The best wallpaper designs and art

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What is wallpaper if it's not a simple way of adorning our walls with elaborate or uniform designs that paint just can't match?

In our homes wallpaper has been a staple for centuries. The idea of patterning paper to paste on our walls dates back to the 17th century - an affordable, easy to install answer to Middle Age tapestries draped to cover the ugly brickwork of upmarket homes.

Wallpaper has had a bit of a bad rep for the last 30 years or so. When we think of wallpaper, old-fashioned flower patterns spring to mind; faded 80s hotel lobbies and cheap, peeling pub walls. We also think of getting into a mess with wallpaper adhesive sticking everything to everything, loose wallpaper unravelling off walls and generally being a stressful task.


But wallpaper's making a bit of a comeback. Statement walls are in. Thinking outside the box with room textures is the way to go now that ultra modern designs are beginning to seem a bit old. And that classic flower print from your grandmother's dining room is getting a modern facelift too: Two-tone nature prints and art nouveau scenes around the fireplace are all the rage. If you've got time to stencil such elaborate designs with a paintbrush then fair enough, but if not, wallpaper is what you need.

Wallpaper from the past

The Diplomatic Reception Room in the White House contains a well-known panoramic art scene that, rather than being a traditional painted mural, is in fact an awe-inspiring wallpaper design. The famous art on wallpaper, titled "Scenes of North America", is intricately printed with traditional wooden blocks. Depicting elaborate individual scenes across a complete horizon, the detail of the wallpaper is impeccable. And, as it dates back to the 1830s, it just goes to show what a veritable institution wallpaper is for interior design.

Andy Warhol's iconic Pop Art has become so recognisable in galleries and trendy pubs that the origins of it have almost completely been overlooked. But when you think about it, the repetitive print designs are quite obviously meant for more than just a picture frame, they should be decorating the whole wall. No surprise then that famous Warhol works, such as the pink cow print and his self-portrait, are actually wallpaper designs. The re-printable, reproduced designs fit the Pop Art ethos perfectly, reminding us that art is a commercial venture as much as a creative one. []

Wallpaper for the future

Removable wallpaper? Sounds a bit random at first. But statement walls need to be modern and eye catching, and they need to keep with the times too. Wallpaper is usually reasonable enough to put on, but a nightmare to painstakingly peel off. Chasing Paper [] is a modern, stylish online wallpaper seller offering easy design solutions for your home. The ability to transform your statement walls with such ease is a great way to keep things fresh if you rent your home rather than own or if you are constantly prone to restyling your rooms.


In a world where privacy is becoming more of a privilege than a right the last place you'd probably look for innovation is the world of interior design. But wallpaper being developed to block Wifi signal is actually a rather useful idea [,2817,2404219,00.asp]. Researchers have been developing useful ways for blocking out some communications signals, like Wifi, and letting in others, like radio waves, with hi-tech wallpaper. It's all rather ingenious, and it’s not too crazy to imagine this sort of electronic insulation becoming a norm in years to come. Let's just hope that they get some good designers to help out too.

We often say that modern wallpaper adds interesting texture to your walls and can really transform a room's design. But when we say texture, we are really talking about the contrasting colours of patterned wallpaper rather than the physical feel. Eighties wallpaper attempted to add real texture to wallpaper with foam-etched designs, but the effect never caught on. Cutting edge wall finishing though has tackled this idea once again. You can now buy wallpaper that's made of wood [,2817,2404219,00.asp] for instance. And it doesn't end there either. Not only can you use wallpaper to turn your lounge into a log cabin or your bedroom into a birch tree wood, but you can also get brickwork effect to turn your kitchen into a New York loft.

While that fake brick effect might lack somewhat in authenticity, the look itself actually isn't too bad. And, most importantly, it does what wallpaper has always done; ever since people started hanging affordable paper prints instead of having to shell our for expensive tapestry art. Wallpaper was available to the masses, and that is why it has been such a commercial success for centuries. It lets you get the look you want, it’s easy to install and all for an affordable price. We can't all afford a trompe l'oeil artist to come and decorate our homes, and we can’t all afford to wood panel our writing rooms... but there’s always wallpaper.

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