HOME — 01 March 2014
Wallpaper unrolls a comeback in home design

By Charlyne Varkonyi Schaub

Faux finishes were the stars of wall covering for several years. Granite was the undisputed ruler of the countertops.

But times have changed. Wallpaper, once absent from designer show houses and magazines, is making a comeback. Granite, once the ultimate status symbol for the kitchen and bath, is being nudged aside by quartz and Quartzite.

Come along and see what four top designers have to say about the changes in how we decorate our homes.




Jupiter designer Allison Paladino does not consider herself a “huge wallpaper person,” but she goes for it when it is right for the room – such as the hand-painted tropical paper by Paul Montgomery she used in a dining room on Palm Beach. The neutral tones give it elegance and sophistication.

“When I saw it, I fell in love with it,” she says. “My client showed me an ad for a wedding gown in Town & Country with the wallpaper in the background. She flipped her lid when I was able to find it.”

Paladino does most of her wallpapering in bathrooms and foyers. She sees Maya Romanoff and Phillip Jeffries as being in the forefront of interesting textures.

She added color to a neutral kitchen in Boca Raton with Tree of Life, a blue, gold and red floral tile from Country Floors.

“I am usually more monochromatic,” she says. “I think this is a happy space and the tiles have a lot to do with it. If you were to take the tiles out and put in a plain backsplash, it would still have been beautiful, but this makes it unique and fun.”

She is impressed with the advances and varieties of porcelain tile, especially those that look like stone but are more practical. Another advantage is porcelain is now available in large pieces such as 36 by 24 inches, sizes normally only available in stone slabs.




Alene Workman, a Hollywood designer who was recently honored as one of the Stars of Design at the Design Center of the Americas in Dania Beach, created what she calls a “small gem” of a powder room in a 9,000-square-foot penthouse in Bal Harbour.

She creatively mixed panels of anigre, an exotic hardwood from Africa finished in a deep honey tone, with three-dimensional iridescent glass tile. The client wanted to get access to the plumbing in the walls so she designed some of the panels as access doors.

Although the countertop and washbowl are onyx, she also likes the manufactured quartz countertops such as Caesarstone and Silestone.

“Caesarstone and Silestone are strong and useful as opposed to marble in a kitchen,” she says. “They have allowed us to use pure white and introduce other coloration. They are just as durable as granite, but they give us a color range that is more consistent.” (Unlike granite, quartz is not porous, is easy to clean and does not need to be sealed.) She also uses Quartzite, a hard, granular rock made mostly of quartz. It is stronger than granite and offers more variation in color.

“Not that pricing is any better, but they expand our options,” she says. “Before we were limited to mostly granite, I never considered tile or concrete an alternative for countertops.”




Jack Fhillips, a Palm Beach designer known for his “Old Money” look, sees wallpaper as an investment if it is chosen carefully. Caution is required because removing wall covering can be a nightmare and often the drywall has to be redone.

“Beware those of us who select victim wallpaper,” Fhillips says. “Thank God the days of monkeys, palm trees and bad florals are making a huge disappearing act.”

The best choices, he says, are textural wallpapers such as linen, grass cloth and raffia and classic designs in stripes and subtle plaids. Some of his favorites are from Maya Romanoff, Scalamandre, Phillip Jeffries, Ralph Lauren and Schumacher.

To illustrate how the right choices can last, he pointed to the wallpaper from Ralph Lauren’s Shirtings, a 15-year-old collection that he used in a Manalapan house’s dining room and kitchen.

Despite the new trend toward porcelain tile made to look like stone, he only uses one kind of floor – honed limestone or coral in beige.

“Flooring is an investment you have to live with as long as you are in a home,” he says.




Palm Beach Gardens designer Annie Santulli doesn’t limit herself to typical wall coverings, but sometimes her innovation can be stressful for her and the installer.

A client, who lived in an apartment on the ocean on Palm Beach, likes innovative design and Asian accents so Santulli decided to cover a wall in the foyer with bamboo. She is doing a lot of accent walls like this to create drama.

“I had never worked with it before and almost had a breakdown when we were installing it,” she says. After consulting with her wallpaper installer, the problem was solved with wood trim stained to match the Kneedler Fauchere bamboo.

Other textural wallpapers she uses are grass cloth and Ralph Lauren’s Ionian Sea Linen in Indigo that she used in the apartment’s den.

“Grasscloth is not for everyone,” she says. “It is a very natural look that people are very much into. It’s not a perfection look because of the little pulls in it. It’s beautiful but it would make perfectionists crazy.”

Santulli says you can never overdo tasteful textural wallpaper because it gives a room another dimension.

“Kitschy wallpaper and prints are definitely not in now,” she says. “Textured papers are really hot. Even if the trend changes as it always does, they will never go out of style because they are so subtle.”



Jack Fhillips: Jack Fhillips Design, 2611 Mercer Ave., West Palm Beach, 561-659-4459, jfhillipsdesign.com.

Allison Paladino:  6671W. Indiantown Road, Suite 50-435, Jupiter, apinteriors.com.

Annie Santulli: Annie Santulli Designs, 116 Playa Rienta Way, Palm Beach Gardens, 561-630-8976, anniesantullidesigns.com.

Alene Workman: Alene Workman Interior Design, 4601 Sheridan St, Suite 218, Hollywood, 954-989-0898, aleneworkman.com.


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