Photo: Katie Kime

Wallpaper has the ability to transform a room in a way that paint never could. Some prints have even achieved icon status — think of the Scalamandré prancing zebras in The Royal Tenenbaums or the Chinoiserie ‘Earlham’ design by de Gournay in Sharp Objects. But understanding what a profound impact wallpaper can have on a space gives some people decision paralysis. 

“Start by asking yourself, ‘What is the fear?’” says Katie Kime, an Austin, Texas-based designer who serves as the Founder, Creative Director and CEO of Katie Kime. “Is it a fear of commitment? A fear of getting tired of something? Or are you just not trusting yourself?” Kime wholeheartedly believes you should trust yourself, and her fearless pattern mixing and quirky prints are proof of that. “Your home should be something you love and if there’s a way to kind of have an unexpected, bold piece of you in a room of your house, then go for it!” Here, Kime shares five tips on choosing the best wallpaper for your space.

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1. Figure out how much wallpaper you actually need.

Photo: Katie Kime

Whipping out the measuring tape is an obvious first step. Measure the length and height of each wall, then multiply the combined length by the height of the wall to determine your square footage. “A lot of times people don’t understand how rolls work,” says Kime. “Check to see how many square feet a roll covers — sometimes they come in double rolls, sometimes not.” She also suggests subtracting windows and doors from your calculations. “That saves you a fair amount of money!”

2. Pay attention to the scale of the wallpaper.

Photo: Katie Kime

“Scale gives a different feel to a room,” explains Kime. “A bigger scale and repeat feels a little more airy and you’re going to have a fair amount of white space. I think bigger spaces do better with larger repeats.” Alternatively, if you’re looking to cover a tight space like a power room, you might want to reach for a busier print with a smaller repeat. “Scale does change how much paper you’re going to need and how much money you’re going to spend,” notes Kime. “If you choose a print where the repeat and scale are really big, you have to buy a lot more paper.”

3. Find your ‘jumping off point.’ 

Photo: Katie Kime

If you’re decorating a room from scratch, congrats! You can choose whichever print your heart desires. But if you’re looking to punch up the walls of a room that’s already filled with furniture and decor, you’ll need to carefully assess your surroundings. “I would start with pulling in an existing color, whether it’s featured in a rug or pillow,” says Kime. “ And then I would take a look at the room — is it neutral and minimally designed? Do you want this wallpaper to be the big feature? In that case, you should go bold. If there are a lot of throw pillows in different prints or there’s an eclectic feel, I think you’re going to want to go with something that blends in a little more. It’s still adding another layer and dimension, but it isn’t the focal point.”

4. Trust your gut when pattern-mixing.

Photo: Katie Kime

It’s clear that Kime has an eye for pattern mixing (each wall of her office seems to be covered in a different, yet well-coordinated print), but she encourages others to trust themselves, too. “If you can’t and you need something more technical, pay attention to color and scale,” she advises. “You could have five different prints that are in pastels or neutrals, and those will work because of the cohesive color palette. If you’re going for bright, bold colors, make sure the print and scale of the patterns have a thread that runs throughout so it’s not just chaos.”

5. Think beyond the four walls.

Photo: Katie Kime

Wallpaper isn’t just for walls anymore. Thanks to the invention of removable, self-adhesive wallpaper, it’s also for medicine cabinets, stair risers, dresser drawers — the list goes on and on. “In my house, I have a mini fridge that’s wrapped in removable wallpaper and I also use it behind shelves,” says Kime. “We recently had a customer with an AC unit they didn’t love wrap it in wallpaper that was also on the walls so it blended in. It’s all about thinking outside the box!” Kime’s own line of removable stair front decals are a more affordable (and less permanent) way to add personality to your staircase. “A little pop can make all the difference!” she adds.

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