Cole & Son’s Woods Wallpaper: An Enduring “Trend”

I’m not a big fan of trends. Trends come and go, and I’m not that interested in things that don’t have staying power, for two reasons mostly:

  1. I’m worried I’ll tire of the trend after two years’ time.
  2. I don’t have the money to replace things when the trend goes out of style.

I think the above reasons are also why many homeowners are afraid to commit to wallpaper, too. I completely understand. Nice wallpaper is expensive and a major design investment — if you change directions in five years and take it down, it’s money down the tubes. You can’t reupholster it or paint it or change out the knobs, if you get my drift. So whatever wallpaper you choose, it had better stand up to the test of time.

That being said, even though I tend toward the traditional in my design, I also like to give it a little twist to go with, ummmmm, “vitality” (read, active and energetic little boy craziness) of young family life. Hence, I go for “fresh, classic.”

Woods Wallpaper: The Definitive Fresh Classic

Surprisingly, Woods dates back to 1959, according to Cole & Son. Originally conceived as a screen print by Michael Clark, the Woods wallpaper pattern features bold sketches of trees making a forest repeat.

Cole & Son's Woods
Cole & Son’s Woods

My husband saw Woods in a design magazine years ago (I wish I could find that issue) and fell in love with it. Yes, a man!!! He’s an outdoorsy sort, and he found it so restful. I, strangely, was a little fearful. This was my first foray into design that didn’t source materials from the nearest yard sale. I was worried about making a big and costly mistake.

We have an 18th century farmhouse, and I had long been thinking about how I could update its interiors for my family while retaining its historical character. The more I studied design, I realized that I could do that through using appropriate silhouettes in my furnishings, but upping the fun factor in textiles and wallcoverings. Many very old houses use toile (which, according to Wikipedia, is “a type of decorating pattern consisting of a white or off-white background on which a repeated pattern depicting a fairly complex scene, generally of a pastoral theme”) patterned wallcoverings:

Tom Scheerer
Tom Scheerer

I love Tom’s work! But that’s beside the point. The point is, I thought I could use Woods like a modern take on a toile.

Photography by Eric Roth
Photography by Eric Roth

Does it work for you?

A Walk Through the Woods

Even though the pattern is far from new, Woods has been featured in a ton of magazines during the last five years. A whole lot of homeowners have fallen for it, just as my handsome husband did. If you search, you find some great design. You’ll also find, in my humble and very flawed opinion, some not so great design.

But just because it seems to be everywhere you look, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have it in your own home. You don’t live everywhere you see it — only in your own home, and your home should give you joy! So if Woods lights your fire, let’s look at the good, the “meh,” and the ugly so you know how to do it well. 🙂

Woods comes in a number of beautiful colorways, including:

Woods CollageWould you, could you with a star? Would you, could you with a pear?

Pear Star Collage

And that’s not even all of them!

The Good Stuff

I really tend to gravitate toward the softer, more tonal iterations of this paper (a girl’s nursery in the pink colorway, anyone?), rather than the black and white versions. I guess that’s because a walk through a birch grove makes me feel peaceful, and that’s what I wanted to feel when I used this paper. The high contrast black and white is definitely more energizing, as high contrast almost always is. Regardless, the below are all beautiful designs.

Neko Case in Country Living
Neko Case in Country Living Magazine
via Better Homes & Gardens
Screen Shot 2016-07-26 at 1.43.43 PM
Chenault James
Source unknown
Source Unknown
Fawn Galli, Photography by Jonny Valiant
Phillip Gorrivan
Phillip Gorrivan, Photography by Maura McEvoy
Tiffany Eastman
Tiffany Eastman, Photography by Michael Partenio

This whole project is GORGEOUS. The kitchen is to die for (if you die for color, that is). If you have an antique home and want to honor its roots while making it a little more youthful, go look at Tiffany’s work here!

Nam Dang Mitchell Design
Screen Shot 2016-07-27 at 7.37.09 AM
via House and Home Magazine
Allison Burke
Allison Burke
Schuyler Samperton
Meg Mateo Ilasco
Sonja Rasula and Jonathan Sager

There is definitely a propensity toward bedrooms and powder rooms — the place you want to feel the most calm and the place that most people are willing to go a little funky with wallpaper because of the small square footage and time spent in the room!

I think one reason all these rooms resonate with me is that the Woods paper is used on every visible wall, so that it wraps the room. (Except in Fawn Galli’s hallway, where it serves more like a tree-lined allée up to the artwork.) Not used as an accent wall. Isn’t that much the point? To be wrapped, cocooned, surrounded by the forest?

Also, for the most part, the paper is the star. I mean, there is a lot, going in it. Keeping the rest of the surroundings a bit more quiet allows it to shine without over-stimulating your inhabitants.

The Almost There

Please realize that these comments (including those in the next section) are entirely my own opinion, and I don’t mean to disparage anyone. Anyone is free not to love the stuff I’ve done, too. The rooms below are very close to what I love, but they miss gaining my full enthusiasm for the following reasons:

Just a little too much additional large-scale pattern when paired with Woods. I feel the large pillow pattern and the big stripe just compete, rather than complement. (A usual pattern mixing tip is to balance a large scale print with a small scale one.) Perhaps a solid white comforter small scale print on the Euro shams, even in similar colors, would feel more balanced to me. Very cool bed, though.


Not a great picture, but this nursery is very nearly awesome. I just wish it were wrapped all the way around in Woods! Then it would be a fairytale forest.

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 7.31.56 AM

Same thing here. I love the pretty/rustic mix — the antlers, the chandelier, the mirror collection, the sheers, the rich wood against the white surroundings. Just doesn’t look quite “done.” I wish the homeowner had taken it all the way around. And put in a rug for softness.


I stared at this image a loooooooong time. There is so much good going on, and the color combination (beige Woods, sagey greens, naturals and off whites, the timber ceiling) is perfect. And I come down to this conclusion — I don’t think Woods lends itself to really large rooms. Purely IMO. Somehow, the enveloping quality that it has gets lost in a big room. But you are welcome to love it here.

Don’t Try This at Home

Woods is not a beautiful hand-painted chinoiserie panel. It doesn’t work well framed. Just looks like you bought a remnant. (If you do buy a remnant, wallpaper the back of a closet instead. It will make you happy when you open the doors and be a little room of its own.)


Forest floating above your head.


Window to the outside?

Accent walls can be really tough unless you know what you’re doing with your design plan. They can work, but they can also add confusion and/or a tunnel or runway effect.


Nearly what the kids in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe saw as they emerged from the wardrobe — except a toilet instead of a lamppost.


A few issues here, but overall just not enough cohesiveness and the accent wall just adds more confusion for me. I think painting the whole room (with a bigger rug) and big piece of woodsy art over the desk would feel better to me.


Using as an accent wall at the end of a long room with a slanted ceiling = tunnel effect.

And there you have it! My opinions on Cole & Son’s Woods by “a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian” (The History of England, Jane Austen), or decorator, in my case. It’s a trend that’s been going strong for a long time. That’s classic.


2 thoughts on “Cole & Son’s Woods Wallpaper: An Enduring “Trend””

  1. I didn’t know this wallpaper comes in so many different colours!
    I have the normal black and white version on one wall in a rather big room. I am struggling a bit to bring it all together. But I hope some artwork on a piece of the wallpaper, framed on another wall, will help. I also designed my own sofa cushions to go with the wallpaper and artwork (For a limited time they are even sold on Wraptious.com! Check out my blog if you are interested).
    Let’s hope my end result will be as lovely as some of the examples you show!

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top
Scroll to Top

Home Style Compatibility QUIZ!

Have you tried decorating your home with that all elusive “mix”…

yet nothing seems to work?