Ask a Designer: doing decals right

AP This file product image released by ToysRUs shows the Little Boutique Wall Decal of a tree. Inexpensive and easy to install, wall decals are popping up on walls in every room of the house.


(AP) – 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. 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 all agree there are ways de-cals can work well — espe-cially if they’re used with a dose of irony and humor. 


n 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. (Just remember, Soto says, that adding a lighting fixture like this doesn’t actually add any light to the room!) In small bedrooms, a headboard decal is “a great way to have fun without taking up any space,” Soto says. You can also find decals depicting chairs or other furniture. “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.” 


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.” 


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 ( 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, 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. 


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. And if short attention spans prevail, it’s simple to move designs around the space as often as you wish. “In rental spaces,” Burnham says, “it’s such a better idea than having to paint and then paint it back” again before you move out.

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