the walls around us

In Digital, Inspiration

In 2016, we live in a white-walled world.  Except for those brave color-lovers, or bold interior designers, we mostly exist in spaces with white walls, meant to provide a clean backdrop to set off our art or photographs or decor.

But growing up in the 60s and 70s, and living in historic homes, I lived in rooms adorned with wallpaper.  My bedroom in seventh grade in a 19th century house was papered in pink and silver Victorian cabbage rose wallpaper.  I would lie on the floor listening to Simon and Garfunkel, daydreaming and looking for the faces hidden in the wallpaper flowers.

Down the hall in another room were walls covered with bucking broncos and cowboys.  In a best friend’s house there were roosters and coffee pots on her kitchen walls.  In her bathroom was black and white toile depicting scenes of pastoral bliss.  A 1980s apartment kitchen sported metallic flowers so bright you had to squint.

Visiting Stawbery Banke in Portsmouth, New Hampshire this past weekend reminded me that our ancestors loved color and pattern.  Easier than hand stenciling a room, wallpaper provided a beautiful decorating solution.


willard's patent


PicMonkey Collage

The 20th century brought less formal design.

june 1943

flower painting




My favorite room was one where the layers of paper had been exposed, showing centuries of wallpaper changes.


What’s on your walls?  Show us your images on Instagram using the #viewfindersio hashtag or leave a link to your images in the comments.

Do you want to know more about vintage and modern wallpaper and wall design?.  There are some breathtaking books available, including The Wallpaper Book by Genevieve Brunet and The Papered Wall by Lesley Hoskins.  Historic New England has a searchable database of over 6,000 wallpaper and ephemera examples.  And the V&A Museum in London has an impressive collection of essays and images on every aspect of wallpaper.

Artist Edie Vonnegut, who lives here in Barnstable on Cape Cod, has created a whole series of paintings of her domestic goddesses using vintage wallpaper and paper plates as a jumping off point.  Check out her wallpaper artwork on her website.

Happy summer!



  1. I love the way you made the wallpaper a real part of each image, as much the subject as each object within the frame!

  2. I can’t even begin to tell you how much i love this post! I love how you showcased the various papers here! I have so many fond memories of the wallpaper in the various homes I grew up in and from my grandparents’ house. I wish I had photos of all those rooms now.

  3. Yes, wallpapers have always intrigued me too! Especially the big sunflowers in the 70s and how fascinating it was to see someone plaster it to the wall. Thanks for making me travel in time 🙂

  4. Love this post and all those interesting wallpapers. You make an excellent point about the changing fashions of interior walls. I work in a building from the 1850s, with the most stunning 19th century wallpaper replicas. I adore working there, but I have colleagues who find it dark and oppressive. On the other hand, we recently moved into a newly refurbished apartment (the work was done before we bought it), and the walls here are all white. I do tend to prefer white walls though, since I find it easier to populate them with pictures. *Blank* walls I don’t like 🙂

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