Wall coverings are this year’s big interior design trend.

If you thought white and gray interiors were never going to end, the truth is that the popular neutral color scheme is not going away anytime soon. The good news is accent walls are now trending to create texture, contrast, and depth using a variety of wall coverings, from wallpaper and tile to 3-D panels.

“It’s another great way to add visual interest without overpowering a room,” says Michele McCarthy, Interior Designer at Vertical Arts Architecture. “We’re seeing it in bedrooms, entryways, bookshelves, and even on ceilings.” McCarthy says if you’re not ready to plaster your walls with bold patterns and colors, a good place to test this trend in your own house is to try it in a small powder room. Whatever the space, McCarthy says wall coverings add another layer of design to a room that makes it look more custom, polished, and pulled together.

Not your Grandmother’s Wallpaper
Interior designers prefer the term “wall covering” to “wall paper,” but either way, this isn’t the stuff you had to peel off the walls as soon as you moved into that old house. Wall coverings today feature bold designs, colors and textures that create a focal point for a room and are rarely used on all four walls.  “One thing that’s definitely popular right now is floral wall paper in large scale patterns, not the small traditional print but something that creates a focal point in a room,” says McCarthy. She says the variety and ingenuity of wallpaper today is mind-blowing. “There are modern, geometric patterns with clean lines that offer dimension, bold metallics to create a luxury element, and fun textured patterns. There are even facades, like brick, which are fun to use as an accent without the construction cost of real brick. And it’s less permanent.”

The third dimension: 3-D Wall Panels
Another growing category in wall coverings are three-dimensional wall panels. 3-D Wall panels are made in a variety of materials – gypsum, wood, MDF, PVC, leather, fabric, metal and glass are the most common – and in a variety of sizes, ranging from more traditional 18×18 and 24×24 tiles to odd sizes such as 29×32 or 41×14, depending on the pattern used. “They’re super textural and thick and have all kinds of surfaces and visual textures,” McCarthy says. “Great on backsplashes, ceilings and accent walls, they create texture, give visual expanse to a space and add drama.”

Pile on the Tile
Finally, tile is being used in ways that takes it beyond the classic bathroom wall or backsplash, creating visual interest in unprecedented ways. “Tile today is amazing. Tile companies are offering collections of tiles with different sizes and finishes that can be mixed and matched in all kinds of ways,” McCarthy says. In addition to tiles in odd sizes (large tiles are currently very “in”) there are also tiles with three-dimensional textures, raised patterns, and a combination of patterns in the same tile. There are even tiles designed to look like fabric (though McCarthy notes wood patterned is on its way out). Tile layout is also always changing to create more interest (for example, the ever-popular subway tile is now being stacked vertically rather than in the traditional pattern) and grout has come into the fold as a design element.

“Grout lines are being purposely enlarged in a color that contrasts with the tile color,” she says. “This is a huge departure from when grout lines were being rectified, made super thin so they would almost disappear. Now it’s about letting them show as part of an overall design.”