The Best Wallpaper Designs for a Stylish Home

Dress up your walls without much fuss, thanks to these new wallpapers that are easy to apply and even easier to love.

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The Best Wallpaper Design Options

Photo: grahambrown.com

Forget your grandmother’s chintz. Innovative materials, vibrant colors, and designer patterns make today’s wallpaper a thing of beauty and sophistication. Of course, not all wallpaper is created equal, so it’s good to know the best wallpaper material for specific rooms, as well as helpful qualities like washability and removability.

To help you find the best look for any room in your home, here are some guidelines to keep in mind. Read on for technical specs, shopping considerations, and, of course, design inspiration.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Sashiko Navy Wallpaper
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Mid Century Wallpaper
  3. BEST FOR THE KITCHEN: Alexis Spanish Tile Geometric Wallpaper
  4. BEST FOR BEDROOMS: Strawberry Thief Morris & Co. Wallpaper
  5. BEST FOR LIVING ROOMS: Doster Abstract Embossed Grasscloth Wallpaper
  6. BEST FOR BATHROOMS: Joss & Main Sasha Wallpaper
  7. BEST FOR KIDS’ ROOMS: Painted Palette Wallpaper
The Best Wallpaper Design Options

Photo: rejuvenation.com

When it comes to wallpaper, weigh practical considerations like upkeep with your aesthetic preferences. While vinyl and printed wallpaper are affordable and come in a range of colors and patterns, you do have other options, too. Foil, flock, and woven grasscloth are luxe alternatives and can transform a room, depending on your desired look.

Washable

Washable wallpaper is typically made of vinyl, which comes in three main varieties: solid sheet, vinyl-coated fabric, and vinyl-coated paper.

  • Solid sheet vinyl wallpaper is made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or acrylic vinyl. As it is not applied as a coating, but is pure vinyl through and through, it boasts the most durable construction.
  • Vinyl-coated fabric or paper is still a good choice for highly-trafficked rooms. It is easy to clean with a little soapy water and can stand up to humid conditions and cooking fumes.

Liner

Made of thick paper, wall liner isn’t intended for decoration but rather to conceal flaws and create a smooth surface for wallpapering or painting. It comes in two varieties: bridging and blankstock liner.

  • Bridging liner, which is thick and textureless, is good for covering cracks.
  • Blankstock liner, a thinner paper pulp, provides a smooth surface to hold wallpaper.

Either type of liner can be applied directly to the bare wall, and then covered with paint or a decorative paper. Liner extends the longevity and quality of your wall’s surface, providing a sturdy, smooth underlayment for paint or decorative paper.

Printed

Printed wallpaper is what we traditionally think of as “wallpaper.” It consists of a coated paper backing printed with a color or pattern. Sometimes a pre-pasted adhesive layer is applied to the backing. Printed wallpaper that does not have an adhesive backing must have wallpaper paste applied prior to hanging. Removable and peel-and-stick varieties of printed wallpaper are gaining in popularity. Unlike pasted wallpaper, removable wallpaper is easy to install and peels away without much effort, leaving little to no residue behind.

Textured

The softness, sheen, or all-natural weave of textured wallpapers can boost the drama, dimensionality, and eye appeal of any given room. There are many options, the most popular of which are:

  • Foil wallpapers are difficult to hang but stunning to look at. Made of thin layers of metal, their highly reflective surface magnifies even the smallest defect in the wall underneath, so professional installation is highly recommended. You can choose from plain metallics, repeat patterns, and textured finishes.
  • Flocked wall hangings, originally invented to imitate luxury fabrics like velvet and damask, date back to the 1700s. Today, natural woolen flock has been replaced with artificial fibers including polyester, nylon, and raylon. Flocked wallpapers consist of a smooth background overlaid with a repeating pattern, typically with a velvety finish.
  • Mylar’s shiny surface is created by applying a polyester film over a paper backing. Similar to foil wallpaper, mylar creases easily and shows every imperfection, so it is harder to install. Because it can withstand, and even be cleaned up with, a little soapy water, it’s often seen in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Grasscloth includes any wallpaper constructed of hand-woven natural fibers. Made of hemp, jute, seagrass, arrowroot grass, bamboo, and raffia, grasscloth wallpapers offer subtle texture. They are more sustainable and eco-friendly than manmade materials, but also more expensive—at least double the cost—due to handmade construction. However, you can find good vinyl grasscloth imitations, as well as commercial fibers that mimic the handmade look and feel.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Wallpaper

Wallpaper is a decent investment, as well as a time commitment to install. Depending on the room it will feature in, your wallpaper needs to hold up to daily wear and tear. It also needs to improve the appearance and value of your home for the long run or be easy to remove if you decide to sell. Think about what you need from your wallpaper of choice.

Location and Intended Use

When considering what type of wallpaper is best for you, first decide how it will be used on a daily basis. Divide your home into “use” zones:

  • Kitchens, bathrooms, and kids’ rooms are high use areas. If the walls are exposed to higher humidity levels, cooking fumes, or “artistic” additions from little hands, washable vinyl wallpaper is typically best.
  • Bedrooms, living rooms, and home offices are typically medium use. For medium use zones, vinyl can also be used, though you may want the softer look and feel of printed or textured wallpapers.
  • Low use rooms may include formal dining rooms and guest rooms. More delicate materials, especially foils, flock, and natural fibers, should be reserved for areas that have low humidity and won’t risk getting stained through use.

Design and Pattern Selection

Solid and textured wallpapers are, in some ways, easier to choose. Like paint, you’ll want to get some swatches—most online brands will supply them, sometimes at a small charge. Next, make sure the color compliments your room’s lighting and fabrics. Neutrals like ivory, taupe, gray, and natural bamboo rarely go out of style, especially if you select tones and textures made from high-quality materials that pair well with your appliances, fixtures, and overall ambiance (classic or contemporary).

Patterned wallpapers can be trickier to select. If you love a wallpaper pattern, but fear it may be too busy, consider a single, accent wall. Another option is to cover only the lower or upper half of the walls with wallpaper. For a bold and unique approach, consider wallpapering the ceiling. One final consideration is whether to choose a flat or a textured pattern. Flat and moderately flat patterns are easier to keep clean, and are good for bathrooms and kitchens. More highly textured patterns, especially flocked wallpapers, are more suitable for bedrooms, living, or dining rooms. In all cases, a wallpaper should enhance, not overwhelm, a space.

Application and Pattern Matching

Whatever your selection, smooth, clean walls are best for applying wallpaper. Uneven, damaged, dirty, or textured surfaces will create a bumpy, unprofessional finish. So first ensure that your chosen surface is sanded, cleaned with soapy water, and fully dry. You may also want to prime the wall, giving it at least two hours to completely dry before hanging wallpaper.

Traditionally, wallpaper is hung using wallpaper paste, an adhesive that is spread evenly onto the back of the paper before pressing it firmly to the wall. The sheet is then pressed flat with a wallpaper brush. Removable and peel-and-stick varieties don’t require additional paste, but you will still need to measure accurately. Find a plumb vertical line and a straight horizontal line to guide your application.

If your wallpaper is a solid color or texture, your job will be easier. Repeat patterns are more difficult to hang, and you will have to learn pattern matching. Random patterns are easier to match and can be handled by beginners. More complex “straight across” and “drop match” patterns may require a professional contractor. These terms refer to how patterns repeat on a single roll of wallpaper, and require special measurements and trimming to ensure the patterns align perfectly when placed on your wall.

Our Top Picks

Balancing beauty and function, the following wallpapers will delight and add depth to most living spaces.They provide timeless designs, paired with new, high-quality materials designed to make your life easier. Totally transform your rooms for the better with one of these subtly chic or boldly brilliant patterns.

Best Overall

Photo: grahambrown.com

A remastered classic, Sashiko Navy wallpaper is inspired by Japanese stitching and embellished with copper detailing. The geometric pattern is both dramatic and calming, offering a lush optical backdrop for a living or dining space. Sashiko is a traditional printed wallpaper with a straight across pattern. For pattern-matching perfection, it is probably best to hire a contractor. But, with precise measurements and an eye for detail, it is possible for a DIYer to install this wallpaper themselves. The backing is unpasted, so you will need to spread on adhesive before applying the 20.47-inch-wide, 32.8-foot rolls. Not sure how many rolls you will need? Graham and Brown provides an online tool to figure this out. If you love the pattern but aren’t sold on navy, choose from four subtle color combinations, including pearl, rose gold, and taupe.

Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Wallpaper Design Option: Mid Century Wallpaper
Photo: jossandmain.com

The metallic finish on this 21-inch-wide, 33-foot roll of Mid Century Wallpaper offers a subtle drama fit for powder rooms, bedrooms, dining rooms, and more. Its sheen complements an interlocking geometric pattern reminiscent of Art Deco architectural themes, particularly in the gold on beige. This paste-on wallpaper comes in five sophisticated color combinations: beige, silver, taupe, brown, and red. With a price that’s hard to beat, Mid Century wallpaper is made for the 21st century home, too.

Best for the Kitchen

The Best Wallpaper Design Option: Alexis Spanish Tile Geometric Wallpaper
Photo: jossandmain.com

Get the look of old-world tile without the expense of importing materials and hiring a professional tile installer. It is even pre-pasted, making it easy to both install and strip for removal. With varying color vibrancy, akin to hand-painted tile worn over the years, the 20.5-inch-wide, 33-foot rolls of Alexis Spanish Tile wallpaper are convincing tile substitutes. The floral pattern evokes themes of Mediterranean design in a modern monochromatic palette; choose one of five different hues, from gentle blues to neutrals. The semi-gloss finish is ideal for kitchen and bathroom backsplashes as you can wipe it clean with a damp cloth.

Best for Bedrooms

The Best Wallpaper Design Option: Strawberry Thief Morris & Co. Wallpaper)
Photo: rejuvenation.com

William Morris was the 19th century leader of the Arts & Crafts movement, and his textile designs are still considered classics today. Strawberry Thief, one of his most famous patterns, has stood the test of time—since 1883. Rejuvenation’s update on the wallpaper includes a tone-on-tone silver and stone palette for modern sensibilities, as well as two punchier options on indigo and chocolate backgrounds. Due to the complex bird and botanical pattern, professional installation is recommended for the 20.5-inch-by-33-foot rolls of printed wallpaper, which does not come pre-pasted.

Best for Living Rooms

The Best Wallpaper Design Option: Doster Abstract Embossed Grasscloth Wallpaper
Photo: wayfair.com

Grasscloth can be expensive if it is handwoven, but this Doster embossed wallpaper offers the texture and beautiful weave at a much more affordable price. If you’re looking to make an impact without being visually cluttered, try the Doster wallpaper in red as an accent wall. Or if you prefer to cover the entire room, choose one of the other neutral colors available in either deep green, beige, taupe, bamboo, or black threaded with browns. The random woven pattern makes installation of the non-pasted, 36-inch-by-24-foot rolls easier, even for beginners.

Best for Bathrooms

The Best Wallpaper Design Option: Joss Main Sasha Wallpaper
Photo: jossandmain.com

Sasha Wallpaper provides a sophisticated, low-maintenance upgrade to the home. It could be mistaken for natural fiber, yet this vinyl wallpaper is ultra-durable and easier to maintain. Its moisture resistance makes it durable enough to withstand a little soapy water—from cleanup or a splash from the sink. Suitable for small, windowless powder rooms and large, at-home spas alike, Sasha will add depth and dimension to your bathroom. Choose from five shades, including beige, blue-gray, gray, taupe, and light brown. The subtle pattern is DIY-friendly, and the 20.5-inch-by-32.7-foot rolls come pre-pasted, so you only need to moisten each sheet before hanging.

Best for Kids’ Rooms

The Best Wallpaper Design Option: Painted Palette Wallpaper
Photo: katezarembacompany.com

Kids are artists at heart, so why not encourage their creativity with a room to inspire and elate? Painted Palette by Kate Zaremba Company has so much energy and pizazz, you may just kick off your shoes and dance while hanging it. The delightful pattern is happy, but not too cutesy—teens may just love it, too. This fully removable wallpaper is ideal for kids’ spaces: you can take it down, as their tastes change, without damaging the walls. It is printed on 24-inch-wide PVC-free paper, which is durable and eco-friendly. The self-adhesive backing simply needs to be soaked in water before applying the 9- or 12-foot-long rolls to the wall.

FAQs About Your New Wallpaper

Before selecting a wallpaper, make sure you have a good understanding of application and removal. Here are some extra tips to make the process easy and, relatively, stress-free.

Q. Will wallpaper hide cracks?

No, wallpaper will not hide flaws in the underlying wall, so be sure to fix any cracks, sand, and prime before hanging wallpaper. You can also apply wall liner underneath wallpaper, for a perfectly smooth surface.

Q. What is the best way to take off wallpaper?

The best way to remove wallpaper depends on its design. For removable wallpaper, including peel-and-stick varieties, simply pull one of the corners in a single direction. Pasted wallpapers must be soaked in hot water and stripped with a putty knife. For vinyl wallpapers, use a wallpaper remover instead of hot water.