Posted on October 19 2017
Welcome to our new article series, Defining Wallpaper, where we give you the rundown on common wallpaper terminology, such as mica, paste the wall, vinyl, and much more! Whether you’re new to the wallpapering world and looking to learn more or a seasoned interior design veteran brushing up on your knowledge, we hope these articles help you on your next project.
This week, we’re taking a look at the different wallpaper categories and styles!
Major Wallpaper Categories
The following categories are the major ones that you’ll find when browsing wallpaper sites online or in-store. While some wallpaper products fall into multiple categories below (such as a floral wallpaper design that’s also modern), these categories represent the basic descriptive term for wallpaper patterns. Each category below includes a brief description of the wallpaper design elements and a visual example.
1. Abstract Wallpaper
Abstract wallpaper patterns generally veer towards the more artistic side, with many designs focusing on the interplay between color rather than depicting an actual object or recognizable image. That being said, its abstract elements means these patterns are quite flexible and versatile in terms of where it's used, whether it's a large living room wallpaper or a small powder room.
This example is a mix between abstract and geometric wallpaper categories. What makes it abstract are the nonfigurative visual elements and the use of colors splashed around in a less structured manner. The geometric half of the wallpaper comes into play when you take a close up look at the wallpaper design itself:
Note the repeated diamond-like patterns that represent the background of the wallpaper.
With the focus on the use of color, the two above are perfect examples of abstract wallpaper designs. With any abstract wallpaper, it may not necessarily be the design that catches your attention first, but the colors and how they're presented.
2. Classic Wallpaper
As one of the broader wallpaper categories on this list (“modern” and “transitional” being the other ones), you can find many different design categories within the classic wallpaper category. Think of “classic” as more of a feeling or mood, one that inspires a more historical and sophisticated look. Because of this, you can easily narrow down your options when you’re out shopping for new wallpapers simply by combining the “classic” wallpaper term with other wallpaper categories (e.g. classic floral, classic damask). Here are some examples!
This one is first and foremost a damask wallpaper pattern, but it’s also well suited for the classic wallpaper category. What makes it belong to this category is its refined design, evoking a sense of refinement and grace. Unlike other categories that feature bolder or more contemporary designs, classic wallpaper is all about a sense of history, and making a statement through elegance.
Within the classic wallpaper category, some common designs include damask (as shown above), floral, and stripes. This one is a classic floral wallpaper combination. Note how the muted colors still "pop" against the white background, but it still has a sense of refinement.
3. Damask Wallpaper
Damask wallpaper is instantly recognizable because of their iconic patterning (just Google “damask pattern” and you’ll see what we mean). Damask wallpaper features an interlocking floral design that is more often than not brimming with exceptional detailing. While this category makes use of floral patterning, it’s not hard to distinguish floral wallpaper from damask. The difference between Damask and floral wallpaper categories? Damask designs generally have a more structured, geometric-like patterning whereas floral designs can show similar repetition or designed in a more free forming manner.
Within the damask wallpaper category, you’ll find designs that fit different “moods.” With its pastel color scheme, this one is bright and engaging. Notice how intricate the details are.
On the other hand, this damask wallpaper is much darker, and gives off a more classic, sophisticated look. Some damask designs feature a "chain" that borders the floral elements (like the previous one) whereas others, like this one, use negative space as a "border”.
4. Geometric Wallpaper
Geometric wallpaper is all about using shapes and lines to create a highly repeated design. Most of the geometric designs you'll find within this category feature symmetry. The main mood for this wallpaper category is contemporary, funky, and energetic.
Using triangles connected by smaller circles, this wallpaper design is a great example of the types of geometric wallpapers you’ll find. Geometric wallpapers such as this one also offer a minimalist look, perfect for creating an upscale, modern aesthetic.
Of course, “geometric” doesn’t just mean straight lines or angular shapes. Whereas the previous example had a more cutting-edge aesthetic, this one is softer and playful.
5. Faux Finish Wallpaper
As one of the most popular wallpaper categories of last year, faux finish is a term that’s used a lot in the interior design industry but may be unfamiliar to homeowners. Basically, faux finish wallpapers are those that mimic other materials. It's known for its photorealistic appearance as well! Below are some of the major subcategories:
Brick wallpaper gives off a very contemporary, stylish look that’s perfect for any home. It presents a low-key yet always stylish appearance that’s effortless.
The iconic brick pattern is a favourite among interior designers and homeowners alike. It’s a very classic look that gives off a rustic flavour. Whether used on a single wall or on all four walls, it's a stylish choice for sure!
For a high-end, industrial aesthetic, nothing beats concrete wallpaper. Many designs in this category feature “cracks” or “stains,” which gives it a weathered or aged look.
Here’s an example of a concrete wallpaper mural, which can be customized based on the room size. The quote can also be removed or kept on, depending on your tastes.
Whereas brick wallpaper is more modern and concrete wallpaper features an industrial flair, wood wallpaper is all about making your space feel cozy and relaxing.
For a unique look, this wood wallpaper features multi-colored “slabs” of wood in a herringbone pattern. Other wood patterns might feature vertical or vertical wood panels.
6. Floral Wallpaper
Floral wallpaper is one of the most recognizable wallpaper categories of all time, and it’s probably what most people imagine when they hear the world “wallpaper.” Within the floral category, some veer toward the more classic style while others are more contemporary. Overall, floral wallpaper offers a sense of grace, timeless, and sophistication that is not unlike the classic or damask wallpaper categories.
Inspired by Vincent Van Gogh, this floral wallpaper adds an artistic touch to any interior space. It also features a textured finish, which helps add depth to the walls. The actual "flower" image is lessened and the major focus becomes the floral blossoms on the tree branches.
This example features a large-scale pattern with a more defined floral look. Whereas the previous wallpaper was more classic, this one has a modern touch. Its bold design and color makes it stand out, and it's not the typical colors normally seen with floral wallpaper.
7. Modern Wallpaper
Sometimes referred to as “contemporary,” modern wallpapers are all about cutting edge designs and a sense of newness. Some of the previous examples can be considered “modern,” such as the faux finish or geometric designs. When searching for wallpaper for your own home, simply saying you want modern wallpaper may not be enough to narrow down the options. Instead, use terms like “modern floral.” Here are some examples of wallpapers that fit into the modern or contemporary wallpaper category:
This design could also fit into two other categories: faux finish and geometric. What makes it modern is how it’s using the leather design in a new way – it looks like bricks, but instead of using actual brick imagery, this wallpaper uses a different "material" instead.
This floral wallpaper definitely has a contemporary touch. With its thick white border and simplistic design, it’s a fresh take on a classic wallpaper design category. Modern wallpaper is all about the unexpected, whether it's in the wallpaper material or the image design itself.
8. Striped Wallpaper
Probably a wallpaper category that needs no introduction, striped wallpaper is a design that’s been around for quite some time. While striped wallpaper has had its fair share of naysayers (“stripes are boring!”), the striped wallpaper designs of today are fun, dynamic, and trendy. Whether horizontal or vertical, striped wallpaper designs can help make a small room appear larger than it actually is.
Taking the traditional striped pattern and updating it, this wallpaper features metallic embellishments and a textured design that makes it ultra stylish and modern – probably words that you wouldn’t normally associate with striped wallpaper.
For a super contemporary take on striped wallpaper, take a look at this creative example. Each “stripe” is actually the image of a folded newspaper – a highly original design twist on a classic category.
9. Transitional Wallpaper
Transitional wallpaper designs walk that fine line between classic and modern – it’s a bit of both, actually!
There’s a lot going on with this one so let’s break it down: it’s a damask-like pattern with floral details on a faux finish wooden background, both with a rustic or “aged” appearance. What makes this a transitional wallpaper is how it blends the two elements. The actual damask pattern represents the classic appeal of the design while the wood pattern and faded effects point to a more contemporary aesthetic.
This example combines the classic sepia tone with contemporary design techniques. The collage of letters displayed creates a unique look for any room.
Other Wallpaper Styles
Most of the time, the following wallpaper terms below aren’t necessarily referred to as an entirely separate wallpaper category, but are used to describe the wallpaper’s particular visual style. These styles can be found across different categories. For example, you might find a watercolor wallpaper in floral, damask, and geometric categories.
1. Watercolor Wallpaper
Watercolor wallpaper is a design trend that’s on the rise (and we’re extremely excited about that). These designs feature watercolor painting effects or brushstrokes that are “visible” (think paintings from Impressionist artists).
This one is an example of how the watercolor effect is used to create a gorgeous blend of colors. The colors aren't quite "filled in," but present themselves in a gradient effect.
2. Nature-themed Wallpaper
Nature-themed wallpaper is a great way to liven up your interior spaces. Often featuring wildlife and other creatures, this wallpaper category is all about bold colors, fresh designs, and originality.
Speaking of bold colors, this one is a prime example. A great way to add a lot of energy and life to a room is by using color strategically, and this nature-themed wallpaper in particular definitely offers just that. Another marker of nature-themed wallpapers is that they tend to have a lot of movement and dynamic positioning of the images, whether it's birds flying or tree branches weaving across the surface.
3. Bohemian Wallpaper
For a vintage look, bohemian wallpaper is yet another category that’s trending. With its relaxed designs featuring eye-catching colors, bohemian wallpaper patterns offer a chic, innovative look.
This Tie Dye wallpaper pattern is the quintessential bohemian style, with its bold colors and carefree aesthetic. It also blends the watercolor and abstract wallpaper categories together.