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How to Decorate on Busy Wallpaper
by Barbara Jennings

QUESTION
I have a large kitchen wall with no windows. It has wallpaper with a pattern that has red, blue, yellow small fruit with cherry blossoms and leaves, which is somewhat of a busy pattern. The background of the wallpaper is a neutral color. I have tried numerous pieces of art on that wall but it seems they all fight one another and nothing seems to 'pop' on that wall. My cabinets ae of a stained hickory and I have medium oak floors and I have run out of ideas for that wall."

ANSWER: The trick in decorating with accessories on a very busy background is in the framing.

Choose the art that you love, that is in the right format and size, and it should also have some of the background neutral color of the wall paper in the image, for the best results.

The trick is in how you frame it.

Choose a frame that give you a strong contrast with the wall paper.  It could match the cabinets or the flooring or be a color that is heavily used in the art.

Then select the background neutral color of the wallpaper as the top mat.  Choose any color from the image as the fillet (only ¼” need show).

wall paper, wallpaper, busy wallpaper The secret is that you want to way “oversize the top mat”.  So rather than putting 3-4 inches of top mat on the pictures, put twice that amount.  If they are small pictures and you would normally put 2-3 inches of top mat, then double or even triple that.  Consider putting more mat on the bottom of the picture than on the top.  This is a very contemporary matting treatment that your framer could help you with.

This will give you a huge amount of plain, non busy, neutral area that visually separates the busy wall paper from the image(s).  On top of that you will have a high contrasting frame to help separate the two even further.

The overall finished sizes of the framed art should be in good proportion to the wall area where they are placed.

To test it out before you commit, have your framer cut you just one matboard in the proposed size to take home.  Put it over the image and hold up against the wall and see if that doesn’t solve the problem for you.

Other ideas for accessorizing over a busy background:  large metal wall-hanging sculptures that have a strong contrast in color from the wallpaper.

You could even create a “frame” of solid neutral color. Hang that first, then put the sculptures on that. Have your framer create a framed background whatever size you need that is significantly larger than what you will hang on it.  Hang that first, then mount whatever you choose on the plain background.

The key is to make sure that the background is in good proportion to the wall space and that it exceeds the accessory by being 2/3rd larger – in other words, let the background be generously larger on all sides.

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(2004-05 Copyright Barbara Jennings)

Barbara Jennings
is the West Coast Pioneer in Redesign, author of 7 decorating books, a published artist, corporate art consultant, and furniture arrangement consultant. For training in professional furniture and accessory arrangement, or to start your own redesign or art consulting business, please visit: www.decorate-redecorate.com