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Choosing Wallpaper

​Choosing the perfect wallpaper

Today’s selection of wallpapers is more diverse and creative than ever. You can choose from eye-popping patterns, hand-drawn illustrations, blooming botanicals and multi-coloured designs to bold geometrics, faux effects, classic styles, murals and contemporary luxury.

These days we’re spoilt for choice – as anyone who has stood in front of the extensive selection of wallpaper sample books at a Resene ColorShop can confirm.

So how do you choose? Firstly, get down to your Resene ColorShop and see exactly what’s available and possible. Suspend any preconceived notions you may have about wallpaper as the latest technologies in digital printing and leading-edge designs have dramatically changed the wallpaper landscape in recent years.

Wallpapers can sell out very quickly so if you do like a design it’s best to purchase enough for your project and allow spare, as it may not be possible to buy more later. If your wallpaper is no longer available, our Resene ColorShop staff can help you to choose other designs and colourways to suit your project. It’s also true that seeing a photograph of a wallpaper design won’t reveal its full beauty. Many have sometimes subtle visual and tactile elements that have to be experienced in person – textural finishes, a variety of sheen levels, embossing, velvet, even grit and beading. You have to see and feel today’s wallpapers to get the full effect.

Once you’ve apprised yourself with what’s available, ask yourself the following questions:

What colour and style?

The colour of your wallpaper will affect the mood of the room. Those with dark cool-coloured backgrounds such as deep blue or charcoal will make a room feel larger, especially when married with a smaller tonal pattern. Soft pastel colours will add tranquillity, while warm colours and busy patterns will add drama, warmth and vibrancy.Is your style classic, retro, playful, global, contemporary or industrial? Damasks and stripes feel quite formal, florals are casual and whimsical, geometrics are architectural and bold, while faux styles are industrial and fun.

Will the wallpaper be added to an existing scheme, and how many elements will be staying – carpet, curtains, the sofa? Find a wallpaper that fits with these. If you are starting with a relatively clean slate, wallpaper is a great way to kick-start a scheme. You can draw colours from the design and find Resene paint colours to coordinate, or echo the style of the paper in other elements.

Write down a handful of words that describe the feel or style you want and assess each wallpaper against that criteria so that your home has a consistent look and doesn't become a mish-mash. If your wallpaper is highly patterned, beware of using patterns elsewhere in the room on cushions, rugs or curtains. Use complementary rather than competing colours and styles.

Go for what you love rather than what’s in fashion. A wallpaper that looks great in someone else’s home in an interiors magazine may not suit you or your home. Also consider playing up your wallpaper’s features. If it has sparkly detailing or sheen, position a table lamp or use wall lights so that those elements are highlighted in the evening. 

Always check your lighting. If you are going for a dark wallpaper, you may need to increase the artificial lighting in the room. Or if you are going for a very bright or light wallpaper, you may need to reduce the brightness of your lighting. 

What room and how much?

The use of the room may affect what design and colour you choose. Are you after a dramatic backdrop to a dining area or a fun feature for a hallway or child’s room? The same wallpaper design could make a living room energising or calming depending on how much or how little you use of it. Remember to check the suitability of wallpapers you want to use in areas where there is moisture, such as bathrooms and kitchens.

Bold wallpapers are perfect for feature walls, where they can be seen in all their glory without overpowering a space – and they'll look especially great with complementary Resene colours on the other walls. Or try using a wallpaper to create a picture rail or dado effect with Resene paint colours above or below. Wallpaper is also good for smaller areas, like behind a glass splashback, or on a chimney breast. Paper the front of a chest of drawers or the back of some shelves.

You may like to mix and match wallpapers. Many collections come with a range of plainer styles and patterns in a variety of colourways that are designed to go together.

You might use a plain wallpaper in the hallway, with a pattern from the same collection in the living room. 

Wallpaper as a remedy

Wallpaper can help to overcome existing problems such as low light levels and less-than-perfect walls. In a hallway or dark room, choose a wallpaper that has sheen, so it will reflect light around the space. Also consider metallic or iridescent designs. Steer away from heavily textured wallpapers, which will appear darker. 

Textured papers and Anaglyptas are perfect, however, for covering imperfect walls. Heavily patterned wallpapers, or those with a layered design like a floral over a mottled background, will distract your eye from a dodgy substrate.

Anaglypta (paintable) wallpapers are the perfect marriage of pattern and palette, especially when finding a wallpaper with the right colour and pattern to match your style or interior has proved difficult. You can even use Anaglypta to mimic pressed-tin ceilings to add character to an older home.

Small patterns make a room look larger, while large patterns make a space feel smaller and more intimate. Stripes and vertical patterns make walls appear taller, whereas horizontal patterns make a wall appear longer. Layered patterns and trellis-like designs give flat walls more depth.

Test it

Just like you would test a paint with a Resene testpot, you should also test a wallpaper. Order a sample through your Resene ColorShop, take it home and pin it to the wall. View it during the day and after dark to see how the lighting changes the way it looks. If you plan to use it on multiple walls, move the sample to each wall to check it suits. If no samples are available, prop the wallpaper book on a small table against the wall and move it around.

Wallpaper with larger patterns can be tricky to visualise from a smaller sample but you can request larger samples of most wallpapers at your Resene ColorShop, to help you see how a bigger piece of the design will look.