THE TRADITION OF wall decoration dates back to Egyptian and Roman wall painting. Centuries later, and particularly in cooler climates, people used fabric to cover walls and windows to keep drafts out. In the homes of the well-to-do, these fabrics were elaborate, resplendent tapestries, which also adorned the walls of European palaces and castles. They were not only practical, but decorative.
Wallpaper began as a cheap substitute for tapestry and paneling. Some historians believe that the use of wallpaper dates back to the 1400s. The first wallpapers were decorations for wood panels, introduced into England by Flemish craftsmen. The papers were small squares with images printed by wood blocks, which were then colored in by hand. As the desire increased to find a less expensive alternative to the wall-hangings of the rich, printers produced simple yet decorative paper panels.
In the 1500s, the wealthy continued to cover their walls but now they did so with brocades, velvets and even embossed leather. The earliest known wallpaper in England dates back to 1509 – an Italian-inspired woodcut pomegranate design printed on the back of a proclamation issued by Henry VIII. Discovered in 1911 at Christ’s College in Cambridge, the paper is attributed to Hugo Goes, a York printer. In general, wallpaper of this period depicted floral designs and murals. Wallpaper’s popularity increased in Elizabethan England. Throughout Europe, a fascination began with these fine papers that offered protection against dampness and an improved ability to handle fireplace smoke.
But wallpaper wasn’t purely a Western invention. The Chinese began to produce it in the early 1600s, showered with painted birds, flowers and landscapes on rice paper formed in rectangular sheets.
Isnt it funny how when we think of wallpaper we tend to remember it in our Great Aunts house in a huge country floral type pattern or little flamingos plastered all over a bathroom.
Wallpaper has come a long way! We now have many options to choose from. Florals, paisleys, stripes, different textures, metallics, branches and so much more.
You can highlight a wall or paper a whole room. I love when the inside of a shelve is papered or a ceiling is papered. Even framing wallpaper makes a wall stand out. Here are a few examples….
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