wall treatments

Wall Treatments: Focus: You've Got That Look

Glitz and glam has been all the rage, as of late, with this year's Academy Awards harkening back to time of Hollywood’s heyday. As interior design takes its cue from the world of high fashion, it's no surprise to see the popularity of gilded surfacing materials, specifically wallcoverings, in the past few years. Defined by their aesthetics, wallcoverings provide an opportunity to create a visual impact in a space. While sparkle and metallics have been hot, as have bold colors and patterns, now soothing palettes, enhanced textures, and natural-looking patterns are gaining momentum.

Generally deep neutral palettes prevail with high-impact colors as accents. Pastels or pale hues are out. Overt geometric prints are giving way to softer patterns, soothing large-scale graphics, and warmer colors. Carnegie has now introduced Xorel Embroiderer and Xorel Graphic lines, both offering subtle, large-scale prints that complement—but do not compete—with basic plains and textures.

Jewel tones and metallics are front and center, but metallics now act more as an accent of a pattern rather than as an overall cover. And while whites to naturals are the mainstay, don't be afraid to take risks with punches of super-saturated colors to complement neutrals. Consider the function of a space and select colors and patterns that work in the interior but do not overpower it.

Texture has become the new color, and we’re seeing more tactile surfaces on walls. For example, New York-based wallcoverings manufacturer Innovations has been working with woven cellulose tape yarns with metallic Lurex to remain ahead of trends. Wallcoverings lend themselves to a high degree of artistry, and designers and manufacturers attempt to deliver the most authentic materials possible—an aesthetic of shells, beads, wood, or metal closely resemble the actual material in look and feel. Embossing also tends to lend a visual texture to the otherwise two-dimensional wall surface. Rather than merely an embossed surface, MDC Wallcoverings’ Dimension Walls are actually 3-D, decorated thermoplastic panels that offer a highly textural aesthetic with raised surface patterns for a cost-effective, eco-friendly (panels do not emit VOCs), high-impact wallcovering solution.

Although fashion most definitely influences wallcovering design, certain manufacturers tend to buck the trend and translate that inspiration to something timeless. Maya Romanoff, for example, rarely removes patterns from its collections and designs wallcoverings with the expected life span of 10 to 12 years; therefore the Chicago manufacturer sees trendy prints as posing the problem of “uglying out” before wearing out, which ends up being not very cost effective or environmentally conscious. Instead, comfort colors remain at the heart of Maya Romanoff’s collections.

While many times aesthetics are the first consideration for wallcoverings, in this time of economic crisis, cost and budget cannot be ignored, nor can functionality and environmental sustainability. An important point to consider is that not all wallcoverings must fulfill strict performance requirements. A wall in an executive suite or the reception area of a high-end hospitality reception area can showcase an artisan-quality wallcovering, made of less durable material like handmade paper, rather than high-performance vinyl. It can be argued that vinyl is overkill much of the time. Extreme durability is not necessary in all applications if end users use common sense. Yes, it is crucial that a wallcovering has the necessary performance characteristics and material integrity, but not all applications require the durability of a hotel hallway or cafeteria. Catering to the audience at hand is key. And luckily when durability is a must, many high-quality manufacturers offer low-VOC, no PVC, chloride-free, and recycled products that are also recyclable and good looking to boot. Designtex has introduced an alternative to PVC wallcoverings with its Greenwear collection, which offers the same performance durability and cleanability properties as vinyl.

For KnollTextiles, it’s evident that performance, environmental sustainability, and high-end aesthetics can coexist with its two new wallcoverings, Mantilla and Domus. Designed by Suzanne Tick, Domus is a classic twill weave, Mantilla resembles handwoven grasscloth, and both are constructed of recycled polyester and are washable.

Bottom line is green is where it’s at—clients are asking for it, designers are demanding it, and manufacturers are obliging. Oftentimes manufacturers and designers will allow their creativity to flow and then find a way to produce it, which helps perpetuate innovation. Be on the lookout for new material uses from additional materials used as recycled content to enhanced natural offerings.

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