Paint, Paper or Possibly Both

  • Amanda Hanley Paint or Paper

Wallpaper patterns can make a serious decorative statement, whether applied on a small or large scale. Design guru Amanda Hanley gives her tips on making brave choices with confidence — you’ll be wondering why you didn’t put the paintbrush away years ago.

When it comes to wallpaper, try not to be influenced by what is likely to date, and go with what you love.  

Wallpaper can be a powerful influence – bold patterns and bright colour combinations can create major impact, offset by plainer, complementary main fabrics; or wallpaper can be a subtle influence, chosen for its interesting texture, its gentle repetitive pattern or muted shades, that enhance an otherwise strong palette of main fabrics.  

Explore both options in your mind and use your decision as a benchmark when looking through wallpaper and fabric collections. Before you decide, order large wallpaper samples of your choices to see at least one repeat of the design. Amanda Hanley by Design showrooms will order a sample so you can check your favourites in the room itself. 


Choosing wallpaper with a bold, large-scale print is a great way to add a touch of excitement to the entrance of your home. Hallways can often benefit from natural light, which will illuminate darker colours if you want a dash of extra drama. Consider a feature wall, as opposed to decorating the whole hallway, for a lighter touch. 


Wallpapers are an opportunity to introduce people to the personality of the house.  Use bold, contrasting wall coverings to invigorate. 


There are so many beautiful collections that might suit a feature wall. Make sure that the way you use the paper works as a complete scheme; with a subtle feature wallpaper, you will want to use the background colour of the paper to guide your paint choice for the other walls. For papers with a stronger background colour, it’s important to keep the effect going around the room with a sophisticated plain wallpaper in a complementary colour on the remaining walls. This has a wonderful cocooning effect that cuts down on noise; it also creates a far richer quality than paint – a wonderful effect, particularly suited to bedrooms. 

Or paint to perfection 

With so many nuances and graduating shades, paint offers the chance to find the perfect palette for your home, to set the desired mood – but there is an art to getting it right. 

Painting a room can seem an easier option to wallpapering. However, there are potential pitfalls to negotiate when considering this for your home. Firstly, colour can be tricky to get right as it behaves in different ways in changing lights, appearing unlike the swatch on the test card which you thought was perfect. Pairing it with other tones, both in furniture and woodwork, is also a skill; even finding a beautiful cream can be a minefield. Here are some tips on injecting colour, finding perfect neutrals, pairing shades and options for woodwork to bring your home to life with a lick of paint.  

Colour Feature 

Although we all love colour, we’re often a little timid about experimenting with it, perhaps using it in select ways on one wall or in small rooms. When you paint a wall, you have to remember it’s not like a cushion – the colour reflects on itself and magnifies. As you’re dealing with large areas it also has more impact and the light reflects from one wall to another, deepening the colour. (Top tip: to know what a colour is really like, paint the inside of a box.) 

Perfect Pairings 

Pairing two colours together has become a sophisticated trend. In most rooms, a muted tone complemented by a vibrant colour will work. But in smaller spaces opt for neutral shades from the same palette for a timeless look. For an interesting feature wall, pick out an accent colour from a piece of artwork. 

Cream of the Crop 

Neutrals are famously hard to choose, but getting it right is crucial as there are so many nuances, especially with whites and creams – some are warm, some cold, others pinkish, brown or silvery. 

Testing, Testing 

Test colours on as large an area as possible. Often, they will be brighter and lighter, or darker and duller than you expect. It is also important to see them in situ with other elements of the room, such as soft furnishings. Any colour change can initially be uncomfortable, so live with it for a while to make an objective judgement. 

Seamless Woodwork 

Painting woodwork the same as walls gives a great, unbroken effect – a softer look. It actually seems to accentuate elaborate mouldings in a very sophisticated way and visually opens up a space. A little variation can work particularly well using a matt emulsion for the walls and a satin for the woodwork. 


First, decide if you want the space to be cool and fresh or warm and cosy, and try not to confuse yourself with too much choice. Think about whether you want to introduce colour in a big way for walls or floor, or in splashes on cushions, throws or lampshades. Try to work out a scheme that will be complementary to adjoining rooms and any large existing features, such as a wooden floor or black marble fireplace. Vivid colour is best used in small amounts. 

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