New Wall Paper in the Kitchen

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Monday, May 19, 1913:  Saw the kitchen papered this afternoon. It looks quite stylish.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Whow! I’ve totally missed the context of the diary entries the past few days. (I probably should read further ahead.)

I thought that spring housecleaning lasted for a couple weeks when I read diary entries that said things like, “Nothing much doing, but the doing of rubbing, scrubbing, etc.” (May 14, 1913).

Really, they probably did the spring house cleaning in early May, and then moved on to removing old wall paper from the kitchen wall in preparation of re-papering.

1913-10-52.bThe caption on this black and white picture in the an article called, “Good Taste in the Farm House” in the  October, 1913 issue of Ladies Home Journal says:

 “Here striped wall paper in two tons of green was used to give the effect of great height to this low-ceiled room. The furniture was painted a willow green to harmonize with the walls and the cretonne curtains.”

Did the rather stylish Muffly kitchen look anything like the picture in the magazine?

27 Responses

  1. Wow, as soon as I saw the title of your post I had memories flooding back of times when we would change wallpaper or would remove it to simply paint walls. I agree with you that the last entries definitely make more sense now.

    • I also remember trying to get old wallpaper off the walls so that we could paint them. We wanted to make the house look more “modern”.

  2. Your readers probably never realized that Grandma and her family were preparing for new wallpaper either – I certainly didn’t think about that!

  3. I love that she thought the new wallpaper stylish. :)

  4. I love that you don’t read ahead! I’ve stripped wallpaper–not fun! And yes, hearing her call the wallpaper stylish makes me smile :)

    • I quickly read the diary once years ago–and again in 2010 before I started this blog. I can remember a few of the really big events–but I totally missed the smaller things that happened when reading the diary in it’s entirety. Now I only work a couple days ahead (and sometimes only a couple hours ahead of when I post). I find that I get so much more out of the diary doing it this way–though it occasionally becomes clear that I totally misinterpreted something.

  5. I’ll bet the wallpaper in Grandma’s kitchen was a lot like the picture. I know that “paper hanging” was actually part of the house painting profession. My father was a painting contractor in the 1930’s and 40’s and part of his services included paperhanging.

    • We got a wall in our foyer papered a few years ago. I was impressed with the care the paperhanger used in measuring and cutting the paper–and in lining up the paper.

  6. I am wondering how wallpapering compared with painting in terms of price. It seems like such a luxury.

  7. When I was little, my mom and I lived with my grandparents. Every couple of years, Grandma would repaper the living room. They had a coal burning stove for heat (which was in the little living room), so after a couple of years, the wall paper would become dingy. Quite a job. I helped a little.

    • I also remember it being a HUGE amount of work when we took paper off the walls when I was a child. It seemed like an endless job soaking the old paper–and then trying to pull strips off, but generally needing to scrap most of it. And, once the paper was off, the plaster walls always had lots of cracks that needed to be repaired.

  8. That is quite a posh room there. Do you think it’s the kitchen?

  9. Yes, now it makes perfect sense!

  10. It is interesting that the decor in the photo is actually back in vogue (in some styles of houses).

    • I also thought that the room in the picture looked fairly stylish. And, I though that it was interesting how the caption said that the table and chairs were painted a willow green.

  11. I know Wallpaper is making a big comeback but the project I attempted in a powder room of our last home was a nightmare. I hired a pro and he made a giant mess. He had to buy us a new roll at $110.00 bucks and grumbled about it the whole time and still did a terrible job. OMGosh, it took him two months. The place I bought the paper from recommended him and I let them know, NEVER recommend him to anyone EVER again……..I don’t know if I could go thru that again.

    • It sounds like a horrible mess. Over the years I’ve papered a couple of powder rooms and a foyer. My sister-in-law did it for us. She is a real pro and it looked awesome. I’ve been forever grateful to her.

  12. Wonder why they didn’t just have someone paint a picture of that kitchen in the magazine? They’ve had colored pictures before.

    • Each issue of the magazine has a couple pages with color pictures and lots of pages with less expensive to print black and white pictures. The editors apparently didn’t think that an article about “good taste in the farm house” was important enough to merit color pictures.

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