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Grandma's Old Wallpaper No More

Photography by Stacey Brandford

Posted on Oct 20, 2006

If all that's old is new again, then wallpaper is the cutting edge of modern designer style.

Let's face it, for many years wallpaper was the unfashionable outcast at the annual trends cocktail party. Often mocked and ridiculed for being fussy, prissy and downright overbearing, it seemed that there would never be a place in the volumes of critical style for poor, old wallpaper.

I remember reading a quote from a famous U.S. designer: "Will needlepoint pillows work in my living room? Not if I'm your designer!" In my own mind I thought that, if asked the same question, I'd also include wallpaper in the list. It was so "not me," so contrary to the pared down, calm, soothing environments I was trying to create.

Yet I have to confess that I use wallpaper, I like wallpaper, I even want to put wallpaper in my 1960s-style modern home! So what happened, why the change of heart?

After seeing one too many soulless, sterile, "modern spaces," I found myself drawn to the texture and impact of a room dressed in sassy wallpaper. Now, let's be clear about what makes the cut in my books. I'm not talking about prepasted vinyl patterns with cute patterns. I have a strict policy that says "no ribbons, no bows, no baskets, no cherubs, no bunnies ... and no borders."

What I'm embracing is papers of the high-end, hand-printed, high-impact (and, not coincidentally, high-priced) variety.

When charged with the task of creating a 7,000-square-foot home for the Vancouver General Hospital and University of British Columbia Hospital Foundation Millionaire Lottery for the third time in as many years, I decided to make wallpaper my friend.

I used it to give bland rooms personality, make large rooms feel intimate and uninspired spaces seem welcoming.

Like any decorative statement, the most important guiding principle when using wallpaper is knowing when to stop, understanding the fine line between something being an accent and theme. If in doubt, remember that in the general world of good taste, accent equals good, theme equals bad. If you are thinking about embracing the decorative "wow" of wallpaper, click on the linked photo gallery to see a few ways to use it.

Sarah Richardson Design, West Coast Classic
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