Lovers of vintage often find that the addiction to bygone eras is wildly infectious.
What starts off as a collection of 1950’s frocks or a couple of 1970’s suits, soon
becomes an entire wardrobe. Before long you’ll find that you want to wear
exclusively vintage, your accessories will have to be vintage and you’ll be visiting
a specialist hair salon and picking up pin-up style make-up tips from YouTube videos.
Oh so fabulous
The obsession rarely stops there, because wearing vintage feels so delicious and
so fabulous. You’ll find yourself drooling over cake stands, teacups and charming
milk jugs. Your crockery cupboards will be brimming with vintage-style oddments,
to match your wardrobe and jewellery collection. This infectious craze will
take over the rest of your house.
It makes sense, not only is it stylish and beautiful to look at but it is so economical
and makes fabulous environmental sense. Buying vintage means that you’re reusing,
it’s so green and can be so very affordable. You can pick up furniture and
kitchenware from charity shops and reclaim them with a little paint and some well-chosen
fabric until they look unspeakably vintage.
So what started off as you coveting a pretty 1950s dress, has evolved into you collecting
a house full of vintage and retro knick-knacks. But, if you really want to
make visitors feel like they are stepping back in time, then you’ll have to go one
step further. What about vintage wallpaper?
Papering over the cracks
Sadly, original vintage wallpaper is almost impossible to find. Even if you
could lay your hands on enough to paper a whole room, you may find it is not quite
up to standard and may well be ravaged by time. Unless you fancy scouring
the country for any unlikely house that hasn’t been redecorated since the 1950s,
you are best buying some reproduction wallpaper for your home.
If you are only going to paper one room in your home, then the kitchen is a great
choice. Prior to the 1920s kitchens were never papered as it was considered
wasteful. Kitchens in wealthier homes were only seen by the staff, and poorer people
could not afford wallpaper or worried that cooking fumes and steam would damage
In the 1920s people were obsessed with sanitation and hygiene, it was very popular
to paint kitchens white or to tile them with gleaming white tiles. This was
to show up any hint of dirt and to portray high levels of cleanliness.
It wasn’t until the 1930s when wallpapering the kitchen became popular. Kitschy
imagery was used, it was supposed to keep the housewife cheery as she prepared the
meals and toiled away for hours a day. Images of domesticity (such as tea
pots and kitchen implements) were popular; , fruit (especially cherries and strawberries)
was used a lot and quaint cottage scenes or simplistic floral motifs featured strongly.
This trend continued until the 1960s (where more vibrant and psychedelic papers
were used), and in the 1970s the trend for tiling and painting the kitchen became
more en vogue.
When choosing wallpaper for the rest of the house it helps to know a little
about its history. Wallpaper was once thought of as a cheap alternative to
“proper art” and paintings. Being much cheaper, easy to replace and quick
to apply; those who couldn’t afford fine artwork would opt for wallpaper to add
colour to their homes.
This distinction didn’t last, as those with money soon opted for the most expensive
wall coverings; choosing precious metals, unusual designers, imports from overseas
and fine fabrics when selecting their wall papers.
During the Second World War, wallpaper was considered a non-essential commodity
and so style, ranges and types were limited. The wallpaper industry suffered
greatly, as manufacturers were forced to use finer paper types and produce lower
After the war ended, the demand for wallpaper returned and the market thrived.
During this era many more exciting designs came out and people eagerly snapped up
the new products. Machine-age colours were particularly popular during this
time, so if you fancy something from this era look out for reds, blacks, white and
metallic silver designs.
The two main vintage wallpaper designs to indulge in are definitely the sweet homely
feel of the 1940s-1950s or the striking geometric abstract designs from the 1960s.
You also need to decide if you want your wallpaper to look like genuine vintage
paper or if you want wallpaper that shows vintage items. Both types are readily
available, especially online and will really make a difference to a space.
If you are opting for a very busy design, such as a typical 1960’s pattern you may
prefer to only paper one wall, and paint the remaining walls in a colour from the
design. Busy prints can make a room appear smaller, can make things feel cluttered,
unrelaxing, and are difficult to hang pictures on. If you want somewhere to display
photographs or pictures, then you’ll definitely want to paint at least one wall
in a more muted tone.
Because vintage wallpaper tends to be quite involved and detailed, it’s usually
best to pick out the paper before you pick items for the rest of the room.
Vintage wallpaper can be a feature in itself, and will only look its best if the
rest of the furniture and décor has been chosen to fit with the theme.
If you are desperate for paper that looks like it was actually from the 1940s, rather
than reproductions of the original, but cannot find anything from the era then you
may like to use brand new paper and treat it to make it look older. Carefully
applied stain can add a softer look to brand new paper, or you could gently sand
the surface for a more distressed look. Personally I think new paper is great,
and it will last a lot longer. You can always opt for softer tones to add
a slightly sunbleached feel to the wall coverings.
Now is the time to start going vintage with your wallpaper. Shabby chic furniture
styles are all the rage, and the next step is definitely some beautiful vintage