James Russell on Wallpaper
Posted by The Design Tabloid
By James Russell
From the early days of the Middle Ages the very wealthy hung tapestries on their walls for decoration as well as for insulation and warmth. Tapestries were very expensive and therefore could only be afforded by the wealthiest. Not so ‘well off’ members of the elite, prevented from buying tapestries due to price or wars, turned to wallpapers as a form of décor. Early wallpapers were printed or painted in panels and one of the earliest know wallpapers was English and dates back to 1509. Some used fabrics to clad their walls for décor and insulation, but this too was expensive. Early tints and paints were not very colourfast and had to be re-coloured making hand painted murals and tromp l’oeil expensive compared to printed wallpapers which could be replicated a number of times. Some of the earliest fabrics used were woven silks, Toile de Jouy and ‘Print Room’ designs. These, along with early tapestry designs, formed the basic wallpaper designs. As printing techniques and paper manufacture developed and evolved, wallpapers became more affordable to the middle classes, and eventually in the 1900’s to the working classes where it was a major décor item until the 1980’s loosing favour to Faux painting.
The re-birth of the ‘wallpaper trend’ initially focussed on something called the “feature wall” in a room. Traditionally most rooms used to have a “focal point” which was, more often than not, a fireplace around which people would gather to keep warm. This “focal point” was generally enhanced with decorative features such as a fire surround, a mantle piece topped with decorative items, and above the mantle a piece an important artwork, family portrait or decorative mirror.
With the advent of televisions and later home entertainment systems, radiators for central heating and later under-floor heating, and the architectural development of “open plan”, the traditional “focal point” in a room became obsolete. Modern architecture would try where possible to take advantage of such things as “great views” by putting in large windows, great in the daytime but at night often enclosed by curtains, thus lessening the effect.
Using decorative wallpapers to create a “feature wall” can be a great décor solution to an otherwise “featureless” room. Using vertical stripes can enhance the apparent visual height of a room, horizontal stripes give a room energy, and “pictorial” wallpapers can create ‘vistas or views’ in rooms lacking well appointed windows. “Feature walls” become works of art in and of themselves. But why stop at a feature wall? By using the modern wallpapers, featureless passages, uninteresting 3rd bedrooms or pokey guest loos can all be transformed.
The minimalist trend decors of the last decade or so are now crying out to be “updated”. The many new advances in wallpaper technology, such as real or faux raffia finishes, can add great textures to rooms, whilst developments in metallic or glass beaded finishes can enhance the lighting effects within a space.
Not everyone is able to create an “outdoor lounge” on patios or terraces leading onto gardens, but by using floral or nature/botanical wallpapers, one can bring the garden indoors. So whether your desire is to live in a forest, a desert, an urban city-scape, or even in outer space, there’s a wallpaper to suite your needs. From wallpapers with a “hand painted” look to photo-real papers on a huge scale, wallpapers allow one to create features out of what were “just walls”.
So when you ask are wallpapers a “fad trend” or a trend that’s here to stay for a while, my intuition tells me that not only are they here to stay, but with the developments in the various technologies being applied to the manufacture of wallpapers, we are going to see even greater “works of art” to adorn the walls of our living and working spaces.
- Decor Diva: Wallpaper – To Be or Not To Be? (thedesigntabloid.com)
About The Design TabloidThe Design Tabloid brings you the latest gossip concerning South African design talent. It’s our aim to showcase local interior design, architecture, furniture, décor, & related suppliers and feature the gifted designers behind them. Also, providing a platform to young emerging designers and added exposure to unknown established companies. We strive to be an interactive online source of design innovation, information, and inspiration. The Design Tabloid is brought to you by Design Monarchy; a Cape Town based Interior Design & Decor Company under the expert guidance of Rose McClement, an interior decorator/stylist with more years of industry experience than she cares to mention. We hope our passion for design inspires you. We are Proudly South African, celebrate with us!
Posted on July 5, 2011, in Art, Decor, Fabrics, Guest Bloggers, Interior Design, Suppliers, Trends, Wallpaper and tagged Art, Cape Town, Decor, Decorating, Design, Design Team Fabrics, History, Interior Design, James Russell, James Russell Agencies, Louvre, South Africa, Surface Design, Tapestries, Textile Design, Trends, Wall, Wallpaper. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.