welcome to a wallpaper wasteland

Aaaaaah! I am in a pit of wallpaper despair!

This week’s step in the bathroom renovation plan was to leaf through a few wallpaper books, choose a pattern, and voila!–a color scheme would emerge.

That plan did not succeed.

Perhaps it’s because my perimeters were vague to start. When it comes to decor, I go in with a general idea or a single inspired piece (a pillow, a painting) and figure that the rest will emerge in time. I trust that I’ll know what I like when I see it, and that’s usually how it goes. I was certain that wallpaper would serve as the inspiration in this case. The problem is that Fort Collins is a wallpaper wasteland as far as I can tell. Google turns up 22 listings, but all but one of them are for wallpaper-ers, not for the product itself.

That’s how I wound up spending a frustrating hour in Sherwin Williams, where tastes run toward traditional florals, stripes, and solids. (And for the life of me, I don’t understand why someone would paper a wall with a solid color that could be painted–and thus changed–more quickly for less money.) From watching my mom wallpaper all my life, I know that if I’m going to go to all the trouble of prepping the wall, measuring, cutting, matching, and smoothing, I’m going to make a statement. (Plus there’s the problem of that ugly little hole in the wall from last week’s “play” that will require drywall repair or replacement. No biggie.) Thus my wallpaper preferences lean toward graphic patterns, textures, and striking color combinations that I won’t be able to achieve with paint alone.

But, again, I live in a wallpaper wasteland. After leafing through probably 30 or so books, I found only a half dozen, all by the same designer (Antonina Vella), that had patterns I would even consider. My vague inspiration comes from three sources: a Degas print of a bather that’s all turquoise blues and soft greys; peacock feathers; and this antique mirror, which I’ve owned forever and plan to paint once I’ve decided on a color scheme.

I took pictures of those to show my husband, and we narrowed it down further from there. None of the pictures is true to color, but here’s what I got:

glitter swirlsfleur de liswavesglitter circles

Swirls clearly seem to have the advantage, now that I see them side by side. And after another hour+ on wallpaper websites and Pinterest (another massive time suck) to see what else is out there, I’ve confirmed that Vella and Seacrest are my designers of choice, that the style I’m drawn to is called contemporary abstract and that, surprisingly, both of these designers are available at our very own Sherwin Williams [she said, sheepishly]. So perhaps the search is drawing to a close or has at least drawn closer to home.

In reflecting on this week’s experiences, I’ve realized that another dimension of play could be frustration. If the overriding goal (or motive, as activity theorists would say) is driving that activity, one’s participation will be persistent. What’s becoming clear to me even after two weeks of this experiment is that I’ve set up the bathroom renovation as a problem to be solved and within that macro-problem are sundry other micro-problems to be solved as well–tile removal, wallpaper selection, determination of color schemes, and so on. As usual, this leads me to some surprising questions:

  • Is work sometimes in involved in play?
  • Is problem-finding and solving a necessary dimension of flow?
  • Can mentors be virtual? Could, for instance, a wallpaper website function as a “mentor” if it teaches you the language of the domain?

More problems await, I’m certain of it. But I’m also certain that I’m looking forward to them as part of this larger enterprise. And I’m eager to read others’ blogs to determine if my experiences are idiosyncratic or typical of a larger pattern common to them as well.

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