Bold, Brightly Patterned Wallcoverings

It’s a scary prospect for many Hong Kong homeowners. Unlike furniture or drapery, which can easily be changed if weariness sets in, wallcoverings are a little more permanent. Furniture needs to be moved out of the way, existing paper needs to be stripped and the walls need to be primed before the covering can be applied. And then they run the risk of the contractor botching the job, as many smear paint on walls and call it a day. It is usually only considered an option during a major home renovation.

However, Felix Luke is seeing more and more end users make the commitment. “Wallcoverings are not as trendy as upholstery or drapery,” the showroom manager at Altfield Interiors acknowledges. “It is considered a longer lasting product. But these past four or five years, more people are interested in the effects they can achieve with them.”

Altfield first opened in 1982, and is one of Hong Kong’s most established dealers in home décor products. Along with its retail gallery in Prince’s Building, its interiors showroom on Queen’s Road Central offers a wide range of textiles for upholstery, drapery and walls. Altfield carries American, UK and European brands, although its Mainland Chinese showrooms also offer local products such as grass cloth wallcovering.

“Hand painted paper is very popular at the moment,” says Luke, showing a de Gournay wallcovering sample of whimsical monkeys on a neutral background. “This English company used to offer Oriental patterns, but now we are seeing more abstract motifs. It’s a personal and unique type of effect that is visually very interesting.”

Another trend is for wallcovering and upholstery manufacturers to offer the same pattern for walls and furniture. The end result is a continuous, seamless look within a room. The UK’s Manuel Canovas offers the same patterns in paper and fabric to achieve this goal. “We are also seeing wallcovering being used on cabinet doors, within alcoves and on ceilings,” Luke notes. Cole & Son have a border product called Nicchie that produces a frieze around a room, while Chiavi Segrette can make built-in recesses and alcoves look continuous with its surrounding walls. Using two types of patterns for above and below the dado line can create trompe l’oeil effects for striking feature walls.Luke cautions against selecting products that may be too challenging for local contractors to handle. “Weitzner released a neutral series last year as well as patterned tiles that have to be applied to a wall separately after it is primed with adhesive,” she says. “Some of our clients ended up being disappointed because the product wasn’t applied well enough to achieve the desired effect.” Bubbling, less than perfect matching from edge to edge and other mishaps can easily occur with products in less experienced hands. The simpler and more neutral the pattern, the easier application mistakes can be spotted. “In Hong Kong, humidity and dampness are huge issues,” Luke states. “Silk, flocked and textured fabric wallcoverings may not be as durable over time, and are more susceptible to mould. We don’t recommend applying wallcovering in bathrooms with showers or bathtubs, but powder rooms where there is less humidity would be fine.”

This year, the trends are for bold patterns with large repeats and for mustard yellow to dominate many collections. “We are also getting a lot of enquires for Studioart’s leather panels,” Luke says. Although there are many requests for green content, it is difficult for a manufacturer to make products with 100 percent sustainable content. “Some of our American manufacturers such as Weitzner and Maya Romanoff offer products that contain a certain amount of recycled content like newsprint,” she notes. “We can offer design advice to help clients mix and match, so that their interiors don’t feel too boxy. And we can assist with upholstery and drapery to complement their wallcoverings.”