Wallpaper History

Wallpaper is one way to make a dramatic statement with your interior space. Using bold designs with sumptuous finishes can create a spectacular look. Wallpaper is versatile with so many different patterns and finishes, you can be as creative as your imagination will allow. From nursery to grand drawing room, wallpaper is as important now as it ever was. Wallpaper became popular with the European upper classes during the Renaissance. The invention of the woodcut printmaking technique made printed products freely available during this period of religious, social, and technological growth in Europe.

Up until the creation of the first wallpapers in Europe, upper class society used tapestries to adorn and decorate the walls of their stately homes. This tradition first started during the middle Ages and these tapestries were used to add colour and insulation to large stone rooms. This however was extremely expensive and was only available to the most affluent families. With the introduction of new printing methods during the Renaissance less affluent members of the upper class turned to wallpaper to brighten up their households.

The first types of wallpapers printed featured scenes that were very similar to those depicted on the tapestries found in many older houses and sometimes were simply large sheets of printed paper that hung loosely on the walls. Eventually, paste was used to stick these printed sheets of paper to the wall and often several sheets of paper were used to create large scenes on walls. Many artists of the day made a good living out of designing prints for wallpapers

England and France became the largest manufacturers and users of wallpapers during the 1500’s. In England, it became extremely popular under Henry VIII as he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, which affected the tapestry trade from France. With limited availability of tapestries, the English turned to wallpaper.

During Oliver Cromwell’s time, the manufacture of wallpaper ceased. The Puritans saw it as frivolous. However, with the death of Cromwell and the restoration of Charles II, wealthy people across England once again turned to wallpaper as a form of decoration and demand increased.

In 1712, wallpaper was primarily a product for the wealthy; Queen Anne introduced a wallpaper tax that was in force until 1836. This did not deter people using wallpaper as by the mid-eighteenth century Britain was the biggest wallpaper manufacturer in Europe.

During the Napoleonic Wars, trade between Europe and Britain declined. This resulted in the end of the wallpaper market in its old form. Not until the introduction of steam-powered printing presses in 1813 did the demand for wallpaper grow again. However, wallpaper was now mass-produced and became affordable to all classes of people thus increasing demand

By the early twentieth century, wallpaper in Europe and America became one of the most popular ways to decorate the home. As paint started to improve and provide exciting colours, textures and options, wallpaper started to decline in popularity. It remains however, a mainstay of home design.

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