Leslie May on Upholstering the Unexpected: Walls and Ceilings

Text: Leslie May

As a designer I like each of the spaces I create to have at least one element that evokes a “Wow! That’s so cool” response.

Something surprising, a new twist on a classic, and upholstering the unexpected always achieves that goal. Covering a wall or ceiling with fabric adds a texture and softness that wallpaper or paint can not.

My own home, as with many of my clients’ homes, is the scene of lots of boisterous living, so I am always looking for ways to make a room stand out without being too precious to play in.

Allesandra Branca Interior Design

Layering the luxury on the walls and ceiling, versus an expensive carpet or fine antique, is a safe way to invest in design without fear of destruction.

Solid fabrics with texture are the best choice when you are looking to emphasize coziness. I like a nubby linen or velvet for these rooms. The most drama for your dollar is with a print or geometric. You will need a talented seamstress to ensure seams line up and fall in the best location on the walls, like corners or against doorframes.

The same workroom that sews all of my custom drapery is who I rely on to wrap walls. After templating the space they sew the wall panels and then their installation team applies the padding, fabric and trim. I like to finish the lines of the walls with a narrow tape trim or double welt for a crisp edge.

It is a process, but it’s so worth it! I do find that upholstering the unexpected is, at first, intimidating to clients, but those who will hold my hand and take the plunge are never disappointed. If upholstering all four walls seems a bit scary, just do one. I promise it will be your favorite wall in the house!

Leslie May Designs/ Photo Credit Robert Grant

The best spots to upholster:

  • Bedroom walls are an obvious spot to layer in cozy and luxurious finishes. I most often upholster the wall behind the headboard to emphasize the softness of the space.
  • If you are lucky enough to have an architectural nook, like a breakfast room or a bay window, upholstering those walls will make the bones of your house stand out.
  • Upholstering a ceiling creates the effect of being enveloped in the room. It’s the ultimate in coziness.

Trade Tips:

  • Covering the walls in the same fabric as the window treatments creates a seamless space.
  • Hanging artwork, mirrors, or plates on an upholstered wall accentuates the textural effect of the padding.
  •  Finishing the space with a tape trim adds a crisp finish.

Favorite Fabrics:

Rachel Halvorson Interior Design/photo credit Paige Rumore
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