The History of Wallpaper

You might consider wallpaper to simply be an interior design option, but there’s a rich history behind this decorating tradition.

The earliest wallpapers originated in the 16th century and more likely founds in merchants’ houses instead of the grand homes of the aristocracy. As the trend escalated, by the 20th century, wallpaper was all the fashion found in a range of types of homes in every possible rooms from kitchens to bathrooms.

When wallpaper was first invented, it was a monochrome sheet of paper, often featuring floral motifs or simple scenes. By the mid-17th century, the wallpaper roll came to light with all the single sheets being joined together. This development introduced block-printing as well as production of larger repeats.

The wallpaper industry of Britain flourisehd in the 18th century with iconic patterns that we still recognise today. In fact, as demand grew, the design of wallpaper became more intricate with elegantly coloured patterns that were even sold by upholsterers such as Chippendale.

The 18th century patterns became far more inventive with designs ranging from finely coloured floral patterns to architectural styles and landscape scenes.

Up until 1840, all wallpaper were produced by hand by block-printing. Block printing is labaour intensive and slow process, so manufacturers looks to diverse and ultimately speed up production. In 1839, the first wallpaper printing machine was patented by Potters & Ross in Lancashire. Initially, these machine-printed papers didn’t seem as lavish in comparison to block-printed wallpaper. The structure was thin, colours seemed faded, and the patterns were simple with small repeats. Although the economic benefits were undeniable, the design aspect hadn’t quite been surpassed.

Production, nevertheless, grew as demand remained high. In 1834, Britain produced one million rolls which then soared to nearly nine million rolls in 1860. The designs of mid-18th century wallpapers were vastly varied with marble and wood-grain effect, textile patterns, historical pastiches, and revivalist styles. Still true to this day, the most common were floral motifs in bright colours.

William Morris is arguably one of the most famous history wallpaper designers. He was responsible for more than 50 patterns, however, his influence on the industry is far more profounds.

Jumping forward to the 20th century, the 1920s and 1930s were significant for wallpaper production, with 50 million rolls produced in 1900 jumping to nearly 100 million rolls in 1939. Traditional styles were still popular with leaf and flower patterns widespread across homes, but popular culture themes crept into style with zig-zags, jazz designs, and cubist-style motifs for the style-forward houses.

In today’s design world, wallpaper is still prevalent and has even gone through quite the revival. The development of digital print and screen printing has created many modern designs, often with large and more assertive patterns – particularly suitable for feature walls.

Discover the wallpaper brands and designs available at Blakes Interiors & Decor here.

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