch. More often than not, once you choose a pattern and color scheme you like, once it goes on the wall, it really comes together.. but don’t leave that to chance. Check out VW&F’s website and Hygge & West’s for some good context imagery before you take the plunge… but still order a sample!
  • Be BOLD! If you love a pattern and color, you'll make it beautiful... it's very Field of Dreams... and who cares what the Jones' think... I never liked her anyway

Finally, they’re some things you should know, product-wise before purchasing paper from a designer; the designer or broker should share this information with you: 

  • How long is each roll? Some rolls are only 12-15ft.; however, some rolls are double rolls and can be as much as 30ft long.
  • How wide is the roll?
  • Where/how long is the vertical repeat? The vertical repeat is the position on the roll where the pattern begins to repeat itself. This is important to know, along with the width and length of the roll, to determine the number of rolls you’ll need to get your job done. Hygge & West has a fabulous FAQ section on their website, but if Math is hard for you too, then you can find usage calculators online (just make sure there’s a space to enter for the repeat). 

The only thing we’re missing is someone to install the paper. I have Gramma Janet blood in my veins and I have YouTube. I also have a few folks around Pittsburgh that I’ve used before who are excellent installers; my go to guy is Jesse Panzarello of Wall Coverings, Inc. He’s on Angie’s or you can find him in the book… and by book I mean Google… sadly he doesn’t have a website. I have a video coming soon of yours truly to walk you through the basics of wallpapering, but for now, Home Depot and Sherwin Williams have ready to go kits (paste, levels, knives, corner guides, seam rollers, smoothing brushes, etc.) if you wanna be adventurous and try it on your own. That’s it for now, gang, but do check out the shop if you haven’t been and get inspired! It’s free!