Category Archives: Wallpaper History

Painter and Wallpaper Designer: Charles Burchfield

Caught the last day of the creepsily magical Charles Burchfield exhibit at The Whitney Museum in NYC. Below are some of the artist’s watercolor paintings and wallpaper designs from the 1920′s.

Vintage Vehicular Wallpapers

The amazing Karli Hendrickson sent us these vintage wallpaper samples from the book “Off the Wall” from the section titled “On the Go: By Land, Sea, Air and… Into the Wild Blue Yonder”. These papers from the 40′s-60′s, depict the many achievements in modern transportation of that time. These vehicular motifs were commonly used in men’s studies and young boys’ bedrooms.

Off the Wall: Geometric

Intern at Large Karli Hendrickson just wrote me about a fantastic book she’s reading: “Off the Wall, Wonderful Wall Coverings of the Twentieth Century”  by Lena Lencek and Gideon Bosker. In the second section of this book “Circles and Squares- Geometrics, Abstracts, Op Art, Minimalist Art” the book explains that geometric motifs were typical of the 1950′s. Post World War II, low-cost screen printing inspired the production of more experimental and avant-garde patterns. Also during this time, an upwelling of ranch homes in the growing suburbs inspired the wallpaper industry to create bold patterns wallpaper to accent and jazz up the simple, open, and modern design of these ranch houses. Textile designs at this time were also very bold and featured prisms, grids, doodles, and loops of geometric inspired design.

Design Heroes: Josef Frank

This past weekend I stopped into Just Scandinavian, a design shop in TriBeCa, and I have been thinking about designer Joseph Frank ever since.  His wallpaper, textile, and furniture designs all exude the simplicity and vibrancy associated with Scandinavian design, but they also have a fanciful quality that is uniquely his own.  I love how it all looks so colorful and bold while still being refined and tasteful.  The shop keeper at Just Scandinavian described Frank as the “Swedish William Morris,” as both designers shared a passion for pattern and nature, and both came to define their respective national aesthetics.  I told her that walking into the store, I felt like I died and went to color heaven.

Check out Just Scandinavian- they have an online shop and sell home goods by Frank and other amazing designers!

Awesome Parents, Awesome Wallpapers

I was browsing one of my favorite websites, and noticed some great vintage wallpapers. The website is so charming. I love the wallpaper shots!

William Morris

More eye candy from William Morris, wallpaper innovator for the ages.

Vintage Wallpapers from Better Homes and Gardens

Eye candy from my favorite design source, the Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Books from 1961 and 1975.  There’s something about these images that really grabs me.  Whether the room is spot on perfect, hilariously dated or even flat-out hideous, I can’t help but enjoy their unique visual attitude and charming vintage quality.  For better or worse, they always make me think, “I can’t believe people actually lived like this.”  Enjoy!



Damien Hirst Wallpaper

Last month I posted about Damien Hirst’s work, and I just realized (via one of my favorite blogs, The Year in Pictures) that he has done wallpaper!  I don’t know how I missed it when I was at the Gagosian gallery shop; maybe it’s relatively recent.  In any case, talk about graphic wallpaper- wowzer.  The pattern seems perfect for a retail or public space; I can’t really imagine it in most home environments.  But it’s nice to see digitally printed wallpaper in a high-end context.  Well done Mr. Hirst!  (And thanks for taking the on-the-sly pictures, James!)


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Wallpaper Heroes: William Morris

William Morris is perhaps the single most important figure in the history of wallpaper.  A writer, artist, and political activist, Morris was truly a renaissance man, but his achievements in fabric and wallpaper design stand above the rest.  Championing the British arts and crafts movement, Morris merged his interest in patterning with his lifelong fascination with nature.  The results are timeless patterns, rich in color, elegant in design.

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It’s striking to me how relevant Morris’ work and philosophies are to wallpaper today.  His fundamental belief that surface design depends upon intentional lines and silhouettes is undeniably true; Cavern’s “Blackbird” pattern is a great example.  And his interest in hand-made art and abstracting the natural world all seem very modern, very “now.”  I’ll post more eye-candy from Morris in the upcoming weeks – his patterns are truly exquisite.

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New Year, Old Wallpapers

Happy new year! To kick off 2010, here are some photos taken by the always fabulous Karli Hendrickson, Cavern intern at large, on her latest trip to the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic Connecticut.  These are from the Buckingham-Hall House, recreated to look like it might have in the 19th Century.



Karli points out (and I very much agree) that what makes the rooms so visually appealing is the combination of patterns: the delicate, even ornate wallpaper patterns mixed with the bold stripes in the rug or couch.



The patterns create a vibrant energy, a visual business for the eye to explore.  But through conservative color choice, framed pictures, and simple wood furniture, the rooms maintain a cohesive, balanced serenity.  All the elements fit together.



I can’t imagine designing my own apartment to look like a 19th Century coastal town house, but I find the mixing and matching very inspiring. Thanks Karli!