From the August/September 2011 Issue:

In The Know: A Whole New Wall Game

    Writer: Mary Vinnedge |

Innovative materials and designs of today’s ‘papers’ transform rooms

Article Photo
enlarge | Phillip Jeffries’ Jackson Square starts with paulownia wood cut into veneer sheets. Additional wood strips are scattered atop the surface and applied with a metallic wash. The paper is next cut into 5.9-inch squares and laminated onto recycled paper. An aqueous resin is the finishing touch. Photo courtesy of Phillip Jeffries.
Wallpaper is on the re­bound. It fell from favor a decade or so ago, and New Jersey interior designers Vanessa Deleon, Jerri Eskow and Judy King say they often experience pushback when they suggest the “w” word to clients. But once clients see the new papers, they embrace them whole-heartedly.


“They see a magazine photo with a new pattern they like and want it. It’s coming back full force,” says Deleon, an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers and principal of Vanessa Deleon Associates in Edgewater.

Eskow, of Iron Gate Interiors in Warren, says “new wall coverings provide a look that’s more interesting than paint and make a room more special. When clients aren’t moving or doing major construction, it’s a cost they’ll go for to make a room complete.”

King, an allied member of ASID and principal of Judy King Interiors in Princeton, agrees. “So many people say they don’t like wallpaper, but they’re thinking flowers and prints. It can be just textures. I show them examples and then it’s so easy to convince them. One client resisted until I showed her a black-and-white city­scape of an Italian village by Cole & Son for one wall. Then she asked, ‘How soon can you get it?’”

Article Photo
enlarge | Designer Jerri Eskow used boldly printed grass cloth in this Springfield powder room. Photo by Marisa Pellegrini.
Designed for Today
Make no mistake: These aren’t your mother’s wallpapers, and often they aren’t papers at all. They’re fabrics, cork, simulated mother-of-pearl, wood veneer, faux suede and new-age vinyls hefty enough to simulate quilted leather or woven sea grass. Stitchery, glass beads, metal-leafing and rivets add dimension. Metallics and flocks go out for a new spin, and prints crank up the size and sass. Enlarged personal photos turn corners; graceful frescoes can be custom-scaled for a site.

King, Eskow and Deleon use the new wall coverings in varied applications: one- or two-wall accents, all walls, just the ceiling and all of the above.
They say new wall coverings are so revolutionary in look and feel that they change the entire dynamic of a room, making a basic box casual or opulent, high-energy or laconic, refined or rugged.

Wonderfully textured papers provide a beautiful backdrop for paintings, or murals can replace artwork altogether. For the latter application, King likes large-scale scenes such as Cole & Son’s Manhattan skyline or Eiffel Tower designs as well as a hand-painted Gracie mural of a Japanese landscape that goes all the way around a room without a repeat.

Deleon often presents wallpaper in her design plans although clients don’t expect it. “There are amazing wallpapers out there; for instance, paper with little glass beads, vinyls that look like velvet, and damask with raised 3-D effects. Those are wonderful under a chair rail. The 3-D really makes it pop. [Wall covering manufacturers] are doing silks and suedes as well as gold, silver and copper leafing.”

King especially likes metal-leaf paper on ceilings “where it’s not in your face.”

In Eskow’s designs, she most often opts for textures, including wipe-clean vinyls for kitchens. “I love the stitched flannels, wood veneers and parquet patterns. They make rooms sing and a lot more cozy.”

She selects big, bold patterns for powder rooms where there’s impact without design fatigue because the room is used for short periods. “You can use something expensive because it’s a small space. I’m not afraid that it’s going to get ruined by overuse. Guests go there, and you want that wow factor.”

King likewise pushes the envelope in powder rooms, recently doing one with stylized floral designs 20 inches high and 16 inches across.

New designs, materials and applications have taken wallpaper from being a wallflower to being the belle of the ball.

Mary Vinnedge has been writing about home and design for about 20 years. Her website is

Article Photo
enlarge | High-contrast Antonina Vella wallpaper from Seabrook smoothes over the awkward angles of a tiny Maplewood powder room designed by Jerri Eskow.
Designers Jerri Eskow, Vanessa Deleon and Judy King identify the trends they see in wallpapers.

• Fabrics (grass cloth, hemp, abaca, jute, silk, linen, wool).
• Large patterns such as stylized botanicals, interlocking geometrics and damasks.
• Architectural geometrics such as Moroccan arches and Maltese crosses.
• Gold, silver and copper leafing on grass cloth.
• Murals, especially those that evoke feel-good travel destinations.
• Neutrals and muddy colors such as charcoal and gunmetal (add touches of purple, orange, coral-red, pink and turquoise in the room for pop).
• Textures (coarsely
woven fabrics; vinyls simulating ostrich skin, shagreen, leather, lizard, suede, velvet and bamboo).
• 3-D embellishments such as rivets, embroidery and transparent colored glass beads.

• Small prints.
• Window treatments and upholstery that match the wallpaper.
• Wallpaper style synced to a home’s architectural style (designers prefer surprises instead).
• Realistic floral patterns.

Warren designer Jerri Eskow offers tips for using wallpaper effectively:
• Start with a room plan. Decide where you want pattern and where you want solids.
• Select the wallpaper first and then choose the rug, paint color, window treatments, etc. Wallpapers come only in certain colors, so it may be the least flexible element in a design scheme.
• Put samples of all your design choices in front of you and evaluate how they look together (scale, color, busy-ness); make substitutions as necessary.
• Find a qualified paperhanger for your special wall covering through companies that sell it.

Designers Vanessa Deleon, Jerri Eskow and Judy King share their favorite wallpaper sources:
• Arté,
• Cole and Son,
• Donghia,
• Gracie,
• Iksel,; will scale wallpaper frescoes to fit specific dimensions
• (offers stock murals including Disney or will enlarge your photograph into a custom-size mural for one or more walls: Yankee Stadium, your child’s cheerleading squad, etc.)
• Osborne & Little,
• Phillip Jeffries Ltd.,
• Ralph Lauren,
• Romo,
• Seabrook,
• Wynfield Thybony Design,
• Zoffany,