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Now trending: the return of wallpaper

Every edition we assess an aspect of the French zeitgeist. This month: the renaissance of papier peint – très chic and now easy to hang, says Jane Hanks

The chic home design magazines agree, wallpaper is back in fashion. Twenty years ago if you moved to rural France, the first thing you wanted to do was to get rid of the huge patterned wall paper which dominated homes and made them dark. Black and pink floral motifs shouted from ceilings and walls and wallpaper was torn off and replaced with monochrome paint as quickly as possible. Gradually brico stores began to stock more and more coloured paint, albeit expensive, and less wallpaper.

But now wallpaper is back again, and this time the attraction is the huge range of designs available, improved and easier methods for putting it up and with digital technology some companies will print up your own design. The possibilities for individual choice are huge.

“Wallpaper is everywhere, available for every room, all styles and all budgets,” says a recent article in Marie Claire Maison

Internet magazine says “Today the choice of wallpaper is richer than ever. Forget bare and dull walls and prepare to explore a rich and varied part of the universe of mural decoration: that of modern wallpaper.”

Patricia Boivin, spokesperson for Association pour la Promotion du Papier Peint, says that in the past three years they have seen a revolution in the industry. “There are three reasons for this”, she explains. “Firstly around 80% of wallpaper is now “intissé” which means it is made up of a web of fibres, making it much easier to hang. You no longer need a table. You can glue directly on to the wall and trim it once it is up. Easy for everyone. 

“Secondly it responds to the general trend that people want to personalize their homes and you can really use this medium to decorate in any way you wish. Thirdly there has been an explosion of new designs on the market and it has become a real art form bursting with creativity. Major fashion designers have joined in. This year, Jean-Paul Gaultier is just one top designer who has launched his own range. Though there is a luxury market it remains accessible to the public, on sale at reasonable prices in mainstream brico stores.”

She says the trends for 2017/2018 are Mexico, “cactuses are everywhere”, Nomad “ecru and black, a little bit ethnic” and the 80’s “lots of colour or black and white and very stylish.”

Whether you like discreet or bold, pale or colourful, abstract, geometric or realistic, serious or humorous, there is something for you. There are even companies who will print your own design or favourite photo enlarged to fit the dimensions of your chosen room.

Rebel Walls is a Swedish company, founded in 2012, which sells in France and works via the internet. It uses digital printing technology and prints on demand, which means you give the dimensions of your room and the design you like, either from their catalogue, or something you have created and they will send you wallpaper, made up especially for you. Their designs range from classic styles to trompe l’oeil so you can have a realistic looking brick wall or a forest scene in your living room.

The Wallpaper Museum at Rixheim, Haut-Rhin, has an exhibition up to December 31, 2018 which looks at the infinite possibilities of the future. Chief curator of Cultural Heritage, Isabelle Dubois-Brinkmann, says on the one hand there will be increasingly sophisticated hand-crafted papers and on the other, technical innovations to improve everyday life.

She says many new designs are 3-D. “Star designers are devising patterns made with embroidered ribbons, resin micro-pearls or pieces of slate. Other papers are embellished with wooden contouring, basalt fibres, Swarovski crystals… Craftsmen blend digital and silk-screen printing, experiment with haute couture made from paper or test out metal oxides.”

This is for aesthetic purposes, but Mrs Dubois-Brinkmann says wallpaper can be practical as well: “Acoustic, damp-proof, impermeable, magnetic, anti-WiFi, it can even be earthquake resistant preventing walls from collapsing after an earthquake!” In fact paper may no longer be the main material as spun fibreglass and optical fibres are introduced. 

In the exhibition there is a German wallpaper which has phosphorescent stripes and which will light up if there is a power cut; wallpaper designed to cover the exterior of building and some including LEDs. 

Interactive wallpaper is possible too. There is one created by Vodaphone and the British Library which represents bookshelves full of Shakespeare’s works which can be “read” by scanning the barcodes in the design with a smartphone or tablet. Mrs Dubois-Brinkmann says all products on show are either in the shops now or still in development, but all will be for sale in the future. Wallpaper is a new trend with a future.

Details of the exhibition at

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