Zoning a room with wallpaper – an expert guide to using wallpaper to define a space

Zoning a room with wallpaper is an easy way to get the broken plan look. Here's how to get it right

Zoning a room with wallpaper Floral wallpaper in a kitchen
Wallpaper by Archive by Design
(Image credit: Sanderson)

Zoning a room with wallpaper has become a hot topic in the design world. As we move towards a way of life that is less about open plan living, and more about breaking up the space to create privacy and a sense of separation, suddenly this seems an easy an effective way to get it right. 

This feels like a brand new wallpaper idea. Not only is it a decorative item, but it's also a designer's tool, making open-plan spaces feel more like a collection of rooms, small rooms feel larger and our most lived-in spaces feel cozier. 

But how exactly do you effectively use wallpaper to zone a room? We spoke with expert Nigel Hunt, Sanderson Group’s Global Marketing & Digital Director on how to get the look in every room. 'Maximalist or minimalist, there is a wallpaper design to suit everyone’s taste,' says Nigel. 'Wallpaper is a brilliant way to add interest to your home and help distinguish areas, giving them purpose and personality, while belonging to an overall scheme.' 

1. Zoning a room with wallpaper to help make an open plan kitchen seem cozier

Open plan kitchen diner with wallpaper

(Image credit: Futue)

People often shy away from using wallpaper in a kitchen; maybe it's the moisture, the lack of wall space or perhaps it's just because there's already a lot going on. But kitchen wallpaper can look fantastic, especially in an open plan kitchen diner where it can help add definition to the two areas. 

'Open plan living remains a top priority for many, but adding wallpaper is a smart way to create a distinct area, adding instant interest and coziness, especially in larger spaces,' explains Neil. 'For a dining space which is part of the kitchen, you can zone it with a decorative wallpaper; it introduces an air of formality to contrast with the harder working kitchen.'  

2. Bring bold patterns into the smallest of spaces

Blue and green bedroom with palm print wallpaper and gold accents

(Image credit: Future)

The powder room is the perfect place to begin experimenting with wallpaper. Its small size means it won't cost the earth, even with a very expensive design, and it won't be the end of the world to redo if you hate the finished look. It's the perfect jumping-off point.

'If you’re easing yourself into the world of wallpaper, perhaps start with the smallest room of the house - using it as part of your powder room ideas,' adds Nigel. 'There are no rules here; go bold and give this mini space a well-deserved design moment! If you’re not ready for the maximalist plunge, go for a smaller scale design to ease yourself into wallpaper. It’ll add texture and restrained elegance to any space, without feeling overwhelming.'

3. Don't ignore the fifth wall in a living room

Small loft bedroom with green patterned wallpaper on ceiling

(Image credit: Paul Raeside)

'Living rooms work hard for us and offer play and entertaining areas as well as a place to lounge, watch TV and read. The right wallpaper will enhance all the time you spend in this sociable space,' says Nigel. 

This living room wallpaper idea features a traditional, heavily-printed wallpaper but it feels contemporary and fresh since it's paired with plain carpet and modern furniture. And we are also so keen to now be taking  wallpaper up onto the ceiling, especially in more lived-in rooms like living rooms and bedrooms, it adds an instant  coziness and it actually a great hack for making small rooms look bigger too as it can blur the edges of the room

'You want to feel cocooned in the living room so my top tip is to bring in your fifth wall; your ceiling. Sanderson’s Stapleton Park does this brilliantly; a large scale floral bouquet in ink/bronco brings interest and continuity to your room,' he adds.

4. Turn an office into a bold inspiring space

Closet office with glass partition and blue wallpaper

(Image credit: Future)

'The Study has been the word of 2021 and we’ve all carved out a space or converted that ‘other’ room to make a home office,' says Nigel. 'Often neglected when it comes to décor, wallpaper is the answer to enhance a creative space. To try something truly unique, go for a four-wall mural design that transports you to another place - you’ll be the envy of Zoomed-in co-workers.' 

If you're ready to transform your home office, you might want to think about pairing your new wallpaper with a similar paint color on shelving and cabinetry for an elegant and cohesive scheme. You could even learn how to hang wallpaper yourself and make it a quick weekend project.

5. Go all over with a blousy print for a cocooning bedroom

Bedroom with floral wallpaper on walls and ceiling

(Image credit: Sanderson)

Bedroom wallpaper ideas are the perfect place to start if you're considering updating your bedroom. Nothing quite makes a bedroom feel warm and enveloping like a wallpaper that wraps around all five walls; ceiling included.

'However, a feature wall is a great place to start, especially if you’re nervous about using a lot of wallpaper,' explains Nigel.  'Or if you're feeling brave, really go for it with that fifth wall, shown here in this fantastic bedroom covered in Sanderson's Golden Lily.'

How do you split a wall with wallpaper?

Alaari Wallpaper by Malene Barnett

(Image credit: Lulu & Georgia)

Whether you want to split your room horizontally or vertically, using wallpaper, murals, paint or even paneling is a great way to help define different areas within a room. 

You might want to give two different children sharing a room their own distinct areas? Cover two adjoining walls in one wallpaper and the opposite two another for a kids wallpaper idea that works for both inhabitants.

If it's zoning a part of an open plan living space, then wallpapering just one wall is the perfect way to define and add a feature.

How do you decide where to put wallpaper?

Red and black hallway with black stairs and wallpaper

(Image credit: Little Greene)

Wallpaper can go in absolutely any room. Bathroom wallpaper ideas are growing in popularity, as is using prints in the kitchen, (you might just want to consider water-resistant wallpapers) so deciding where to hang wallpaper is a very personal choice. 

If you're wanting to add pattern and color to a bland living room, then maybe consider brightening the space with wallpaper. If it's a fun, mini hit of pattern you're after, then maybe the powder room is the best place to start.

Where should wallpaper be placed in a room?

Small wallpapered dining room with vintage dresser

(Image credit: Future)

Wallpaper can go on absolutely any wall in any room, including the ceiling! Thanks to the rise of maximalism in interior design, you can be very, very bold. Consider how much you love a wallpaper pattern and then decide whether you want to cover the whole room in the same wallpaper, or just do one or two walls to create a feature wall, or maybe just stick with a chimney breast to add an instant focal point to the room. 

Is wallpaper still in style?

dining room wall ideas with black and white wallpaper

(Image credit: Matthew Williams)

Yes! Wallpaper is still in style for 2021 and going into 2022. Trends we're seeing coming through are intricate wildlife designs, bold florals, vintage-inspired prints and country cottagecore.

Rachel Christie
Rachel Christie

I'm the Houses Editor on Livingetc and I've been obsessed with property ever since I was a kid. With a diploma in interior design and more than a decade working on interior magazines under my belt, I feel very at home sourcing the best contemporary houses the world has to offer for Livingetc. It's not just my day job either, I've spent a scary amount of my own time researching schemes for my own renovations - scrolling Instagram, stalking Rightmove and Modern House, flicking through magazines and snooping in other peoples' windows - so I really do live and breathe houses on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Before Livingetc I had a stint finding homes for Ikea Family magazine where I was lucky enough to gallivant around the world on shoots meeting and interviewing interesting people, all with a very keen eye for blending high-end design with everyday items from Ikea. It inspired me to not be afraid of mixing new and old, expensive and affordable, vintage and modern and so my current Victorian terrace in north London is very much an updated, contemporary take on a period property; think open-plan modern kitchen with concrete floors, feature fireplaces and my grandmother’s paintings on the walls. I'm currently crushing on reeded glass, large gingham prints, squishy curved furniture; like Buchanan Studio’s Studio chair, and vintage wall sconces; I especially adore Retrouvius for sourcing antique finds. I’m feeling inspired by Lonika Chande, Beata Heuman and Matilda Goad at the minute and I already can’t wait to start planning my next home, wherever that might be!