Whether conscious of it or not we encounter art, design, and creativity displayed on the walls around us daily. Have you ever wondered where it all started? How once upon a time someone conceptualised the wonder that is wallpaper? For you curious creatives out there, read on for a little education on how wallpaper was brought into our lives!
Wallpaper has existed in one form or another for thousands of years. As early as 13th Century England, there are many examples of wall art or wall decorations being used. With this in mind, we don’t have an exact date of when wallpaper became what it is today.
It’s said that Chinese cultures were pioneers of the wallhanging trend, for thousands of years they hung decorative rice paper with intricate designs. However, it wasn’t popularised until the Europeans adopted the trend, introducing it to the western world, somewhere between early 15th and 16th Century England. Wallpaper of this time imitated fabric prints with the incorporation of bold patterns applied skillfully by hand with coloured paints. This painstaking task required the utmost precision, patience, and skill. I mean can you even imagine watching the paint on that wall(paper) dry!
With not-so-humble beginnings, wallpaper was reserved exclusively for the aristocracy, thanks in large part to its hefty price tag. With the use of vibrant colours and designs, wallpaper soon solidified itself as a home improvement necessity and by the mid-1600s, wallpaper became available to the plebs, and the rest of the world was able to revel in the interior design craze.
An often-overlooked element of wallpaper is that wallpaper was primarily designed with floral or architectural borders. To the public, this was sold as a way to let the paper frame a room and allow the intricate design that lay between to shine. However, the truth behind the borders is that they were a truly elaborate distraction tactic and only used to hide the tacks that held the wallpaper up in the desired position.
Manufacturing and production were primarily executed from England and France, servicing the whole of the European region. In 1785, French and German entrepreneur Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf (we know Quite the mouthful) transformed the industry with his game-changing invention. His revolutionary machinery allowing for coloured tints to be printed onto sheets of paper. Building on the momentum of Oberkampf, a gentleman named Louis-Nicolas Roberts, in 1799, created a machine that would continuously produce sheets of paper (this machine became the basis of the Fourdrinier Machine!). These were the very first conceptions of wallpaper machines manufactured, making continuous sheets of coloured patterns available. By the time the early 1800’s rolled in wallpaper had was being exported around the globe.
A hop, skip, and a jump forward to the late 20th century where wallpaper was now considered a household staple, largely seen in retro colour waves, featuring bold floral patterns and prints. With the likes of Andy Warhol and other famous designers and artists embracing the opportunity to create bespoke prints with a luxurious label, homeowners could now incorporate a splash of individuality into their homes. This was a time for strong contrasting prints, where textures reigned supreme. A time for the consumer to show their creativity and give their walls life.
Now, we see wallpaper used to transform the drab and dreary, making a house a home with styles that mimic materials, adding depth and texture to a room. Whether being used to jazz up a feature wall, as an educational or interactive mural for your little one's residence, or as a contemporary classic surface throughout your entire home, wallpaper is an exceptional offering of endless choices.