Once a beacon of outdated interiors, wallpaper has made a fierce comeback with fresh, trendy patterns and textures to suit even the most minimalist tastes. • Surprised? • Take a stroll through the Florida Craftsmen Gallery's exhibit of original wallpaper designs by Tampa Bay area artists ("Paper: Off and On the Wall," through July 24). The array of designs and colors should be enough to convince you there's a wide, wide world of untapped wallpaper creativity out there.
Why not take inspiration from the artists on display and design your own? Though it's certainly not cheap at roughly $7 to $10 per square foot, it's a unique way to make your mark (perhaps more suitable for an accent wall or a border than for the living room).
"We can print virtually anything on any wallpaper," says Brad Erickson, whose company, Grand Central Stained Glass and Graphics in St. Petersburg, printed most of the wallpaper at the Florida Craftsmen exhibit. "The kids' room can have pictures of the kids."
You can also print gigantic photo murals to paper a wall, creating an amazing focal point in a room. Add larger-than-life flowers in a bedroom, or an Everglades cypress forest in your living room, or a beach scene to coordinate with a tiki-themed bar.
And if you're feeling noncommittal, those images can be printed on a static-cling material, says David Swift II, of Swiftmaps.com, a custom photo mural printer in Pinellas Park. "You can have your own rotating art exhibit."
The possibilities are endless.
"With wallpaper, it's a matter of computer skills," says Maria Emilia, the executive director of the Florida Craftsmen Gallery in downtown St. Petersburg. "You can apply it (custom wallpaper) like any other wallpaper."
Creating a design does involve some planning. Some tips:
• Choose the right kind of paper for the room. Papers with vinyl coatings, for example, can be wiped down with damp cloths and are suited for high-traffic zones, such as hallways.
• If you don't have a digital image or photograph of your artwork, find a printer who can work with your original.
• Decide what role you want your wallpaper to play. Bold colors, images and patterns will put the focus on the paper. More subdued shades will serve as a subtle background. If you're going to keep everything else in the room the same as it is now, pick colors that play off the furnishings and decor in a room.
• You can create a core pattern to be repeated within the paper dimension — wallpaper bolts vary in widths — or craft a single design that uses the entire wall. Core patterns can be repeated linearly, staggered or on left or right diagonals.
• If you need inspiration, check out historic patterns. Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City has the largest collection of wallpaper in the United States. You can see some patterns online at cooperhewitt.org/collections/wallcoverings.asp.
• "Just like with any design, the white space, the negative is important," says Erickson, who likes to collaborate with clients to create their designs. He uses ImagePrint software that lets designers play with the pattern or image and its placement on the paper.
• Photo murals can be used to make a smaller room feel larger, much like the visual trickery of trompe l'oeil.
Elizabeth McCann is a freelance writer based in St. Petersburg.