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by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Wallpaper?s perennial popularity covers a long history?beginning with glued rice papers in 200 BC, ancient China. In 1481 Louis XI of France paid for the first western made wallpaper, 50 rolls with angels on blue background. But wallpaper, as known today, didn?t begin until the development of block designs in continuous matching patterns in 1675. Then, wallpaper became the rage. And only 20th century modernism frowned on its patterned embellishments and produced a time when homeowners ripped off the layers and layers of paper that had built up. Now, in a new millennium, many homes have returned to traditional design and wall coverings, as it is sometimes called.

?The papers are so much better than they used to be,? said Phelan?s Not Just 4 Walls owner, Amy Bailey, licensed interior designer. ?Almost every paper has a vinyl coating on it, even if it doesn?t look shiny or plastic or any of those things. But it will take the steam and kids splashing.?

With so many different type papers available, Phelan?s Not Just 4 Walls doesn?t stock paper.

?Our clientele buy strictly from the books. Most papers come within seven days,? said Bailey. ?We?ve got European papers that take three to four weeks. Usually nothing is longer than that unless there?s some weird back order, which happens. That?s why I said we don?t stock paper any more. There are so many choices out there, and if given 100?where there are ten times that amount and you can get it in a short period of time?most people would rather have the choice.?

?If you use this store correctly, you get help with the wallpaper,? Bailey said. ?Wallpaper is the starting point for most people when they?re looking to remodel or build. It sets the color palette for what their houses are going to be. From there they pick tile, fixtures, and carpet for the bedroom. And then we help in the next stages with the draperies and bedding and things like that.?

?You can?t buy one piece of furniture that will make the same statement that wallpaper will in a room.? Bailey said. For instance, wallpaper can make a room country French or oriental or contemporary at a cost of a couple hundred dollars. But a piece of furniture in one of those styles put in that room cannot make the same statement. ?I?m not saying that paper is the most inexpensive way to go. But, it is definitely the greatest impact for the money. You couldn?t buy a piece of art, even, and put it in a room and change the room as much as changing the paper would do.?

?Right now, wallpaper tends to be put in bathrooms, kitchens, that kind of area,? Bailey said. In the past, people wallpapered whole bedrooms or the whole dining room. ?And we still do dining rooms, too.?

In fact, the French dining room in the 12,000-foot home of Shelly and Dale Dodson was recently lined with padded damask upholstery.

?Sometimes, wallpaper and fabrics don?t mix much,? said interior designer, Margaret Chambers, A.S.I.D. ?I wanted to order all the fabric at one time so that the walls just flow into the draperies. Also what?s nice about wall upholstery is that it?s so luxurious looking and it?s sound absorption. With all the clanging of the dishes and sometimes you don?t want to do an area rug in the dining room cause there are a lot of spills. And you have to pull your chairs in and out without a rug underneath. So, it?s nice to have wall upholstery there.?

Unusual also in the Dodson home is the use of wallpaper in the wood paneled library. Embellished and faux painted to look like embossed leather, wallpaper covers the ceiling between the wood beams; its detailed pattern becomes visible only on close inspection. So, standing at a distance in the foyer, a person?s attention is drawn to library furnishings or, across the hall, to the dining room pattern or to the painted ceiling above the chandelier in the entry. In fact, the view from the foyer affords a panorama of the home?s interior?spacious areas of paint, mostly faux finished, with wood and discrete, separate areas of wallpaper. The view also minimizes the detail in the dining room and focuses on the foyer and surrounding staircase furnishings?a large urn, grand piano, and tapestry?historically a forerunner to wallpaper.

Outside the array of rooms around the entry, wallpaper is confined to the laundry and baths. Yet, each application creates a distinctly different personality.

Cr?me on gold damask wallpaper in the guest powder room is a dramatic microcosm of the home?s basic interior colors, which are stated again only more subdued in the tone on tone, faux painted door.

?Like a little jewel box, too,? Chambers said. ?Sometimes you want bold, a little special nook.? Well, here the eyes can gaze over the gilt mirror then stroll over the two candelabras, over the two tone floral walls, the black and white veined marble counter top sink down to the cream tile floor. ?Marble, I had it made and painted it these formal colors because I like black as an accent. But it?s not a match-match look.?

Sky blue?in the master bedroom suite, blue faux painted walls blend into the blue design on the bedding, which, in turn, matches the wallpaper in her master bath. The same design theme carries forth in the window draperies surrounding the bathtub. His master bath, too, has wallpaper?only the look is tailored in pastel stripe.

?We did the cream downstairs, the green upstairs,? Chambers said. ?But there is such a separation, you can change the color scheme from room to room.? Ample wood flooring also allows for greater separation of the different color schemes. So, in the upstairs bath, small print patterned papered accents the toile shower curtains.

Incidentally, wallpaper is a less expensive way to create the faux finish look. For other looks, however, wall paper can become quite high end?up to $300 a roll, which at 5 ? yards long and 27 inches wide covers about 30 square feet, necessitating around four rolls for a small bath, according to Bailey. That?s for hand painted wallpaper when you want to create a jewel box.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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