Ask the Expert: Wall to Wallpaper Coverage

“I hate my mother’s kitchen wallpaper,” a reader writes to Lee Najman of Lee Najman Designs, “and lately I have seen some spaces which started to make me change my thoughts about wallpaper. What are some new trends & options in wall coverings?”

Lee Najman Designs
Lee Najman of Lee Najman Designs, Inc.

The answer from Lee Najman: Do not confuse wallpaper with wall covering. Wallpaper has always been and is principally a printed image on a paper backing that shows off the ‘pictures’ on the face of the paper.  The main design element that wallpaper does not have is the ability to introduce textures, depth of material, color variations due to finish, and a richness of the feel and look of a material on the wall.

It is those elements that make the use of wall covering desirable.  It is those elements that create a finished interior space much more exciting under day or night lighting.

More modern production and fabrication techniques have produced a wide choice of finishes that enhance walls in exciting new ways. And more importantly they are affordable.

I want you to get that image of your mother’s kitchen paper out of your head, because nowadays you can find wall coverings that are stone, glass bead, mica chips, natural fibers, leather and wood veneer. And that’s a short list. Wall covering has come a long way since the old days.

Lee Najman Designs
The remarkable textural effect of using tree bark wall covering—you can actually feel the texture
Lee Najman Designs
A corner detail seating area with a metallic finished wall covering sprinkled with grass like fibers and is also a washable vinyl

A professional interior designer can introduce you to all the exciting new choices of this product. To fully appreciate the final installed effect, wall coverings must be seen and felt in person—a computer monitor cannot do it. Manufacturers and suppliers of wall covering are not that easily found. Many of the various choices available are typically not shown in retail stores and are therefore not in front of you.

Lee Najman Designs Wall Covering 2
This wall covering looks like squares of pony hair skins in gray and taupe colors. It is actually a washable vinyl and very affordable.

For a more dramatic and up-scale effect, take a focal wall in a main area such as the living room, and apply wall covering made of interesting or unusual material. For example, two companies I often use as a source are Phillip Jeffries and Designtex. They and others offer a wide array of interesting and innovative wall covering options that you can explore.

Have your own questions about wall coverings, interior color, lighting or other design matters? You can contact Lee Najman of Lee Najman Designs at

Get more interior design tips from Lee Najman here!

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