By Marni Jameson
Wallpaper and I have a love-hate relationship. Every time I put it up in my home, I fall in love with it. When carefully selected, a great wallcovering can inject style, color, texture, motif, and personality all at once in a way that paint simply can’t.
At its best, it transforms a room and make you feel like you’ve just climbed into a sumptuous genie bottle. What’s not to love?
But then, the love affair ends. Paper fades. Styles change. You tire of the print (What did I ever see in him?). The paper you love the next resident doesn’t. Or nature takes her toll causing the paper’s edges to lift, peel and curl like the sunburnt surface of an old boat deck. And you must face the pain and expense of removal and repair (because the wall underneath is almost never the same), and the fact that the paper that made you giddy with joy going up is now bringing your spirits crashing down with it, like an after-party hangover.
In the last home I owned — which as I write this I still own, but barring a supreme stroke of ill-timed bad fate, which those of you who have been with me long enough know cannot be ruled out, I will no longer own in one week — I had wallpaper in several rooms. I loved it.
However, after I moved out six year ago, the renters weren’t as fond of my selections. Down came the kitchen floral paper, along with the peony-purple damask print in my daughter’s room, which was to be a boy’s room. As the paper came off, some wall came with it, and had to be resurfaced.
After you write that check, you pretty much never want to see wallpaper again.
Fast forward to last month, when I walked through the house again, just before the sale, and saw the old place with a new eye. The steam from years of hot showers in the master bath had lifted the corners and seams of the beautiful bronze metallic paper, so what once looked elegant, now looked shabby.
Thus, you see, wallpaper and I have run hot and cold over the years. In my current home, though I do have some bold paint colors, I have shied away from wallpaper.
But a recent announcement from Joanna Gaines, of HGTV’s Fixer Upper, has stirred those old fond feelings, warming me to wallpaper again.
For those who have been living in a manhole, interior designer Gaines is the female half of the winsome flip-and-fix couple out of Waco, Texas. She and her contractor husband, Chip Gaines, started a residential design and construction company, which blossomed into a reality TV show, a home store, and, well, an empire.
Now Joanna Gaines has partnered with York, America’s oldest and largest wallcovering company, to create the “Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines” wallpaper collection, which came out this year.
My first reaction: “Wait! Joanna Gaines is all about simple. She likes wallpaper?”
“York was the perfect partner to help Chip and me realize our dream of launching a wallpaper line,” said Gaines in a statement.
According to the press materials, which I verified with her publicist, Gaines went to the company’s headquarters in York, Pennsylvania, where it started in 1895, and riffled through papers dating back over 100 years.
“I loved looking through their archives and seeing the history of different patterns. This really inspired me for the designs we created,” she said.
The resulting wallcoverings are glimpses from the past incorporated into new concepts. Patterns in her namesake collection resemble old newsprint, weathered wood paneling, water-colored checks, heirloom roses, pastoral farm scenes, handwriting, architectural sketches, polka dots, broad stripes, grass cloth — and, of course, magnolias.
I was swooning.
Now, because famous Joanna Gaines has her TV show, her empire, and her family of four children to manage, her publicist said she couldn’t grant a last-minute interview with a columnist on deadline this week, so I had to make do with her written answers to supplied questions – and I had questions – about wallpaper in today’s home. Here’s what she had to say:
Q. Did you grow up with wallpaper?
My earliest memories of wallpaper include my mother’s and grandmother’s homes — the floral stuff you see in houses that we’d now refer to as “dated.” But to me, those classic patterns feel like home. I love that this art form is making a comeback.
Q. How did you go about finding inspiration for the patterns in your new line?
I wanted them to stand the test of time, and starting in York’s archives was definitely a big push in the right direction.
Q. How do you use wallpaper in your designs today?
As a tool to help set a client’s space apart.
Q. The biggest drawback of wallpaper is putting it up and taking it down. How do you manage that?
Wallpaper can be a challenge to install. That’s one reason I think people are so turned off by it. One of my No.1 goals was to make sure my line was easy to install. I’m happy to say it is. Similarly, as renovators, Chip and I run into old wallpaper all the time – and the nightmare of removing it. New adhesive technology (including Sure Strip a feature in most of York’s lines) make the product much easier to take down. So, in five years, when you’re ready to change things up, there won’t be any scraping or peeling.
Q. If you were a wallpaper pattern what would you be?
Classic black and white stripes, because it’s timeless.
If Gaines is right, wallpaper and I may again have a future.
Syndicated columnist Marni Jameson is the author of two home and lifestyle books, and the newly released Downsizing the Family Home – What to Save, What to Let Go (Sterling Publishing 2016). You may reach her at www.marnijameson.com.