A Brief and Simple History of Wallpaper
Much of the home décor we possess today has been in use in one form or another for many years. Wallpaper is no different, and the sheer abundance of designs available today gives homeowners nigh unlimited possibilities for personalizing their living spaces. If you’re interested in learning how wallpaper came to arrive at its present state, you can read a brief and simple history of wallpaper here.
The exact date and location of the inception of wallpaper are unknown. However, scholars state that China (the nation that invented paper itself) began to glue paper on walls around 200 B.C. Their version of wallpaper had hand-painted images of landscapes, vegetation, and birds. People in the Middle East further refined papermaking techniques to produce higher quality paper from materials like linen instead of rice, wood, and bamboo. Later, in the 1100s, wallpaper traveled to Europe via trade. During the Middle Ages, some wallpaper existed as decorative artwork for those of high rank. Some elite people used it as a substitute for the more expensive tapestries that were popular at the time.
Wallpaper became more widespread and recognizable with further developments in France. The Dominotiers, a guild of paperhangers, came together in 1599 and made wallpaper that mimicked the look of marble. In 1620, they started to use woodblock printing to produce designs on wallpaper. A French engraver from that period, Jean-Michel Papillon, is known as the inventor of modern wallpaper. In 1675, he made the first repeating wallpaper designs that were continuous over more than one sheet of paper.
Wallpaper grew more accessible when Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf created the first wallpaper printing machine in 1785. Not long after, in 1799, Nicholas Louis Robert introduced a machine that could output long, uninterrupted sheets of paper. A German man named Alois Senefelder also made a contribution to wallpaper by inventing lithography, another technique for printing. These inventions all paved the way for wallpapers that covered entire walls. Another important machine came about in 1839 when Charles Harold Potter of England assembled a mechanism that could print with four different colors. This machine also printed designs using roller parts instead of blocks, significantly speeding up production.
From the 1800s onwards, wallpaper became commonplace because it was much easier to make by mechanical means. More machines, such as the silkscreen machine, came into existence to continue this progress. Wallpaper became both a fashionable and attainable item in the Victorian Era, earning that time period the name “Golden Age of Wallpaper.” Still, wallpaper was easy to damage, which was a persistent drawback to using it in the home. Following WWII, innovators produced plastic resins that made wallpaper much more hard-wearing. Though everything seemed to line up for wallpaper to flourish, it fell out of favor with the masses in the later 1900s, along with other elaborate patterns of the past.
Today, as people explore their individual styles more, wallpaper is once again experiencing a resurgence. Wallpaper is a perfect decorative element to turn to when seeking to bring more character to the home. Its long history has resulted in countless images, hues, and textures, from quaint, bucolic wallpapers to shiny metallic wallpapers. You can begin your search for the perfect wallpaper by perusing our expansive collection at Decorator’s Best.