What’s on your walls? Create character and add atmosphere with a finish that’s as simple or eye-catching as you wish, says interiors expert Katherine Sorrell
Choosing a wall finish is a question of combining personal choice and practicalities. Naturally, while some finishes are hands-off-don’t-touch delicate, others are ideal for protecting walls from knocks and bumps, muddy paws and sticky fingers; some are meant only for perfectly smooth walls, while others are great at disguising blemishes. Find the right type of finish, then decide how colourful, patterned and textured you want it to be. A plain white wall, for example, may be just the ticket for showing off your collection of snow globes or tin toys, or as a counterpoint to bright cushions, throws and other accessories. On the other hand, you may want an exciting wallpaper that draws the eye to a feature wall, or adds pzazz to an otherwise boring room. Suffice to say that a change of wallcovering can transform cold into cosy, boring into beautiful and out of date into instantly cool.

Preparing your walls

  • Your wall should be as smooth as possible, so cut away and replace any bulging, loose or crumbling plaster, strip off old wallpaper and fill any small cracks or holes.
  • Allow new plaster to dry. Before painting, prime it with watered-down emulsion.
  • If you plan to wallpaper over new plaster, coat it with sizing solution or watered-down wallpaper paste as well.
  • Hang lining paper horizontally (this is called cross-lining) to disguise any remaining blemishes before painting or wallpapering.

Ideas for feature walls

  • Peel-off stickers. Instant transformation. Available in all sorts of designs, small or large, from simple outlines to complex illustrations.
  • Wallpaper with a huge, graphic pattern and bold colours can be overwhelming for a whole room, but is a great focal point on just one wall.
  • Paint effects are right on-trend. Try modern styles such as broad horizontal stripes or a dip dye effect.
  • Maps (old or new) are good-looking and educational. Simply paste straight on to the wall. Try sheet music, wrapping paper and pictures enlarged on a photocopier, too.
  • Digital images can be enlarged as much as you like. Why not use one to cover an entire wall?
  • Wallpaper samples, vintage or modern, can be pasted up as a colourful collage. On the same theme, why not employ different colourways of the same pattern for an impressive and unusual effect?

A world of wallpaper

Wallpaper is oh-so-hot right now, and it’s a brilliant way to add interest to any room, be it ever so subtle or dramatically different. Conventional, machine-printed designs are easiest to get hold of, usually inexpensive and simple to put up. But there is a whole world of wallpaper choice out there, from natural woven fibres and light-reflecting metallic papers to interactive papers that you can colour in or add stickers to, hand-blocked papers, three-dimensional designs incorporating crystals, sequins or tiny LED lights, digitally printed papers made to your own design and even magnetic wallpapers that work as a noticeboard.

Types of wallpaper

  • Standard decorative wallpapers are ideal for areas that don’t suffer from moisture or severe wear and tear.
  • Vinyls are durable and easy to put up, often coming pre-pasted. They can be used anywhere, but are especially suitable for kitchens and bathrooms. Some are textured.
  • Washable wallpapers have a transparent coating to make them wipeable.
  • Embossed wallpapers feature a raised, textured pattern and are meant to be painted. Blown vinyls are similar.
  • Flock wallpapers feature a velvety texture in stencil-like designs.
  • Foils are metallic wall coverings. They vary from a gentle sheen to almost mirror-like.
  • Natural wall coverings include grass, silk, wood veneer, hessian and cork. However, they can be delicate and difficult to clean.

Main Image: Create a wall-to-wall indoor garden with this geranium wallpaper mural, from £99, from Digetex HOME (0161 873 8891; www.DigetexHome.co.uk).

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