Wednesday, March 24, 2010


No, not the weather (but that too). So I have made known my unusual fondness for wallpaper. Especially period wallpaper. And having grown up in an old house (which definitely had wallpaper), I'm decent at spotting good Victorian wallpaper. Plus I have a high tolerance for toile, which is a plus.

But the house I've become obsessed with most recently (referred to recently as "the castle") is pre-Victorian. No, I'm not kidding. I am partial to French country designs, and, should this home ever be mine, will doubtless be deploying some (I like the less heavily ornate stuff, but this is a good place to start for a quick French country wallpaper education), but it's become clear that I have to expand my wallpaper research into a previously uncharted century.

I am in the process of being amazed by what I found.

See, has amazing stuff periodically with wallpaper - the writers like the idea of traditional wallpaper but they like a modern take. So they have contemporary patterns. And mod geometric prints. And sort of a fan-art approach to old designs. And decals and other non-repeating pattern-type stuff.

A lot of it is nice stuff. I really like it. But because I want a historic home, and I want to decorate it with a substantial degree of fidelity, I still need to do my research.

I will admit up-front that the following examples (from here) are early twentieth-century and just a few late-nineteenth, so I still need to dig deeper by a few decades. But they're unlike other Victorian-era examples I've seen. They're all original French pieces (seriously original - they cost thousands. But I recommend getting ideas from research and then buying everything from anyway, though that wouldn't be possible with these particular designs). Wonderful people, the French. Amazing cheese. Beautiful artwork. Sumptuous sauces. And the pastry!

So anyway. Check this out:

I do still like Victorian wallpaper, but you have to admit this is way more interesting than a repeating pattern. And in a way, it fits in with the modern trend toward neutral wall colors - although it wouldn't exactly recede into the background. I am firmly convinced that I could have this on my wall (maybe a large hallway wall? Or the dining room?) for years and never get sick of it.

This may be even more fabulous. Would definitely put it in a bedroom, and it would be a superfantastic bedroom immediately and permanently:

And then there's this. Plastering it across the whole wall of all four walls in a large room would probably give me a pounding headache. But what about a substantial expanse of one wall? Perhaps in a study? In a rectangular space between bookshelves or windows, maybe? I think it has real potential:

The question is, of course, how I could accomplish these looks without spending $9000 per print on wallpaper (not joking). For the last one, I think a high-resolution overhead projector or a digital plotter (or both) might enable me to reproduce an engraving in this fashion (might use a different engraving to avoid intellectual property issues - the print above was based on a particular engraving of its day). That would be quite a bit of work. But I have no idea how to do the first two without basically painting a mural, which is not my goal.

This source has a far more comprehensive library of papers from the right period. They are, admittedly, not as gorgeous as those above. (But then, they're not French.) But some of them are certainly interesting:

With brilliantly white crown and shoe molding (and maybe brilliantly white wainscoting too), and pale upholstery fabric (light blue or gray colors from the print would work - maybe with navy and rust accent pillows and curtains?), I think I could make this work. In a formal living room or a bedroom, I think.

I could not make this work:

These next prints are a little later, but still in the right period for the house.

I'm pretty sure I've seen this print in these colors on Score! Although I think I might actually pass on this much color:

I have definitely been drawn to gray-with-white-floral (or, in this case, leaf) before. I found a 1940s pattern for one of the original "my houses" and decided I had to have a bedroom with black lacquer furniture (and I found a comparable gray-and-white print of contemporary origin - and price! - from totalwallcovering). This nineteenth-century print reaffirms my enduring commitment to said hypothetical bedroom:

I doubt my home will be this formal, but if it were, I would have no objection to a dining room or downstairs hallway in this paper:

This might not be a bad dining room either, though also more formal than I expect to end up with:

(And apparently this one was in Lincoln's bedroom. Fascinating, eh?)


  1. Okay, is it sad that when you said "period wallpaper" I thought, PERIOD wallpaper. As in...
    Yeah, ridiculous I know. Obviously my mind has trouble refocusing from IF to home decorating :).
    I've never been a fan of wallpapers (mostly because I spent weeks removing so much of it) but some of those are just gorgeous!!!

  2. Wow, I always learn a lot whenever I pop over to visit your blog. Like the word "toile" for example. Glad I now have that to add to my repertoire of cocktail-party conversational vocabulary. :-) Cool images and great explanations. I feel enlightened! (OK, not inspired enough to go out and buy wallpaper, but certainly more educated than before).

  3. I’m not a big wallpaper person, either, but these are beautiful prints you have found.

  4. You just made me "rethink" wallpaper. That is something I've just never ventured house is just one big neutral color..however...since my "office" is in need of some updating...wallpaper sounds fun. They've made it easier to apply haven't they? I guess when I watch the show Hous.e Hunt.ers..the couples buying the house always seem to dislike wallpaper so it's the first thing they take down. Hmmmm....interesting topic.

  5. Those wallpapers are lovely. I love the French country ones. If only they were anywhere near affordable.