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Let walls play dress up

February 15, 2007|Lisa Boone | Times Staff Writer

EVERYONE knows wallpaper is back. But with all the new options, choosing the right one can seem overwhelming. Wallpaper adds texture, pattern and scale, says designer Jay Jeffers, founder and principal of Jeffers Design Group in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Whether graphic hand-blocked designs or textured grass cloth, wallpaper can set the tone for any room, be it in an urban loft or country cottage. Jeffers, who uses wallpaper frequently, offers tips on creating a contemporary feel with a traditional form:

Placement: Jeffers recommends balancing your sense of adventure with your need for function. Something restful, such as a floral motif, is ideal for a peaceful bedroom. A punch of pattern can add intensity to more activity-oriented rooms like living and dining areas. Jeffers' motto: "lively prints for lively areas." He discourages using wallpaper in heavily trafficked areas such as bathrooms because it can be hard to clean.

Color: In the bedroom pictured here, two distinctly different patterns -- the geometric wallcovering and a floral duvet cover -- complement each other because they share earth tones. Rust accents are placed throughout the room on pillows, door frames, moldings and an armchair. This creates an environment that is calm yet invigorating.

Test run: Start with a sample and hang it on the wall. With some papers costing as much as $300 for a 5-yard roll, you want to be sure you like it. Drawn to strong designs and color, Jeffers encourages risk-taking. "You have to be able to say to yourself, 'I'm going to go for it,' " he says. The finished look may be hard to visualize, so order one roll and see what it looks like first.

Balance: Jeffers looks at designing a room as a layering process. In one client's guest room, he used an Elizabeth Dow custom hand-blocked wallpaper (, available through Donghia at the Pacific Design Center) to create what he calls "a calm and resting room with playful and whimsical aspects." To avoid overwhelming the small space, Jeffers used an upholstered headboard to break up the pattern.

Accessorizing: Neutral- or solid-colored accents, art, pillows and mirrors also can break up pattern. Jeffers recommends furnishings that are solid, with visual weight, with patterned wallpaper. Alabaster or ceramic accessories are nice accompaniments to a strong graphic statement.

Have fun: If doors have recessed panels, consider wallpapering the interior of the panels. Better yet, wallpaper the entire door if the home is modern and the doors have no detail. The trick can make a nondescript door disappear. Placed on the exterior of furnishings, wallpaper can become an architectural statement. Inside is fun too: wallpaper inside cabinets.

Resources: Jeffers likes handmade papers with no repeats because they add depth to a room. "It also adds whimsy," he says. He likes Studio Print Works ( and available at Pacific Design Center), which carries hand-blocked wallpaper; Twenty2 ( and available at Walnut Wallpaper in Los Angeles), which produces hand-printed wallpaper and grass cloth from husband-and-wife designers Kyra and Robertson Hartnett; and Flavor Paper ( and available at Walnut Wallpaper), creators of contemporary and custom hand-screened wallcoverings.

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