Q: It's time to redecorate my teen-age daughter's room, which looks cluttered and is filled with aging maple furniture. Unfortunately, we can't buy replacements for the bed, night table and dresser, although I would like to add a small desk and chair.
Would it be OK to hang a decorative wallpaper, considering that the bed is covered with a multicolored antique quilt? And what should we do about the floor covering?
A: It sounds like the room could use some reorganizing. But first of all, yes, you can use decorative wallpaper alongside the patterned quilt. Our ancestors did it, and the result was often quite charming. Make sure, however, that the wallpaper design has a scale different from the quilt's.
The photo shows how a change of scale can be achieved effectively. In this model, the quilt has a dense geometric design, with many smaller patterns and colors used in the patchwork. The accompanying wallpaper, applied right behind the bed, consists of a single, widely spaced and repetitive design on a small, textured-like background. Its stone blue picks up the predominant color of the quilt. And to give the wall-covering sharp definition and a clear termination point, a coordinated border was applied at the ceiling line.
Your own choice of wallpaper should depend not only on the design and colors of the quilt, but also on the size of your daughter's room. If it's fairly small, something like these selections from the Wall-Tex (108 Nottingham Place) collection might be just right. A large room could probably handle a more tightly patterned paper on all the walls, though even then it must contrast with the scale of the quilt.
In order to unclutter the space, I'd recommend installing simple wall-to-wall carpeting as the floor covering.
I further suggest that you consider refinishing some of the maple furniture. Painting or staining the pieces will give the room more visual interest by making the furniture look less like parts of a typical three-piece maple bedroom set.
The headboard, night table and dresser top could all be redone in a textured and distressed finish in a soft color. That was not an unusual look for furniture in American interiors earlier in the century.
You might also wish to add an old wicker chair. Even a new one would be fine, as long as it's painted. The rocker in the photo adds a pleasing touch to that room, don't you think? It's this sort of loose and natural treatment that will make your daughter's space more comfortable, while at the same time accentuating family heirlooms, such as the quilt.