Paint and wallpaper are easy fallbacks when it comes to decorating, but they aren’t the beginning and end of what to put on the wall. Experienced interior designers know how to employ an arsenal of different surface finishes – some easy to install, others requiring the skilled hand of an expert. Here are Arkitexture’s top five alternatives to consider.
1. Wrapped in leather
Leather is one of the most versatile materials in interiors, and it can be used to fantastic effect to envelop walls and floors. Even better, this highly tactile material just gets better with age. Leather specialists such as Bill Amberg can design and install plain leather walls or create amazing textured effects by moulding leather to three-dimensional forms, while Italian brand Studioart’s padded walls are highly dramatic. Independent young designers are also getting in on the act, such as Genevieve Bennett, whose embossed leather tiles (main image, above) are delicately beautiful.
2. Polished plaster
Polished plaster is the wall surface of choice for luxury homes. Giving a smooth, glossy finish, it’s usually made from plaster mixed with marble dust, applied in very thin trowelled layers by hand, a highly labour-intensive process. It can be used to create decorative effects –polished and unpolished sections used in broad bands, or to give a stencilled effect, for example. Expert installers include Calfe Crimmings and Armourcoat – the latter also makes pre-cast plaster panels in a variety of sculptural finishes.
3. Tiles for all reasons
Tiles are stepping out of their traditional domains – kitchens and bathrooms – with heavily textured and decorative styles that their manufacturers are aiming at general living spaces. Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka’s delicate porcelain Phenomenon collection for Mutina, for example (available from Surface) includes subtle patterns inspired by nature, such as snow crystals and honeycombs. Look to surface specialists such as Fameed Khalique, Decorum Est and De Ferranti for boundary-pushing luxury surfaces, including semi-precious and hand-cut stone, églomisé mirror and embossed metal.
4. Natural cover-up
Natural materials can make for some of the most idiosyncratic wallcoverings. Try sustainable cork for a richly toned feature wall, or replace regular wallpaper with one of the many natural alternatives, including bamboo, jute and linen. Each material has its own qualities – some are very chunkily woven, others look more like an upholstery fabric – but what they have in common is a pleasing unevenness that proclaims their plant-based origins. Suppliers include Malabar, Urbane Living and Phillip Jeffries.
5. Decals and murals
For a less subtle, more irreverent approach, look to wall decals and murals. Often associated with children’s rooms or cartoonish imagery, stickers and decals have a more sophisticated side, too (try Zazous, for example); look for easily removable products so they won’t spoil the underlying surface. Murals, meanwhile, can be as dramatic or subtle as you like: breaking away from the idea of the same motif repeated over and over, they can create a very dramatic impact through sheer scale. Creeping botanicals, Old Master Paintings, maps and abstract patterns are just a few of the motifs that can be blown up to whole-wall size: try Surface View, Wall and Deco or Rebel Walls for imaginative examples. Wall and Deco also makes waterproof versions for areas such as showers, and for outdoors.