The return of wallpaper: from something old to a new decoration trend that many are not prepared for

By Edwin

In the realm of interior design today, dismissing wallpaper as a relic of the past would be a glaring mistake. Emerging within the wave of new decorating trends that challenge the hegemony of minimalist interior design—prevailing until recently—decorative wallpaper is reclaiming a prominent place in living rooms, bedrooms, and even bathrooms. From leading decor publications to interior design inspiration profiles on social media, there’s a renewed appreciation for this element, which not long ago was associated with an outdated and passé style. Behind this trend lies a call for precision, a fascination with detail and creative work, and even a nod to the tradition of artisan craftsmanship.

As minimalism loses ground as the sole aesthetic response to domestic interiors, richer and darker colors are gaining importance on room walls. In 2023, prominent figures in the industry acknowledged the waning fear of color. Regarding wallpaper, interior designers seem to have a clear preference. In a survey conducted by the Apartment Therapy platform to gauge this year’s trends, 91% of stylists favored wallpaper over paint for walls, with only 9% opting for paint.

Botanical, Traditional Chinese Porcelain, and Modern Art: The Inspirations

Since then, numerous examples of this trend have surfaced on Instagram timelines, revealing the most recurring motifs. A pattern dominated by illustrated oranges adorns the walls, and even the ceiling, of a kitchen-dining area in a New York apartment, creating a kaleidoscopic effect. Undoubtedly, botanical themes are among the most popular choices for wallpaper. There’s something evocative of tradition, reminiscent of the designs by William Morris and traditional crafts. This heritage is also reflected in the colorful botanical proposals blooming in wallpapers from House of Hackney, the French Isidore Leroy, or even from the Florentine fashion house Gucci.

The success of the British artisanal wallpaper brand De Gournay provides one of the best metrics for this growing interest. With over half a million followers on Instagram, the brand’s specialized work within the decorative arts field speaks volumes. “In 100 years [our wallpaper, fabrics, and porcelain] will be sold at auctions as valuable antiques,” they assert on their website. Hand-painted by their artisans, delicate floral landscapes dotted with birds grace the walls behind a sink in a palatial mansion of tourist interest in Norfolk, England. It’s just a small example of how even bathrooms are embracing this seemingly moisture-unfriendly trend.

Bathrooms, in their quest to move away from the sterile and clinically sober spaces they once were, are among the areas of the home most inclined to embrace these creative expressions of style on walls. This trend is evident in examples inspired by traditional Chinese painted porcelain, another major wallpaper trend—often accompanying vintage-inspired roll-top bathtubs—offering a landscape and horizon to those who relax in the tub.

But beyond traditional motifs, there are those who strive to offer a refreshing perspective on something as stigmatized as wallpaper. Maison C. Studio’s work reflects the influence of slightly more recent and avant-garde artistic styles. This was the case with the wallpaper chosen by actress Sienna Miller for the bedroom of her country house, as they proudly advertised on their Instagram. Hand-painted by Costanza Theodoli-Braschi, a graduate of the renowned London school Saint Martins, Maison C. Studio boasts of eco-friendly production in the United States and draws inspiration from mythology, nature, and folklore.

Minimalist Aesthetic: A Contemporary Approach to Wallpaper

There’s also the possibility of considering wallpaper in terms of minimalist aesthetics. This sets apart the work of the Italian firm Glamora, which relies on subtle motifs and chromatic balance to dress walls with birds, plants, landscapes, or abstract artistic compositions, without the intention of making the wall the absolute focal point.

Why the Resurgence of Wallpaper?

Despite the association of decorative wallpaper with a bygone era, it’s making a comeback as a trend. Even the way it captures attention in a room can evoke a sense of overwhelm. This association even gave rise to the famous late 19th-century psychological horror story by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper,” now available in Spanish from Alpha Decay. In the story, a woman suffering from postpartum depression succumbs to the feeling of unease and claustrophobia induced by the yellow wallpaper in her bedroom, where she sees moving figures escaping her gaze.

The Shift in Trends: Factors Influencing the Revival

Why then is wallpaper returning as a trend? As reported by Pinterest in 2021, the platform saw a 41% increase in searches for the term “wallpaper” the previous year. This coincided with the entry of major fashion players like Gucci into this market, indicating that minimalist aesthetics are no longer the sole interest in interior styling.

It’s undoubtedly a decor choice that requires careful consideration before diving into it, and it’s always beneficial to heed the advice of experts. A valuable piece of advice came from graphic designer turned interior designer Marissa Zajack, who told Vogue USA’s digital edition, “For spacious areas, a wallpaper with large motifs is a statement in itself.” She also emphasized, “A pattern that’s too small in a large room can be dizzying and annoying.” Could this be what the protagonist of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story experienced?

Whether with large or small designs, featuring vegetation, animals, graphic compositions, pictorial inspiration, landscapes, or even customized images, Photo Wall works to translate this trend into homes with a tighter budget. Their murals and wallpaper rolls are available from €35 per square meter, and one of their interesting propositions is the trend report they release each season. For the spring-summer of 2023, they forecast the rise of baroque influences intertwined with botanical elements mentioned earlier, but they also open the door to color-infused formulas, futuristic aesthetics, and modernist inspiration in murals featuring subtly balanced color compositions that focus on eliciting sensations. Wallpaper that, instead of causing fear, becomes an aesthetic twist that seeks to break away from the conventional.