Walls are often the first thing people notice

Eclipse by Lori Weitzner.
Eclipse by Lori Weitzner.

Walls are often the first thing people notice about an interior design scheme. And with today’s designs dictating a preference for bold statements in terms of coverings and artwork, it’s no time to be a wallflower.

While the credit crunch may have led to a certain amount of belt tightening and less exuberance in some areas of life, this trend certainly does not appear to have infiltrated the world of walls.

In fact, when it comes to wallcoverings, the general rule seems to be that simplicity and restraint are out, while head-turning designs involving dramatic statement prints, textured finishes, dazzling embellishments and crazy trompe-l’oeil designs are the name of the game.

Today’s wallpaper designs are allowing interior designers to really push the envelope out in commercial spaces, explained Poppy Davison from the design team at British wallpaper manufacturer, Cole & Son.

“There are no rules or limitations; people are embracing the qualities of wallpaper and are using it creatively, even covering ceilings.

“Wallpaper is used to revitalise and shake up the dynamics of a space with minimal expense. Beautiful neutrals, with splashes of rich and exotic colour, are in demand; evocative imagery and trompe-l’oeil are all popular.”

Go for glitter
Adding another dimension to traditional wallcoverings is the trend towards embellishment.

Modern wallcoverings have been given a new lease of life with the addition of everything from sequins, buttons, feathers and a host of other glittery paraphernalia.

For example, York Contract Wallcoverings has introduced a range of wallcoverings featuring glass beading and sand.

“We have introduced sand, glass beads and flocking onto Type II vinyl to add a textural dimension to commercial wallcoverings, as well as to demonstrate value, which is essential in this economy,” said LeRue Brown, director of marketing, York Contract Wallcoverings.

The glass beads and sand patterns are printed onto commercial vinyl substrates, which make an excellent choice of material for use in high-traffic commercial interiors.
“Commercial vinyl is the most durable wallcovering for public spaces. It hides dirt, resists staining, and provides additional protection from excessive wear and abuse,” is Brown’s professional assessment.

For additional wallcovering protection, York Contract has developed YorkGuard AM, an anti-microbial coating that protects against mould, mildew, bacteria and odour-causing germs, making it ideal for public spaces.

“Our coverings combine the elegant beauty of high-end designs with durability,” said Brown, who highlighted this season’s biggest trends as “metallic finishes that give wallcoverings an ethereal glow; orange, blue and green colourways, woven fabrics and textural details.”

Highly tactile, textured coverings are also making an impact on the market. Many cutting-edge-designs are being created with a three-dimensional look.

BSH Walls & Floors recently introduced its new brand, Prime Walls, which features an irresistibly textured range of designs available in a variety of rich, distinctive colours and metallics.

“At BSH Walls & Floors we have created the most ‘touchy-feely’ walls in the world,” declared Sandy Grguric, marketing manager, BSH Walls & Floors.

“Textures create sensuality, warmth, and an organic dimension: it is a feeling of pure, primal pleasure. With Prime Walls, we boldly approach interior design with the understanding that touching and feeling are just as essential as seeing.”

According to Grguric, these kinds of styles are going down a treat in the hospitality sector.

“For the corporate world the trend is still more mainstream; it goes for traditional looks with light, plain colours. But the hotel and hospitality segments tend to select colours and patterns that are textured, with metallics and bold, dramatic patterns proving very popular.”

Mark Verrall, managing director at Rubelli Sahco Studio Dubai, which represents brands such as Elitis wallpapers and Lori Weitzner, agreed that textured and 3D effects are very much the trend right now. “Wallpaper is so in,” he said.

“People are saying goodbye to paint, especially in commercial projects, and creativity is thriving. Earthy tones are always safe to use, but people are trying to be more daring now. The latest trends at the moment are hints of art-deco, with inspiration coming from all over the world, including Asia and Africa. It is not just about covering your wall; it is about dressing it as well.”

Elitis wallpapers are famous for bold, 3D effects, while New-York based designer Lori Weitzner has used a marble dust on her latest collection to create a striking textured effect. “Her latest collection is a plastered wallcovering made from marble dust, which allows flexibility if it is to be wrapped around columns, for example,” explained Verrall.

“The good thing about this collection is that it is presented in a plain, neutral colour, and is paintable. So you can obtain the colour you want using a normal paint. Due to the nice 3D texture, you will get a ‘ton sur ton’ effect after painting the wallcovering.”

Fashion-forward walls
Wallpaper designs are becoming ever more daring and flamboyant. In fact, the world of wallpaper is now taking its inspiration from the world of fashion.

The latest collection to be launched by British wallpaper manufacturer Cole & Son is a collaboration with a true icon of British style, Vivienne Westwood.

The eccentric British fashion designer, who was largely responsible for the new wave and modern punk fashion movements of the 1970s, has created the wallpaper prints based on signature designs from her fashion collections.

Designs include the iconic ‘Squiggle’ print from the Autumn-Winter 81/82 Pirate collection and the more recent ‘Cut-Out Lace’ from the Spring-Summer 07 ‘I am Expensiv’ collection.

Westwood said of the wallcoverings: “It is good when my ideas get carried over into other artistic media. This collection is a perfect opportunity to be able to work with a heritage company like Cole & Son, and to see my ideas from fashion translated into the world of interiors and wallpaper.”

Shine on
Metallics are another major trend in wallpaper design this season, according to Muraspec.

“The latest trends are very evident in our Summer 2009 collection. In terms of these latest trends, there are lots of earthy tones combined with metallic and pearlescent highlights,” commented Jonathan Kidd, sales manager, UAE, Muraspec.

“The designers took inspiration for this collection from ancient ethnic styles. Sri Lanka and Tattoo are designs from this new collection. As well as launching the new Sri Lanka and Tattoo designs in our Summer 2009 collection, we introduced some great new colours to one of our best designs, called Solaris Flare. The new colours include browns, beiges and pearlescent whites and silvers,” he continued.

Muraspec is also gearing up to launch a totally brand-new wall product, called Ideapaint, for the first time in the Middle East, at this year’s Index 2009 show.

“Ideapaint is an exciting new product that can be painted on to many surfaces, creating a hard-wearing, high-performance wipeable writing surface,” is Kidd’s enthusiastic explanation.


Getting arty
Another way to make a bold statement on walls is with a carefully-chosen piece of artwork.

British photo-artist Michael Banks, who specialises in providing artwork for hotels, office and restaurant interiors, says selecting the right artwork in a commercial space is crucial.

“An interior environment is the sum of many parts – style, lighting, furniture, fabrics, window treatments, accessories – but often the most readily understandable and most visible part of this whole, to the viewing public, is the artwork. So this has to be absolutely right in terms of its colour, size and physical format.”

Banks is famous for his highly abstract photo-art. “The art I create is very different and unique, very 21st century, and not what you expect from photography,” Banks explained. “I am trying to push the envelope continually, in the same way as interior designers and architects are advancing.”

As interiors get more cutting-edge, Banks’s latest project is the much-anticipated, funkily-designed Aloft Hotel in Abu Dhabi, for which he supplied over 750 original photo-art works for the guestrooms, suites and corridors.

“Contemporary architecture and interior design is itself becoming more abstract and avant-garde, and artwork that is more abstract and forward-looking, as mine is, fits well with this. I am seeing a big trend in the use of more abstract imagery that can have a more universal appeal, and cross cultural and geographical borders.”

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