When it comes to your walls, a simple paint job or swath of wallpaper can completely transform a space. If you’re looking for something a bit more unexpected, though, there are a few less common options for the ambitious designer looking to really make an impact.
From murals and frescoes to walls covered in antique mirrors, there’s no shortage of inspiring and one-of-a-kind wall treatments that feel like a departure from the ordinary. Whether you’re going for a luxe look or an organic, earthy aesthetic, these creative approaches to wall treatments will inspire even the most steadfast paint devotees.
Murals and Frescoes
San Francisco, California | Wendy Storch, Sotheby’s International Realty – San Francisco Brokerage
Far from being a contemporary approach to wall decoration, murals and frescoes are having a moment nonetheless. A mural painted onto a focal wall, for instance, offers much more impact than a single hanging painting or a monochromatic accent wall ever could. Frescoes, the mural painting technique wherein the artwork is laid upon fresh plaster, is also a refreshing approach to wall adornment. Consider a serene scene painted onto a bathroom wall, or an abstract garden splashed onto a focal point in your main living space. Large-scale murals not only provide intrigue, but can add dimension and depth to an otherwise small space.
From velvet to felt to leather, textiles are an undeniably luxurious design choice for outfitting a wall. A living room lined in teal velvet will feel regal and refined, while a study with leather-paneled walls is stately and academic. Draped fabric also makes a space texturally interesting, adding a depth and richness that paint can only hope to mimic. Care for this type of wall covering will vary based on the material, but impulsive designers will be happy to know that liquid starch, which can be used to apply many types of fabrics to the wall, is easily removed if you change your mind later.
For an irreverent approach to wall treatment, a variety of paper products can be applied to the wall for a creative and unexpected aesthetic. From newsprint for the avid reader to pages from old issues of a favorite magazine to antique world maps, there are many ways to paper your walls in a way that suits your own taste and personality. With infinite possibilities and an easy application—magnetic strips and hanging rails can be used in place of glue—paper wall treatments are an unconventional and unexpected design choice that leaves an impression.
Tiling and Composite Materials
Tiling the bathroom or kitchen may be par for the course, but the most design savvy know not only that tile can be applied in unconventional ways in those spaces, but also that the versatile material can be used throughout the home as well. Terrazzo, while not technically considered a tile, continues on its trending streak. With its speckled pattern and connotations of Italian piazzas, the material—which is made by distributing marble chips onto the surface of concrete—deserves to be used beyond flooring, especially now that it’s widely available in tile form. Glass tiles, zellige tiles, or hand-painted Portuguese tiles are also works of art in their own right and can be used in unexpected ways on your walls to add an infusion of beauty throughout your home.
Whether as concrete or wood parquet, natural materials are cropping up on the walls of the most design-forward homes the world over. Cool concrete lends a contemporary, industrial feel to a lofty living space, while wood parquet or panels are an updated approach to the mid-century trend. Other unexpected organic materials include cork, which lends soft sophistication, and stone, a choice that reads as decidedly old-world, medieval, and romantic.
If your next big design move is to change the way your walls reflect with the rest of your space, start by determining the function of the room and what kind of statement you want to make. No matter your approach or personal taste, an unconventional but striking wall treatment is an inspiring alternative to the usual mainstays.
For more wall inspiration, read about how to welcome in maximalism through color.