Making room for borders Wall accents take off in new directions

March 19, 1995|By Elaine Markoutsas | Elaine Markoutsas,Universal Press Syndicate

Narrow or wide, they make a big impression. They can go solo or be piggybacked with others of their kind. They can be textured or three-dimensional or patterned in everything from fruits and flowers to geometric elements and fool-the-eye architectural details. They can be elegant or bold, subtle or colorful.

Wall borders and the ways they are being used are vastly expanding.

These decorative accents no longer run only around the perimeter of a room where the ceiling meets the wall. Today, borders might be found on the ceiling, or they might frame a window, a skylight or a door. They can serve as a chair rail, and some people are even decorating their baseboards with them.

Even home-owners with no-frill interiors are considering adding a border or two. People are using borders made of paper and vinyl, wood, synthetic material or tile moldings. They're stenciling borders or even creating freehand painted designs that range from opulent to whimsical.

"One reason borders are so popular today," says Jill Waage, editor of Window and Wall Ideas, "is that today's consumer really wants to be involved in the creation of a home's personality. Borders make that very easy.

"They're less intimidating than a large roll of wall covering, and less costly. They can add pattern to a room without overwhelming it. Borders offer a chance to be creative, have fun and solve problems."

What's new with borders is that manufacturers are doing what homeowners used to do themselves: cutting wallpaper borders, creating scallops, or outlining flowers or animals. This spring, Eisenhart Wallcoverings is introducing laser-cut borders with scalloped and curved edges in its Garden Life collection. The collection's undulating roses, lilacs and peonies, reminiscent of an English garden, provide the curves.

One border, 9 1/2 inches at its widest, is $20 for a 5-yard roll. A smaller, 2-inch border is $2 less. A companion striped wall covering is $17.99 per single roll; a floral pattern is $20 per single roll.

The application of much wider borders -- from 10 inches to a frieze-like 30 inches -- also has become a hot decorating trend. When these wide borders are placed against a solid color or paper with subtle patterning, they are especially effective.

Giant-scaled sunflowers, for example, can bloom year-round to add cheer to a room. Carey Lind's design from the Kitchen & Bath Collection for York Wallcoverings is shown in a dining area furnished with a pine table and a chair slipcovered in a crisp green-and-white plaid.

Below the border, the paneled wall is painted green for a rustic effect. Above, a companion paper depicts scattered sunflower petals. The 10 1/4 -inch border is $16.99 for a 5-yard spool; the companion is $19.99 per single roll.

Using a border can add the illusion of architectural interest where none existed before. Positioning a border slightly below a high ceiling can create a warmer, more intimate feeling. A contrasting border right at ceiling height changes the visual proportion and character of a room.

Using a border to outline a picture, door or window is another effective decorating tool.

For a library that an outdoorsman might love, York Wallcovering's Beaver Creek Collection is a good choice. Its trout border is shown around a window, with the fish running vertically and across the middle of the wall. The border costs $19.99 for a 5-yard spool.

Borders can be combined with other decorative moldings for a dramatic effect once found only in very expensive homes. Egg-and-dart crown molding, for example, can be combined with a wallpaper border in terra cotta that looks as if it has been sponged, another vinyl molding, a striped paper, and a contoured chair rail. (The moldings have a factory-applied primer that allows them to be painted in latex or oil with a single coat.)

In addition, the walls could be punctuated with floral petal rosettes, again painted to complement the color scheme and attached to the wall like applique.

These vinyl decorative moldings and medallions are available from Armstrong World Industries Inc.; they are part of the Finishing Touches line. The egg and dart is $3 to $3.75 per foot; the contour, $3 to $3.50 per foot; and the floral rosettes, $10 to $12 apiece. The striped wall covering is from Imperial, from Gear's Neoclassic Collection, and the border is a wall covering that was cut to the 10-inch width. The wall-covering collection starts at $30 for a single roll.

Another luxurious layering shows the impact of trompe l'oeil and existing molding. An opulent wall-covering collection called Napoleon's Empire from Seabrook Wallcoverings Inc. combines a wide border that includes a fool-the-eye wood molding, which mimics the real stained-wood molding below. The papers feature wreath, star and bee motifs in regal blues and golds. The wall covering sells for $23.99 per single roll, and the 20 1/2 -inch border is $23.99 per 5-yard spool; the 54-inch fabric is $33.99 per yard.

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