Designers love scenic wallpaper for its ability to transform a room. Unlike regular wallpaper, which often has a repeating pattern, scenic wallpaper fills an entire wall with a single, mural-like image.
Usually depicting an outdoor tableau, the wallpaper brings nature inside and lends old-world appeal to a space. Just flip through any recent design magazine and you'll probably see a well-appointed room with walls covered in large-scale images of flowering vines or swaying trees.
“People embrace things that feel handmade and have a link to the past,” says Susan Harter, who makes hand-painted scenic wallpaper in her Port Townsend, Washington, studio. “At a time when we're being bombarded with technology, it's nice to be in a haven of one's own making. It's like entering a peaceful mini-Eden.”
Until recently, if you wanted the look, you had to splurge on custom wallcoverings from luxury brands such as Zuber et Cie and Fromental. Those handmade paper or silk panels can cost thousands of dollars, and that's without installation.
But scenic wallpaper has become far more accessible. Thanks to digital-printing technology that allows retailers to duplicate the look inexpensively, you no longer have to blow your entire decorating budget on a few pricey panels of chinoiserie.
High-definition printers aren't new to the luxury wallpaper business; the London-based brand Iksel has been producing high-end digital collections based on hand-painted works since 2004. And Harter's company, Susan Harter Muralpapers, has been using the technology for several years to turn her hand-painted murals into custom canvas wallcoverings.
Now, mass-market retailers are getting in the game: Anthropologie, Minted, Tempaper and U.K.-based Woodchip & Magnolia are just a handful of the companies offering lower-priced versions, making it easier than ever to embellish a blank wall with a painterly image of a meadow or garden. Wallpaper murals from Anthropologie and Woodchip & Magnolia can be ordered online for less than $300.
Even renters can upgrade their space with a nature-inspired scene: Minted offers abstract landscapes created by independent artists in peel-and-stick panels, starting at $330, and Tempaper's removable wallpaper features chinoiserie-inspired blooms and lush tropical foliage at $12 per square foot.
Because of its expense and dramatic appearance, scenic wallpaper has traditionally been used in high-traffic rooms where visitors would be impressed by such a lavish display. Today, you're still most likely to spot the wallcoverings in places where guests congregate, especially dining rooms. “There isn't usually as much furniture to obstruct the view,” says Alexandria, Virginia, designer Shazalynn Cavin-Winfrey. “The table and chairs are generally centered in the room as opposed to sitting on the periphery, and they also tend to be more formal spaces.”