How to Design a Room Around Wallpaper

Fitzwater Interiors, a full-circle design and build team, shares their expert advice on how to approach finding the right wallpaper for your space and designing around it.

wallpapered wall with plants

Design project and photo by Fitzwater Interiors

At Fitzwater Interiors, we get so excited when a homeowner who is working with us mentions the word wallpaper. There's a sense that wallpaper is a big commitment, and so that can scare people away. While it's true that putting up wallpaper (and taking it off) is a process, the right wallpaper can transform the mood of a space in a way that even the most exquisite paint colors simply can't.  

There are a few main types of wallpaper: traditional wallpaper that needs to be pasted, pre-pasted wallpaper where the glue had already been applied to the back of the paper, and vinyl peel-and-stick. (Character has kits for installing each type!) The vinyl peel-and-stick can actually be a great way to "test" out a wallpaper for a while to see if it's right for a space.  

Wallpaper designs can be categorized into a few key types: patterned wallpapers, mural wallpapers, and textured wallpapers. Patterned wallpapers feature a repeated motif—these can be subtle and calming, like a diminutive floral, or bold and energetic, like a strong geometric print. Mural wallpapers feature a single larger scale image, which essentially becomes artwork on the wall. Textured wallpapers are often made of grasscloth or other woven materials.  

When designing a room around wallpaper, first, think about the scale of the space. Considering this can guide you towards the type of wallpaper and help you decide how much wall to cover.  

If the room is small, a subdued pattern or a textured wallpaper may work best, since a busy pattern can feel overwhelming. Larger rooms have more flexibility to accommodate many different types of wallpapers. If you're planning to cover all the walls in a room, patterned or textured wallpapers are generally the way to go.  

Also consider the purpose of the space: a bold, busy patterned wallpaper can work well in certain small rooms, like a half-bath where guests are likely to pass through, since the pattern can become a fun conversation starter. 

bathroom vanity with wallpaper behind it full picture

Wallpaper can be a conversation-starter in a half-bath. Design project and photo by Fitzwater Interiors

You may also want to think about a distinctive wallpaper on an accent wall that would make a memorable backdrop for dinner party snapshots. Bold wallpaper can also work well in a small space like a closet, creating a sense of surprise when the door is opened. Ceilings are another unexpected place that wallpaper can be hung; this can create a treasure box effect in a room. 

Since mural wallpapers are more of a statement piece, they often work best as an accent wall, where the image can become a focus point. We love the way that mural wallpapers can evoke a "wow" from someone whenever they walk in the room. The right mural wallpapers can also work in formal dining rooms or powder rooms.  

While mural wallpaper can be fun in kid’s rooms as well, you’ll want to consider the potential wear and tear impact. If wallpaper gets damaged, it’s not as easy to fix as a painted wall, which can be patched and repainted. This is one reason why wallpaper gets installed on the upper half of a room, with paneling on the lower half. So be sure to take your lifestyle into consideration and consider the impact that any children or pets may have on wallpapered areas of your home.

wallpapered wall by fitzwater interiors

Wallpaper installed on the upper portion of a room designed by Fitzwater Interiors. Photo by Fitzwater Interiors. 

Once you've landed on the wallpaper you want, the next step is to pull out the main colors from the wallpaper to match the trim in the room. Choosing a wallpaper with a strong pattern will also impact the rest of the decor in the room, like curtains, furniture, and artwork. You'll need to consider the overall vibe of the room, and ensure that the motifs, designs and colors on these elements to ensure that the energy in the space is where you want it to be. It’s important to think through any fixtures or framed artwork that will be in the room before installing these, since you won’t want any unnecessary holes or tears in the wallpaper. When choosing where to install wallpaper, you’ll also want to remember that moisture can damage a wallpapered surface.

There's such a wide variety in wallpaper designs that anyone can find a wallpaper to suit their space and personal style. (If you need some support in the decision making process, the Fitzwater Interiors design services team is here to help.) One of our favorite projects was a bath renovation with moody grey wallpaper that evokes a windswept sky. So long as you choose a wallpaper that brings you joy, it's the right one for your home!