The history of wallpaper and most iconic prints



Wallpaper is an important interior decoration for centuries, from Chinese emperors to modern apartments. The history of wallpaper has followed technological progress and design concepts. In recent years, luxury brands have presented their collections, so there is justifiable talk of a wallpaper renaissance.

Wallpaper was first made in ancient China, BC. According to historical sources, wallpapers were made for the Qin dynasty from linen, hemp, and bamboo, as well as rice paper. As technology progressed, so did the material on which the patterns were drawn.

Along the Silk Route, wallpapers reached Europe in the 12th century, where they were quickly accepted by the aristocracy.

The history of wallpaper represents the development of motifs and designs, but also an archive of materials, printing techniques, and approaches to interior design. Thus, various fibers, primitive papers, wood, and canvas were used as materials for the production of wallpaper. They provided decoration but also had a practical role – providing additional insulation. They also hid damage on the walls.

The oldest preserved wallpapers from Europe are from the beginning of the 16th century. They are located in Christ’s College Cambridge and were built by Hugo Goes of York in 1509. He found inspiration in the Islamic tradition with the famous Damascus print. This was also the model for famous Italian and Spanish textiles. Even today, Damascus print and its variations are still very popular.

In the 18th century, wallpaper became a symbol of prestige, so in 1712, Queen Anna introduced a wallpaper tax that lasted for 124 years. Even then, the value of design and printing was recognized, and the penalty for falsifying a print in UK was punishable by death from 1805.

In France at that time, battle scenes, landscapes, as well as details from the Gothic and Rococo eras appeared on the wallpaper.

Floral motifs, monochromatic, more modern patterns, and pictorial scenes soon appear. At the same time, wallpapers are becoming more accessible to a wide range of consumers.

Until modern times, wallpapers sometimes fell into oblivion. There was even a time when they were hated. However, they would always return to glamor and chic. It is the same today when they are experiencing a real renaissance, so Hermes, Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Louis Vuitton, and Christian Lacroix are stretching into the wallpaper market.

But only a few prints have proven to be truly timeless:

Martinique pattern (Banana Leaf) wallpaper

The famous Martinique pattern was created in 1942. It was hand-painted at CW Stockwell, where it was designed by owners Remy and Lucile Chatain after the South Seas trip, in collaboration with botanical illustrator Albert Stockdale.

Damascus wallpaper

Although Damascus is the first preserved European style, even today these patterns look attractive and modern. Damascus is a heritage design most recognizable for its symmetrical shapes and medallions.

Chinoiseris wallpaper

The motifs of the Chinoiseris wallpaper are taken from classic paintings of East Asia, primarily China. They show nature motifs, trees, and birds, usually in a single dimension.

Floral wallpaper

Floral wallpaper patterns became a staple of the British aesthetic, rising in popularity in England during the Rococo and Victorian eras of the 18th and 19th centuries. The progress of printing techniques at the end of the 17th century enabled full color and more complex patterns.

Zebra wallpaper

Leaping zebra wallpaper was originally designed in the 1940s for the Gino of Capri restaurant.

The House of Scalamandré‘s wallpaper is still a design icon, so this print can be seen in Wes Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums and Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite movies.

Image: Belgrade residence

Related posts


Expressionism in interior design

Expressionism word origin is from the Latin word "expressio" meaning expressiveness. It is deeply connected with the art movement and it is one of the most vibrant,