Modern Wallpaper

How to work popular designs into your home décor.

If you think of wallpaper as a home accent best suited to the 1970s, it’s time to give dressing your walls another look. Wallpaper is back—and it's more beautiful and modern than ever. Particularly if you’ve been stuck in a safe rut of taupe and “greige,” consider this: Even the most decorative wallpaper patterns can function as an up-to-date neutral. Here’s what to look for:

Large-scale patterns
Textile and editorial artist Julia Rothman designs a series of whimsical papers, sold at Hygge & West, such as “Daydream,” a floaty pattern of hand-drawn birds and clouds in large scale—which keeps it modern.
Design tip: With its aerial motif, "Daydream" is especially fresh on the ceiling, particularly if you’re looking for a bit of wit without the commitment to four walls.

Riffs on timeless patterns
Wide stripes are a classic, but the slightly more organic “Acanthus” pattern, a wavy leaf stripe in a variety of colors, allows you to recall the classic style of 18th-century stripes in a way that’s timeless and modern.
Design tip: This pattern is equally at home with modern and traditional furnishings.

Hanging art
Treating wallpaper as the artistic centerpiece, rather than a neutral backdrop for your art, is a great way to add drama to the room. Nama Rococo, the wallpaper company by artist Karen Combs, features papers hand-printed in large format by the individual sheet, inspired by everything from Qing Dynasty landscape paintings to the Art Nouveau metro stations of Paris. “Serious Bokay” is a diamond-shaped cluster of florals—both organic and geometric—in four colors.
Design tip: Consider relegating large patterns to a single wall and painting the other three the background color for emphasis without fear of pattern fatigue.

Back to the future
With saturated colors that recall a Pedro Almodovar movie, Flavor Paper’s tomato on black vinyl “Alvorada,” a supersized geometric, invites a little '60s-style color clash for modern rooms.
Design tip: Consider treating it like a neutral in matte metallic such as "Kravitz Gold on Thunder Gray Clay Coated Paper."

Limited editions
Another way to add art to the wall—without it taking over: Invest in guest-artist wallpaper editions, such as “Fibonacci,” a repeating pattern in nature (in sunflowers and seashells) by artist David Stark. In a coolly neutral color like “cloud,” it is both natural and graphic.
Design tip: This pattern and color are subtle but large enough in scale to hold up against bold-color furnishings.