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Design 101

How Ryann Wants To Add More Pattern Into Her Home: A Wallpaper Dilemma/Ask The Audience

I am about 80% done with my open concept living and dining room makeover so naturally I am adding more things to my plate (because is a room ever really finished??). I’ve sourced most of the furniture, window treatments, art, and decor so waiting for shipping and installing everything is the final step. Now, as if I am not on a deadline, I have this urge to make one more pretty big design decision. I have this feeling that I really need a wallpaper moment. More specifically, a bold patterned wallpaper moment.


Around the time I started complicating my design process with this idea, I heard of this new wave the kids are calling #cluttercore. It’s basically a Gen Z aesthetic that is about surrounding yourself with things you love so it feels as warm and inviting as “walking into a hole-in-the-wall antiques shop on a rainy day.” Images you’ll find on Tik Tok and google are mostly of teenagers’ bedrooms with books, clothes, plants, and other tchotchkes stacked all around the room in an “organized mess”. It’s probably every parent’s nightmare and yet I relate to it A LOT. It’s not the adult design aesthetic that I am striving for now but I’m pretty sure I was an OG #cluttercore teenager which explains my adult leanings toward a maximalist eclectic style. My style is the adult version of clutter core–it’s the same idea just more sophisticated and intentional.

design by gavin houghton | photo by James mcdonald

My version includes decorating with patterns, books, colors, and vintage finds in a way that isn’t messy but curated and visually exciting. I love having things I love surround me and it’s in large part about how I want a room to make me feel when I walk in.

design by nathalie farman-farma | photo by miguel flores-vianna | via house and gardens

With this style, I feel pattern mixing is done most effectively with textiles. Mixing patterned wallpaper, window treatments, and upholstery can be risky but when it works it WORKS so damn good.

Now you might already know my living room is already painted this color by Clare so you may be wondering where the hell I’d fit in some wallpaper. It’s not the ceiling (I WISH) but this tiny built-in shelf that provides the only architectural interest in our home:

I am a firm believer that shelves look best when they are full top to bottom with books. Unfortunately, our built-in nook is a little too shallow for this purpose. Only the pocket-sized books fit properly so the shelves will be styled with some books, vases, and other objects. Knowing that it won’t be full of books, I started to feel underwhelmed by the plain white break in my beautiful moody green walls. I mean, it’s fine, but it doesn’t excite me at all. When going for sophisticated #cluttercore, pattern mixing is a way to create visual interest without crowding every surface with “stuff”. Instead of surrounding myself with stuff, I am aiming to surround myself with pattern and color that excite me and art and decor that inspire me.

When I told my fiancé about my wallpaper idea his response was, “that would be sick but probably a pain in the ass to do”. So far, a few of our installations have gone amiss and he’s been “Mr. Fix It” while I panic in the background. I know he has no desire to watch me attempt to wallpaper this myself, do it wrong, and then need him to step in and save the day BUT I can’t shake the nagging feeling that it would be a missed opportunity if we don’t go for it.

For now, let’s table the discussion on whether Rocky thinks it’s a good idea and move onto the wallpaper options I am eyeing:

1. Stripes Wallpaper Roll | 2. Magnolia Home Wallpaper | 3. Marchmont Check Wallpaper | 4. Greer Burgundy Gingham Check Burgundy Wallpaper | 5. Palatine Stripe Wallpaper | 6. Acadia Stripe Wallpaper | 7. Tempaper Black and Ivory Plaid Removable Wallpaper | 8. Textured Stripe Wallpaper | 9. Tulip Wallpaper

Stripes and checks are bold but not too visually jarring. Not that I am going for anything too subtle, clearly, but I also don’t want to complicate my design with a pattern or color that doesn’t make sense. These options excite me and feel safe enough to execute.

And then we have the floral options that make my heart sing:

1. Magnolia Home Wallpaper |2. Floral Wallpaper | 3. The Cottage Blue Wallpaper | 4. Heirloom Rose | 5. Smoky Rose Wallpaper | 6. Ray Bird Trail Wallpaper | 7. Flower 3D Embossed Wallpaper | 8. Floral Toile Wallpaper | 9. Rose Calico Floral Rose Wallpaper

Botanical wallpaper makes the most sense with our style and the direction our living room is going but it is more of a risk. I love the idea but am a little nervous about the execution and how well it will pair with the other patterns we already have in our design.

So, now I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you think we should go for it or is wallpaper going to drive Rocky to end our engagement?? Suggestions, comments, and concerns welcome! xx

Opener Image Credit: Design by Rita Konig | Photo by Paul Massey | via House and Gardens


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78 thoughts on “How Ryann Wants To Add More Pattern Into Her Home: A Wallpaper Dilemma/Ask The Audience

  1. If the floral options make your heart sing, there’s your answer! I don’t think you could go wrong either way 🙂

    1. Good point! That’s definitely where I am leaning and I really do think it would drive home the vibe I am going for 🙂

  2. I “wallpapered” the back of my bookshelf with wrapping paper from Zazzle and double sided tape. So cheap, easy, and reversible. I’m partial to #8 from Etsy.

    1. I was thinking the same! I’ve done that with happy results. There’s also temporary wallpaper, which would work well for a small space.

      I vote floral #3 or 6.

  3. It’s a tiny space so the stakes are low. I’d’ say try getting some fabric in various styles and tacking it up there and see how you like it. BTW using fabric and starch pasting it may be much cheaper, easier and offer more texture and options than wallpaper. Its easy to install and easily removable. I once starch pasted fabric walls in my entire bathroom and it lasted for YEARS.

      1. Fabric can have fraying edges though, and that amount of paper isn’t expensive.
        You may even get some samples or end of rolls for free or verrrry cheap!

    1. I second this idea.
      A lot less money and you could try out several fabrics easily and make sure you had the ONE. Plus there is a good chance Rocky doesn’t even have to be involved. He can vote for his pick from your swatches and you can do the job by
      yourself. Relationship saved and the best part is when you tire of the pattern you can remove easily and put up a new favorite.

    2. Miss Mustard Seed has a great video tutorial on starch pasting fabric on walls. She highly recommends it having done several large rooms.

    3. Great idea! I sew and am obsessed with fabric, and I have a bunch of canvasses with some favorite Japanese fabrics stretched over them as wall art in my house!

      1. That sounds like a creative and interesting way to create your own art! Great idea.

  4. Another vote for a floral. Look at all your inspo photos – lots of the patterns are floral, so it seems like that’s where you lean. Plus, the lines of the shelves are already very straight and geometric, so something softer with curves would be a great contrast and break that up.

  5. A floral pattern in that nook would definitely work.

    I just have to touch on the inspiration pictures, though. They remind me so much of friend’s houses in England in the 90s when I was a kid. IKEA actually ran an advert in the mid 90s with the tag line “Chuck out that chintz today” and I feel we may have come full circle! Fashion has been very influenced by the 90s, so it makes sense that interiors are too.

  6. I think if you choose to wallpaper the back wall of the shelves you need to paint the rest of the white trim/sides in the same moody green paint. Good luck with it!

    1. Yes that’s a good point! I was thinking of trying to wrap the wallpaper around the trim but I know that’s going to be really tough so painting the trim is a great idea!

      1. Omg wrapping the paper around sounds like the quickest way for things to go wrong

        I used to be a house painter and we only stripped wallpaper once (this was way before “temporary” papers). My boss said the way to do it right was to prep the wall well – including painting the whole thing semigloss first, so that the paper is easier to remove later.

        The house I bought last year came with wallpapered stairs – done with a temporary paper I’ve seen in lots of design photos. When the floors were refinished it got messed up and it needs to be removed. The bottom stair it came off pretty straightforward, but the next two stairs it ripped half the underlying paint off! Now I’m going to have to scrape and prime and paint the stairs. There was temporary wallpaper in the hall closet too, and when I pulled that down it also took off lots of paint. It was so bad the walls almost have a reverse snakeskin texture to them.

        I guess the moral of the story is that if you do something other than wrapping paper, do future-you a favor and FASTIDIOUSLY prepare the surface in advance

  7. You should also take a look at Sandberg Wallpaper. They have a ton of pretty floral papers.

  8. It is such a small space, go for it! It will be a charming addition. I lean toward the floral as it nicely aligns with your style. Plus, with the patterned wallpaper, any imperfections in your installation might be more noticeable.

  9. It’s a great idea and I think you’d love it! Low risk…..
    #4 botanical or #8 stripe are the winners in my book.

  10. Floral! 2 or 8 from this batch of choices. And this was very interesting to read as it is the vibe I’m trying to create – English country house acquired over time, lots of visual interest and complementary pattern, but not too dusty or dust acquiring. Right now I’m side-eyeing our sofa that is upholstered in a grey velvet. Looked like a safe choice for a major piece but now just looks horribly boring (like the shape still, just not the iron grey) and I’m trying to figure out a pattern to slipcover with that won’t conflict with the curtains or look like it came from either a nursing home or industrial park lobby.

    Can’t wait to see your room!

    1. Oh trust me I LOVE a floral or patterned sofa so maybe a fun future roundup would be patterned slip covers that don’t look like it came from a nursing home aahah. And thank you! I can’t wait to show you all the finished project 🙂

  11. First I want to suggest that you take the wallpaper to the sides/top/bottom of the niche vs just the back. But either way, with the smaller area to cover, I think a smaller scale print works best. Pattern #1/3/4 or Botanical #3/4/6/7/9 would work. If the trim around the niche is staying white then I think the colors in Pattern #1/3 and Botanical #3/6 would look more intentional. Botanical #2 is a bit larger scale but it’s really pretty and could work if you se enough of it, and the colors would be great with both the walls and trim.

  12. I like Floral #5. You could also get texture & floral at once using a floral grasscloth. I also like the suggestion others have made of using gift wrap, some art and stationary stores also have beautiful papers.

  13. Hi! I vote for #5 #8 #4 #7 in that order. I def think botanical is the way to go! i l love #2 but wondering if the print would be too big for such a small space? It depends how “granny” you want it to be. The last 2 are more warm and granny but if you want it to look more modern and fresh I would go with the first two I listed. 🙂 Hope you find one that makes your heart sing everyday you see it!

  14. Wallpaper! I’d choose one that doesn’t have a grid pattern, so it will not drive you nuts if it isn’t perfectly square/ lined up. It’s such a small area, and a great place to take more of a risk.

    1. Absolutely this comment right here! You know that nook is not square. lol Plus, with a floral you would not have to worry about matching any pattern and quite frankly, would have very little waste. I love the idea. Go for it!!

    2. Yep! And if you’ve never installed wallpaper before stripes and grids are not the place to start. Definite learning curve.

  15. Another vote for florals! If you’re nervous about application you could try paste the wall wallpaper, rather than a paper you have to soak?

  16. I love the idea of wallpapering the back of the shelf! I much prefer the botanical ones (any of them). I worry that unless your bookshelf is completely straight and even from top to bottom and your shelves are completely square, any of the lined papers would look off kilter (since the shelf is fairly narrow).

    1. Ahh you’re so right. The botanical ones have more movements so any imperfections won’t be as noticeable!

  17. Do it! OMG if I lived near you I would come help you. A flat surface like this (no corners, angles, etc.) will be East and it is going to look amazing!!!

  18. do it! i like the idea of it blending in, tone and color wise, but with pattern so 3 or 3

    1. Me too!
      I was sooo excited to see the ECLECTIC ENGLISH GRANNY get her boots on, b5yt alas, not to be.
      I’m sure whatever shakes down will be luverly tough.

  19. Yay! This is really fun – looking forward to seeing your space, and I also really liked your inspo pics (some of them are from Decors Barbares, right?)

    I’d definitely go botanical and either paper the sides too or paint those bits green. Out of these several are nice, but I like 3, 4 and 5 best. And I second the Sandberg suggestion…Hamilton Weston papers might also be worth a look.

  20. Floral # 2 or # 3!

    Only on the back not the sides.

    Don’t paint the trim! unless you’re going to paint the trim on all the windows and doors, etc. it will look weird.

    Even if you would paint all the trim, don’t paint the trim. If this little builtin is the only architectural detail in your place, then don’t hide it.

    good luck!

  21. If you want to go towards those pics, you need a much bolder pattern w color. I’m thinking b, definitely floral (older anthro wallpaper), more color, maybe colored background.. keep the trim white to go w other trim. Then you need some bold floral pillows, print lampshades,( I have wallpapered shades, and fabric coater theme hot glue.. may work in cabinet?) quilt throw or afgan?
    I don’t know how to starch fabric, so I wrapped foam core n taped it. I’ve also just tacked wallpaper on the back or cabinets w ulpolstory brass tacks. I’s still going strong 10 years later.
    somehow it seems to me it would be good for you to do this w/out Rocky, even if it comes out poorly. you can always go at it again. Being able to work through your panic will grow your sense of adventure and confidence. go for it ! You got this!

  22. I’ve used adhesive vintage drawer linerinside my daughters nightstand drawers and it was a really easy 2 hour project. The stuff I have has measurements on the back paper making it really easy to cut straight. Easy to pull up or cut another piece if you need to try again. I bought a lot of it in different partterns at an online estate sale for a couple dollars and plan to use some to give a makeover to a vintage dollhouse I have in my basement for when she’s old enough. There is lots on Etsy!!

    1. I should say shelves not drawers. It’s visual from the outside of the piece.

  23. I am team floral – that Anthro one is so pretty but a big nope at over $300. I love the wrapping paper idea and that is a great way to try it out and see if you like it once your objects are back on the shelves.Since it’s such a small space and isn’t directly part of the LR, you have less risk trying to coordinate your LR textiles so that should take some pressure off.

  24. I cut pieces of foam core the dimensions of the back of a bookcase and wrap fabric around, secure with tape and wedge them in them in. Doesn’t take much fabric so super affordable- especially if you want a fancy fabric 😃 and you can change it very easily.

  25. I think a botanical pattern is the way to go. It will make the shelf look and feel finished like the walls. I once lined the back of a hutch by using a thin piece of cardboard covered with self adhesive shelf liner. It stands in the cabinet without any tape or tacks and is held in place only by the shelves in front of it. I spaced the seams to land behind a shelf so it looks seamless. Cheap and easy!

  26. Floral! And there are so many peel and stick options out there to lessen the chance of messing something up

  27. #s 1, 6, & 9 in the Pattern group probably will not give you enough OOMPH. Everything in the Floral group, and the rest of the Patterns will. Other than that, I’m no help – I like them all and think each could work.

    1. Also, all the inspirational photos you’ve included in this post look very much like what was in style in the US during the first half of the 20th century among big-city dwellers with disposable income. If you can get your hands on a copy of Dorothy Rodgers’s (as in, wife of one half of Rodgers and Hammerstein) book _My Favorite Things_ you will find a LOT of photos that resonate with you, as well as advice on how to create those looks that still applies today – I have a copy myself and the only thing that hasn’t stood the test of time is the list businesses and craftsmen she recommends in the back of the book, no surprise there. She was a professional decorator and furniture rehabber and knew what she was talking about.

  28. I’d go with the botanical! With the images you chose to ‘describe’ your aesthetic, botanical flourishes fit really well.
    Also, they’re a great backdrop for the utems already on your shelves (i.e. what do you take photos of? Nature!)

    I lined the back of a smallish bookshelf with patternED paper. It gave what was otherwise a simple, cheapie Indonesian bookshelf a real character and all of a sudden people who’d seen it for years noticed it!?!

    You can buy spray on adhesive that, if you spray it ONLY on ONE of the surfaces, it’s REMOVABLE like a quality post-it note… but if you spray both surfaces, it’s forever bonded! Just spray one side with the adhesive and when you buy it, ask in the store and READ THE INSTRUCTIONS BEFORE YOU PURCHASE!

    I’m looking forward to seeing the end result.

  29. DO IT!!!!! And I vote for one of the floral patterns. The bookshelf is already linear, what with having straight shelves and all. A floral will be more exciting!

  30. Such a small spot – I’d go for it! I like 3 and 9

    Check out Nancy on IG for her great style – @casacavaliere

    LOVE her style and personality

    1. I love to use vintage wrapping paper in my bathroom cupboard for a pop of color!

  31. What was the name of that trend you guys predicted a while back? Grandma Something Eccentric Something? You were so prescient! (love it.)

  32. The botanical options for SURE. Think about what’s going to be going in front of it: books and other (mostly) sharp geometric shapes. If you had a space where you were putting vases and organic shapes (like flower arrangements) I’d say one of the pattern options. But, the botanical options are going to work so much better with the straight lines of the books. It will balance nicely. Otherwise, you’re going to need to come up with an organic shape in every cubby to break up the lines of books on top of patterns.

  33. I am almost never ‘sure’ of anything -‘certain’ yes, but never entirely ‘sure’- but in this instance, I am both certain & sure that the jarring-ish nature of that bright white nook will be solved brilliantly by a floral wallpaper. It will be like turning the corner on a mountain trail and finding a meadow of flowers in full bloom amidst waving deep green grass -okay, not e x a c t l y like that but at the very least, it will suggest such a moment ; ).
    On the installation aspect: Perhaps a peel & stick option would make life easier on Rocky..? (For SURE a floral wallpaper will most CERTAINly be more forgiving to install than a geometric pattern! ; )
    Plus one thought on your “panic in the background”: during a frustrating or challenging DIY project I always remind myself that the process is not always reflected in the outcome -and in some instances, I even become more fond of the very aspect I questioned most. (Does anyone else have that experience -what seemed like a janky solution at the time, becomes the detail that shines..?)

    ps. glad to see you went for that charming anthro lamp : ) but wondering if the picture was taken before your glorious Moroccan rug was welcomed to the family, or if you’ve gone if different direction..?

    Looking forward to the reveal but mostly really enjoy being brought along during the process -thanks Ryann!

  34. Peel and stick wallpaper is pretty easy, like contact paper. I haven’t tried removing it, but it’s supposed to be easy to remove, too, so very low risk. I’d love to see a floral pattern in there, and although you don’t have any in your options, something in the darker green of your walls would be beautiful.

  35. if the shelves are small enough, you could also just use double sided tape and scrapbook paper. SOOOO many options!

  36. If you use a peel and stick, there’s basically no risk. I would do a small to medium floral in there because if you put in a geometric with all those straight lines, anything that’s the tiniest bit out of square will be super obvious.

  37. I would go the opposite of your design direction right now, just to create that tension we all seek with the perfect design. So if you’re decor is going a bit feminine and botanical, go hard right with some geometric shapes. It gets that ying yang. At least that’s how I “go for it”.

    I’m doing a studio/recording room for a man who LOVES traditionally feminine colors and pretty things (Prince is his favorite musician of all time), and it can easily get grandma real quick. So instead of doing a lacy, feminine wallpaper in his recording space, I paired it with a pattern much like #2 of the patterned wallpaper and it off-set the high dose of estrogen. Also, the pattern helped bring all the disparate items like books and DVD cases that line the shelves in his recording space, so I think going more geometrical helps accomplish that. That’s what makes it “cool”.

  38. Spoonflower can print wallpaper of your own design (or from thousands of artist’s designs). Check them out! I believe they do both temporary and permanent. Haven’t tried their wallpaper (order their custom print fabric a lot), but have always wanted to… perhaps you could review them for us?

  39. #5 or #8 under the botanical section. I think the black and white floral is a great idea!

  40. Highly recommend the florals over the patterns for this nook and (presumably) your first time installing wallpaper! (Also I think it would look best!) My first wallpaper install was a similar nook, though much larger, and turns out it combines every one of the hardest things about wallpapering (hurray!): interior corners, ceiling, no solid ending point (the front). We would have failed hard if it wasn’t such a forgiving pattern!

  41. Get a piece of foamcore or matte board, cut to the size of the alcove, apply a wild pattern, stuff into alcove and then pile books back in front. See if you like it. I like it both as a pre check and as a “permanent” installation that is easy to switch out when I want something different. It also allows the use of fabric instead of wallpaper if you like a bit of texture.

  42. Go bold or go home. There scads of peel and stick wallpaper that you can try out to see whether it works and if not just peel it off as it is easy on and easy off. You dont need a professional to hang it up as it’s easy to do yourself. A thought to consider.

  43. I think that a floral will make that little nook sing. My concern is cutting around all those little trim moldings that make up the shelf brackets. If it were me, I think I’d take the moldings off, install the paper or fabric backing, then reinstall the moldings. If that’s not really an option, fabric may be more forgiving as it won’t tear as you work around the brackets. Another possibility would be to either paint, stamp, or stencil a floral design instead of paper or fabric. Cutting Edge Stencils (no affiliation) has some really pretty options and stenciling is easy to master.

  44. All about the wallpaper! However…. your definition of clutter-core made me twitchy as the parent of a tween who we have given total autonomy of her space. Best definition ever for the chaos.

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