As with all design trends, there is an ebb and flow of popularity, and after decades of decline, wallpaper is back in style. But if you immediately visualize the ubiquitous floral or fruit themes of the past, then you are in for a surprise. Today’s wallpaper is more than just a printed surface.

“With the embellishments and special features of current wallpapers, I often use them more as bold pieces of art rather than as a background,” says Chris Murphy, owner of Christopher Murphy Design.

Adorned with glass beads, embroidery, Swarovski crystals, metal filigree and hammered metal discs for textural effects, the term “wallpaper” hardly seems sufficient. In addition, gold, silver and bronze leaf, mother-of-pearl and exotic wood veneers adhered to paper backing create stunning wall treatments.

“I’ve always liked to use wallpaper,” says Tulsa designer Charles Faudree, who has noticed a recent trend toward softer colors. He hopes the current popularity is here to stay since Faudree is collaborating with manufacturers Vervain and Stroheim to produce a line of wall covering that coordinates with his current Vervain fabric line, which will be available in August.

The popularity of natural fibers has revived the use of grasscloth but with a 21st century twist, blending strands of metallic threads woven into the pattern. With a nod to eco-friendly themes, hemp, jute, bamboo and even cork are laminated atop various colored or metallic paper backings, providing a depth and sparkle not typically associated with a natural fiber product. Silk, felt, linen, suede and woven leather wallpapers simulate the luxurious subtlety of an upholstered wall. And the high gloss of lacquered wall coverings provides instant sophistication to the discerning eye.

Other styles trending for 2012 include using non-traditional colors in classic designs, retro or Mid-century Modern designs with updated motifs printed on Mylar grounds and popular patterns from the past that feature timeworn imperfections giving the design an antiqued feel. Even flocked wallpapers have made a stunning return.

Today’s wall covering options have also benefitted from current technology. From computer-generated kaleidoscope designs to stylized photographs, any type of image can be produced into affordable murals that can be custom sized for a specific wall.

Top-of-the-line wall treatments can be pricey. Swarovski Elements wallpaper collection of bedazzled silk, velvet flocking and sparkling crystals run up to $800 per roll. Other specialty papers are available from under $50 to more than $200 per yard.

“Powder rooms and ceilings are perfect for creating a strong impact without requiring a large quantity of expensive material,” says Murphy.

However, if your goal is to create a more whimsical, inexpensive and less permanent focal point, wall decals are available for under $100. These peel-and-stick graphics are perfect options for dorm rooms, apartments and children’s areas.

With the extensive choice of wall coverings available, walls are not just for painting anymore.

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