In the ’80s, Laura Ashley floral-patterned wallpaper adorned the bedrooms of many young girls—princesses who would later grow to abhor the hypnotic bouquets. Back then, wallpaper was fussy and for dorks. Now it is modern and can even be masculine. It’s what makes Williamsburg bar Royal Oak look so appropriately regal, with its highbrow, oversize fleur-de-lis on a majestic chocolate-brown background. Unfortunately, you won’t find the pattern in stores—Royal Oak owner Benjamin Shin designed it and did the flocking with the assistance of some art school-trained bartenders. If you know what flocking is, then you’re rightfully impressed. If you don’t, let’s just say it’s a complex process that gives the wallpaper a lush, velvet-like texture.
Many innovative designers are venturing into wallpaper, and unskilled home improvers can hang their own—with a steady hand and careful eye. Most wallpaper now has an adhesive coating on the back (just add water). This only partially reduces the likelihood of disaster (air bubbles, sloppy seams). The next problem is the price—it’s no $15 can of paint. Twenty2’s ginko leaf wallpaper (“Montague”) is so serene it might make shelling out $160 worth it. For something bolder, check out Secondhand Rose, the city’s most obsessive vintage wallpaper dealer. Your mother surely wouldn’t like its stock of 1970s disco-inspired Mylar creations. For a humbler salary range, Urban Outfitters sells “allpaper” which seems too thick for wrapping gifts or covering books (who does that?) but perfect for a small area of wall.