Photo by Jay Paul
Muffy Barden of Barden's Decorating with "Fireworks" wallpaper by Albert Hadley for Hinson.
Barden’s Decorating hones the craft of paper hanging.
In 1988, Tommy Barden started Barden’s Decorating after working as a painter for his father as a teenager. He set out on his own to focus on wallpaper after learning the trade through the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers. His wife, Muffy, joined the business in 2005 to handle marketing and estimates.In more than 25 years in the wallpaper-hanging business, the Bardens have seen many decorating trends come and go. They’ve survived years when wallpaper was thought to be passé, and today they’re enjoying the resurgence of wallpaper as a design element
R•Home: How has wall-paper changed since you started the business?
Muffy Barden: Wallpaper in the ’80s was a lot different from wallpaper now. Back then you had the smaller, country, Waverly-type prints. Now, you’ve got a lot of different natural papers and coverings — grasscloth, cork, silk, leather. That’s really the type of paper you don’t want just anyone hanging, because the application is so different.… And I would say technology has actually digressed in the wallpaper industry. The more natural, higher-end wallpapers seem to be more difficult to upkeep, where the older wallpapers were more protected and vinyl-coated.
R•Home: Can you take me through the process of applying specialty wallpaper?
Barden: You have to use a different type of paste for each product, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You would trim the paper to the location, actually apply paste to the walls and then carefully apply the paper. With the grass cloths and corks, you can’t get the paste on the outside of the paper because it is a natural fiber: Just like a pair of linen pants, it is going to stain. If someone doesn’t know what they’re doing and gets paste on the opposite side or the seams, it is going to be there forever.
R•Home: How are people using wallpaper these days? Are they papering entire rooms or using it as more of an accent?
Barden: It really depends on their budget. One of the big trends we have seen with designers in the last couple of years is wallpaper on ceilings. A really nice metallic on a ceiling is not going to get that much wear and tear and will add a great design element to any room.There are so many beautiful papers now. Wallpaper has come a long way in the last 30 years.
R•Home: What are some of the biggest pitfalls of wallpaper?
Barden: People putting the wrong paper in the wrong area. You wouldn’t want to put a grasscloth in a bathroom because if someone is washing their hands and splashes water, it is possible it will leave a mark. The same with corks and papers that aren’t sealed. I will be honest with people when I am doing the estimating … I will explain and try to steer them in a different direction.
R•Home: What are some trends you are seeing in wallpaper design?
Barden: Patterns are huge right now — contemporary geometrics like Bridget Beari’s new paper. I am seeing some great geometrics with cool colors. Much more contemporary than what we saw four or five years ago.
R•Home: Any tips for removing wallpaper?
Barden: Removing wallpaper is not difficult if it was installed properly. If it was installed on sheetrock walls that were not primed, yeah, you’ve got a problem.We prime walls before we install any wallpaper, and because so many wallpapers have a saturated color background, we also use a primer tinted to the actual color of the background.It takes someone who knows what they are doing to remove wallpaper. It can get pretty messy and is definitely not fun.
R•Home: Is your house wallpapered from floor to ceiling?
Barden: No, I would love to have more wallpaper in the house, but that is the last thing Tommy wants to do when he gets home [laughs].