The decoration of your walls can have a very profound effect on the mood of your rooms — busy, calm, sophisticated, etc. What’s more, changing that decoration is the quickest way to alter the whole effect.
Paint has become very easy to use, and is the most popular form of decorating. Take a sample of the colour you want with you when buying; manufacturers’ colour names vary a great deal. Check the condition of your walls before you start and make sure the cause of any stains has been dealt with. An unplastered good (well-pointed) brick wall can be painted directly, or sealed. A plain painted wall makes an excellent background for a display or collection. But if you want to add individuality to the wall itself, you could be more adventurous — a mural, or stencilled designs cost only imagination. Or try painting the bottom half of your room one colour, the top another. Or combine a painted wall with a paper frieze — there are many to choose from.
A patterned paper can help to unify a bitty room, but otherwise there’s no need to go floor to ceiling. Try panels, edged with narrow border paper, or dividing your wall with friezes as the Victorians did. Then you can have the tough paper at the bottom, where all the wear and tear is, and something more delicate above.
Although most papers come in standard rolls, prices are extremely varied, so you should be able to find something to suit your pocket. The cheapest papers are thin, and both cheap and very expensive papers are harder to hang. Non-washable papers can be protected with a special sealer, but test first to see if the pattern smudges. Hand-printed paper looks sharper than machine printed, but it is much more expensive. Washable paper is water-repellent but not as tough as vinyl. Lincrusta, anaglyptas and embossed paper can be a good solution to bumpy surfaces, especially ceilings where you need a non-directional design. Like woodchip paper, they can be painted.
Various fabrics are available backed with paper and are hung in the same way as wallpaper. These include hessian (which can be painted, but in its natural state has a very comforting air), felt (which tends to pick up dust but can be vacuumed), linen, wool and jute (some of which can be sponged). Any fabric which doesn’t stretch too much can be attached to a framework of battens (bedspreads, for example, make a good panelled effect), but you will have to take it down to clean it. Cork can be bought either attached to paper or as tiles or panels. Polystyrene absorbs noise and condensation and insulates, but it does dent easily and, if there’s a fire, it will give off poisonous fumes. Ceramic tiles are very hard-wearing and easy to clean. Vinyl floor tiles can also be used on the walls for continuity. Mirrors are good used on walls either as :Lies or in slabs — they add light and space.
If you decorate your walls cleverly, you can overcome many visual problems. Like people, very few houses look perfect, but the right colours and styles can create illusions and emphasize good points, just as the right clothes and make-up do for people. So decide what your rooms’ worst features are, and see if you can give them a helping hand. For example, a light-coloured ceiling will appear higher, a medium-coloured ceiling will appear lower (too dark and it will disappear completely if you’ve low lighting!). Bringing the ceiling colour down to a picture rail, or using horizontal bands of colour coordinated wall coverings and curtains are always attractive. The painted window draws out the colour from its cream background and the flower arrangement further complements the scheme.
Around the top of a wall will also lower the ceiling. You will need plenty of masking tape to keep the lines straight. You could use a similar method to break up your wall area into panels. A long, narrow space can be opened up by a focal point at the far end. In a complex area, like a hall, have a very carefully coordinated scheme throughout, with perhaps just one or two colours or tones for everything. Add a stripe around an uninteresting room, either at skirting level, at the join with the ceiling or in the middle. This could be batten, a frieze or just a stripe of paint. It will bring it alive.