Wonderful walls

Posted on May 1, 2015 by Amy Hanson

White. Off white. Eggshell. While walls in some homes may continue to be of the typical vanilla variety, more are making a statement with texture, wood, wallpaper, metal and bold pops of color.

While it may take longer than those living on the East or West coasts to flirt with design trends, Houzz, Pinterest and shows on HGTV have inspired Fox Cities homeowners to take a risk and widen the design palettes in their homes.

Textured toppers

Photo courtesy of Katie McGuire

Photo courtesy of Katie McGuire

Katie McGuire, owner of Collaborations, LLC, says clients are looking for texture and to make a statement on their walls. The Kaukauna-based interior designer has used wood, brick and wallpaper. Cost, however, can be a factor. “Once you start applying texture to a wall, it’s going to add cost to a project,” she says.

It can, however, change the look of the room.

“We get bored with looking at the same thing day in and day out,” McGuire notes. “I think it’s cool, it’s creative, it’s inventive. People enjoy looking at something different. It gives a room personality.”

Carol Smits, interior designer and owner of Designs of the Times, LLC in Combined Locks, started in interior design with faux finishes in the early ’90s, but has since moved on to highly specialized marble effects and mural work, along with being consulted on wall coverings and roller paint.

“Wall coverings and wallpaper are making a comeback. It will probably be a little slow in this area, but I’m excited about that,” she says. “When you think about good interior design and proper finishes, it’s about finding that right balance.”

Twist on tradition

Whether in planks, patterns or tiles, wood isn’t the treatment it used to be.

Photo courtesy of Urban Evolutions

Photo courtesy of Urban Evolutions

“Wood has been so traditional as something people have walked on, so going vertical with that is so novel and different,” says Robin Janson, president of Urban Evolutions, Inc. in Appleton.

While the days of wood paneling are behind us, customers are choosing to take wood horizontal and in some cases, utilize a “waterfall” effect that bends the treatment from the ceiling to the wall.

“I think the whole room thing kind of left us in the ’80s thankfully,” says Justin Kuehl, co-owner of Factotum USA with Nate Lenz.

“You can go very rustic where you have wood that has patina or marks on it,” adds Janson. “Or, you can go very refined where you take all that wood texture off.” Urban Evolutions, which has been in the business for 20 years, works with a variety of finishes from exposing the grain to utilizing stains to other “secret” products, shares Janson who is seeing customers gravitate toward the patina or textured finishes. Most of Urban Evolutions’ materials come from Midwest barns or old factories.

“We do a bunch of different wall coverings, but it is all in wood,” says Kuehl. “We’re seeing more and more this year, especially a mixture. Especially metal items.”

Factotum USA, based in Appleton, has been open just short of two years and utilizes palettes, barn wood, and tongue and groove for their work. The “character” of the wood is what sets each project apart.

“We like to go in there and match our product to what they have in there,” Kuehl says of designing within a space. “It gives us a little more authority to come in and say this is what you could do, now pick what you want to do.”

The type of wood and finish can set the mood of the room.

“It’s like a playground of imagination,” Kuehl says. “We take a lot of creative avenues and put them in one place.”

A recent project had Kuehl bread slicing barn beams that were attached to plywood and then put together in four sections before being applied to a wall.

Photo courtesy of Factotum USA

Photo courtesy of Factotum USA

“We had to figure out so many aspects of it,” admits Kuehl. “There was a lot of thinking that went into it.”

Factotum has a variety of tools at their disposal including a vinyl machine, screen print shop, metal fabrication shop and a 3-D rendering program that assists in bringing jobs to life. While he gravitates toward modern design, Kuehl says that he and Lenz balance each other due to Lenz’s rustic aesthetic.

Master bedrooms and baths, along with family rooms and recreation spaces have been popular rooms within a home that are receiving these treatments.

“Wood does create a lot of warmth. It’s constant warmth in a room. There’s no denying that,” says Janson who adds some of her clients gravitate to “exotics” that could include utilizing old bleachers in a rec room or creating a patchwork effect with tin.

“I think it’s more of a statement,” Janson says. “What does it say about you if you want to do a wood wall? … People are wanting to see themselves as connected to the earth.”

One particular Urban Evolutions client will be building a house in Northern Wisconsin this summer utilizing mushroom wood, a type of wood that has pronounced knots.

“It sort of feels like something you’d find in the enchanted forest,” Janson explains.

McGuire’s clients have tended to keep wood treatments in their natural state and seek out “reclaimed” materials. She has, however, found them in brown, grey, teal and other color tones. Smits also has seen clients gravitate to a craftsman or arts and crafts style with cedar planks run horizontally in a rough-sawn state or even wood beam ceilings for an earthy feel.

Pretty paper

“Those who like wallpaper have never lost the idea of it,” says Mary Duba, interior designer and lead store

Mary Duba of Sherwin-Williams Paint Store. Photo by Julia Schnese

Mary Duba of Sherwin-Williams Paint Store. Photo by Julia Schnese

specalist-decorative products at all three Fox Valley Sherwin-Williams Paint Store locations. She adds that wallpaper comes back every eight years or so. Duba also notes that it has come a long way from the days of putting roosters and chickens on kitchen walls.

“We do have a lot of designers in the valley who come in with their clients to select paper,” Duba says of Sherwin-Williams’ large selection.

Familiar wallpaper patterns like the Greek key and fleur de lis also are returning in a bold way with hot pinks and bright blues, McGuire shares.

“I still think that color is just a huge trend right now,” she says. “Powder rooms are typically a place that people want to add a little punch.”

“They’ve gotten very colorful with their designs and patterns,” Duba adds. “It’s truly a new look for the new generation of homeowners.” She’s also seen damask patterns, scrollwork, architectural details, “glass beads,” silk and satin textures, mylar as backgrounds for screen print overlays and tone-on-tone colors being incorporated into wallpaper designs.

“You put the lights on and you see that texture,” says McGuire of the metallic shimmer found in both wallpaper prints and textured grasscloth designs.

Smits has seen everything from traditional to more glamourous designs, she said noting that the prints and colors are a little more sophisticated this time around. “Contemporary doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be casual,” she adds. Smits is seeing uses of grey tones offset by creams and warm yellow hues. Bright oranges and lime greens also are trending, along with brownish-red options.

Wallpaper also is flirting with wood grain, but isn’t as much of a commitment, McGuire says. A cork look has appeared in wallpaper, too, Duba notes.

“You can get that wood look in all kinds of colors. It adds some fun,” McGuire shares.

For those who may be intimidated by the process of wallpaper, Smits says not to worry.

“Truthfully, if a professional is applying it and putting it up and taking it down, the removal won’t be that bad,” she explains should a homeowner choose to update a space again down the road.

Painted punch

“Painted and plain walls feel new and fresh,” says Smits of opting for a good can of paint.

Duba is seeing taupe undertones in brown, green, black, gold and violet paint colors. Teenage bedrooms are seeing splashes of limes, purples and royal blues. Theater rooms also are seeing darker tones inside and brighter versions just outside the spaces.

Whatever your choice of wall coverings, Smits encourages homeowners to find the right treatment for them.

“We create an idea or a design around what’s important to them,” she says.

Duba adds that her approach to design is by starting with what homeowners want the space to say with the style and presence they’re trying to achieve.

“Truly your room declares what can be done and should be done for the feel,” she says.


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