Wallpapered Dining Rooms a Hundred Years Ago

Ladies Home Journal (October, 1911)
Ladies Home Journal (October, 1911)

Wallpaper was very popular a hundred years ago – and there were lots of lovely papers that worked perfectly in dining rooms. Here’s some advice for using striped wallpapers:

French-striped papers come under the head of plain papers. They look well and are particularly appropriate in Colonial homes. They may be used in the bedroom, dining room, hall or reception room, and look equally well with either plain or figured hangings. They look better, however, with white woodwork than any other kind.

Dining Room LHJ 10 1911

60 thoughts on “Wallpapered Dining Rooms a Hundred Years Ago

  1. I wonder if grammatical practices were different in 1911? That phrase, “they look well,” really grated. I wanted so badly to do a little editing and change it to “they look good.” I know — picky, picky. But the writer was exactly right about the need to balance things, putting plain hangings with busy paper, and so on. I don’t remember wall paper in any of my extended families’ homes. My mother liked change, so I’m sure that’s why my mother preferred paint to paper. Changing the color of paint is a whole lot easier than changing wallpaper.

    1. I’m sure that there have been some changes in what is considered grammatically acceptable across the years; I’m also guessing that there may be some regional variation in how “good” and “well” are used.

    1. Decorating trends come and go–and then come in again. I really like the way the room looks in the picture; so I’m guessing that I’d also really like your dining room. πŸ™‚

    1. I think that lots of patience (and careful measuring and matching) is key to successful wallpapering. The home where I grew up had papered ceilings, but I don’t think that papered ceilings are very common in the U.S. now.

  2. I agree about the grating “they look well.” Like a finger scraping on a blackboard. As for the wallpaper, it’s beautiful, I think, and it had come back in 1978 when I cleaned up and redecorated my newly purchased old cape cod house in Cheshire, Connecticut.

    On the other side, I have twice helped my daughter and her husband remove old — and even smelly — wallpaper in their newly purchased homes several years ago now. Some was easy to pull off. The rest was a pain in the neck requiring a steamer to loosen a bit at a time and then scraping. What a mess!

    1. I agree – it’s a lot of work to remove wallpaper. A few years ago we removed some wallpaper from a bathroom, and then tried to paint it. However, we failed to get all the old wallpaper glue off the wall and the paint went on very unevenly. We had to go back and really scrub the walls with some special solution and lots of elbow grease. We were totally exhausted by the time we were done.

    1. I love some of the old-fashioned wallpaper styles. I think that it’s fun to look at the lovely old wallpaper designs when visiting the homes of famous people that have been turned into historic sites.

  3. Great post. Wall paper is very trendy again – as with everything it comes and goes in the decorating world. I have memories of wallpapering with my mother because if she did it with my Dad they’d fight a lot – it was finicky stuff with having to apply our own glue before they had ready pasted. I like wallpaper since it always feels homey to me.

    1. Wallpapering (and removing wallpaper) are both such difficult and tedious jobs that they just seem to evoke memories. Like you, I like wallpaper. It’s wonderful to hear that it is coming back into style.

  4. Lovely dining room. πŸ™‚ I enjoy hanging wallpaper. I also love to look at the wallpaper that’s used in the old southern homes with the ceilings 12 ft high . Good advice on the white paint and stripes.

  5. My European parents wallpapered almost every room (come to think of it, it was EVERY room!), I suspect it was a status symbol of their time. My first house (a new build in 1986), we held back and wallpapered only the master bedroom, but we did add borders to several rooms. My second house (1913) had even fewer rooms with borders and my present house has only the tiny powder room wallpapered for a bling effect.
    Once I painted stripes on the walls (didn’t want to splurge on wallpaper). My favourite type of wallpaper is similar to the first image you show, with the light blue but I prefer it with white stripes.

  6. We lived for 10 years in a home built in 1917. In this house, wallpaper was already in every room, so we either lived with it or replaced it with paper more to our taste. In this house, as in your pictures, there were foot-high baseboards, coved ceilings with plate rails, and wall wainscoting, so the wallpaper did not overwhelm. When we moved to a newly built house, I missed the personality of the wallpapers, so when we did a minor remodel I took the opportunity to wallpaper the kitchen in a sunshiny yellow paper with twining apple branches and sparrows and an ornate border. It makes me feel happier every time I step into the room.

    1. Yellow is such a cheery color for a kitchen. Your wallpaper description reminded me of some lovely wallpaper we had in a kitchen years ago. The paper had yellow trellises on it that were covered with strawberry plants.

  7. Love stripes on walls, etc. Because wallpaper is out of style, I painted my daughter’s bedroom 8 years ago in stripes–2 shades of pink–and it’s really gorgeous. Would have been easier with wallpaper . . . .

    1. Plate and picture rails give rooms a nice old-fashioned charm. I also have several rooms with one wall of wallpaper. Accent walls were really popular a few years ago – maybe they’re still popular. I’m not sure.

        1. I agree!! Somehow it seems a little sad that we live in a “throw-away” world where even things like furniture are often seen as temporary and replaced every few years.

  8. What a lovely reminder of yesterday’s trends! My Dad was a “painter/paper hanger” and he gave me his old books of wallpaper samples. They made gorgeous paper doll clothes.

      1. What fun! I can remember an aunt giving me a cigar box filled with colorful cloth scrapes for a birthday present when I was 8 or 9. She said I should use the cloth to make doll clothes. It was one of my all-time favorite birthday presents.

  9. p.s. Wallpaper bring back other memories. There used to be books of wallpaper samples that one could take home and keep. For May Day we — the neighborhood kids — made baskets out of wallpaper to fill with flowers to leave at people’s doors on May 1st.

    1. I love to read them, too. I am so fortunate to have such wonderful readers. I have really enjoyed getting to know you and the other readers over the years.

  10. I have always loved wallpaper! It makes room seem so much more comfortable and warm. And if what I am seeing on HGTV is any indication, wallpaper seems to be coming back in style, too!

  11. In the old books I read from that era people are often putting up their own wall paper after they lose their money or the husband/father dies and they must move to a smaller house that they make fantastic by putting up wallpaper and other easy to do (?) fixes.

    I have memories of being 4 years old and carefully coloring in bright red crayon one of the tan flowers on the hall wallpaper at one house we lived in. My mother wasn’t pleased.

    1. Oh dear – I can feel for both you and your mother. Sometimes children have no way of knowing that a joyful, creative activity might not be be appreciated by a parent.

      Wallpapering might be considered “easy” if the definition of easy was primarily based on cost rather than the amount of effort. I love those old novels that make “easy fixes” like wallpapering seem like they are able to largely resolve challenging circumstances. Somehow life seemed simpler back then.

  12. I always have loved wallpapers and am happy to see that they are making a comeback in some of the model homes I’ve seen. When we were restoring our 1730’s colonial home in New Hampshire, we found a layer of five different wallpapers behind a built-in cabinet in the dining room. I must say that I was happy that they had been removed from the walls many years before as they certainly wouldn’t have been something I would have wanted to live with on a daily basis. πŸ™‚

    1. I can see why you enjoyed finding 5 layers of wallpaper in one small spot that conveyed a bit of the house’s history – but were very glad that it wasn’t throughout the house. It’s so much work to remove wallpaper – especially when there are multiple layers of “non-stripable” paper.

  13. When we bought our house 20 years ago, nearly every room had wallpaper, some with multiple layers. The house is a 1930 gambrel colonial with plaster walls. Not only did we have to strip all that wallpaper, my husband had to restore much of the plaster walls, which he did to perfection. In our living room they painted over wallpaper and we haven’t dared tried to take that down. I swore I would never, ever put wallpaper up again. Yet here I am, 20 years later, considering putting wallpaper up on one “feature” wall in the dining area of our large kitchen. There’s so many beautiful, modern patterns and textiles now. I’m still trying to decide. Fun post, and I also love reading the comments. You’ve built a wonderful community here.

    1. Whew, it sounds like a lot of work. I always love the results when I redo a room, but dread thinking about all of the work involved. I have some wonderful readers. Thank you for being part of that community.

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