HOUSE TO HOME: Wallpaper provides a transforming moment

By: DEBBIE TRAVIS Special to The Gazette
August 25, 2013 Updated: August 25, 2013 at 10:00 pm
photo - TORONTO, ON - JUNE 24: Before and after shots of Robin Graham's dining room without and with new wallpaper. This is before.
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 24: Before and after shots of Robin Graham's dining room without and with new wallpaper. This is before. 

How much time we spend thinking about the color of our living room or what tile to put in the bathroom varies greatly according to our interests, budgets and partners. But I wager that at some point almost everybody has had a personal experience with decorating, and an aha moment when they discover a piece of furniture or a paint color or a fabric design that defines their passion.

I have a good friend who has never had the desire to spend much time thinking about home decor. In fact, her home is lovely, but art and furniture have been collected throughout the years because she loves their look or feel, and it all goes together or not. This is the story of her decorating aha moment, when a chance encounter with a stunning wallpaper inspired her to delve into the decorating world for the first time and get that look for her home.

It started at a dinner party, and this is not as unusual as it sounds. Major events have been spurred on by a good soiree - novels written, plays produced, political mayhem begun. The inspiring paper was hanging on the wall of the guest bathroom, and Cecile thought, "Gorgeous!"

Back home, she was determined to learn more about the pattern that had made such a remarkable impression. Cecile searched the Internet and discovered damask has a rich history. Damask is named after the 12th-century weavers of Damascus, who were known for the intense hues and high quality of their yarns (mostly silk). The intricate design was produced by crossing single strands of yarn to form a raised pattern. We still value the fine, handmade quality of damask in bedspreads, tablecloths and draperies, as well as fabulous clothing.

Damask wallpaper patterns are copied from the original fabric designs. There are papers available that show the pattern flat, and the more tactile papers, called flocked wallpapers, that have a raised design that feels like velvet. Traditional black and white and the subtle monotones have always been favorites, but more colors are now appearing that bridge modern and classic styles.

Cecile has a large extended family and does lots of casual entertaining. Her spacious dining room is home to an eclectic collection of art gathered over the years when on holidays. There's a sculptured heart from Florence, a French-Canadian oil painting, a Tuscan scene, tall vases from Provence and a table runner from India.

Was it possible to add another feature, especially one as strong and as captivating as a wall of damask? Cecile didn't give it a moment's thought. This is where her focal wall was going to be.

A search for damask wallpaper led her to Graham & Brown's website (www. and the choices were all glorious. Their Kinky Vintage pattern in the plummy color called Bordeaux Bordello was perfect. The product description said it all: "Marrakesh meets Marie Antoinette in a flirtatious fusion of east snogs west tactile indulgence." And Kinky Vintage feels as good as it looks with its flocked texture.

When the paper was hung, Cecile was delighted to see that the entire main floor was transformed. Just one wall, but you can see it from the kitchen and hall, and it draws you in. The color and texture are so alluring that you have to go up and touch it. Other than the wallpaper, the room remained the same - the drapes, paint color, artwork and accessories cheer each other on and welcome the stunning new feature wall.

Is her aha moment and sojourn into the realm of decorating destined to be repeated? Thoughts have now turned to the bedroom and a feature wall behind the bed. The story continues, as all decorating tales do.


Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to house2home@

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