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  • Writer's pictureGood & Craft

The History of Wallcoverings. Where do Wallpapers come from?

The interior design industry is falling back in love with wallpapers. For pattern lovers this was about time, then white walls are, at least in the eyes of us who embrace colours, quite frankly boring. Similar to fashion trends, our homes are going through cycles where what we see as trendy and stylish change through the years. Our Good & Craft universe is, as you can tell, all about luxury wallpapers, lavish patterns, and of course colour! It is International Wallpaper Week these days and the perfect timing to have a closer look at where it all began and immerse ourselves into the impressive history of wallcoverings.

emerald green wallpaper with toucan print by Good & Craft in bathroom, Good and Craft
rainforest jungle mural by Good & Craft in living room with green velvet sofa, Good and Craft

(Left) Emerald green wallpaper Rio with Toucans by Good & Craft. (Right) Rainforest Jungle Mural by Good & Craft.

Before we begin, let's have a quick look at the characteristics of wallpaper - patterns and paper. Already back in the stone age people began to decorate objects and walls with paintings. Cave paintings roughly date back between 40'000 and 14'000 years and most of them were found in France and Spain. Featuring shapes of mammoths, lions, humans, bears, and bison, cave art is generally considered to have a ritualistic or symbolic background. However, the exact meaning of the images still remains unknown.

Around 4000 B.C. the earliest kind of paper to be used as a writing surface was developed in Egypt, named Papyrus.

Going back to the wallpapers, which are said to be originally from China, it is difficult to say when the first wallpaper was actually made. Already in around 200 B.C. there was an early version of wallpaper, showing drawings of birds and Chinese landscape painted on rice paper, which was glued on walls. 105 A.D. is cited as the year in which paper as we know it today was invented in China.

From China to Europe

Wallpapers were especially popular in the colder regions of China, where thick sheets of paper helped isolating the rooms. By the 12th-century paper making has established itself in Europe. In 1481, a French artist hand-painted 50 rolls of paper for Louis XI of France. It is said that Louis XI required his "wallpaper" to be portable, as he wanted to bring it with him when he was moving from castle to castle. In the 16th-century Europe began to trade with China and imported among other luxury goods like porcelain and silk, also wallpapers. The European admired the intense colours and luxurious sheen of the Chinese goods, which at this point couldn't be achieved by European manufacturers.

The French had a significant influence on the development of wallpapers: In 1599 a guild of paperhangers was established in France and in 1675, the engraver Jean-Michel Papillon created the first repeating patterns. Papillon is also known as the inventor of the wallpaper we are familiar with today. The industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th-century advanced the production of wallpapers as in 1839 an Englishmen in Lancashire introduced a machine that had the pattern cut on rollers instead of blocks. This machine was able to print in four colours and producing 400 rolls per day. About 10 years later, in the 1850s, a machine to print in eight colours was introduced, and by 1874 the technology progressed to the ability of printing twenty colours. England became a leader in the world's wallpaper industry and the region of Lancashire still holds its strong heritage in wallpaper printing today, where we proudly have our Good & Craft wallpapers manufactured.

The Golden Age of Wallpapers

The love for wallpaper that emerged in the Victorian Era and the lower cost that came with the industrialization led to a revolution in the wallpaper industry during the 20th century, which widely spread through Europe and North America. The 1920s became the years of the wallpaper obsessions, during which time about 400 million rolls were sold - also known as the golden age of wallpapers.

Similar to in the early days of wallpapers in China, wallpapers were not just used to decorate a room but also functioned to cover cracks in the wall and therefore reduce cold drafts. Through the years wallpapers became widely available for everyone. There was another big trend for wallpapers during the 70s and 80s during which there was a national guild of professional paperhangers established in the United States. Wallpapers during this time were made of thin paper, directly glued onto the walls, which resulted in a painful removal process of scraping it off cm by cm. The horror of removing such thin papers was one of the reasons that wallpaper became less desired back in the 90s. Our wallpapers today, with their non-woven substrate, are luckily easy to be removed in long flowing strips.

Falling Back In Love With Wallpapers

With the introduction of the non-woven substrate over a decade ago and the possibilities of digital printing, the world of wallpaper has experienced a revolution. Nowadays wallpapers are washable, long-lasting, easy to be removed and there are endless possibilities in substrates and surfaces from metallic effects to cork.

Our Good & Craft wallpapers are non-woven wallcoverings, also known as paste the wall wallpapers. Traditional wallpapers have their paste applied directly onto the back of the wallpaper, which requires more preparation time as you need to have your paper soaked.

For non-wovens, however, you will need to apply the paste to the wall, which makes the installation much smoother. And if you love nature as much as we do, non-woven wallpapers which do not contain vinyl are even environmentally friendly.

Wallpapers definitely deserve their big comeback!

Like to know more about what exactly are non-woven wallpapers and their sustainability? Read here

tropical wallpaper with toucans and flowers by Good & Craft with vintage cabinet of drawers, Good and Craft

Wallpaper Amazonia Bloom in Laguna by Good & Craft


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