Today, there are more choices than ever to help clothe walls, but how do you choose among the thousands of types and patterns available? According to designers in the know, the best way to choose a wall covering is to look at your clients' lifestyles and select wall coverings that complement, even create, the way they live.
ART FOR WALLS
"Today's consumer is educated, traveled, well-informed and has very little spare time," says Edna Stern, president, Jolie Papier, Ltd. "Emotionally, the home has become a refuge from our harried lifestyles-a place that needs to evoke feelings of relaxation and comfort. The design statement for the home today is more casual, more luxurious, more natural . . . making life easier."
As consumers make their homes more comfortable, they also look to blend comfort with decorating styles that will make their homes a reflection of their personalities. More than ever before, consumers are looking to wall coverings as a means of expression, as they do a painting or sculpture, not merely as a way to hide a bare wall.
The result of this wall-coverings-as-art phenomena is that consumers are experimenting with wall coverings in creative ways including mixing patterns, layering multiple products and covering spaces such as ceilings and furniture not normally associated with wall coverings.
"There also is more art on the walls due to borders," says Gina Shaw, vice president of design, Eisenhart Wallcoverings. "One of the innovative things manufacturers are doing is creating mural borders with artwork that have a 13- to 14-foot repeat (most borders have a 20 1/2-inch repeat) creating a fuller, richer wall pattern."
As a result of this mix of comfort and individualism, current trends in wall covering design are broad and eclectic. Gone are the days when trendy homes shared the same patterns or color scheme. Instead, today's trends reflect consumers' distaste for conformity, while embracing their personal, artistic and eclectic styles.
Throughout the 1990s, color has continuously evolved with the most popular colors coming from nature. Designers agree the color palette for 1998-99 also features colors found in nature, but in warmer and softer shades that create more livable environments. Today, a whole spectrum of colors are in demand, with the hottest including tomato red, coral, silver, sage green, eggplant, blues, yellow, orange and tans.
"The biggest trend is adding warmth to the home environment with earthtones," says Denise Hubert, senior designer/stylist, Gilford.
Textures are still in, but today more people prefer woven-type textures and are moving away from faux or paint-like patterns. Taste in pattern varies across the board, which clearly illustrates the need for a wide array of wall coverings options-at least enough for every personality.
"Most manufacturers create patterns that range from romantic to traditional to cutting edge, and textures that infuse simplicity into any decor," Stern says. "With the number of patterns and colors, wall coverings let personal style reign."
THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY
In addition to color and pattern, high technology makes it possible to create a whole new family of wall coverings. For those who enjoy photographs and realistic as opposed to artistic details, advances in computer imaging and printing make it possible to create images never before available. Some manufacturers even offer custom wall coverings, creating unique, one-of-a-kind wall coverings based on designs customers themselves create.
"With new technology, manufacturers can produce designs and patterns that are more realistic, detailed and rich," says Maureen McReynolds, designer, Imperial Home Decor Group. "Designs are photo realistic and printing is precise because of the technology now available."
As a result of increased technology, photo murals-large panoramic photos that cover an entire room, wall or ceiling-are en vogue due to their startling realism.
BREAKING THE AGE BARRIER
Although wall coverings have a reputation for being popular among older, established home owners, younger consumers are realizing the dramatic differences wall coverings make and are creating their own demands for new colors and styles.
"Animal designs and animal prints appeal to younger home owners who are more courageous in the decorating techniques," says Debra Fedasiuk, public relations manager, Thibaut Wallcoverings.
"Free form design also is popular," says William Cheek, designer manager, Columbus Coated Fabrics. "Little squiggles that float in and out of textures and patterns create contemporary looks."
"I also see the demand for wall covering with Asian designs-bamboo motifs and shapes, calligraphy, fans, etc.-increasing," says Shaw. "I believe popular fashion has influenced this trend. It integrates spirituality into everyday living."
Overwhelmingly, today's consumers seek only variations on their current looks when redecorating.
"Last year, there was a real perceptible change in color; more demand for a yellow palette," says Cheek. "But this only happens every three to five years."
Between these three- to five-year design cycles, consumers opt for more affordable yet dramatic decorating updates. Today, consumers are turning to wall coverings to update the ambiance of their homes, getting the greatest color and design impact without breaking budgets.
THE CEILING'S THE LIMIT
Consumers today mix deco, traditional and modern styles and their decorating tastes are considered eclectic, yet tasteful. There are less decorating taboos. Furniture reflects time-worn elegance, such as a scuffed chair or pre-faded textiles. Wall coverings can enhance this environment, and many stores have custom home coordinating programs, including fabrics by the yard and coordinated area rugs to match wall covering collections.
Whether your client is planning a full makeover for a home or a smaller scale change, his or her personal taste is your blueprint to follow, and with more options than ever and easier ways to choose, decorating with wall coverings can be a fun and creative project.
This report was prepared by the Wallcovering Association (WA), Chicago, IL, (312) 644-6610, which represents 150 manufacturers, distributors and industry associates. All of the designers interviewed for this report are WA members.