Many times I am amazed at the vibrancy of color and the intricacy of pattern of antique wallpapers and fabrics. I think that there is a misconception that many of these historical patterns were limited to florals and damasks with an occasional Chinoiserie or Neo-Classical print thrown in for good measure. How untrue! Some of our ancestors, if they had the means, chose to live surrounded by some pretty snazzy patterns.
Adelphi Paper Hangings is a wonderful source for block printed reproductions of historical wallpapers. Many of their clients are museums and historical homes, but they do sell to designers too. Some of the prints do seem a little dated for a modern home, but a majority of them would, in my opinion, fit right in to a contemporary design scheme. How about that fantastic "Plymouth Ashlar" (above) in an entryway? Or the "Hamilton Urns Stenciled" in a powder room? What means the most to me, though, is the fact that there are artisans and scholars whose passion is keeping this part of design history alive.
"Pagodas", English, circa 1763. This Chinoiserie print was used in the Jeremiah Lee Mansion (1768), Marblehead, Massachusetts. The colors seen here are the original colorway.
"Hamilton Urns Stenciled", Boston, 1787-90. According to Adelphi, this print is "one of the earliest examples of American neo-classical wallpaper design." I think the graphic nature of this print makes it a viable print for today.
"Laurel Trellis", French, 1800-15. Think the popularity of Trellis is limited to the 20th and 21st centuries? Well, this print was discovered adorning a wedding box that was made in Paris in 1804.
"Pebbles and Flowerpots", Philadelphia, c. 1810. This wallpaper was hung in the dining room of Pope Villa, Lexington, Kentucky. The grisaille tones and the trompe l'oeil pebble design make this print truly stunning.
"Pineapples", American, c. 1845. Stylish in the 19th c., equally so today!
Image at top: "Plymouth Ashlar", French or American, c. 1805-25. Ashlar papers were characterized by faux masonry blocks that were usually adorned with some type of ornamentation. These papers were generally used in hallways and stairwells (high traffic areas), and when an area began to show signs of wear, a new "block" could be applied over the affected area only. No need to hang new sheets of paper.