Friday, January 9, 2015

The Vintage Wallpaper - First Floor

One of the defining features of our house -- and the reason we named this blog "The Papered House" -- is the variety of vintage wallpaper found throughout the home.  I'm a bit of a wallpaper nerd, so perhaps it's unusual that I'm thrilled to live in rooms covered with old, dated wallpaper.  Not all of the wallpaper is our taste, but I'm embracing it and learning as much about it as I can.  Here is what we've discovered thus far about the wallpaper on our first floor.

Living and Dining Rooms (Originally the Double Parlor)

Our house is arranged as a side-hall with double-parlor, which seems to be a popular style for our area.  The foyer and staircase are on the left side of the house.  To the right of the entry hall, French doors lead to two rooms which are joined by pocket doors.  When the house was built, these rooms most likely served as the home's front and rear parlors.  The front parlor would have been the most formal room in the house, as it would have been used for entertaining visitors and important guests.  The rear parlor would have been used as a less formal gathering space for family members.  In other words, the front parlor was the equivalent of a modern living room and the rear parlor was the equivalent of the modern family room.  The rooms would often have been decorated similarly, so that the decor would appear cohesive when the pocket doors were opened.  In case it helps to see a floorplan, the first floor of our home looks remarkably similar to the layout of the Gallier House in New Orleans.

But back to our house.  Although these rooms would have been used as a front and rear parlor, we're using them as a living room and dining room, respectively.  For reasons I'll explain in a future post, this just works better with our lifestyle and furniture.  Currently, the wallpaper in both rooms is a scenic landscape with shades of brown, mustard yellow, and metallic gold.

The wallpaper in both rooms is in decent condition.  It hasn't started to peel in any areas, although the seams have become visible because of discoloration from (I presume) the adhesive.  We aren't certain when this wallpaper was installed, but we have a few ideas.  Based on examples of vintage wallpaper, I have a hunch that this wallpaper dates to the 1950s.  Our wallpaper looks quite similar to other 1950s wallpaper patterns, such as this 1950s pattern from Rosie's Vintage Wallpaper or this 1950s pattern from Hannah's Treasures.

Eventually, our plan is to remove the existing wallpaper and install reproduction Victorian wallpaper in the living and dining rooms.  We haven't chosen the wallpaper -- or even the color scheme -- and it will likely be a few years before we're ready to fully decorate these rooms.  There are simply too many other priorities at this time, such as repairing the roof and chimneys, for us to dedicate time or budget to changing the wallpaper.  For the time being, we'll just leave the wallpaper as is until we figure out the plan for these rooms.   

Family Room (Originally the Dining Room)
Our family room is located behind the dining room and adjacent to the kitchen.  It can be accessed through either the dining room or the kitchen, and it's where we spend most of our free time (when we're not working on house projects, that is).  It's most likely that this room originally served as the home's dining room, since it is connected to the kitchen by a swinging butler's door.  However, we've decided to use this room as a family room.  My husband and I struggled with the decision to repurpose these rooms.  We've made a conscious effort to respect and maintain the historic details whenever possible.  However, we also need to have a house that works for us, and using this room as a family room makes the most sense.  

The wallpaper in this room is a deep brick red with green and mustard medallions.  It's a lovely pattern for a dining room, and the pattern works equally well for a family room.  The color lends a rich, welcoming ambiance to the room without being too dark or cavernous.  The geometric pattern has stunning detail when viewed at a close distance.  However, when you step away from the wall, the pattern is fairly subtle.  In fact, this wallpaper might be our favorite in the entire house.

I feel fairly certain that this wallpaper was installed in the 1950 or 1960s. For a few examples of similar wallpaper, see this 1950s green and gold pattern available from Rosie's Vintage Wallpaper or this 1960s red and green pattern from Hannah's Treasures.

If we had our druthers, we would leave this wallpaper exactly as is.  Unfortunately, it's starting to rip and peel away from the wall in several places, and it has become brittle along the wall where the radiator is installed.  On two of the walls (such as the one pictured above), the paper is still in reasonably good condition.  We're going to try to preserve and maintain the wallpaper on those two walls.  On the other two walls, where the paper is in especially poor condition, we're going to strip the paper and paint the wall a similar brick red color, such as Portsmouth Spice or Stagecoach by Historic Colors of America.  We're not sure if we'll be satisfied with the end result, but we figure it's worth a shot before we discard such a beautiful wallpaper.   

More details are forthcoming on our kitchen wallpaper -- stay tuned!

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