Calcutta Exquiza Wallpaper

Paper Or Paint

18th March 2011

When it comes to decorating your walls, the first question is usually 'Paint or Paper?'

Minul Shah, Design Consultant at Designer Colours, explains some of your options

Say the word ‘wallpaper’, and most people think of flowers, damasks, stripes and the general feature walls that they’ve been seeing behind counters in clothes shops, and in magazines over the years.

Wallpaper has arrived in the 21st century, though. Let’s look at three key categories – luxury, feature and historic – and then turn our attention to paint.

Luxury Wallpaper

Most people haven’t considered the idea of using wallpaper that has no real ‘pattern’ to add a luxury finish to the walls that cannot be achieved with paint. Glass beads, Swarovski crystal, mica, glitter, metallic and pearlescent coatings have all been used recently to produce wallpapers where texture and shimmer play important roles in making surroundings more glamorous or luxurious. They can be used on one wall as an accent, or all over if budget allows, and due to their lack of prominent design, there’s little chance that you’ll get fed up with the décor in a few years.

Feature Wallpaper

Still very popular, feature walls are there to make a statement. A carefully selected design can dictate a theme, give guests something to talk about, and show off the personality of the person who uses the room. There’s a delightful Rasch® print, for example, with a subtle pattern of high heels and make-up bottles – perfect for the budding fashionista of the household. This would be used on one wall, and to coordinate, several pearlescent plains are available to use on the other walls.

Historic Wallpaper

If you’d like your interior in keeping with the age of the property, then you could really embellish it with wallpaper. Paint can accurately represent traditional colours – but using an authentic wallpaper design will make more of a statement about your home’s history. Several wallpaper design houses, including Farrow & Ball and The Little Greene, have delved into British design archives for inspiration, and they now reproduce many old wallpaper designs.


The paint option is certainly quicker, and offers more choice of colours – and it’ll normally be less than half the cost of wallpaper. Recent years have seen the introduction of several designer paint brands such as Farrow & Ball and Paint Library, to augment the well-known DIY and trade brands. Each designer’s palette has been chosen with great care to reflect an individual style: a particular historic period, for example, or the colours of the catwalk.

A feature wall in a different shade remains a popular option, but the look of paint is still relatively simple.


There are, however, practical as well as aesthetic considerations, and paint is ideal if your family or lifestyle mean that the walls often need to be cleaned. Do you have children? Throwing toys, wandering with messy hands, and drawing on walls can all lead to marks that need to be removed.

In this situation, a good washable paint is the ideal solution. Once available only in 'Silk', a shiny finish, most brands of paint now offer a trendier washable matt finish. Little Greene ‘Ultimatt’ is, in fact, a completely scrubbable paint, suitable for high traffic areas of the home. Wallpaper that is washable, on the other hand, has traditionally been limited in choice, and materials used for top-end paper can rarely be cleaned. Furthermore, if you end up with a permanent mark, a wall can be repainted without too much trouble, but is not so easily repapered.

If you really like wallpaper but can't find a washable one to your taste, it probably makes sense to avoid it in high traffic areas, and have it in only in rooms that the children use less: a formal sitting room or master bedroom, perhaps. Having said that, though, due to the increasing demand for wallpaper, technology used in the manufacturing process has been advancing, and wallpapers are being made more and more durable. Belgian manufacturer Calcutta, for example, makes a luxury textile wallcovering that is not washable, but better still: stain-proof and waterproof. It's Dupont Teflon® coated, so you can literally throw a cup of coffee at the wall, knowing it'll wipe right off! This makes wallpaper in kitchens and even bathrooms a distinct possibility. What's more, the paper is so thick that it has the practical benefit of hiding any bumps and other imperfections to which paint can sometimes bring attention.


We have seen a large increase in wallpaper sales. Five years ago people would paint a feature wall – but now they’d like some sort of wallpaper design. Also, since they’re only putting wallpaper on one wall they don’t mind splashing out on something a little more exotic. For the discerning customer, plain textile wallpaper is the latest trend. It’s not about making a statement, just about being surrounded in sheer luxury. Wallpaper is back, but this time it’s more sophisticated.

And Finally…

If you want the best, then wallpaper it is. If you have no children, and/or are prepared to spend a bit of time looking for durable wallpaper, then it’s perfectly viable to paper every wall in your home. Of course, an optional middle ground, both in terms of budget and practicality, would be to use wallpaper selectively in the most important areas of your home.…

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