In Defense of Flamboyance
June 14, 2018 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Everybody hate wallpaper . . . right? For Bradbury and Bauer, the hand screen-printed wallpaper produced at B&B is an important tool of historic preservation, as vital to the restoration of a vintage Victorian home as choosing the right colors for the finials and spandrels. The fact that their wallpaper also happens to be gorgeous is icing on the gingerbread.
posted by MovableBookLady (44 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Why do people hate wallpaper anyway? I hate some wallpapers, if it's an ugly design, but blank walls are way more of an eyesore to me than even a garish wallpaper. In general I'd love for most blank surfaces to be filled with art of some kind. So much blank concrete and industrial surfaces left barren, it's dismal. Wallpaper indoors seems like it'd be great too for the masses of weirdos with nothing good to hang on their walls. Wallpaper rules, fuck the haters.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:13 PM on June 14, 2018 [12 favorites] does both permanent and re-positionable wallpaper -- wallpaper for renters! Though it says it doesn't work on even slightly rough walls. Can I keep hating orange-splatter?
posted by clew at 3:32 PM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

But anyhow, the history of wallpaper and Victorian architecture and maximalist design going out, and sort of in, and out again, in that article was fun. I would have been happy with more details about what was in the V&A attic? and ink: new vs old. Etc.
posted by clew at 3:35 PM on June 14, 2018

Hating wallpaper is the interior design equivalent of hating adverbs. I strongly disagree with both.
posted by kevinbelt at 3:40 PM on June 14, 2018 [8 favorites]

Rule; Every fucking restaurant opened in the last year must have a wall papered with a vaguely tropical theme, 51% of which must be teal. Eggplant and taupe are acceptable secondary colours.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:41 PM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I suspect the experience, direct or recounted, of having to strip wallpaper accounts for much of the modern disinterest.
posted by tavella at 3:59 PM on June 14, 2018 [40 favorites]

dear god, those wallpapers are gorgeous.

Still doesn't make me forgive my parents for wallpapering the kitchen in multi-colored stripes and red-orange-yellow florals. In 1975 or so.
posted by suelac at 4:04 PM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I suspect the experience, direct or recounted, of having to strip wallpaper accounts for much of the modern disinterest.

My experiences of having hung wallpaper and stripped (cigarette smoke saturated) wallpaper has definitely led to my desire to never have it. That said I do appreciate the craftsmanship of Victorian style wallpaper and some of the modern art piece style of wall paper I've seen.
posted by Ashwagandha at 4:08 PM on June 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Wallpaper is a lousy background for most art, which is why I'm not into it. I guess this is wallpaper AS art, which could be a thing, but gosh, the visual background noise in a place like this would just be overwhelming. I don't need everything to be blank, but someplace neutral to rest my eyes is kind of critical.
posted by seanmpuckett at 4:15 PM on June 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

My mom and I wallpapered my bedroom at the cottage in the 80's. I still love it
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:19 PM on June 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I love wallpaper, but then I am a victorian maximalist at heart. I don't like neutral places for my eyes to rest, I like bookcases and patterns and textures! That said, I have a small flat and a lot of art and even I can't face adding wallpaper to the small proportion of empty wall space left.

Offendingly ugly wallpaper exists (depending on your tastes, for me that's... most modern wallpaper) but isn't that just true of everything. Owning a home is a constant adventure in "now why did they make THAT decision".
posted by stillnocturnal at 4:24 PM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love love love victorian wallpaper designs. I have a Pinterest board that's mostly William Morris patterns. One day I will buy a house and wallpaper my dining room in something oppressively opulent.
posted by quaking fajita at 4:35 PM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've used the rental-friendly decal wallpaper before (the striped wall), but my current apartment is pretty sour even on wall decals. I don't want to wallpaper every wall, but it would be nice to have one wall that isn't white.
posted by pemberkins at 4:39 PM on June 14, 2018

Amazing post! I love wallpaper and I’ve been browsing b&b for years mentally decorating my future home. Their arts and crafts wallpapers are sumptuous.
posted by supercrayon at 4:42 PM on June 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Fell in love with the Arts & Crafts movement, which begat a wonderful obsession with B&B wallpapers.
So many friezes, so little time.
posted by Qex Rodriguez at 4:48 PM on June 14, 2018

My personal aesthetic is more minimalist and I truly hate the effort that hanging wallpaper entails, but I do love the Bradbury designs. Disney used one of their lily patterns for the wallpaper in the foyer of the Haunted Mansion.
posted by zenzicube at 4:51 PM on June 14, 2018

Voysey Lioness and Palms, available digitally printed, which leaves in the brushstrokes from the Voysey sketch they started with. Old-new. New-old.

The Victorians thought art looked *great* with a figured ground, the more the better, traditional (Pugin at Chatsworth) or not (Bloomsbury set). De gustibus!
posted by clew at 5:06 PM on June 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have so many unexpected positive feelings about wallpaper, I’m...I’m genuinely delighted

Also, in my delight I sent this to a designer friend, who sent me back a link to a company that does a different style. B-A-N-A-N-A-S-!

Can they seriously make this stuff for renters?
posted by schadenfrau at 5:19 PM on June 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Having seen a lot of my wallpaper in my time, most wallpaper is not WILLIAM FUCKING MORRIS which is kind of the ne plus ultra of wallpaper and an entire Victorian design esthetic. So yeah, get the most amazing wallpaper of all time and it'll look OK.

That said, wallpaper is disliked for practical reasons. It's hard to hang right and no one wants to look at a misaligned seam for years. It's a nightmare to remove. And if you've moved into a house where the wallpaper has already been painted over all you can do is put up with it or gut the room.

I don't want to wallpaper every wall, but it would be nice to have one wall that isn't white.

This is actually so much better on many levels, mostly because it's impossible to make more then one corner work correctly in the average house of 89 and 91 degree angles.
posted by GuyZero at 5:19 PM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I used to love making wallpaper for my Sims.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:08 PM on June 14, 2018

I love wallpaper, as long as it doesn’t kill me.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:21 PM on June 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

"Eastlake Dado"? Don't mind if I da-do! <3____<3
posted by seemoorglass at 6:52 PM on June 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Love this quote:
Eventually I learned that if I charged money for the wallpaper I was printing, I could buy more materials and make better and more complex wallpaper. As dumb as I was, the lights finally came on.
Great article, gorgeous wallpaper!
posted by hilaryjade at 7:08 PM on June 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

"Eastlake Dado"? Don't mind if I da-do! <3____<3

Eastlake Dado, 'deed I do,
Doo-dah, doo-dah
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:12 PM on June 14, 2018 [2 favorites]

Yeah, wallpaper is a lost art. They don't make it like they used to in the 60s...

Saw this at a condo in Miami that a friend randomly inherited and was trying to sell. It also had two giant swordfish mounted on the wall. It was like walking onto the set of that movie... can't remember, but you've seen it. Pretty sure it all ended up in the trash. Next to the giant ceiling mirror from the master bedroom.
posted by kleinsteradikaleminderheit at 7:18 PM on June 14, 2018 [4 favorites]

I suspect the experience, direct or recounted, of having to strip wallpaper accounts for much of the modern disinterest

Yeah, I grew up with walls that were made with horsehair and a mom that adored wallpaper. That just killed any hope of my wanting it in my own place.
posted by greermahoney at 7:23 PM on June 14, 2018

I feel about wallpaper the way I feel about tattoos. They can be really gorgeous and I'll absolutely admire someone else's, but how sure am I that I want to commit to that particular design for my own skin/wall? Once it's on it's just so damn hard to get it off. *sigh*
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:30 PM on June 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

Here's Bradbury & Bradbury's Victorian collections.

By far, the best color set is Aesthetic Green

A Victorian room doesn't have to be completely wallpapered. Just a frieze along the top of the wall and a smaller border wrapped onto the ceiling is effective. It's easier to paint a narrow band at the ceiling edge instead of butting the ceiling and wall papers together.
posted by jjj606 at 8:39 PM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I love this, I love their designs, and now I have an unholy and lustful craving for bayeux tapestry wallpaper. But like, the meme version. why am i like this

Also my god I would so much rather see interesting wallpaper than yet another gross dusty old exposed brick monstrosity that is impossible to hang anything from or keep clean.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:08 PM on June 14, 2018

C. F. A. Voysey is my hero.
posted by Altomentis at 10:53 PM on June 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

My favorite wallpaper -used to be- all the great posters you could find. WTF happened to them?
posted by Twang at 11:11 PM on June 14, 2018

I suspect the experience, direct or recounted, of having to strip wallpaper accounts for much of the modern disinterest

I still remember the smell vividly from when my parents stripped the wallpaper when I was 10, thirty years ago.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 11:55 PM on June 14, 2018

So I went to London, where I met a fellow who told me I could get to New Delhi for $72—over land. He even drew me a map of how to do it. I had $72, so I figured, ‘I’ll take a look.’ When I got to India, I fell in love with the place, and ended up spending a couple of years there, on and off

Wallpaper is great and all, but I want to hear more about this $72 trip from London to New Delhi.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:19 AM on June 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Reading this was a surreal blast of déjà vécu. One of by best friends from university is the niece of Bruce Bradbury, and a few weeks ago we had been talking about decoration options for the house my partner and I just bought. She sent me to the Bradbury & Bradbury catalogue and I had a very sober conversation with myself about the wisdom of spending an unwise sum on their gorgeous Japanese-print wallpapers to have them shipped overseas.

So here I am reading this article and thinking this all seemed very familiar and oh wait of course. I hope my friend enjoys this article.
posted by wakannai at 2:02 AM on June 15, 2018

Why do people hate wallpaper anyway?

Because it's visually overstimulating and you can't escape it? In the 80s my mother loved wallpaper with large ornate patterns, something different in every room. One of my first great victories in life was at age 10 when we moved yet again and I decided to die on this hill and succeeded in getting pale pink walls with a narrow border in my bedroom instead of the all-over floral pattern she wanted that would have driven me Yellow Wallpaper-crazy.
posted by Flannery Culp at 5:54 AM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

I agree it can be overstimulating, but done right, it's ahhhhhhhhh.

This is extremely definitely my shit.
posted by allthinky at 6:10 AM on June 15, 2018

By far, the best color set is Aesthetic Green

Dove blue Anglo-Japanese sampler or gtfo
posted by schadenfrau at 6:47 AM on June 15, 2018

I have professionally put the stuff up and, with great angst, removed acres of the wretched papery nightmare.

If what you want is a visually super-busy room that creates the sensation of a space that is constantly getting smaller and possibly rotating slightly and in which it's almost impossible to hang art without the searing chaos of color and patterns in collision and you want everything that ever touches or pierces a wall to leave a mark that can't be cleaned or repaired, wallpaper is for you. Plus, if you're the most egregious variety of anglophile, you can put it on your ceiling, too, for maximal overdecoration and the stifling sensation of wearing a too-tight woolen sweater that you're stitched into for life.

That said, wallpaper can be fun for an accent wall, particularly if you're a late-period modernist and want to highlight the juicy contradiction of a mid-century divan juxtaposed with an orange-painted Victorian hall tree. I still scratch my head as to why a carefully stenciled wall wouldn't be better, but some people just really like glue.
posted by sonascope at 9:11 AM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

Altomentis, why? I had the great pleasure once of seeing the building he designed and built for his wallpaper business, because an acquaintance was moving in with a tech company. (We talked about tacking cabling to the walls and ceilings to look like plaster stringwork...) Utterly lovely and deeply practical -- the way he carried the massive structural elements you need to support rolls of paper and printing machinery was both archaic and modernist to my eye. Makes it clearer that a lot of his diapers (like the Lion above) are close references to what was then current archaeology.

a space that is constantly getting smaller and possibly rotating slightly

After discussion and lengthy practical experiment, my 19th-c-social-dancing friends decided that there was no way to not get dizzy while dancing a Strauss waltz or polka to speed and at length. We decided the point was to enjoy it. See also laudanum, tobacco, and port by the bottle: the Victorians really liked being slightly stoned.
posted by clew at 10:44 AM on June 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

I love this stuff but (a) it's SO EXPENSIVE and (b) I lack the requisite courage and decision-making prowess to even pick a damn non-beige paint color for my walls, much less fill them with something so visually arresting.

However! For renters and citydwellers everywhere! Please direct your eyes to Hygge & West's line of removeable, re-positionable wallpapers. I believe they make removeable versions of most of their patterns, and they are fun and pretty.

I'm thinking about getting a single panel or two of some favored pattern and decoupaging it onto the doors of a cabinet or dresser--or perhaps onto the (interior) back of a bookcase.

Plus the current resurgence of medieval-brocade-and-William-Morris-esque florals and patterns like these, and their bleed-over into fabrics and textiles, is so fun and lovely ... on the non-wallpaper front, I am currently salivating over this Garden Gates tote from Liberty London, though this will remain aspirational since it seems obscene to pay $$$ for PVC although oh crap it's 50% off the original price right now, i'm in trouble
posted by alleycat01 at 10:51 AM on June 15, 2018

there are decently-printed wrapping papers in Arts and Crafts patterns that are a bit spendy for disposal but perhaps reasonable for the insides of bookcases. Hmmm. PVC is the devil though wait until Liberty does a pattern you like on their lawn.
posted by clew at 1:57 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I grew up in wallpapered houses. Mom was a wizard-level paperhanger; I can remember coming home from school or getting up in the morning to find the old paper gone and the new up and drying. And it was even better when she let us help - I particularly liked running a little wooden roller over stray lumps.

We got the Robinson's wallpaper sample book once or twice a year. Once Mom had placed an order, or if we weren't papering a room that year, we kids got the sample book to make crafts with. We also wrapped non-Christmas presents with it, if they were small enough.

I was always fascinated by the part of Laura Ingalls Wilder's Farmer Boy where the kids got stove blacking on the wallpaper in the good parlor and covered up the stains with the scraps of leftover wallpaper that were still around from when the room was decorated.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:07 PM on June 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

this is delightful - I love watching the printing process. thank you!
posted by jb at 8:16 AM on June 16, 2018

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