DIY with Carol Charny: Handwriting on the Wall

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On a recent trip to New York I ‘shopped’ the famous Design and Decorators Building (aka the D and D) on Third Avenue in Manhattan. It houses many of the world’s most well-known fabric, furniture and lighting resources. I visited 10 or twelve of my favorite vendors, looking for new trends in colors and styles.

The D and D is not restricted to professionals for ‘street entry’. However, to buy, or to get samples (“memos”) and prices, the showrooms insist on the proper trade credentials.  Information is only available to individuals that have established accounts and a valid New York State Sales Tax ID. When you have an active account, with its associated number, you will be able to access the ‘net,’ or wholesale price of the items shown there and make purchases. Therefore, if you want to engage these service and products, it is best to be accompanied by your decorator or architect.

My favorite ‘shelter’ magazines provide entree to emerging home furnishing trends in the market place.  If you are seeking the new cutting edge of style, check out… wall paper!… the alternative wall decor from the default choice of paint. What was once thought of as grandmotherly is now uber cool.  The newest patterns are not small sweet florals but large striking geometrics that command notice.  (That’s right – what “was” now “is”.)

With respect to wall painting, we all remember the original grass cloth in a ‘straw color’,  famous in the 1970’s, as well as flocked papers and Mylar based prints ‘a la Peter Max’ in the 60’s.  The 80’s brought us faux finishes, creatively applied with rag, sponge or feather, and the coordinating border papers. And we continue to evolve our decorating tastes in paint.  Rich saturated paint colors, in a low luster egg shell finish, have been popular for the last few years and can still be used effectively.

However, nothing changes the mood and creates an environment like an alternate form of wall covering.  As an example, todays reinvented grass cloth is available in a range of solid colors and weaves including burnished gold, silver and an enameled ground with a textured overlay.   Grass cloth can also be used as a background for prints of all varieties including metallic print stamping.   Authentic linen fabric, backed in paper, from Angelo Dongia, is a clean, sophisticated choice. It works in juxtaposition to cool metal, enamel or glass furniture.  And, as an alternative to “Venetian plaster”, an expensive specialty paint technique, consider the less expensive, accurately simulated effect of this Venetian paint technique in wallpaper from Ralph Lauren Wall Covering.

I discovered that the result of today’s sleek modern furniture and accessories can be “too cool”.  You may be experiencing this sensation and are seeking ways to make your home pleasingly co-exist with both cool and warm, creating a subtle tension of mood. An understated textured wall paper can achieve this effect.

One place to cautiously ’dip your toes’ into the water of wallpaper decorating is your entry hall.  That confined space can herald a chic but warm and hospitable environment to come.  Here a textured wall covering is an attractive back drop for art work and mirrors.

In a dining room, wall paper can make a very exciting and dramatic contribution. Complete with lovely warm silver wall paper, a sparkling chandelier, and candlelight, the mood is set; your guests will feel very special being invited into this aesthetic experience.

As far as costs go, wall covering is by nature more expensive than paint but worth its costs if you are trying to create a more dramatic and transformative effect.

If you have a simple room, without too many nooks and crannies and a few tools, you can do it yourself.  Check out wallpaper application and removal on Google.   Removal of old paper is much easier than it used to be. Gone are the steamers and extensive scrapping of the old days.

Wall paper is sold in single or double rolls, in different widths and lengths, depending if it is European paper or American.    Papers are sold either in pre-pasted state or require a special paste application to the reverse side of the design. I recommend using one of the skilled installers available in Westchester.  Have the installer come to your home and give you an estimate. He will be able to assess the condition of the walls, quote on the labor costs, and calculate the amount of paper you will need to match the pattern as necessary.

Bottom line, select your paper first so that you and the paperhanger knows the materials and surface you are dealing with. Be it texture or print, request a large sample of the paper so you can hang it up and live with it a bit before purchasing.

Well now, that was easy enough.  Having thought ‘out of the box’ and onto the wall, stand back and relish the transformation; you have decorated a room that takes your breath away.

Carol Charny’s  eponymous store in Larchmont was a popular source of gifts and ideas for nearly a decade. She is available for consultations at carolcharny@yahoo.com

 

 

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