Decorative Wallcoverings: Our Favorite Interior Feature & How They Can Transform Your Space

Interior walls should be one of the most celebrated features of the home. Walls not only provide a blank canvas for decorating, but they are also the key elements that protect us and set the mood for interior life. Throughout history, walls have been ornamented with decorative wallcoverings ranging from wood paneling to wallpaper to upholstery. It is only in recent years that unadorned sheetrock and plain paint have become a base standard. However, homeowners are once again choosing to celebrate their walls, as wallpapers, paneling, and unique wallcoverings make a resurgence. While wallcoverings don’t have to be fancy, there is no reason not to embrace a little bit of glamour, especially when we spend so much time inside the walls of our homes. Amity Worrel, lead interior designer at Amity Kett, is revealing her favorite decorative wallcoverings and how they can transform your space. 

A Brief History of Decorative Wallcoverings 

Decorative wallcoverings date back to some of the earliest structures. Records claim that the first use of wallpaper was in China as early as 200 B.C. These early wallcoverings featured birds, flowers, and landscapes painted on rice paper. The use of wallpapers eventually became more widespread, and they were brought to Europe as early as the 15th century. In 1675, Jean-Michel Papillon made the first repeating wallpaper designs that were continuous from one sheet to the next, becoming the inventor of wallpaper as we know it today. By 1712, wallpaper had become so popular in England that it received its own special tax. With the rise of industrialization and faster print production, the 1920s became known as “The Golden Age of Wallpaper,” offering widespread accessibility. 

Wallcoverings were not just added for beauty but also for practicality. Before the creation of sheetrock, interior walls were made from plaster which could be susceptible to damage. This gave rise to paneling and wainscoting which became popular during the Colonial era. Plaster would eventually be upstaged by a new building material in the 20th century. Drywall was invented in 1916, but it didn’t start to become a popular building material until the 1950s when Baby Boomers started expanding into the suburbs after WWII. However, paneling and wallpaper remained popular wallcoverings through the 1970s. Plain sheetrock walls had a brief moment of fame, but once again trends are moving in favor of warmer, more unique wallcoverings. 

8 Types of Decorative Wallcoverings 

Wallcoverings can range from the understated to the bold and be applied to any style home from farmhouse to regency. Here are eight of our favorite types of decorative wallcoverings. 

Wood Paneling 

Some homeowners cringe at the mention of wood paneling and get flashbacks from renovation nightmares of their 70s rec rooms. However, decorative wood paneling can be incredibly versatile, timeless, and refined. Board and batten, beadboard, and flat panels can create cozy Crafstman styled spaces or high-end luxury looks. Reclaimed plank walls could also offer rustic charm. Finishes could range from light to dark stains or even high-gloss lacquers. Paneling is one of our favorite ways to cover a wall because it truly offers endless style options and charm. 

Exposed Brick 

If you are lucky enough to have exposed brick, it is a beautiful feature to showcase. Now, many people are renovating their homes to remove sheetrock that was once hung to cover gorgeous brick lays. To get the look in homes without exposed brick walls, faux brick can be applied similarly to tile. Brick can be a stunning addition along staircase walls, fireplaces, or columns. 

Mirror 

Mirrored walls are back again and making appearances in spaces that range from the ultra-sleek to over the top decadent. Not only do mirrored walls create the illusion of more space and light, but they can also be applied to create stunning architectural features. With different finishes, like antiquing, mirrored walls can be combined with other materials to create an almost surreal space of luxury, like in this Miles Redd room. 

Wallpaper 

Wallpaper started regaining popularity in the mid-2010s, and it is only picking up more steam as we enter the new decade. Wallpaper is available in almost any style and color, and with custom patterns, the options are truly limitless. As we continue to gravitate towards spending more time at home, wallpaper will only continue to gain demand. This classic wall covering has taken its rightful place back in the home for its beauty and effortless ability to express style and personality.  

Upholstery 

Upholstered walls add another layer of texture to a space. Like wallpaper, upholstery offers a range of styles and colors, but it also has the added benefit of soundproofing. Soft fabric wall panels are perfect for creating a luxurious and quiet bedroom, and they could also be perfect for a home office that needs to feel like an escape from home life. 

Shiplap 

While shiplap has seen a rise to popularity on a national scale in recent years, this wallcovering has been around for decades. In many homes, beautiful shiplap walls lie beneath sheetrock waiting to be uncovered and restored. Shiplap can be finished with a stain, a coat of paint, or a wash. Shiplap can work in a range of spaces from farmhouse to transitional.   

Cork 

Cork is a gorgeous material that can be used for wallcoverings. With a rich look and variation, cork provides texture, soundproofing, and opportunities to change artwork consistently. Cork is self-healing, so there is no need to worry about nail holes. This could also be a perfect home office wall covering where the occasional note and thumbtack could even find a home. 

Tile 

Tile is a practical material for wet areas, like kitchens and bathrooms. However, we are no longer limiting ourselves to utilizing this material on floors and shower walls alone. Floor to ceiling tiled walls are rising in popularity. Tile not only offers a range of beautiful colors and finishes, but it also helps to protect wet areas from water damage and mold. Plus, it is easy to clean. 

Amity Kett’s Tips for Applying Wallcoverings 

Our main tip for decorating your walls is to try utilizing any material besides paint and drywall alone. There are so many gorgeous options to choose from to turn your walls into a showpiece that expresses your personality. Wallpaper and paneling add visual interest. Upholstery and cork add texture and soundproofing. Mirror and lacquer add shine and brightness. Tile, brick, and shiplap add charm and character. Our talented team of interior designers and architects can help you select gorgeous wallcoverings that express your unique style and transform your home’s interior. Ask us how we can help. 

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