Grasscloth Makes a Comeback

Why a staple from the 1960s and ’70s—grasscloth wallcovering—is making a comeback.

Why a staple from the 1960s and ’70s—grasscloth wallcovering—is making a comeback.

By Diane Franklin


If your last encounter with grasscloth wallcovering was in the 1960s and ’70s, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Grasscloth is back—and in many ways, it’s bigger and better than ever.


Grasscloth is part of a natural trend in decorating which favors the use of environmentally friendly materials. It is a lightweight wallcovering made from natural materials, such as seagrass, hemp, jute, arrowroot or reed, that are woven together using cotton threads and adhered to a backing that is most often rice paper.


Today’s fashionable grasscloths have been updated considerably from the grasscloth of old. Where color variety in the past was generally limited to neutral colors, today’s grasscloths are in a variety of colors—some even infused with metallics and incorporating more interesting weaves. Thinner weaves typically provide a cleaner, more modern look, whereas thicker weaves provide a more traditional—and in some cases, rustic—look.


Using Grasscloth in Home Décor


Grasscloth is a product that seems to meet a variety of trends. It fits the trend toward biophilic design, which is characterized by bringing natural materials indoors. It is a sustainable material that fits consumers’ trend toward being more environmentally conscious. At the same time, it fits a trend toward textured home décor products, including the use of texture on the walls.


Because of the delicate nature of grasscloth, it’s important to be judicious in where you use it. It obviously is not meant for high-traffic areas like kitchens, family rooms or hallways. Your best bet is to use it in low-traffic areas where a touch of elegance is desired, such as formal living or dining rooms. It also works nicely in bedrooms and home offices.


In addition, grasscloth lends itself to the trend toward focal walls, since it offers a sophisticated, eye-catching appearance. Another great look is to use grasscloth above wainscoting, with the use of paneling underneath.


Keep in mind that grasscloth is different from other wallpaper in that you aren’t going to get a pattern match from one piece to another. That is part of the natural look and should not be considered a defect.


Color Variety


There was a day when the natural composition of grasscloth was thought to pair up best with only natural-inspired colors—i.e., neutrals such as beige, brown or muted yellow. But today’s grasscloths literally come in a full spectrum of colors. You can go bright, you can go bold, you can go shimmery or shiny.


Of course, natural colors still are popular in keeping with natural environmental trends, but that’s only where the grasscloth color scheme begins. You will easily find today’s grasscloths in on-trend gray for a super-elegant or industrial look, but you can also find grasscloth in bronze, gold, green, indigo—even vibrant red.


An Imitation Look


If you want the look of grasscloth in a higher-traffic area, such as a family room or high-traffic entryway, there are imitation grasscloth wallcoverings that will fill the bill. The imitation grasscloths provide the advantage of being easier to clean and maintain. Because they are made of a more durable material, they stand up to more wear and tear just like other non-natural wallpapers do. You can also use these imitations in higher moisture areas, such as bathrooms, where the use of real grasscloth is inadvisable.


Another advantage to these faux grasscloth wallpapers is that they are less expensive than authentic grasscloth. And because of advancements in technology, they look indistinguishable from the real thing.

How to mix it up with a monochromatic design

Going monochromatic doesn’t mean your room will lack variety or flair.


Color is one of the most effective ways to express yourself and your personality, so why would you want to go with a monochromatic decorating scheme? Wouldn’t that be safe, drab and—the worst sin of all—boring? Actually, going monochromatic doesn’t mean your room will lack variety or flair. Done right, a monochromatic décor can be sophisticated, soothing, and quite distinctive.


Monochromatic color schemes allow you to achieve an interior décor that is cohesive and easy on the eyes. A major advantage of this type of palette is that you’re less likely to make mistakes: no worries about whether your complementary or split-complementary color plan is too jarring to the eye. If you have an open floor plan, staying within the parameters of a monochromatic color scheme can give you a nice flow from space to space.



Build Interest With Texture and Pattern

The most successful monochromatic schemes typically involve the use of a neutral color that’s rendered in various different values—that is, a range of lightness and darkness. But keep in mind that color is only one aspect of your decorating scheme. Texture, sheen, and pattern also are effective ways to add visual interest and sophistication to a room, and they can be particularly effective in a monochromatic color scheme.


If you’ve built your room around a taupe scheme, for instance, pattern can help you use the color in unique and eye-catching ways. A paisley print on your throw pillows, featuring closely aligned colors, will add a nice decorative flourish to your sofa. A floral or geometric pattern on an area rug, rendered in a moderate shift from your chosen color, is a beautiful way to pull your color scheme together.


Use a pattern on the wall to add interest within your chosen color scheme. Wallpaper will allow you to introduce pattern, texture, or contrasting sheens to a single feature wall or even to the entire room. Similarly, you can create a painted wall treatment that adds pizzazz to your monochrome scheme. For example, a tone-on-tone striped effect with subtle shifts in color and sheen can add just the touch of sophistication you’re looking for.


Texture is another important element of a monochromatic color scheme. You can use texture in various elements of the room—for instance, a plush area rug, a woven window treatment, multidimensional wall tiles, a faux-brick wall finish, or carefully chosen accessories (more on those below).


Accessorize Like a Pro

Accessories are a great way to make your monochromatic décor more distinctive. A glass and chrome accent table, a tall floor vase in a unique material such as galvanized metal or concrete, a piece of rough-hewn pottery, or multimedia wall art will add an element of texture. In a monochromatic color scheme, your accessories are a way to add some color—for instance, with some greenery or blooms in your vases or a multicolored art piece hanging above the fireplace.


Finally, light is a way to make your monochromatic décor quite literally shine.  Distinctive light fixtures and lamps add a nice element to the room, and you can use track lighting to highlight a specific area or decorative element. Natural lighting is another great element to feature in a monochromatic room. Make sure your window treatments can be easily lifted or drawn to the side to add a light and airy feeling to the surroundings.


How to resolve decorating disagreements


A few trade-offs can result in a design that makes everyone happy.


You say, “Wallpaper.” I say, “Wall texture.” You say, “Carpet.” I say, “Hardwood.” Before you call the whole thing off, recognize that compromise might be required to resolve disputes over home décor. Whether you’ve just purchased your first home or are finally getting around to redecorating after decades, you may find that those diverse views that make life interesting in the best of times add heat to discussions over design decisions. Keep in mind that differences over decorating are common, and a few tradeoffs can result in a striking décor that makes everyone happy.



You’re in This Together

When two people share a dwelling, what makes it their home is a concerted effort to reflect the combination of styles and interests. If a major disagreement arises over interior design, a first step may be to look for common, or at least complementary, ground.


Start with the palette: A visit to Tommy's Paint Pot will offer a wealth of color schemes and wall-finishing options from which to choose to form the backdrop of your décor. Next, compare furnishing styles. If your tastes run to classical and your partner prefers modern, you may be able to find some elements of each style that offer a starting point for discussion. Spend some time browsing decorating sites, shows, and magazines to identify rooms that you like. You’ll also have plenty of opportunities to talk about why you like this and why your partner likes that, which may provide some insights into the emotional aspects of decorating preferences.


Shopping and making these decisions as a team makes it more likely that both of you will feel involved and pleased with the outcomes. Speaking of shopping, that’s another area where there may be some disagreement. You may love to shop—the more choices, the better—whereas your partner hates it, or vice versa. In that case, one solution is for the shopping pro to make some scouting trips, return with paint and wallpaper samples and fabric swatches, and then schedule return visits to the stores most likely to yield maximum results with a minimum time commitment from the non-shopper.


It Doesn’t Have to Be Either/Or

Combining your decorating preferences and treasures can yield a décor that’s fabulous and uniquely yours. Style, function, and comfort aren’t mutually exclusive. An antique cupboard can command a place of honor in otherwise modern surroundings.


Going room by room is another strategy. If one of your style preferences dominates in the living room, the other person could make key design decisions in the kitchen. And each of you can have your own spaces on which to place your stamp by choosing favorite colors, furniture, and belongings to showcase in a den, sewing room, or hobby haven.


Some rooms can be designed for double duty: The basement man cave may occasionally be rearranged to make room for a big family get-together. The home office can double as a display for that prized collection that used to grace a living room.    


A Little Empathy Goes a Long Way

People have strong attachments to their belongings and sense of style. It may be hard to agree that a cherished collection of salt and pepper shakers or sports memorabilia would clash with a new living room décor. Acknowledging the pangs that arise over such decisions and appreciating each other’s willingness to compromise are crucial steps in creating surroundings you can both call your own.

5 ways to spruce up your apartment


You’ve discovered the perfect apartment—or at least as close to your ideal as you’re likely to find. Now it’s time to make it your own with equal dashes of functionality and flair. Even in a small apartment, you can go big on style. Short of knocking out a wall or replacing the kitchen cabinets, you have plenty of options to add personal touches.



1. Make a statement with color. Set the tone with a palette that unites and accentuates. One idea is to start with a prized possession—a comfy chair or gorgeous table lamp—and build your color scheme around it. For a smaller space, a couple of light-and-bright shades with a darker accent color may work best. Painting the walls might not be an option, but you can paint your furniture to bring the décor together—or in a range across your chosen palette to delineate distinct areas in an open-concept layout. Removable wallpaper, murals, and decals can also add dramatic statements. New peel-and-stick products are easy to apply (and remove), and they range from realistic brick and barnwood finishes to eye-catching geometric patterns and whimsical prints.  


2. Define your living space. If most of your apartment is one big room, then you can simultaneously embrace the open space and stake out entry, dining, living and sleeping spaces with strategic placement of furnishings. To create a welcoming entryway, position a hall tree or a tall shelving unit refashioned for functionality: Replace the upper shelves with coat hooks around a mirror and place square baskets in the lower shelves to store hats, sunglasses, and shopping bags. A cupboard or buffet can help define the dining area, extend kitchen storage, and provide a serving surface. A swag light over the dining table will set this space apart from the living area with its own distinctive lamps. Area rugs can also designate zones, complement color themes and (bonus!) hide worn carpet or floorboards. In a studio apartment, position your couch or a couple high-backed chairs with their backs to the foot of the bed to delineate the sleep space.  


3. Add smart storage. Shelving choices abound to reduce clutter and set off your décor, from tall industrial-style metal units to wooden bookshelves to floating shelves on the walls to display framed art, photos, and small knickknacks. Look for coffee tables with storage shelves or drawers. Stick a wicker hamper or stackable wood boxes in a bare corner to store linens. Let no space go wasted.


4. Dress up the windows. Make the light through your windows a focal point of your living space with colorful curtains or a curvy valance to cover bland miniblinds when they’re not in use. With a simple rod and curtain hook rings, you can hang any type of fabric. Base plant choices on the available light to create an indoor garden, and position your table or desk accordingly if you’ve got a room with a view.


5. Nurture your inner neatnik. The smaller the space, the more quickly messes can pile up. To live comfortably in a small space—and show off the style you’ve worked so hard to achieve—develop the habit of putting things back where they belong and decluttering regularly. You may not be able to call your apartment spacious, but with a little planning and ongoing maintenance, you can declare it just right.

How nature is influencing color trends

When Pantone revealed that Greenery, a “fresh and zesty yellow-green shade,” was its 2017 Color of the Year, we knew that the pronouncement was indicative of a broader decorating trend: bringing the great outdoors inside. Nature’s hues have inspired consumers’ home decorating choices for decades in ever-evolving ways. Recall the earth tones of the 1970s, the Caribbean-influenced color palette of the ’90s—both nature-inspired but very different. This year’s palette uses nature in versatile, sophisticated ways to suit every type of décor, from traditional to contemporary.

Paint: The Color Marketing Group echoed Pantone’s sentiment regarding yellow-greens as a major trend in home décor. The colors named by these prognosticators bring to mind leafy and lush vegetation, adding zest to an overall gray-cast palette for 2017. Some of the other colors that paint manufacturers are touting this year are as clear as a cloudless blue sky, as deep green as a forest floor, as optimistic as a sun-kissed garden, or as deeply purple as a sunset fading into night.

Wallpaper: Nature is a major theme in wallcovering, not only in terms of color themes but also with regard to the use or replication of natural materials such as cork, sisal, and grasscloth. Floral wallpaper has been popular since it was invented, but state-of-the-art printing methods and sophisticated designs give florals an updated look. Wallpaper murals also tend to be natural in theme, whisking you away (figuratively speaking, of course) to a seaside cottage or a mountain villa.

Fabrics: This year’s fabric trends likewise feature natural hues and textures. Colors are somewhat earthy, and designs—even when nature themed—have a sophisticated, contemporary sensibility. As with wallpaper, floral designs are huge—and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

Window Coverings: Even though window coverings manufacturers have broadened their color selection, neutral colors continue to dominate in such categories as miniblinds and pleated or cellular shades. The influence of nature shows itself at the window with the continuing popularity of wood blinds—both real and faux—as well as woven wood shades and plantation shutters. Faux-wood blinds provide the desired natural wood at a fraction of the real thing’s cost.

Flooring: Consumers love the look of wood beneath our feet, so much so that a wood-like appearance isn’t confined to hardwood. Laminate flooring, vinyl tile, even porcelain tile are being fabricated to replicate the look of real wood. Real wood can be hard to maintain, so these trends give consumers the best of both worlds: the look they crave with minimal maintenance.