Q: I feel like my whole house — especially my bathrooms and kitchen — are colorless and bland. What is the easiest way to add color to functional surfaces without creating an eyesore?

A: When you need to liven up your home with a pattern, color or texture but don’t want to commit to redoing an entire room — which can add up quickly in terms of both time and money — consider adding strategically placed “design doses” of wallpaper to create a huge visual improvement without the huge price tag.

Here are three places to make a statement with a dash of strategic wallpaper.

The kitchen

People don’t usually bring wallpaper into a kitchen for fear of food stains and oil splatters. If there is wall space around a window, consider adding the paper above the backsplash to protect it from spills.

Another great place to administer a small dose of kitchen wallpaper is the dining nook or built-in dining area. If you’re still worried about splashes, use a vinyl wallpaper that wipes off easily.

One client with a Craftsman home in Ballard wanted a touch of whimsy and color. Cole & Son’s Hummingbird wallpaper ended up providing a starting point for the entire kitchen renovation. The wallpaper’s motif satisfied the client’s desire for something whimsical while supporting the period aesthetic of the home. In fact, during the demolition process when the kitchen down to the studs, we discovered that it still had wallpaper from the 1940s.


An accent wall or end of a hallway

Covering a single wall, as opposed to an entire room, provides all the visual punch at a quarter of the cost. Use wallpaper on the wall with the most visual exposure in the room. For a powder room project on Seattle’s Capitol Hill, the client wanted a Northwest wood vibe. Recycled wood chip wallpaper from Innovations USA created timber town vibes without the hassle and cost of attaching actual wood to the walls.

Grass cloth is a designer’s secret sauce for adding visual texture to a wall. It offers a visually rich texture but doesn’t distract the eye with a noisy pattern or motif. Also, it adds instant luxe that is more visually rich than a flat, painted wall.

A bookshelf

One of my favorite wallpaper tricks? Use wallpaper on the back of a bookshelf to add contrast and match your home’s trim — a project that’s very forgiving to first-time DIYers. Using a roll or two of luxe wallpaper on the shelves’ rear can give a room the opulence of a high-quality paper without the expense of covering an entire wall.

If you’re looking for wallpaper in Seattle, I recommend Adorn in Georgetown as a retail source. Online, you can check out wallshoppe.com or sharpshirter.com.

Kristen Conner owns Kirsten Conner Interior Design and is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’s more than 2,600 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.