Wallpaper has made a big come back the last years, form classical, romantic to modern. And there is a wide range of different qualities, with prices according to those qualities. And as we have in fashion the big retail chains, the fashion brands and the haute couture we can say we have the same for wallpaper.
Let us dream away today and decorate our homes with some of those exquisite wallpapers. What makes wallpaper haute couture? Same as in fashion: the amount of time spend to make it, by hand and the exquisite materials they use. They will turn each room in a unique work of art.
Hand-painted and block-printed wallpapers date back to before 1700. We can divide them in three groups: the chinoiserie, the panoramic landscape and the more modern designs, Japanese inspired or eclectic.
Chinoiserie gained popularity in the 18th Century as the trade between the East and the West increased and people in Europe wanted to bring the more exotic scenes from the Orient into their homes. Chinoiserie fitted also perfect with the rococo which was the trend in the mid 18th century. The history of chinoiserie wallpaper is deeply intertwined with the Chinese culture and its influence on European style. In the 18th and 19th century the chinoiserie wallpapers with their flowers, birds and butterflies were a standard of elegant living.
On the video above you will see that for the chinoiserie wallpaper they use two brushes, one brush has the pigments and the second brush spreads the pigment quickly so will will get this watercolor effect. The wallpaper is made by very skilled artisans, working in that field for decades. It is quite a laborious and meticulous work and it can take days, if not weeks to complete an order.
The panoramic scenes, as well as the chinoiserie are available in standard color ways, on different height but they all can be customized. Maybe it is a certain color way , or just an accent color you wan to add. Maybe you want to leave some details away from the design, all is possible as each order is made specially for the client, and this can all be done for an additional charge. You have to count around 5000 euro for one wall in your room. It is haute couture, it is as buying a big piece of art.
There is a very long tradition, around 300 years, and where you can see that still today that all those hand-painted scenics are executed with exquisite details.
So there is a standard collection which serves as a base. You choose your background which could be silk, gilded paper, tea paper. Next you decide which panels you would like to have: depending on the size of the wall you will have a certain amount. Here you need the help of a professional, there has to be a balance, you have to see on which wall it will come. If there is a door you don’t want that this will take out the most important part of the design. You have maybe some furniture on that wall, a mirror or some wall scones. And than the last part is deciding on the color ways. You see it already: there are infinite possibilities to realize your dream. You can even have an antique look which will give the impression that the wallpaper was there since decades.
Whatever you choose as background, silk or gilded paper, this work of art will bring a feeling of luxury to any home. The chinoiserie will bring a feminine touch, the panoramic scenes are much heavier and classical. And than we have still the more modern designs which will bring a more contemporary touch. They can be eclectic, bold, and will take all the attention when entering the room. Or a simple gilded paper can bring just that extra touch of luxury.
In high demand are also the Japanese inspired designs. Fitting in a more classical home as well as a contemporary interior. They will bring sparkle. Often the backgrounds are already a master piece, metal finished, different paints.
As if choosing the finest materials and the exquisite painting of the designs is not enough, you can make some part stand out even more by adding some embroidery. How much of the design will be embroidered? That depends on the budget the client wants to spend extra. This is for sure for people who can appreciate this work of art.
The chinoiserie or scenic wallpaper are to old fashioned for you? It doesn’t has to be, it all depends on the color combinations you will choose for the wallpaper and how it will be combined with all the furniture in the room. It can become very eclectic, not old fashioned at all.
The techniques used for the chinoiserie and the scenic wallpapers are more and more also used for modern designs. The effects are stunning and can’t be reproduced by normal printed wallpaper. Because often the beauty lays in the imperfection. Seen that all those wallpapers are made on order, with the highest attention to make those exceptional wallpapers, the human hand is not perfect.
Bock-printed wallpapers are made with hand-carved blocks. We can track them down till the 18th century, and most of the companies producing those wallpapers were shut down in the 19th century. Zuber et Cie is one of the last Western producers of woodblock printed wallpapers. Zuber has an archive of woodblocks, which they still use, of more than 100.000 pieces, all cut in the 19th century and they are now classified as a historical Monument.
When I was watching the video, here above, showing the complexity of making a block-printed wallpaper than I asked myself which one is more difficult, the hand-painted or the block-printed wallpapers. They are both a piece of art, made by very skilled artisans. From the preparation of the paper, the mixing of the colors till the printing of each detail. You can’t rush finishing quicker, you need to order your wallpaper well in time.
‘Eldorado’ is one of the oldest panoramic sceneries of Zuber et Cie and is still printed today with the 1554 antique woodblocks, carved in 1848 by the manufactory’s workers. It exist out of 24 panels, it contains 210 different colors. Total design width is 12,84 m. And if this is not long enough than you can start repeating panel number 1 after panel number 24.
Each detail on the wallpaper, each color has its own hand-carved block. After preparing the background they start printing each detail, in between each print they will hang the panel to dry.
And who knows maybe one day you will have your own hand-painted or block-printed wallpaper. And you do not necessarily have to decorate the whole room, one panel can make a big statement.
I find it a fascinating world, hope you enjoyed this small discovery too.