Authentic 1930’s Wallpaper in My Own Home

Digital Image

Digital ImageI think I was switched at birth. I don’t feel like a child of my era, but of a time decades ago, the ’30’s and ’40’s. I like the clothing, music, cars, … and the décor!

This real deal from the 1930’s went into my own home, in the entry foyer, just one wall. I bought it on-line from http://www.hannahstreasures.com/servlet/StoreFront. There are a few other places to buy vintage wallpaper, including http://www.rosiesvintagewallpaper.com/, http://www.secondhandrose.com/, and, for even older stuff, http://bollingco.com/.

Back to my entry … I got the wall done with just one double-roll of wallpaper. The material was dry and brittle and fragile, and it tore and abraded easily. The brittleness made it hard to fit into corners or against woodwork to trim, because it wanted to break and tear easily at those points of stress. It would be difficult to use in a room with lots of decorative molding’s and complicated cuts. And it devoured razor blades like candy.

Like fabric, the wallpaper had a selvedge edge that I trimmed off by hand (see 3rd photo). I was disappointed that the pattern didn’t match perfectly, but that’s how it was printed, and, really, get over it, stop being a perfectionist – from a distance (of, like, about four feet), you can’t even see it.

The seams weren’t flawless, either, partly due to not having any trim lines, but also due to the material itself, and how it absorbed moisture, dried, moved on the wall, etc. Some areas showed teeny gaps, and others overlapped just a hair. Once the paper dried, the seams got much flatter, although a bit of a line showed at each seam (the backing showing through the red ink). Again, minimal, and expected with this type of material.

Although the wallpaper claimed to be “waterfast,” it was not. If rubbed with a damp rag, the red color came off. So I “worked clean,” meaning, avoided getting any paste or water on the surface of the paper.

These vintage papers require special paste, as close to possible to what they had “back in the day.” That means none of the handy pre-mixed pastes that we modern installer rely on (much too aggressive for this delicate material), but wheat or cellulose paste, which generally comes in powdered form and is mixed on-site with water and an electric immersion blender.

The other thing the 1930’s wallpaper did was to get really wet. That means that, I could have just finished hanging a strip, and its perfect. Then I go back minutes later and discover that it’s miscolored, blotchy, and shaded. This “wet look” occurs when a wallpaper with no protective coating encounters a little water. As long as it’s water, and not paste or grease or the like, these “dark blotches” will usually disappear on their own. It was fun watching the color get lighter, going from left-to-right, as the wallpaper dried. In that process, many of the seams seemed to disappear.

Once it was pretty well dried, all these minor imperfections faded into the background, and all you see is a beautiful pattern, color, and texture that were inherent to the 1930’s

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