Wallpaper vs Paint… An Interior Designer’s View

Whether you are designing an entirely new space, or just sprucing up an existing room, one of the most important things to consider from a design perspective is how you are going to cover the walls, wallpaper or paint?

Because walls are such a large part of a room, the finish, pattern and colour will all have a big impact on the rest of the room’s design. It is important to carefully consider what to use in order to dress a wall to showcase the best a space has to offer.

This is why it is necessary to understand the differences between paint and wallpaper, two of the most common ways to decorate a wall, and to gain insight into how their unique properties match them to certain kinds of schemes over others.

Wallpaper and wallcoverings

Wallpaper is a perennially popular choice because it can quickly add both style and texture to any room. This makes it the perfect option for those looking to quickly add personality and visual interest to a space.

For example, textured wallpapers add warmth to a room by dressing and complementing it, without being too bold and overbearing. Smaller, bold patterns and more modern 3D designs, can make a huge statement on walls and bring a different dimension to a room.

However, it is vital to consider all aspects of the interior design before making the choice. Busy wallpaper may make artwork look visually too busy and confusing. A mirror may be a better option over heavily patterned wallpaper. Then you can begin to build around it in response to where you want the focus to be.

In practical terms, the biggest advantage of wallpaper is that it is easy to install. Some products offered today are very durable, making it the perfect choice for high traffic areas, such as kitchens and bathrooms.

Clients particularly like wallpapers in WCs to showcase a little bit of quirkiness, boldness and create a bit of impact. We have, in the past, also wallpapered the ceiling in a black and white geometric pattern in a bathroom that looked really striking!

The main drawback of wallpaper is that whilst it is simple to install, it can be tedious and time-consuming to remove. So, if you are designing an area that is likely to need re-decorating multiple times, maybe it is best to consider using paint.

You don’t have to put wallpapers on entire walls, accent walls or wallpaper panels are a good option. The design has to be well thought out and properly measured. Something a little simpler like splitting a wall into half wallpaper and half paint would do the trick however when designing, it is important that you consider the position of furniture, art and mirrors to achieve a cohesive look. Look for a mixture of textures/patterns that compliments the finish of all the additional items to be placed around.


The main advantage of paint is the sheer endless range of possibilities inherent to the medium. Colours, shades, glosses and even textures can be mixed and matched in every possible combination to make sure that you never need to worry about your walls looking boring or outdated.

A fresh coat of paint is by far the quickest, easiest and most cost-effective way to give a tired interior a new lease on life, and by choosing the right paint colour can really breathe freshness into a room.

In terms of practical benefits, paint has a long list. It can be changed quickly and easily, it can also be touched up. There are durable finish versions for high traffic areas to avoid scuffs and marks. And most importantly it can be tested! Easily available tester pots can be purchased to paint a small section of the wall and help you decide on the colour.

Dark colours can be frightening but unless you step slightly out of your comfort zone and add mood to certain areas, you may as well leave a room white. By just changing one colour you can make a huge difference to the atmosphere of a room. That said, particularly dark colours need extra coats of paint for perfect covering so there is extra work and cost that needs to be considered.

Block painting is now very much used in all sort of spaces. Geometrical shapes, circles, bands applied on walls and ceiling give the interiors a new dimension. Look for ideas on how to combine colours and shapes.

“You can create amazing walls with paint. Wallcoverings may come in all sorts of shapes, textures, qualities and the selection is extensive but paint can be just as effective when used in the right places. Painted ceilings can be interesting, especially over a bed from a headboard. Going up from the headboard and over can create a ‘zone’ and this can be done in corners too with a colour block effect that can really add to the appeal of a room.”

Design & Application

There are many misconceptions around the roles that interior designers and decorators play in the design and application process when it comes to decorating walls.

Because there is so much to consider, the vast amounts of knowledge and experience that these experts bring is vital to achieving a desirable final effect. For example, people can get very attached to a ‘favourite’ colour, wallpaper pattern or design scheme, but it takes the expert eye of an interior designer to understand why that particular combination in a specific space may not work.

Reflect on how the environment around the decorated walls will affect the finished look. For example, the amount of natural or artificial light that is bouncing off a wall will be different and change the mood.

Swatches can lead people into a false sense of security too, as a colour may look fine in a small area, but when expanded across a large area it might appear much too bright or garish, or in some cases too subtle. This is where the expertise of an interior designer comes in, to be able to help people avoid mistakes and to properly unlock the potential of the space.

“I think if you’ve got busy wallpapers, you don’t need art. Bold and patterned wallpaper gives you certain restrictions you must be aware. I think it’s better to have something plainer with accessories like mirrors.”

The role of decorators can often also be misunderstood or overlooked. There is a large difference between a painter and a wallpaper-hanger, and just because somebody is an expert in one, does not necessarily mean that they are proficient in the other. High end wallpapers may need special paste for applying or certains techniques the decorator must understand. Experienced decorators understand the wallpaper instruction symbols for proper installation.

If you are going the DIY route, then the wallpapers you are likely to find in hardware stores and other chain retailers should generally not give you any of these types of problems. It is usually designed to be cost-effective and easy to apply, with generic wallpaper paste and with no special extra considerations. However, if you wish to go for more of a designer, high-end wall covering, then this is where you might consider hiring a professional.

On a particular project, the selected wallpaper was out of stock. Our client wondered why we asked her to wait for the original choice instead of choosing something similar. But once the walls were completed, they understood our reasons and that the right look was worth the wait!

So, which is better – wallpaper or paint? Ultimately, the choice comes down to personal preference, budget and the specific needs of your project.

If you want more information on different wall coverings and how to choose what is right for you, contact Blocc today using the form on our website, by emailing info@blocc.co.uk, or by calling 0121 227 4259

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