Wallpaper that wows: Even a little bit of whimsy makes a bold statement

by decwells
Wallpaper that wows: Even a little bit of whimsy makes a bold statement


Show houses and design conferences can be inspiring and a great way to find out what the trends in interior design are. We’ve seen some stunning wallpaper lately, and murals are back in vogue. Rather than a large abstract painting hung on the wall, the entire wall can be the bold statement.

We asked Renae Farley of RF Designs about bold trends in wallpaper. Farley has seen countless trends during her long career and will soon retire, handing over her practice and office to Stacey Harten of the June Design Co.

“After a wonderful 38-year career as an interior designer, I have decided to begin my transition into retirement,” Farley said. “I am a native San Diegan but have spent the last 30 years in Carlsbad.”

Q: Congratulations! Can you look back and tell us about some of your experiences with clients who wanted to be bold?

A: Most of my clients were on the conservative side, so my signature was to keep my designs fairly neutral with understated clean lines. Because I do a lot of custom furniture, which can be quite expensive, I like to create pieces that my clients will enjoy for many years and not be considered trendy.

The idea is to create a design that will be comfortable and attractive for 15 to 20 years. I believe your home should be representative of you and your personality. I try to create a little whimsy in every room, with accessories or artwork.

Q: What about wallpaper? We saw some great examples in the Pasadena Showcase House earlier this year: giant vegetable plants like willow-like vines, flowering flowers, and solar-pressed palm fronds.

A: I love beautiful wallpaper and always have. Some of my favorites are Vahallan, Schumacher, Kravet, Phillip Jeffries, Veranda, Thomas Lavin and Myra Romanoff.

Q: I looked through some of these names. There is an incredible variety of design: wood tones, paper with glass beads and silver leaf. And the murals are even more amazing. The wall becomes a beautiful setting.

A: Yes, the days of small, Victorian-flowered wallpaper are over – at least I hope so.

Q: What is the boldest design you think you’ve done in your career?

A: I think the boldest was for my client, Sheryl, who is an artistic person and animal lover. She used to rescue pups, but now she breeds Chihuahuas. She told me she wanted the equivalent of a Man Cave which she called a Babe Cave, where she could relax and cuddle with her dogs. The room was an office, very dark and with very dark furniture and one wall was all mirrors. It was very ’90s.

We lightened it up by painting the old faux painting on the walls a soft white color. We got rid of all the books and used the shelves for all her fun collectibles. We made a custom sectional in a neutral off-white, ordered brass and glass round stack coffee tables and a small white and brass cabinet for the TV. We installed a beautiful brass and crystal chandelier.

Q: That sounds beautiful. But what was the bold part?

A: I persuaded her to cover the wall of mirrors with wallpaper. When she finally agreed, we searched for a long time to find just the right pattern.

In the end, the one she loved the most was a peel and stick wallpaper we found online. It was a very bold pattern, pink and purple abstract flowers, vines and leaves.

Wallpaper hanging is an art in itself. Installers do a lot of prep work, making sure the wall is smooth and using special wallpaper and glue. The installers I know won’t do peel and stick, so she decided to hang it over the mirrors herself.

I wish I had a good photo of the room, especially with some of the little pink pet beds. It was all just right for her.

Q: Is there anything else that tends towards bold statements?

A: Bold tile floors are popular right now. You see printed tiles everywhere. I have just returned from a month in Ireland. We stayed in one house that had four different floor patterns throughout the house, so they are definitely back in style.

The tiled floor was key for the client who wanted his home office to look like an Old English pub. We did the floors in 12-inch-by-12-inch tiles in a pattern of black, brown, and rust. We also put stone on an accent wall behind his desk to recreate the look of an old castle wall.

Reflective tiles as the backsplash in the kitchen are also a way to just add a bold touch to the room without going overboard.

Catherine Gagh is a freelance writer.

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