Wonder what to do with walls?

Graham and Green felt animal heads

Graham and Green felt animal heads - Credit: Archant

When it comes to putting things on the wall, it appears these days, the more off-the-wall the better.

Sarah Adams' large oil painting of Chapel Porth, in north Cornwall showing quartz, oxide, slate, (oi

Sarah Adams' large oil painting of Chapel Porth, in north Cornwall showing quartz, oxide, slate, (oil on linen) 120cm square - Credit: Archant

Magnolia has given way to the mural as trends for everything from wallpaper to have taken inspiration from bygone times and given them a modern twist. It’s true. Even your grandmother’s flying ducks may be coming home to roost.

It’s all down to a renewed confidence homeowners are showing in making bold choices when it comes to home décor. Wallpaper sales have grown as they reject the safe option of merely using safe, neutral colours.

And they’re buying in larger quantities, suggesting entire rooms – and ceilings – are being covered, and not just the odd feature wall as has been the case.

Big statements are in, according to the experts. Even in the case of art, it seems bigger is better as buyers think nothing of devoting walls to works twice the size of a plasma TV screen.

Mural maps

Mural maps - Credit: Archant

“When it comes to decorating walls we often wallpaper, paint and add pictures but have been hesitant to try anything outside the box,” said Kate Vincent of furniture specialist Graham and Green.

“Don’t be afraid to be a bit more inventive and find unique products that suit your style. Think bright colours, bold textures and three dimensional pieces that really pop out. Multi-purpose products like hooks, clocks and lighting are brilliant for personalising where you are short on space.”

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Wall art has come a long way from the days when Coronation Street’s Hilda Ogden took the mural, sorry, muriel, to new levels of tackiness with the mountain scenes that dominated her living room – complete with those flying ducks.

These days, experts see it less about covering a wall with scenery, and more about integrating great art, design and photography into a design concept. And they offer anything from 3D imagery to bespoke scenes hand-painted to order. Some are even designed to be removed and changed easily over time.

Mural maps

Mural maps - Credit: Archant

Many specialists have commercial and domestic clients and bring the sort of big-theme thinking that goes into, for example, offices and restaurants into the home. Liverpool-based Murals Wallpaper, for example, have a quirky range of street map designs that lets customers choose any postcode they want and display it as a floor-to-ceiling A to Z style image.

They are delivered in a series of drops, made to match the wall’s height but slightly wider than normal wallpaper, and each strip simply lines up alongside each other.

For the more adventurous, they can even turn an entire room into a gazetteer with maps of any country. (muralswallpaper.co.uk; £23.50 p sq metre)

Brand marketing executive James Mellan said: “We find that maps are a popular choice. We believe that deep down, everybody has a desire explore. While travelling the world isn’t quite feasible for everyone, we all dream about it and a huge map wallpaper taps right into that. Also, they look really great.”

Wonder walls - Murals wallpaper maps

Wonder walls - Murals wallpaper maps - Credit: Archant

Natural scenes and images are popular at the moment, particularly those depicting plants, stones and wood. So too is anything metallic, copper, in particular, anything depicting a sense of calm, cosiness and security.

John Lewis has seen that trend, noting that strong geometric patterns and prints inspired by nature have recently been outselling their traditional plain and textured designs.

But the desire for bold, brash statements shows no sign of abating, with some even predicting a new trend toward surrealism or even the psychedelic.

Manufacturing advances have helped advance this; non-woven fabrics as backing material being an example, not least because of they are easy to handle, retain their shape well and are easier to remove and replace. Special varnishes can even be added for protection against knocks, or in the case of external use, the weather.

Mural maps

Mural maps - Credit: Archant

There are quite a few companies these days that will, for a price, even come and hand-paint directly on your wall. Or you can do it yourself, with Burgerdoodles, for example, a heavyweight wallpaper you colour in once it’s on your wall with paints, pencils or even felt-tip pens.

It’s the brainchild of artist Jonn Burgerman, whose work has seen him do everything from exhibit in the V and A to the New York subway - and even design sick bags for Virgin Atlantic. It probably takes its inspiration from the seemingly unlikely rise in popularity of adult colouring books.

Wood is a bit of an “in” look. You can even recreate the look of traditional timber with a system of wall panels made entirely from concrete. Architects Feix & Merlin produce a series of stunning 3D-effect panels that can be put together jigsaw-style in multiple configurations and even customised with your own images. (feixandmerlin.com; from £65 per panel)

If you can’t afford to follow the likes of actress Hilary Swank who made a bold statement of a wall in her Manhattan home by cladding it with planks of reclaimed barn wood, you can always pop down to John Lewis and buy rolls of scrap wood design paper from the acclaimed US design company NLXL for a fraction of the cost (johnlewis.com; £199).

Feix & Merlin concrete panels

Feix & Merlin concrete panels - Credit: Archant

And Wonderwall Studios have created an effective series of handcrafted square panels using salvaged pieces of teak root to give a more mosaic effect. (wonderwallstudios.co.uk; £175 per sq m)

There’s a growing trend towards the 3D-effect, thanks to the wide range of textured surfaces on the market. Once seen as effective solutions for finishing uneven walls and adding extra sound-proofing, they are now coming into their own for their statement value.

Ian Garibii has created a range of concrete tiles in designs that emulate such effective designs as folded fabric (domustiles.com; £326 per sq m), and Tracey Tubb has come up with an interesting origami-style concept in folded pieces of wallpaper to create a similar effect, creating the designs on-site to avoid damage in transit (traceytubb.co.uk; from £695 per sq m)

Bookshelves haven’t been left behind either. The traditional types, whether floating, built in, wall-fixed or on adjustable racks have been usurped by the most innovative of designs.

Feix & Merlin concrete panels

Feix & Merlin concrete panels - Credit: Archant

Part of a series of quirkily formed shelving units, the Bookworm is an original piece by Israeli post-modern designer Ron Arad. It’s artistic, flexible in durable plastic, and can be made into any shape – literally, as flexible as a worm - holding up to 10kg on each support. Available from Heals (heals.com; £258)

Such designs are popular with parents looking to inspire reading by doing something different in children’s rooms and nurseries.

A good example is designer Shawn Soh’s Tree Bookcase, hand-crafted from CARB II compliant MDF and finished with high gloss, non-toxic lacquer, it can hold over 100 books on its branches (nurseryworks.net; prices vary from around £580).

And if those ducks are making a bit of a comeback – albeit in a less garish form - so are animal heads, although not the taxidermy ones that hang in libraries of traditional country estates. These days, they’re more PC and fun. Graham & Green have a range of polyester-filled felt tigers, giraffes and elephants that can be hung singly or clustered for effect (grahamandgreen.co.uk; £79 each).

Feix & Merlin concrete panels

Feix & Merlin concrete panels - Credit: Archant

In terms of art, new trends are emerging there too. Sales of street photography increased significantly last year, partly inspired by social media and the familiarity with the emotionally charged scenes familiar on Instagram feeds.

Art has never been more popular, original works in particular, thanks in part to greater awareness of new talent, the popularity of art-related TV programmes and the rise in online galleries.

But what’s really hot is statement art. Anything in a frame over five feet wide may have been a risk a few years ago, but online retailers are finding they are now among the most searched-for items on their books.

This has also led to a growth in the number of private collectors as people catch on to the fact that a painting they bought a few years ago may have the bonus of investment value and there’s a market growing as fast as the artist’s reputation.

Feix & Merlin concrete panels

Feix & Merlin concrete panels - Credit: Archant

One of the best examples is the work of the Padstow artist Sarah Adams whose Cornish coastal oil-on-linen paintings have seen crowds form outside the Mayfair gallery where she exhibits every two years. (maasgallery.co.uk; oil on board studies start from £2,500)

Rupert Maas, the Antique’s Roadshow’s fine art expert said: “If you’ve spent time and effort making your house look lovely, there are few better ways to really set it off than with fabulous artwork. I suggest you go for something calm. The colours need to work and provide a vision of the outdoors. No contemporary painter does this better than Sarah.”

Feix & Merlin concrete panels

Feix & Merlin concrete panels - Credit: Archant