Local designer leads the fantastically diverse wallcovering renaissance
Growing up in England, wallpaper was everywhere, says Jenny Elliott. “I have three sisters, and we all had it in our bedrooms,” she recalls. “Every time we changed rooms, we changed the design and wallpaper, and I helped my dad take the old off and install the new.
“From a very young age, I have memories of being amazed at how quickly a room could be transformed.”
After university, she had a very short-lived stint in corporate marketing design, segued to property development and renovations, then pointed her arrow to working hands-on with people to transform their rooms. She started Jenny Elliott Designs in England in 2007, focusing on helping clients sort through the overwhelming number of choices available in wallcoverings there, and then installing it for them.
She moved to Asheville in 2013, falling in love with the area after visiting a friend. “I came with the intent of moving my business here and doing what I was doing in England, and quickly realized wallpaper was not that popular here,” she admits with a laugh. “I was still working in design, but at first there was a lot more paint involved than wallpaper.”
Fortuitously for Jenny Elliott Designs, a discernible shift took place about five years ago. She cites Americans’ obsession with HGTV as a driver in exposing homeowners to the wonders of wallpaper, modern style. After decades of being drastically “out,” then glimmering back into view in small doses, a new genre of wallcovering was emerging. (“Wallpaper is Making a Comeback — and This Time, It’s For Real,” a headline on businessofhome.com read last year.)
Thanks to endless new pattern choices — going way beyond the satiny stripes, Victorian toile, or stuffy florals of old — and, just as importantly, a new ease of application and deinstallation, designers began incorporating wallpaper into new homes.
“Everything has progressed so much,” says Elliott. “People often have memories of wallpaper that are not pleasant. It’s up to me to explain how it works now, what it can do, and help narrow down the choices. I strongly believe there is a perfect paper for everyone.”
And a perfect place. Powder rooms are typically the gateway to wallpaper appreciation. “It’s a room you can really play with and create something. Once clients see the result, they get the bug and want more.”
Entryways, foyers, and corridors lend themselves well to wallpaper — “rooms that you don’t necessarily sit in, but pass through, and get a little joy along the way,” Elliott explains.
Accent walls are popular, but the very latest trend — paper on ceilings — is through the roof, so to speak. “In the past couple weeks, I’ve done three ceilings,” Elliott reports. “Natural and textured wallpapers work well on ceilings and add a whole new dimension to the room. It also frees up your walls for artwork.”
It’s important to choose paper that gets along with one’s furnishings and art; Elliott highly recommends getting samples, taping them to the wall, and living with them to fully absorb the texture, sheen, and scale (particularly as the light changes from day to night).
“Touching it and seeing it on a wall and not on a computer screen is essential to the right decision,” she says.
Patterns today range from Scandinavian/folkloric to contemporary geometric to many iterations of restrained botanical schemes. Natural materials — grass cloth, silk, and even wood veneer — produce stunning results, Elliott says. She also loves artisan, hand-painted papers.
Ultimately, Elliott plans to create her own line, as well as design customized paper for clients based on their travels and memories. “I would love to link up with local artists for that. It’s my dream to be able to tell personal stories through beautiful paper.”
Jenny Elliott Designs, 69 Galax Axe., Asheville. For more information, call 828-774-8322 or see jennyelliottdesigns.com.