Use decals prudently

Inexpensive, convenient decorating device adds punch to a room, but avoid cheesiness
2011-06-12T00:00:00Z Use decals prudentlyThe Associated Press The Associated Press
June 12, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Wall decals have quickly become the fast food of home decorating. Inexpensive and easy to install, these peel-and-stick pieces of vinyl are popping up on walls in every room of the house.

From pithy sayings and motivational phrases to bold graphics and even wall-size murals, decals come in every shape and size.

The convenience is obvious: They add a dash of color and graphic punch with practically no commitment. Bored with one? Peel it off and move it elsewhere. Or, assuming it cost you only a few dollars, throw it away when you're ready for something new.

But do decals pass the style test? We asked three designers for the scoop on how, where and whether to decorate with this new generation of decals.

"Those old-fashioned, 'Home Is Where the Heart Is' kind of sayings in that script, I think those are a little cheesy," says designer and TV host Sabrina Soto, a guest designer on HGTV's new series "HGTV'd."

But Soto, Betsy Burnham of Los Angeles' Burnham Design and Brian Patrick Flynn of decordemon.com all agree there are ways decals can work well - especially if they're used with a dose of irony and humor.

"For the right person, and it's usually a young person, I have no problem with any of this. I think it's decorative, it's whimsical, it's kitsch," Burnham says. "But I'm going to be the devil's advocate here and say I don't want it in my clients' living rooms."

In traditionally decorated homes, decals can look tacky. But in homes already decorated with a modern sensibility, decals definitely have their place.

SMALL SPACES

In a spare room or an awkward space that's hard to decorate, try a single, graphic image decal. "It gives depth to a room and gives some interest to the architecture," Burnham says.

Many retailers offer black silhouettes depicting things like lamps or chandeliers that add interest to an otherwise blank wall.

In small bedrooms, a headboard decal is "a great way to have fun without taking up any space," Soto says.

"Having one object like that is kind of cool, especially if you have a space in a room that you just don't know what to do with," Soto explains. "It's kind of the same thing as wallpapering an accent wall. This is just a lot easier."

COOL KIDS' ROOMS

If you avoid the licensed-character decals depicting popular cartoon characters, you can actually bring some style and sophistication to kids' rooms with decals.

Try oversize images of the outdoors (Target.com offers a wall-size close-up of a patch of bamboo) or letters and words (but not those excessively heartwarming ones).

To evoke cartoons without putting actual cartoon characters on the walls, Scribbleoneverything.com offers words like "Bam," "Pow" and "Kaboom!!!" in decal form. They also offer customized "thought bubbles" that can be printed to say anything you can dream up.

DORMS AND FIRST APARTMENTS

Decals are "excellent for dorms because they're trendy in spaces where you can't actually paint anyway," Flynn says.

With little expense, young adults with rental homes can get creative with images and colors. Their options for indulging in irony and sarcasm are endless (those customizable thought bubbles, above, are just one example). And if short attention spans prevail, it's simple to move designs around the space as often as you wish.

CREATIVE WORK SPACES

Flynn likes the whimsy of decals in spaces where someone wants to think creatively.

They're perfect, he says, for a space "where an interior designer might be doing their design plans, or artists might be doing their paintings or a graphic designer might be putting together their stuff."

But whatever your line of work, "it's a really affordable and quick way to take the seriousness out of a space that's dedicated to some kind of commerce," Flynn says. "You can add graphic pattern and shape, breaking up otherwise just really boring painted walls."

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