Why should I consider wallpaper instead of paint?

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If you still think of wallpaper as that flowery pattern in grandma's kitchen, it's time to get a 21st century perspective on wallcoverings and the dramatic impact today's styles can have on your home.

Exotic materials have made it possible to cover walls with almost any medium, from the metallic shine of real copper to the richness of luxurious leather to the brilliance of crushed glass beads.


These designs from appropriately named wallpaper innovator, Innovations USA, show the amazing range of colors and textures that can transform a room: From left, colorways of "Sumatra," a metallic made of capiz flakes and recycled paperboard with yarn; "Kanazawa," a metallic made of paper yarn; and "Sapporo," a natural fiber made of cellulose yarn.

Some wallcoverings also do serious double-duty. Acoustic wallcoverings are specifically engineered to absorb sound energy and enhance surround-sound systems and home theaters. Cork is a cool textured option that you can use as a bulletin board, plus it's a natural sound deadening material.

Others are meant for pure fun. Great kids' playroom options include whiteboard wallcovering that can be scribbled on with special dry-erase markers, magnetic and glow-in-the-dark choices.

Working with a designer and a skilled wallpaper hanger will ensure that you get a stylish look that lasts. In fact, according to the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers, a wallpaper installation can last 25 years or more—considerably longer than paint, and with a finish that paint can't replicate.

Wallpaper experts say that cleaning wallpaper is actually easy—marks or stains on a washable acrylic or vinyl surface come off with a sponge. Specific cleaning instructions, plus how to prolong durability and increase stain-resistance, are included on every roll of wallcovering. Be sure to read the fine print and go over the upkeep details with your contractor.

In general, the NGPP recommends these steps when cleaning washable wall coverings:

1.  Start from the bottom of the wall and work up—you'll wipe with the seams (usually up and down). 

2.  Gently sponge with a mild detergent (never use an abrasive cleaner) diluted in warm water. 

3.  Using a clean sponge, rinse thoroughly with clean, warm water. 

4.  Dry with a soft, lint-free cloth. 

For wallpaper that's very delicate or not washable, try a dry cleaning sponge or a dry cleaning eraser.