OHJ May 2018

OHJ May 2018

Old House Journal's May 2018 issue.

Editor's Letter: Learning to love paper

Historic-wallpaper specialist Burt Kallander (burtwallpapers.com) once told me that a marketing survey uncovered two fears that keep people from buying wallpaper: the fear of its application, and the fear of interior decorating. “In other words,” Burt says, “they’re afraid of out-of-control mess, and afraid of what their friends will think.

“So, to address these customer fears, the big firms sell pre-trimmed and pre-pasted paper, and they keep the designs no more interesting than elevator music.”

Well, that’s not what you’ll see in this issue! How about a panorama depicting the unspoiled natural wonders of North America, and dizzying op-art designs dating to the neoclassical, supposedly staid Federal period? Most of the installations you’ll see here are traditional. With the renewed popularity of wallpaper in recent years, however, we’ve come across nontraditional applications: People paper the backs of bookcases, or use paper only on one accent wall, or panelize it within mouldings, and they might frame antique or boutique paper as artwork.

Paper in a room always defines the mood and creates or emphasizes proportions. It can add history or tell a story. My own theory is that a generation of DIYers who painstakingly stripped the papers pasted on walls from the 1940s through the 1970s (—reams of emerald ivy on faux-shadowed trellises, brown teapots, metallic bathroom papers, groovy orange-and-pistachio paisleys, all of it stained by nicotine—) got their fill of wallpaper. Maybe, after several decades of Linen White, we’ve finally gotten over it.

Wallpaper doesn’t have to come from the hardware store. Hand-block-printed papers never lose their appeal. Panoramas transform a room. We can choose from affordable hand-silk-screened papers by American companies like Bradbury & Bradbury—created by artists and craftspeople with expertise in color, drawing, and printing. You can add a frieze or a dado, a border, even a perimeter stripe on the ceiling with small corner treatments—all traditional applications that don’t require papering entire walls. Unless you want to.

~ Patricia Poore, Editorial Director of Old House Journal

Look below to see stories from this issue.

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