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Need to freshen up a room? Wallpaper has it covered

Maureen Olson, co-owner of Andren’s Paint Company in West Duluth, discusses wallpaper with a visitor to the store. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com1 / 4
Wallpaper comes in hundreds of varieties, samples of which are available at dealers. Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com2 / 4
An example of a wallpaper option for a child’s room - with different color papers low and high on the wall, separated by a decorative border.3 / 4
Photomurals are one of the options homeowners have for decorating their walls. In its entirety, this eight-piece mural of an Earthrise over the moon covers almost a 13-by-9-foot space.4 / 4

You can cover your wall in roses, brick or an Andy Warhol design.

The options for wallpaper are endless, and that's one of the reasons it's making a comeback, local experts say.

After a 10-year lull, Maureen Olson, owner of Andren's paint company in West Duluth, started seeing an increased interest about a year and a half ago. It's a lot easier to work with and tear down than it used to be, she said.

Design TV shows and Instagram have played a part in making wallpaper more popular, said Megan Rivas of Room and Flow, a staging and interior redesign company in Duluth. Design bloggers and interior designers post their work, and that inspires and motivates consumers to try it in their homes.

Another trend is minimalistic walls with natural or organic elements. One way to achieve that in wall coverings is by using wallpaper on one or two accent walls, or by stenciling on neutral colored walls, Rivas said by email.

Another option is wood accent walls, which can be extremely interesting, especially with reclaimed wood, said Tamara Zakovich of Glo Interior Design in Duluth. The best trick for this: "Less is more," she said.

Older design trends are being revamped and re-imagined on the market, added Rivas, who called it a return to "mid-century modern."

In Olson's store, there's a library filled with wallpaper books. Some options: the San Francisco skyline, a shimmery damask over cream, a cartoonish bullfrog.

There are books for different areas of the home with various textures — grasscloth, vinyl, fabric. There are surfaces you can apply and then paint over yourself — good for camouflaging flaws in your walls, Olson said. And you can even make DIY wallpaper with a high-resolution photo you took yourself.

"The popular paper seems to be oversized prints, floral and botanical patterns that have a more whimsical feel," Rivas said.

Olson said she helps clients figure out what they want and how much they need. Things to consider are the room's flooring, carpeting colors, the decor, the style of the house. And if you're going into a store to buy, it helps to bring the room's measurements.

If you go with a pattern, that usually has to be matched, and that needs to be taken into account. "You don't use every little postage-stamp-size piece. You overlap the top and bottom, so there's a little bit of waste involved," said Pete Olson, co-owner of Andren's.

The Olsons have wallpaper borders in their home. They go well with the rooms they're accenting. One's a nature design and the other a sporting design.

Zakovich has wallpaper in her home breakfast nook. It's a linear, large-scale design in metallic silver and pearl white. She said it works well next to the built-in cabinets and hard surfaces of her kitchen.

Wallpaper is for anyone who wants to be bold and have a unique wall treatment, Zakovich said by email. "Wallcovering can act as art or can be a supporting wall treatment. I love it because it, in a way, tells a story of the client and/or the architecture," she said.

Zakovich suggested working with a professional to apply it. But if you choose to do it yourself, use a primer first, recommended Cheryl Stafne, sales associate at the Duluth Home Depot. It evens out the pores in the wall and helps the paper adhere at the same rate.

This also helps if and when you choose to remove it. Skipping this step can lead to losing sheetrock or plaster while you're trying to scrape off an old layer. If you are stripping it, wallpaper remover is effective, Stafne said.

A few other removal tools are a tray, a razor blade, a smoothing tool, and the golden rule, she said: "Lots of patience."

Photo by Megan Rivas

Wall stenciling

You can make your own stencil using a hobby knife and a thick sheet of plastic, or you can buy one. (This was from StenCilit.) Whichever you choose, wall stenciling can be an easy option for a DIY wall covering.


Paint color (save time with quick-drying option)


Paint tray

Paint tape

Tape off your working area, ceiling and baseboard, etc. Starting from the top and working your way down, tape up your stencil. Lay newspaper on the floor. Using a small amount of paint on the roller, apply. Be sure to not use too much, as it will clog the stencil or bleed.

Source: Megan Rivas, Room and Flow, a staging and interior redesign company in Duluth

Melinda Lavine

Lavine is a features and health reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

(218) 723-5346