Interior Design Ideas: Wall Treatments
Walls are usually the dominant aspect of a room, so the treatment you choose will set the overall look. As well as choosing a good look you will need to decide what will work best in practical terms.
First, consider the basics
Are the walls in good condition, or is the plaster flaking? Is damp a problem? Do they need insulating? Covering up problems is usually a waste of money and effort, as the end result will never look satisfactory and any serious defects, such as damp, will soon ruin the new decorations. So make sure you right any wrongs before you start decorating, and for structural problems, call in the experts.
What will the room be used for? It is important to consider the practicality of the wall treatment. For example, the walls of bathrooms and kitchens need to be spongeable and resistant to moisture. Halls and stairs often become scuffed and finger-marked, so these should also have a hard-wearing, easy-to-clean surface.
For some jobs, such as hanging a difficult-to-handle wallpaper or painting a towering stairwell, you might want to call in a professional decorator. Get at least three estimates from recommended professionals and ask for an idea of the time it will take as well as the cost. Make sure you are comparing like with like: some tradespeople estimate to supply and fix, while others quote for doing the work only, and expect you to supply the materials.
Wallcoverings: the options
Paint – usually the most economical choice. Paint can be matched to almost any shade imaginable, and you can create special effects with it, from basic colour-washing to murals and trompe-l’oeil.
Wallpaper – there is an endless range of wallpaper styles, including interesting textured papers, designs with matching or complementary fabrics, and period patterns. The prices also vary widely and some papers are more straightforward to hang than others.
Tiles – the conventional answer for ‘wet’ areas, but practical anywhere where a tough, washable surface is required. The choice of tiles is not limited to ceramic.
Laminate panels – often used where the surface needs to be impervious to water. Laminate comes in almost any pattern, colour or texture, but marble and tile effects are popular. The panels can be fixed on battens or, if the wall is perfectly smooth, stuck in place with impact.
Wood cladding – tongue-and-groove cladding ‘secret-nailed’ to battens is not too difficult for a competent amateur to put up. The wood can be oiled, waxed, stained or painted, but remember to do a colour test on a spare piece of wood first, as colours can vary from the shade card.
Fabric – hessian (burlap), silk, linen, felt and other fabrics can be bonded to a paper backing and hung like wallpaper. Unbacked fabric can be stretched in place over battens. Both are jobs for an expert.
Luxury wallcoverings – it is easy to be seduced by luxury wallcoverings such as grasscloth and leather, but bear in mind they are expensive, difficult to hang and may be vulnerable.
Disguising a sound but ugly wall
A structurally sound wall with a few minor but unsightly imperfections can be treated and the imperfections disguised. Avoid using a finish with a shine to it, as this will magnify any imperfections in the plasterwork. It is sometimes possible to camouflage uneven plaster or ugly tiles with wood-cladding, laminate or even fabric. Existing tiles, if they are firm, can be over-tiled or repainted.