Wallpaper has been used to decorate homes at least since the 1500s. Back then, wood blocks were carved with a design, then the design was inked and stamped onto the paper. This process was time consuming, but the product was incredible and unique. Today, mass produced wallpaper is an excellent alternative to painting and can be found in a wide variety of patterns, pictures, and styles. To capture the feeling of a certain time, some homeowners are turning to vintage wallpaper in addition to (or instead of) furniture and architecture of the period.
Purchasing Vintage Wallpaper
Vintage wallpaper is significantly more expensive than new wallpaper because it is much harder to come by. New wallpaper can be found for less than $20 a roll, while vintage usually starts at double or triple that, and goes up from there. Its look and feel, however, is difficult to replicate, and some of the processes used to make it are no longer available. It can generally only be found at specialty shops or by pure luck at a flea market or thrift store. As with most things, it’s a good idea to spend a while shopping around, as selection and price can vary dramatically.
Installing Vintage Wallpaper
Wallpaper today generally has an adhesive back. You get it wet, then smooth it onto the wall. Vintage wallpaper doesn’t have this layer, so a separate adhesive must be bought and applied to the paper.
As with new wallpaper, the vintage stuff will look about as good as its installation. Smoothing wallpaper can be more difficult than it seems, especially when using a separate adhesive. Because of its high cost, and how hard it is to come by, homeowners who lack experience should consider hiring a professional to do the job. The entire process shouldn’t take a professional that long, and the assurance of proper installation could be worth the cost, particularly if the variety you are using is very rare or expensive.
What’s Out There?
Many people looking for vintage wallpaper are interested in a particular decade or time period. Its availability really depends on when and where your desired paper was made. Wallpaper from the 1950s-1970s, is relatively easy to find, which is good because its beauty (and sometimes kitsch) is appealing to many people. You will, however, probably have to look further than your local home improvement center. With a little digging, most people will be able to find wallpaper still in good shape from the late 1800s and early 1900s. Anything before that will be quite difficult to find as well as expensive to purchase.
“Vintage Looking” Wallpaper
Some styles are so difficult to come by that, unless you’re a museum, you’ll probably not be able to find or afford it. There are many newly manufactured products that emulate the designs of these very old wallpapers. They are very affordable and much easier to install than the real thing. The difference will be in the texture. Designs from the 60s and 70s are relatively easy to copy, and the paper isn’t that much different than that used today. The more vintage the wallpaper gets, though, the more the texture will differ from today’s products. Very old wallpaper has a feel like a hand painted canvas. This makes it expensive, as well as uncommonly unique.
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