Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Carter & Company Historic Wallpapers

I've had wallpaper on the brain lately for two reasons. First, I keep reading that wallpaper is a trend that is over. So done that you can stick a fork in it. Well, that seems really silly to me. It's like saying you're over fabric. I think that people either like wallpaper or they don't. And if you do like it, how can you ever be over it? Certain wallpaper prints and patterns perhaps, but wallpaper as a whole? Never.

The other reason for my wallpaper ruminations is because I've been working through a design problem. My bedroom walls have no crown molding. When I had my room papered, I unwisely took the paper all the way up to the ceiling. I'd like to make the excuse that I had a month to get my condo completely "done" before I moved in so I was rushed, but really it was because I just didn't think about it. After the paper was hung, though, I realized that it just doesn't look finished. I had been toying with the idea of adding crown molding, but then I reread Michael Greer's
Inside Design and am now reconsidering my options. In his book, Greer mentions that in the absence of crown molding, a wallpaper border is a suitable option for finishing off the wall. Lord knows that there are lots of bad wallpaper borders out there, but if I can find a decent looking one, perhaps I'll go with this option.

So anyway, while searching for wallpaper borders, I found the website of
Carter & Co. Historic Wallpapers based in Richmond, VA. The firm specializes in handprinted reproductions of historic wallpapers from the early 19th century to the early 20th. I was not familiar with Carter & Co. when I found their site, but I thought I would share some of their papers with you. For other options for historic wallpaper reproductions, don't forget about Adelphi Paper Hangings and Waterhouse Wallhangings.

A reproduction of an 1880s paper found at the James A. Garfield National Memorial Site in Mentor, OH.

Harvey Ashlar Wall based on a c. 1860s paper found in The Harvey House, Salinas, California.

Oriental Lattice Wallpaper, a reproduction of an 1880s paper used in the Cohen-Bray House, Oakland, CA.

Shooting Stars Ceiling Paper, c. 1880-1900, The Knight House, Silver Plume, Colorado.

Prowers House Border, 1860s, Prowers House, Boggsville, CO.

Etruscan Mosaic Frieze, 1880s-1900s, The Fallon Hotel, Columbia, CA.

Paper at top: A French Scenic wallpaper from the 1850s-60s from the Whitehall State Historic Site, Richmond, Kentucky.


  1. Thankfully, the trend to use wallpaper just for the sake of it is over. But wallpaper can really provide an important refinement to a room, with the pattern design and scale. Those last two aspects are where most mistakes are made, and bad wallpaper decisions are almost impossible to disguise.

  2. Trends ... oh, how awful they sometimes are. They are not about individuality or even style or 'good taste' (whatever that may be.) But wallpaper can look wonderful. Think of the glorious Chinese wallpaper in Saltram House (Devon, UK) or the blue and white stripes in the 'tented' rooms at Kingston Lacy (Dorset, UK.) I love the country house look even though we live in an urban area and our house isn't a grand mansion in a parkland setting, so choose traditional wallpapers, always choosing the very best quality we can afford. Good wallpaper of a classic design transcends trends.
    Margaret P

  3. Anonymous10:48 AM

    I agree with the Devoted Classicist. I have pulled some hideous stuff off the walls in my time. You wonder how or why it ever got up there. And there really are some spectacular wallpapers out there, especially the old Dufour papers. I also love the hand painted Chinese wallpapers, with the chinoiserie motifs. Those are pretty spectacular.

  4. alaina michelle10:49 AM

    I use wallpaper all the time, and when there is no crown (and even if there is) I like to finish it off with a gimp or ribbon. I use it at the ceiling, just above the base and around all the casing. It does gives it more of an upholstered look... but I don't see the down side


  5. Agree completely. People who say they are "over things" are often just over them because someone else has said they should be. Tastes can certainly evolve, but I can't imagine myself disliking something I once loved. Wallpaper is not for everywhere or everyone, but it can definitely be nice. I wouldn't mind any of these in my house.

  6. I recently completed my bachelor's essay on the double parlor in the Aiken-Rhett House here in Charleston, South Carolina. The room retains its late 1850's French wallpapers that were purchased while the family was on their grand tour. I did some research on historic wallpapers and they're so interesting. Love the ashlar block and star papers especially.

  7. I agree with you - I LOVE wallpaper, always have and always will. Does anything really go out of style if you truly love it? I love these papers, so pretty, but the first one is really cool looking! :)

  8. Anonymous11:40 PM

    When I started restoration of my old house two decades ago, I thought I hated wallpaper, too. I started stripping and painting the old walls for a fresh, clean look, but found that they never looked quite right until I undertook a painstaking authentic restoration. Jane Nylander's wallpaper history book was such an eye-opener it became my bible, and I even reprinted (at enormous expense) one of the original papers I so hastily stripped off. When I can afford it, I plan on reprinting two or three other originals. In the meantime, I scower the internet looking for old papers in quantities I can use or in some cases find a use for. Between wall fills, dados, friezes and especially compartments of ceilings, it obviously is becoming a lifelong hobby just decorating my own old house with accurate wallpaper and ceiling paper.

    1. Anon, I applaud your efforts! So many of those old papers had such charm. What you're doing goes beyond mere decorating; you are restoring history!