wallpaper murals

Wallpaper and Abe Lincoln

Lincoln 2013

President’s Day is one of my favorite holidays. Not because I get a day off work (I’m not a Federal employee:), but over the years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to do restoration work at the homes or museums of seven Presidents in and around the Washington, DC area – Washington, Madison, Monroe, Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt and FDR.

I’ll be ro0ting for Lincoln at the Oscars, especially for set design. Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in a behind the scenes video says Lincoln director Steven Spielberg was meticulous in recreating the Lincoln-era White House, carefully replicating its carpet, wallpaper and even the cubby holes in Lincoln’s desk.

Abe Lincoln White House

Recently, I worked at the Peterson House and Ford’s Theatre (in the booth where Lincoln was shot). Spielberg’s set designers did a great job recreating these historical rooms on screen. They were lucky to have photographs to recreate the wallpaper designs. I am trying to locate which manufacturing recreated the paper for the movie. As soon as I find out, I’ll let you know. If you know, please post a comment.  In the meantime, here’s a short video I created about working at the Peterson House, the house where Lincoln died in Washington, DC across from Ford’s Theatre.

Wallpaper and Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice Decorating with Wallpaper
My wife is celebrating the 200 year anniversary of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice by watching every movie of Pride and Prejudice ever made (several times:). I can’t help but notice the improved quality of the set decoration from the 1940s until the most recent Kiera Knightly production. If you’re interested in recreating a Bennett country manor room or a 19th century drawing room, now is the BEST time to do it because 19th century wallpaper is being made today.

Pride and Prejudice Wallpaper

About 19th century-like wallpaper

A little history… 19th century wallpaper was handmade rag paper with hand brushed ground color and wood block tempera inks.  Tempera inks are water based and very sensitive so installers had to be very careful not to get moisture on the surface of the wallpaper. The wallpapers had to be trimmed on both sides since they did not have continuous roll paper. Edges were hand trimmed and seams lapped to match the same size of the horizontal joints. Most installations had borders at the top, bottom and in the corners, around all the trim, to hold the edges of the paper down.

Jump to today

We are moving back to 19th century-like wallpaper because it is less expensive to make non-coated papers and laser cut acrylic blocks make block printing possible. Also, American manufacturers are struggling to keep inventory. Our European friends seem not to have the same inventory problem and their papers are cheaper to produce. How does this impact you? When you select your Jane Austen room wallpaper, always ask: does the paper need to be trimmed? Is it water sensitive? Where is it made?

Seriously now, if you would like to decorate a room with beautiful wallpaper, here are some manufacturers of 19th century patterns:

Adelphi Paperhangings

Cole & Son

Farrow & Ball

Sanderson