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Byline: Barbara De Witt Staff Writer

Just when you mastered the art of sponge painting, wallpaper makes a comeback.

No kidding.

Claret-colored damask, faded fruit and all those old ivy prints from the '40s and '50s are actually on the cutting edge of home fashion again - and the driving force is Hollywood.

Behind the action of the recent Depression-era film ``Road to Perdition'' you can see a brocade damask in the hallway and a ship pattern in the boy's bedroom provided by Aaron Kirsch, owner of Van Nuys-based Astek Wallcoverings, which supplies authentic wallpaper designs for numerous Hollywood projects.

Tune into HBO's TV drama ``Six Feet Under'' to see one of the hottest prints of the year - a leafy green ivy print from the 1950s around the dark staircase of the family home. Kirsch says ivy is a classic that's been around for 100 years, but the current style is identified with the '40s and '50s, making it a fashionable choice for the many post-World War II tract homes in the San Fernando Valley.

More vintage trends can be seen in the CBS drama ``The Agency.''

``We sold them tons of blue damask (a tone-on-tone design) and toile,'' says Lucy Tralla, manager of Wallpaper Bin, a small chain of stores across the Southland.

Toile, the charming scenic design originally created by the Irish in the 18th century and now considered a French classic, has been seen on lamp shades, capri pants and sheets in recent months, and now it's back where it used to be - on the wall, says Paula Berberian, spokeswoman for the Brewster Wallcovering Co.

Welcome back

``Its popularity is due to people seeking timeless classics,'' she says.

But there's more to wallpaper's comeback than that.

``The reason for its resurgence is simple: Wallpaper is like meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy. It's comfort food for the walls,'' says Phillip Ostler, president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers.

Movies and TV shows have captured that craving and provided a major boost to the wallpaper industry, which has declined over the past decade from $2 billion a year to $1 billion, observes Kirsch.

Unfortunately for consumers today, as the interest disappeared, so did the stores. Five years ago, there were a number of stores such as Wallpapers-to-Go that stocked wallpaper and even offered lessons on hanging and removing it.

Now wallpaper is available primarily at large home-improvement and interior-design stores such as Lowe's, Home Depot and Claridge House, where customers may browse books full of samples and order the patterns they prefer.

Jacqueline Ziehl drives from Simi Valley to Wallpaper Bin near the Northridge Fashion Center for her purchases, because the specialty store not only has books from all the top designers but a vast inventory of stock she can purchase on the spot. It also has ``waterfall racks'' that customers can use to see how the wallpaper print looks hanging on a large surface, rather than in a book or on a cellophane-wrapped roll.

``I thoroughly hated wallpaper in the past and always preferred painted walls, but these '40s looks are awesome ... they can really set a mood, and they're not so loud that they hit you in the face when you enter the room,'' says Ziehl, who admits that more subtle patterns will also allow her to change furniture frequently without removing the wallpaper.

But should Ziehl want to change the wallpaper, it would be easier today. Ostler says many of the newest wall coverings are nonwoven, which not only makes them easier to hang but easier to strip - good news for homeowners as well as renters.

The old and the new

To satisfy the growing appetite for old-fashioned, comfy wallpaper prints, longtime manufacturers such as Waverly have re-created old designs to compete with some of the new sources, including Ralph Lauren, Eddie Bauer and artist Thomas Kinkade, whose English cottage scenes are available at Home Depot. Even trend forecaster Faith Popcorn has designed cozy prints that are sold on the Internet at the Village Wallpaper Store (

For those who don't have a taste for antiques, Mission or French country furniture, forget prints and try texture.

``Wallpaper can add depth, texture and visual interest to a room,'' says Elizabeth Franklin, author of ``The Franklin Report'' (Allgood Press; $22.50), a new guide for home services, including wallpaper hangers.

She, like a number of interior designers, reports Asian-inspired grass cloth as the hottest paper to paste on the wall, and Star Jones, co-host of ABC's ``The View'' is one of the fans. ``The grass cloth gives my living room an elegant finish that coordinates with my light wood floors,'' Jones told Brewster Wallcovering.

Texture can also come from paper that looks like a painted faux finish, leather or decorative crown molding. The latter is a highly embossed border (also ceiling medallions) called Super Fresco by Graham & Brown that can be painted before pasting.

Young moderns who think all this retro is, well, just too retro, can get a preview of the next big wallpaper trend in Steven Spielberg's film ``Catch Me If You Can,'' scheduled to open Christmas Day.

``The setting is from the '60s and '70s,'' says Kirsch, ``and will probably inspire brown and orange flocked paper as well as foil with butterflies.''

We'll wait and see.

Wallpaper tips

MEASURE CAREFULLY: When ordering wallpaper, consider the square footage you'll need as well as the ``repeat'' pattern. The larger the repeat, the more paper you'll need to match up patterns. Also note the ``dye lot number'' on the roll of paper. If you are buying three rolls of paper, you want them to all have the same lot number so the colors will be exactly the same.

WALLPAPER ISN'T ALWAYS PAPER: The most popular wallpaper is prepasted, precut paper, but you've got lots of options - from fabric to flocked and fabric-backed-vinyl to foil - but keep in mind that these decorative options are more expensive and require more skill. Also note that steamy rooms like the kitchen and bathrooms require the heavier vinyl with a fabric backing, while vinyl with a paper backing is a good choice for children's rooms because it can be sponged off.

PASTE AND BRUSHES: Many of the high-end designer prints require expert trimming and wheat paste (as well as a perfectly primed wall) and are best left to a professional. If you really want to do it yourself, start with a simple all-over pattern that's precut and prepasted, or buy a beginner's kit at a home improvement store that includes little plastic tubs of ready-made paste and a brush. Keep in mind that this type of paste will need a few moments ``set-up'' time for the glue to stick instead of having it slide down the wall.

BORDERS FOR BEGINNERS: Wallpaper borders were designed to be added over a wallpaper, but they can be used on a painted wall with ease. Just wash the wall, rinse, dry and brush a little primer on it to make sure it will stick. Then start unrolling, cutting in the corners of the room so it won't come loose when dry, working your way from one end of the room to the other. Since there's no ``repeat'' pattern to deal with, just get enough to go around the room at the ceiling or chair rail level. Particularly helpful for renters is a new type of removable border that you can easily pull off an enamel-finished kitchen or bathroom wall when you leave.

HIRE A PRO: If you're not handy, and don't have a ladder and a talented friend to help you, consider a professional wallpaper hanger. You can find them in the classified ad section of your newspaper, or you can get references from stores or the local chapter of the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers: (310) 822-2287 or Wallpaper typically is priced at $10 to $15 a roll but professionals will charge about $60 per roll, which should include trimming. Removing old wallpaper and prepping walls will cost extra, so consider doing that yourself with products sold at home improvement stores.

- B.D.


--Damask in faded jewel tones

--Fruit with stripes, checks

--Toile in red, black or blue

--Grass cloth, textured finishes

--Vintage ivy and floral prints


13 photos, 2 boxes


(1 -- cover -- color) ON THE COVER: Old-fashioned ivy is perfectly cast in a supporting role for retro furnishings, from Gramercy/F. Schumacher & Co. and Westchester.

(2 -- color) no caption (wallpaper)

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer

(3 -- 4 -- color) This classic pastoral toile print by International, above, has made a major comeback - it's offered in a variety of colors and themes by numerous companies. At right is a '50s-themed ivy print seen weekly on HBO's ``Six Feet Under'' from Astek Wallcoverings in Van Nuys.

(5 -- 12 -- color) Wallpaper's newest cast of characters includes toiles, plaids, roosters, grass cloth and faux plaster finishes by Waverly, Brewster, International and Westchester.

(13) Lucy Tralla, manager of Wallpaper Bin in Northridge, displays the blue damask print used in the TV show ``The Agency.''


(1) Wallpaper tips (see text)

(2) HOT PRINTS (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 16, 2002
Previous Article:YOUR PLACE.

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