Wallpaper Lickers of the World Unite

It’s all perfectly normal, honestly

I’ve been thrilled by some of the wallpaper designs in the house in France. But the thrill is as much the story as it is the design, a growing preoccupation for me as more layers unfold at the house, revealing the choices made by various occupants, reflecting changing tastes and fortunes, and those of the houseteal and silver print room wallpaper

Now I’m going to share something with you, and you have to promise not to laugh…

Just over a year ago I became a fully paid-up member of the Wallpaper History Society, a charity which champions, celebrates and strives to protect historical wallpapers (it also publishes the Wallpaper History Review, header pic)

Didn’t see that coming, did you?

While I myself am more of an interloper, with no more to offer than lots of – no doubt, irritating – enthusiasm, the Society boasts a membership that includes archivists, conservators and researchers, interior designers and the manufacturers and hangers of papers

As well as unqualified devotees of decorative and social history, like myself

Along with the considerable knowledge held by the Society’s members is the shared ability to still be thrilled by a surviving fragment, an ambitious colour combo, a rhythm in the design. Or knowing who bought which paper, and what it would go with

I also love old architectural and decorative catalogues, and I die a little bit every time I see them butchered and the pages sold for framing. This enormous 900-page builders catalogue (hardback and circa 1914-15), is therefore safe from such a fate. I may reveal more of its contents in future, but I think I’ve opened up enough for one post

(There are in fact some incredible records still in existence, such as the fascinating sales books of the Cowtan decorating company, held in the archives of the V & A Museum. These books document sales of papers and textiles across more than a hundred years, detailing the customers, the rooms they were for and the quantities required – often with notes alongside of the complementary design elements of the schemes. At the Society’s AGM in December the group enjoyed a superb presentation about these books, all of which are handwritten and hold samples of every paper)

Social history and wallpaper samples? I didn’t want the evening to stop

Luckily, there are a number of events in planning for the next year, and I intend to attend as many as possible, in the company of likeminded people

If you are a little bit mad for wallpaper, you can get a fix and check out the Society’s Instagram     #wallpaperhistsoc

And you may just start to realise that what you thought was madness is actually completely normal…

 

 

 

 

 

Bitten? I’m Smitten

Think before you lick that wallpaper

The recent cold dark evenings have not inspired as much paint-stripping as usual, especially as the rain, frustratingly, continues to get in through our garage roof

But, while the cold keeps me indoors more than normal, I can curl up on the sofa with ‘Bitten by Witch Fever’, a book which can only be described as very tasteful Victorian wallpaper pornimg_4101The book looks at the effect of the use of arsenic in papers, considerably widening the range of colours available. Opinion at the time was apparently divided between people who considered it terribly detrimental to the health to have such chemicals in their homes, and those who believed – rightly or wrongly – that it was only dangerous if they licked the wallpaper

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All the papers featured are catalogued with dates and manufacturers, many English but also some French

This book has made me re-think how I currently strip the paper in France. Until now I have not been wearing a mask or gloves, but I probably should protect myself from any possible ‘nasties’

And I am still trying to find information on this wonderful, if fragile, scenic paper in our salonimg_9078

This last picture (below) is a wall of the chapel at the fabulous Royal Holloway College in Egham, completed in 1886

img_3191I admit, I could barely keep from licking it!

When Wallpaper Becomes Something Else

Think Father Ted and Dougal knocking out the dent

Yesterday’s small ‘outline’ in the plaster has turned into something much larger. Think Father Ted and Dougal knocking out the dent in the car, if you have seen that episode. So as I continued to chip away it morphed into a very large outline, some 160cm or more across, and, having checked the crack in the room above, it is definitely relates to either this ‘feature’ itself or the way it was dealt with during the remodelling of the 19th C

A friend living locally thinks it is unlikely to be a fireplace because it is too large for the room. She may be right, but it leaves us back at square one. As I don’t want to remove all the plaster and bricks without taking advice, it’s very hard to get a decent photo

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Perhaps we’ll fully uncover whatever it is and expose it, as an unspecified feature behind a double bed. Or we may just cover it back up again. At very least I’ll ask the builder if it needs a lintel or something to stabilise the wall before re-plastering, and hopefully I won’t find myself in next door’s bedroom, apologising

On verra…

 

 

 

 

Springing into Action? Oh yes please!

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There is movement. Apparently work is about to commence on the roof, and not just sometime soon, but this Monday. I am as astounded as I am excited. Hard though it is to imagine the house without the interior waterfall, I also wonder if this might run for a while yet – I mean, it’s all very ‘sudden’ in contrast to the frustration of the last few months. I am not complaining because this is the beginning of the rebirth of the house

Coincidentally I was given an unexpected opportunity to get some more of my junk down there if I had it packed by yesterday, so this was Thursday’s priority, and I have booked a flight. It all fell into place rather well. Baz is understandably jealous and he feels more than a little second-best to my the house. He noticed that I labelled all the boxes with my name rather than our names. I didn’t mean anything by it!

Instead of sleeping in a roofless house, I have succumbed to Plan B (the very comfortable apartment I rented last time) because I can claw back some money by eating in and on heating. And because having a bath and the privacy of a working toilet is just irresistible

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This time next week I intend to be knee-deep in wallpaper strippings and I can barely wait