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Walls That Talk

When Porter’s Paints asked me to create a series of striped wallpapers for them, I welcomed it as a chance to extend my love of bold colours and patterns into a new design discipline.

I’m a firm believer in layering to create a warm, livable interior, and one of the essential layers of a room is the walls. With wallpaper, there are no hard and fast rules, but certainly bigger prints make a stronger statement while smaller prints allow the colour and pattern to become more subtle, textural parts of a room. I prefer to use wallpaper throughout a whole room rather than on just one wall – to me, it results in a more complete look.

What stripes to use?

The four wallpaper styles I’ve created – diagonal, horizontal, pinstripe and chevron, in different palettes with custom options – can work their magic in a number of ways.

Diagonal stripes are a great choice for visually enhancing a room’s size – they lift the eye and elongate a space, making its dimensions seem almost endless. Horizontal stripes, too, draw the eye further into a room, optically increasing its scope.

Stylish and tailored, vertical pinstripes work well in smaller spaces and allow the wallpaper’s colour to take on a starring role. In a country house I designed in Geelong, Victoria, I used my pinstripe wallpaper in different colourways throughout the four bedrooms, ensuring each had its own look while creating a cohesive link between them.

And finally, there’s chevron, an elegant pattern that, as well as glamour, brings a little movement to a space. I used it in gold and white for a poolside cabana, in Clontarf, Sydney, and teamed it with all white furniture. Pairing your striped wallpaper with a piece in a block colour such as a white sofa or brightly hued stool allows both to stand out.

What colours to choose?

I’m a big fan of monochromes – they’re bold, sexy and can be juxtaposed with pops of colour or teamed with neutral pieces. A bedroom I designed in Croydon features black and white chevron wallpaper that’s balanced by the curved lines and softer greys of a rug.

A tip about thinking outside two-tone combinations with your wallpaper: crisp, clean white works beautifully with black, but it can also take on a striking role beyond that. White-on-white wallpaper is a clever way of adding interest to a neutral palette while also subtly enhancing the sense of space. In a contemporary house I designed in Brisbane, I’ve used it beside an onyx feature wall, the tones and texture of which add a layer of smouldering warmth.

Conversely, too, black-on-black wallpaper can have a dramatic effect. My clients at the Geelong country house wanted a dining room created around their antique table and black leather-upholstered chairs. The result is a dark, elegant space, with the furniture strong enough to hold its own against my black-on-black chevrons. A key factor that allowed this moody palette to work was the abundance of natural light, always a major consideration when you’re choosing wallpaper.

Make your statement

My first significant wallpaper choice in an interior was installing a wall-to-wall Florence Broadhurst print in my sister’s bedroom. What will yours be? Take a bold step, choose a pattern that will make a statement in your house, and you might become such a fan of wallpaper that, like me, you start to use it on your ceilings, allowing that ‘fifth wall’ to speak too. But that’s another story.

Greg Natale

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