Climbing the Walls: The Art of Wallcoverings

Don’t be a wallflower when offering complementary categories. Go vertical to showcase the latest in home décor.

 enLightenment Home Lighting Home Style: Decorative Wallpaper

Wallcoverings are receiving renewed attention among consumers, thanks to a myriad of new treatments and techniques that make them rise above the memory of your grandma’s chintz overload. Today, walls feature shimmering metallic treatments, life-size murals, and are even embedded with crystals. There are also plenty of opportunities to customize patterns to suit each customer’s décor. Whether you choose to utilize wall treatments in your store’s vignettes and displays or sell them as an accessory category, they are not to be ignored.

“Wallcoverings are a home furnishings trend to watch,” says Jeff Dross, corporate director of education & industry trends at Kichler. There have been some fashion-forward graphics choices appearing over the past 18 months. He advises lighting showrooms to pay attention because wallpapers add a dynamic to a room and can change the entire experience of the space.

“Our job as home furnishing professionals is to present a wide variety of styles. We must balance trends, but the challenge is selling to satisfy someone else’s environment and lifestyle, not our own,” he states. Dross advises salespeople to determine where the fixtures will ultimately be placed in a home and to suggest styles that do not fight with wall treatments, but enhance them.

The Writing on the Wall
“Wallpaper is very much coming back,” reports Barbara Annas, an interior designer and salesperson at King Electric in Burlington, North Carolina. “The difference today is consumers aren’t using as much and are using it selectively, for example in sunrooms and as a backdrop for a dramatic headboard in a bedroom.”

King Electric has been carrying wallpaper from a half-dozen resources such as Thibaut and Seabrook, which also offer coordinating fabrics and accessories such as tassels for five years. (Thibaut also released a line of upholstered furniture – including headboards – this past spring in a new High Point showroom and will be expanding it this month at market).

“We choose designer papers, but not the very high end,” Annas explains. “We also carry custom papers and murals. Our offerings include textures, wovens, silks, and grass cloth.”

Very familiar with wallpaper in her own interior design business prior to joining King Electric, Annas had every confidence that it would be a perfect addition to the showroom. When she approached management about expanding into this area, she explained, “It’s just another way to take money to the bank.” The King family agreed and the category has met with great success.

“Like our Hunter Douglas blinds and specialty area rugs, wallcoverings are very much a part of our accessories and keep us very diversified,” Anna confides. “Our customers have come to expect full designer services. They appreciate the range we offer and are glad we carry such lines.”  While King Electric caters to many traditional customers, the staff has discovered that wallcoverings also appeal to younger shoppers looking for excitement in room décor. “They want more contemporary designs and are willing to mix it up with bolder color and pattern,” Annas comments. “They like to experiment particularly in children’s bedrooms and powder rooms.”

The Category Doesn’t Sell Itself
Tireless in her promotion of designer services and lines, Annas admits wallcoverings and other designer services must be constantly marketed. “You have to do a lot of PR work, but showrooms that survived this recent economic downturn realize that they have to be diversified,” she notes.

Dross agrees, observing, “Consumers don’t buy one element when they are remodeling or decorating.” Lighting showrooms can help by providing realistic settings for the lighting on display plus give greater, overall design service. “We can help the consumer create the room they want,” he adds.

Another lighting store reaping the benefits of selling wallcoverings is Lamps & Lighting in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Owner Mary Margaret Singer began carrying Tempaper® by Lolliprops Inc. – a self-adhesive, repositionable, temporary wallpaper – in June. “I though it was a really neat product with hip and fun patterns. We cater to designers, so the wallpaper is an added extra and treated as any other accessory.”

For Singer, Tempaper was the perfect way to get started in the category. “There isn’t a big learning curve for our salespeople. All you have to know to hang the product is how to match patterns and have a pair of scissors,” she quips.

Lamps & Lighting carries 12-15 sample rolls, displayed in decorative baskets. “We also have a ring binder with sample sheets. Nothing could be easier,” Singer comments. She also uses Tempaper on the showroom walls. “We used the Edie pattern of cherry blossom branches in silver to cover the pegboard in our sconce display. It has made a huge difference.”

Use Wallpaper as a Display Tool
“Wallcoverings are ideal for concealing slat walls,” Dross agrees. “Just make a slit in the paper to mount the fixtures to create a more home-like environment that consumers can relate to instead of seeing openings in a wall.”

He does have a rule to remember when utilizing wallcoverings in displays. “If you want to merchandise a vignette with the typical five or six fixtures, choose papers with subdued patterns. If you select a bolder pattern to make a statement, have only one bold fixture on display. Stuffing too many fixtures in front of a bold pattern becomes distracting. Ultimately, our purpose is to create a dramatic presentation that has meaning to consumers,” he states.

The co-founder of Tempaper, Jennifer Matthews, created the product as an easy-to-use alternative to wallpaper in her set design business. “Traditional wallpaper is labor-intensive and costly to apply, and is even more so when removing it because of the damage it can cause to walls,” she explains. Her product peels off without leaving any residue. “Consumers like the possibility of not having a long-term commitment,” she adds.

Tempaper has at least three dozen patterns ranging from large-scale baroque damasks with a twist to bold graphics. The metallic designs are the most popular. “We base our patterns and colorways not only on trends, but inspirational ideas and stories we like to convey,” Matthews says. A Tempaper Tots line offers six updated juvenile designs, while Tempaper by You can be personalized with pencils, markers, paint, and crayons.

Consider experimenting with wallcoverings in your showroom to add drama, personality, and visual impact with little inventory.





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