This Designer-Approved Wallpaper Can Make Small Spaces Look Lighter & Bigger

published Jan 24, 2024
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Gray/silver shiny paint on walls, bulletin board with many post cards, burnt orange velvet couch, textured rug, large wood door way, fabric sconce on wall, and oval green coffee table
Credit: Hôtel de La Boétie

Shiny lacquer and high-gloss wall paints are notoriously hard to work with — these paint finishes are known for showing every imperfection and brushstroke, but boy can they throw light around a smaller room to make it appear brighter and even larger. I’ve always wanted to take advantage of these kinds of paint finishes for the light and depth they can add to a room, but I’ve always heard high-gloss applications are best left to the pros — especially if you live in an older home or apartment with cracks, visible jointing, or sanding marks on the walls.

That’s why I stopped in my tracks while vacationing last October when I saw what designer Beata Heuman did in the lounge of the Hôtel de La Boétie, a just-opened 40-room hotel in Paris’ 8th arrondissement that’s part of the Touriste hotel group. I assumed she tapped pro painters to coat the walls in their liquid-look, shimmering finish, but it turns out that they’re actually wrapped in silver wallpaper. This bold, strategic move got me thinking: Shiny, metallic wall finishes might be easier to pull off with wall coverings — especially peel-and-stick ones that are endlessly able to be repositioned (and they’re removable, if you one day tire of them).

Credit: Hôtel de La Boétie

I personally hadn’t seen solid shiny wallpaper like this before, but as it turns out, Heuman had a historical reference for her choice: the work of early 20th-century American decorator Frances Elkins. Apparently known for her signature silver tea paper wallcoverings, Elkins helped pioneer this look, which made everything from dressing areas to bedrooms look ultra-modern and luxe, even by today’s standards. While Elkins often teamed her silver walls up with mirrored glass and gold, Heuman’s approach is much more down to earth.

Instead of leaning into the glam, Heuman has chosen to ground the shiny cool silver with rich warm tones and natural materials in the sitting area you see here, including a rust-colored velvet sofa, an oversized cork board, and a rattan and iron table. This keeps the silver from feeling cold or clinical — and over-the-top opulent, which is fine but just not my style. The nice thing about metallic walls, though? They’re equally at home in minimalist or maximalist settings. It’s all about what you choose to surround them with in terms of furniture and decorative accessories. 

Credit: Danielle Blundell

If you want to get the look, consider one of these Heuman- (and Elkins-) inspired picks. And watch this kind of metallic finish work its magic in your room. 

1 / 5
Home Depot

I’m not sure of what exact paper Heuman used at Hôtel de La Boétie. This York Wallcovering design, though, has just the right amount of shine and reflection to be a solid dupe.

2 / 5

I can see a shiny metallic silver paper looking lovely in a powder room. This peel-and-stick option could also be used to refresh dresser drawers or shelf backs in a bookcase.

3 / 5
Graham & Brown
was $90.00

Heuman used a smooth wallpaper, but if you’re looking for a little more texture, try this paste-the-wall ridged design by Graham & Brown. The wavy motif adds a little something extra to the solid silver colorway.

4 / 5
Serena & Lily
was $298.00

Yep, it exists. For the ultimate way to work shiny walls that exude a warm, organic feel, Serena & Lily has just the colorway for you.

5 / 5

Like the look of silver grasscloth but want something removable? Tempaper makes a convincing fool-the-eye option.