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If walls could talk 2

Foyers and stairwells make a statement
Nantucket designer Audrey Sterk has updated classic designs
By accenting this wall in our cottage we added a sense of height and space to the room
Find the covered switch and blank covers. It's all in the details.

If Walls Could Talk 2


Wallcoverings can add a contemporary feel to a historic home without gutting walls.  Preserving the original structure of a typical, historic home on Nantucket can be challenging to those new homeowners who aren’t used to decorating smaller rooms. Contrary to popular opinion, wallcoverings don’t close in a room, but actually open up the small rooms that are so commonly found in uncompromised, historic homes. So before taking down walls and creating an open space, consider adding wallcoverings to the walls. They can make a dramatic impact without destroying the historic fabric of house and preserve the past with a contemporary flair.

Wall preparation-always a must before applying any wallcoverings to any surface- is key in historic homes whose walls have damaged plaster.  Drywall must be prepared as well to avoid problems in hanging and removing the paper. Rooms that aren’t plumb and square require the artistic skill that an experienced paper-hanger can bring to the process.

For those of you that own contemporary homes on island, you can make your home reflect Nantucket’s glorious history through historic murals or the use of historically inspired designs that can set off an area in a larger space that has very few walls and will match well with contemporary furnishings.

Digital technology gives you options for reproducing vintage wallpaper patterns, like the one we fell in love with one day in an old home on Beaver Street. Once scanned and restored in photo shop, an old pattern or even a piece of art, can be reproduced! Nantucket UPS store has all the equipment, materials and know-how to do a project like this or there are companies on the web. Unlike rotary printing methods in which the design or repeat is restricted by the circumference of the cylinder, digital printing offers the freedom to tailor the scale of a design to suit a particular interior, and the number of colors in a design is limitless. 

Perhaps you have a tall wall in a small space and want to accentuate the height of a room, like we did in our “little baby cottage” on island.  Wallpaper, like the Brunchswig and Fils yellow and red toile pattern we chose, accomplished that goal.  Although a little pricey, it transformed the wall into a piece of art itself and draws our eye upward making the room look bigger not smaller as we first thought it might. A good ROI, the wall simply doesn’t need a further investment in artwork to create a dramatic statement.

You might say that the toile wallpaper with images of birds and seashells “speaks” for itself. It tells of our whimsical, adventurous side that motivated us to add a classic, but updated pattern to a formerly blank, rather blah, white-washed beach cottage wall. And it became the inspiration for the colors we chose for the walls that shared the same visual space that is open to.

In closing I will ask you to think about this before you proceed with wall design-do your walls talk?-are they telling your story? Is that story lively and reflecting your creative, multidimensional side? Or is it drab and neutral? Be adventurous! Wallcoverings can help lift your décor, your mood and your quality of life to another level.

In my last article I talked about the resurgence of wallcoverings in home design and here is a link to that article:

In my next article I will explore paper hanging in design-challenged spaces such as the “half bath”-and dormered third floor attic-turned bedrooms- found in so many of our island’s historic homes.

Tom Ayars is an island renovation contractor who began hanging wallpaper in the 1980’s when there was a surge in demand and a lack of trained professional paperhangers. He apprenticed for two years with a 3rd generation painter and paperhanger. , Tom looks forward to geting back to his roots as a paperhanger in addition to his  extensive renovation skills and unique plaster and wall repair processes. 

Like many of my projects, this article was a team effort with Kathy Ayars

Tom can be reached at: [email protected]

Also see previous articles: