Wallpaper is available today in incredible variety. HEMA VIJAY brings you the latest trends and tips

A stacked stone wall in your living room — the kind you would see on a Himalayan highway. A bamboo reed partition, or perhaps a wall of uncut granite, crushed pearl, true metal or even gold foil. None of this need be a fanciful dream anymore, if it is a virtual effect you are looking for. While hotels and offices have always used wall coverings in a big way, extravagant wall paper has now become part of ordinary homes too.

Heady range

First, there was the just plain wallpaper, made of 100 per cent paper. Now, choices abound, not just in shade, texture and patterns, but right down to conceptual roots. For instance, there are textured wall coverings that give the effect achieved by plaster or patti; there are paintable wall coverings that you can personalise with art; covers with a writing board area that can be written upon and wiped clean; acoustic wall coverings; fungus and bacterial resistant coverings; the fabric-back range that can be washed and re-layered back on the wall; and, of course, wall covers that play out children’s fantasies of space shuttles and super heroes.

Obviously, some of them are affordable and some super expensive, with prices ranging from roughly Rs.60 per sq. ft to Rs.3,000 or more. But increasingly, price is becoming less of a factor in interior design. “People are ready to spend lavishly on their houses to get the ambience they desire,” says S. Mohammed Sakhir of Art & Design Wall Coverings. “Locally manufactured pieces come very cheap at around Rs.10 per sq ft but the quality leaves a lot to be desired.”

Although it looks easy, putting up wall coverings needs professional help. “The joints should not be visible, and the pattern should be continued without a mismatch,” points out interior design consultant D. Jeya Meena. Before application, it’s important to measure and plan the pasting process to avoid wastage of covering, as they are very expensive. “Keep aside extra wall paper, so that you can re-paper trouble spots that may crop up. There might be a slight difference, though, between old and new paper because of fading over time,” says Jeya Meena. Many wall coverings come guaranteed against fading for five years or more. Finally, high quality glue is important, to ensure the paper stays stuck for good.

Paint or paper?

“Though vendors like to claim otherwise, when the atmosphere is very humid, with a relative humidity that hovers around or over 75 per cent, wallpaper tends to bulge and bubble out and then peel away. That’s why I would recommend wallpaper only for predominantly air-conditioned rooms. The humidity factor apart, wallpaper is easy to maintain and keep clean,” says architect Sriram Ganapathi of KSM Consultants. But he warns you that it’s absolutely necessary to choose fire-proof wallpaper.

“If you switch on air-conditioning in a room with painted walls, the coldness is absorbed by the painted wall first. But with walls lined with vinyl wallpaper, the coldness does not percolate easily into the wall. So you feel the cooling effect very soon and the cold is retained for a longer time,” says K. P. Mohan, partner, N.D.M. Interiors.

On the flip side, some wallpaper can have the effect of shrinking the space and making the area feel heavy and dark. “That’s why I advise all my customers to restrict wall covering to one or two walls rather than lay it all around. This prevents a sense of heaviness,” says Sakhir. Plus, it is much easier to give a new coat of paint over a painted wall than to re-lay wallpaper or remove old paper and paint the wall.

Wall coverings might turn out to be an unwise decision in old buildings with seepage problems; the moisture will cause the wallpaper to disintegrate, blotch or bulge soon. Likewise, if you have to introduce electrical wiring to a wall draped with covering, the going can get tricky. And of course stains do crop up, even on the best-kept walls. With a painted wall, this can be handled by a simple coat of paint, but with wallpaper, it gets trickier if it can’t be wiped clean. On the plus side, with wall coverings, there is no unpleasant ‘paint smell’ hanging in the air. Not to mention, the fantasies you get to fulfil in terms of design and texture.

Paper Art

High humidity will cause wallpaper to bulge

Always buy fire-resistant covers

Seepage and unevenness must be removed before papering

Vertical designs make low ceilings look higher

Horizontal patterns add width to a room

Use large prints for large spaces, and small prints for small rooms

Dark colours make rooms look smaller, light colours add space

Keywords: Wall paperurban design