Paper Keeps the Walls From Closing In

From Associated Press

Do you have an oddly shaped room to decorate, one with dormer windows and sloped ceilings, for example? Or one with too many windows breaking up the walls?

Think patterned wallpaper.

You might be afraid of adding pattern to an already busy room. But, in fact, the right pattern can turn a problem room into a charming one--at fairly modest cost.

A classic example of the difficult-to-decorate room is the attic with a sloped ceiling and deep-set dormer windows. Many such rooms are converted into bedrooms, playrooms or home offices.

"It's cozy to cover the walls and ceilings with a miniprint, as if you were living inside an old-fashioned trunk," Betty Lydon, home-fashions director at York Wallcoverings in York, Pa., says.

Another of Lydon's ideas for the same type of room--an idea that would work especially well in a young child's room--is to choose a border that suggests motion, picturing cars or trains, for example. Place the border on the slope and around the tops of the windows, as if the vehicles were on a journey following a winding route around the room.

Wallpaper doesn't have to be avoided when a room has too many windows--using matching paper and fabric for window coverings can be a room unifier. When the window covering is the same as the paper, the effect is to make the windows less obvious, Lydon says.

Emphasizing a recess or a niche in a room with wallpaper can add interest to the room, says Melissa Hyatt, design director for prints and wallpaper for Waverly in New York.

If the room already is papered, choose a contrasting paper to make the niche stand out. If the room's walls are painted, almost any noticeable pattern will do the trick. Place an interesting piece of furniture or art object in the niche to call even more attention to it.

In a bedroom where the bed has no headboard, use paper as a visual headboard. Hang a lively pattern on the portion of the wall behind the bed and frame it with narrow picture molding. Accentuate the effect with matching bed linens.

Wallpaper can be used to change the apparent height of a room. If you want the room to appear loftier, hang the paper on the lower portion of the wall below a chair rail--a molding at waist height--and paint the upper part of the wall the same color as the ceiling.

"This has the effect of making the room seem more spacious, but you still get the charm of the pattern of the wallpaper on the lower part," Lydon says.

If ceilings are too high, place a wide border a few feet below the ceiling and paint the area above the border to match the ceiling. This treatment will visually shorten the distance between floor and ceiling.

Waverly suggests some other ways to use wallpaper borders to advantage:

* Use the borders to create moldings around windows and doors that don't have them, and create the illusion of a chair rail by hanging a border horizontally about 36 inches up on the wall.

* The newest borders available feature die-cut edges on one side, such as scallops and zigzags, and can add personality to a room.

* Use the same wallpaper border with different but complementary wallpapers to link adjoining separate spaces, such as a kitchen and breakfast area, bedroom and sitting area, living room and den.

One room might be hung with an all-over print and the other with a stripe. Using the same border in both rooms would unify the space without making it too uniform.

If walls are in poor condition, first hang a wallpaper liner to provide a smooth base and choose a wallpaper with an all-over pattern to draw attention away from the flaws.

The bottom line is: Patterned wallpaper can minimize architectural flaws, create a strong design statement, and give a room a more finished and put-together look.

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