Home & Garden

Play with paper

The scrapbooking craze is spinning off into a different phenomenon if you judge new decorating books by their covers. Decorating with paper - whether it's hand-dyed lokta harvested from shrubs in Nepal or your standard white copy-machine variety - is definitely an emerging category.

“Home, Paper, Scissors” by Patricia Zapata (Potter Craft, $20) shows readers how to use all sorts of paper and a few simple tools to alter mere sheets into light fixtures, clocks, mobiles, table runners and picture frames. The Houston-area graphic designer and blogger even uses a black and white page ripped from a phone book to make a keepsake box.

“I’ve been playing with paper since I was a kid,” Zapata said in a phone interview. “I’d get excited by new notebooks when school started. When scrapbooking came around, I loved all the papers, but I wasn’t into scrapbooking.”

Zapata’s projects detailed in the book and on her site, ALittleHut.com, contain clean lines similar to modern architecture (not the embellished look of Victorian-style decoupage). She’s used scraps from her paper shredder, including junk mail and billing statements, to make nesting bowls as catchalls for keys and mail in her home.

“People have this preconceived idea that paper is very fragile, but it can be very sturdy and durable,” Zapata said, “Especially when you use layers upon layers.”

Zapata often uses recycled white and brown kraft papers. She sees paper, which extends to cardboard, used for furniture.

“My brother made an awesome side table with a rolled up sheet of cardboard that’s quilled,” she said. “He used tack nails to seal it and put a piece of glass on top. It looks so nice.”

Zapata thinks people are turning to paper in décor not only because it’s everywhere but also because it’s inexpensive. When Nicole Parigo of Lexington, Mo., was decorating her infant daughter’s nursery earlier this year, she found a pad of 12-by-12-inch scrapbooking paper by designer Amy Butler for $10.29 at Urban Arts and Crafts in Kansas City, Mo.

“The original idea was to frame the paper,” said Parigo, a photographer who runs Parigo Studios in Kansas City, with her husband, Brandon. “But the paper looked great on its own.”

Parigo arranged a grid of the decorative paper above the crib of 6-month-old Simone. The squares of paper, secured to the wall with adhesive dots, create an instant focal point with pops of color and pattern. Without frames, the paper is safer in a baby nursery. A common precaution is to refrain from hanging framed pieces near cribs because they could fall and injure a child, especially one with curious fingers.

“Another plus with using the paper is that there are no nail holes,” Parigo said. She and her family are selling their 1850s-era home so they can be closer to work.

Lauren Wendlandt of Kansas City decorated a tree with origami cranes inside her new home. The folded paper birds have appealed to her and her family since they heard the story of Sadako Sasaki, who was 2 on Aug. 6, 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. Sadako developed leukemia when she was 11 and had heard through Japanese storytelling that a person could make her wish come true by folding 1,000 paper cranes. She died at age 12 before the project was completed, but her classmates finished it for her.

“I love the simple beauty and story of hope the paper birds represent,” Wendlandt said.

Wendlandt used paper cranes as centerpieces at her wedding. Her husband, Eric, made paper flowers, even orchids, when they first got married because they didn’t have much money. The origami crane ornaments hanging from the tree are memorials to her maternal grandmother, Ruth Pugh, who died in March. Those who attended Pugh’s service wrote messages about Pugh inside of the wings.