WALLPAPER IS BACK IN A MAJOR WAY after falling out of favor in the 1990s, according to three local decorators.
"In the 1990s, wallpaper was imagined as something toxic that [customers] associated with Grandma's house — old and plasticy," says Nomita Joshi Gupta, architect, designer and owner of Spruce Interiors and Design (2043 Magazine St., 504-265-0946; www.sprucenola.com).
Two factors contributed to wallpaper's resurgence. In response to greater awareness of air-quality concerns, manufacturers shifted to printing wallpaper on natural materials with water- and soy-based inks. Digital technology has made wallpaper more affordable.
"Being able to digitally print things opened up a new arena, because it is a lot cheaper to digitally print something than to screen-print a wallpaper," says Karin Nelson, a decorator at Nelson Wilson Interiors (504-891-0554; www.nelsonwilsoninteriors.com).
The trend in wallpaper is bold, funky prints — niche wallpaper label Dupenny offers whimsical wallpapers featuring black-and-white patterns of burlesque dancers, and the New Orleans-launched (and now Brooklyn-based) brand Flavor Paper is known for everything from vibrant wallpaper murals to Andy Warhol-inspired prints. Both brands are sold at Spruce.
"People don't want their grandmother's wallpaper," says Troy Wilson, a decorator at Nelson Wilson Interiors. "They want something artsy and funky. They're willing to take that risk."
Some wallpapers are digitally printed and others are screen-printed and hand-painted. Prices can range from $20-$40 a roll to $200-$400, depending on the materials and methods used.
"You can find something that fits your budget and taste," Gupta says. "There's a wallpaper for everyone."
A small powder room usually requires about three rolls, and a whole bedroom could take five to six rolls. However, customers can paper one wall for an accent, which requires about three to five rolls.
"[Wallpaper] adds a lot of dimension and character," Gupta says. "I really think it is a great way to decorate your space.
At Spruce, Gupta stocks as many as 60 brands, and the most prominent ones are Flavor Paper and Cole & Son. "We specialize in hard-to-find, artist-designed wallpaper," Gupta says. "For us, the hunt is as exciting as the find."
Nelson and Wilson list Pintura Studio, Twigs, Gracie and Robert Allen as favorite wallpaper brands. Robert Allen offers customers the option to put any of its fabrics on a wallpaper.
"You can make your upholstery match your walls," Nelson says. "It's a great way to do a kids' room."
Nelson and Wilson recently used toile to decorate the walls, bedding and drapery of a French-themed bedroom. So much toile could be overwhelming, but in this case it created a sense of uniformity.
"Although the patterns are the same, the textures are different, so it has a calming effect instead of being a riot of pattern," Nelson says.
For people who aren't ready to take the plunge with matching wallpaper and textiles, Wilson recommends starting with a powder room, entrance hall or accent wall, such as behind a headboard in a bedroom.
"Pick a room like a bathroom where the paper can stand on its own and won't compete with the furniture," he says. "If it's a small space and you get tired of [the wallpaper], it's not a big deal to remove it."
For people with mercurial tastes or rentals where wallpaper isn't allowed, wall decals or removable wallpapers are options.
"We've seen a lot of really cool projects on the DIY end where you use decals as a decorative option for people who are renting, or children's walls where you might outgrow a wallpaper," Wilson says.
Textural wallpapers made using ancient methods of Japanese papermaking and papier mache are another way to bring interest to a space.
"They create a 3-D effect, more of a texture on a wall," Gupta says. "You apply them very carefully with wallpaper paste."
Textured wallpaper can be used to cover furniture or windows or can be framed like art.
Nelson and Wilson recommend homeowners consider the scale and proportion of their rooms and their furniture before selecting wallpaper.
"Determine if the wallpaper is going to be the focal point," Nelson says. "Do you want the wallpaper to be a backdrop to the furnishing and art? Once you have [made that decision], people can direct you in choosing the kind of wallpaper you need to go with the space."
When it comes to installation, Nelson and Gupta recommend hiring a professional, especially since the walls of houses in New Orleans are not always uniform.
"In New Orleans, walls are not typically square," Wilson says. "Put a stripe on the wall and it is not going to look straight."
Above all, enjoy the art form and its potential to transform a space.
"Don't be scared to try it," Nelson says. "It can change a room completely."