As of late, some of the most popular handpainted wallpapers seem to be those bird, flower, and tree prints by de Gournay (see above) and Gracie. Certainly they are lovely, easy to live with, and quite elegant too. And if someone wanted to make a donation of this paper to my home, I would not refuse. However, what I wish to see more of is the colorful, exuberant scenic Chinese paper that once adorned some of America's finest homes.
Of course Winterthur's Chinese Parlor is one of the most famous rooms in America. The Chinese paper was painted between 1775 and 1800 is known as "Pastimes and Leisure Scenes of Chinese Life" because it depicts scenes of Chinese people strolling through gardens and studying. Henry Francis Du Pont obtained the paper from designer Nancy McClelland in 1928. Because the paper panels were 12 feet long, Du Pont had to create a room tall enough to accommodate the paper's length.
A detail of the Chinese Parlor's paper.
Henry Davis Sleeper purchased this scenic paper in the early 20th century for his summer home Beauport. In what is called The China Trade Room, the paper depicts both the rice and the porcelain trades. The paper dates back to late 18th century when it was originally imported from China by the Philadelphia banker Robert Morris, although Morris never used the panels. The paper remained crated until it was discovered in the early 1900s.
Even Billy Baldwin had an appreciation for this paper in this 1950s era room that he designed.
What I've also noticed is that gloriously unrestrained architectural details and valances seem to go hand in hand with this colorful Chinese paper. There is often fretwork molding, pagoda pediments over doorways and windows, and scrolled pelmets that decorate these Chinese themed rooms. Unfortunately, papering an entire room in scenic wallpaper can be rather expensive, and some people might be apprehensive about having that much color and pattern on one's walls. However, what about framing a panel or two to hang on the walls? At the very least, I might be tempted to copy some of those wonderful valances for my windows.
(Image at top courtesy of de Gournay. Chinese Parlor photo #1 from Winterthur's flickr photostream; Chinese Parlor photo #2 from HOUSE AND GARDEN'S NEW COMPLETE GUIDE TO INTERIOR DECORATION: FIFTH EDITION). Beauport photo from their website. Billy Baldwin photo from House & Garden's Complete Guide to Interior Decoration.)