Why Wallpaper?
February 15, 2009 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Why do hotels use so much wallpaper?

Hotels sure do seem to have a lot of wallpapered walls. Why? I recognize that it's part of the decor and so an aesthetic choice--I'm thinking more about the durability and function.

All I know about wallpaper is that it's fussy to install and hell to remove. I imagine that picture hooks and minor electrical work leave ugly scars. Despite these drawbacks, every hotel I've ever been in (generally the middlebrow, business-parky types) has acres of the stuff.

Presumably that means there are functional attributes that make wallpaper preferable to, say, painted or textured walls that would fit in equally well in the decorating schemes. Easier to clean? Less inclined to wear?
posted by Sublimity to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
It's much easier to clean. You will find that hotels invariably use the armored stuff.
posted by megatherium at 7:24 PM on February 15, 2009

Wallpaper also has a pattern that would conceal a lot of wear and tear. Usually paint is just one color.
posted by belau at 7:26 PM on February 15, 2009

How often do hotels need to change the location of artwork or electrical/data outlets? Not that often. Every couple of years they can switch paintings A and D from room 1 to room 2, and maybe occasionally buy new art. When needed they just replace the cover plates on outlets, that's a two minute 25 cent job.

So instead of paint that will wear off when they, rarely, scrub the walls, they use commercial wallpaper that adds a little visual stimulus and just distracts they eye enough from whatever is lacking from the room. Seriously any major chain knows exactly what wallpaper they're putting up and that it adds something to the room, on the cheap.

And don't put too much faith in the glue used. I've been in really nice hotels and I've seen huge sections of wallpaper fall off the wall with little more than a touch or hard breath. (Seriously, I kinda pulled one and it just came down, and other fell off the wall as we walked in the door.) The hotel knows it will be replaced regularly (as part of their "New Upgrades!), so why adhere it too strongly?
posted by Science! at 7:38 PM on February 15, 2009

The wallpaper that they put up in hotels is very thick and practically bullet proof. Painted walls would never hold up to the abuse that hotel rooms go through, they'd be scored and scratched within months. Also if the wallpaper does get damaged, they can just replace that one panel instead of having to patch and then paint a whole wall.

Or on preview, what everyone else has said.
posted by octothorpe at 7:44 PM on February 15, 2009

Also, wallpaper may be fiddly, but it's somewhat faster than paint. One day, it's up, let it dry a bit, you're good to go. Paint requires multiple coats, drying time, and airing out the rooms/hallways much more.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 8:05 PM on February 15, 2009

dirtynumbangelboy brought to mind another possibility. Guests will complain endlessly, and even leave, if the hallways smell of drying paint. Drying glue, not so much.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:11 PM on February 15, 2009

I would imagine that it also helps to reduce the noise level in the rooms. I swear some of that stuff is 1/4 of an inch thick at least.
posted by 517 at 9:28 PM on February 15, 2009

It also helps to hide imperfections in the wall, especially in older establishments.
posted by lobstah at 4:25 AM on February 16, 2009

I imagine that picture hooks and minor electrical work leave ugly scars.

The hotel probably does not get tired of having the pictures in the same place, or decide that it would like to add another light in the middle of the wall.
posted by yohko at 9:53 AM on February 16, 2009

"it's fussy to install" - actually, once you get the hang of it, you can fire that stuff up onto the wall in no time, especially the thick and often textured stuff used in hotels. My mom and I used to be able to paper a room in about 2 hours. Stuff can be moved back into the room while the paper is still wet, and in about 6 hours the room is dry enough to be used, though it would still smell a bit wet and gluey.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:28 PM on February 16, 2009

Thanks all--these answers make a lot of sense.

I've remodeled two fixer-upper houses and never considered wallpaper because it has such a bad reputation. (Nor have I had to pull it out as described elsewhere on AskMe.)

A few friends' homes have wallpaper and in some cases it looks OK, but where there are small imperfections they are pretty obvious to me and I know it would make me crazy to see that all the time. (Not passing judgement, just describing how I get obsessive.) Generally these are houses with kids, kids are absentmindedly destructive, I have kids, seems like a bad match.

So it was rather mystifying to me to contemplate the miles and miles of wallpaper in the hotels that I recently visited. I guess they must have tougher stuff than is used in residences, or probably are more efficient about redoing the decorating scheme or repairing a section that gets torn or whatever. I'd think that hotels would get an awful lot of wear and tear from luggage banging against the walls down a hallway, random acts of destruction in the room, whatever.

One of life's more mundane mysteries, once again solved by the power of AskMe. Thank you all again.
posted by Sublimity at 5:17 PM on February 16, 2009

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