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Vintage wallpapers are becoming an increasingly popular design option for those seeking to add a touch of charm and tradition to their homes. These captivating wall coverings evoke a sense of nostalgia and offer a unique alternative to modern solutions. Wallpaper, a decorative element that has long been considered outdated, is making a strong comeback, thanks to its timeless beauty and its ability to create unique and evocative atmospheres.

In the following article, we will explore the reasons why vintage wallpapers are regaining popularity, their historical origins, and the traditional production techniques that give them an authentic appearance.

The Beauty of Vintage Wallpapers

In my ongoing research activities, whenever I am fortunate enough to come across wallpapers with interesting decorative patterns, I always gladly purchase them. I believe that even limited quantities are highly intriguing for various uses:

  • In interior decoration
  • In set design
  • Simply as objects of graphic study

A typical characteristic of vintage wallpapers is that they are almost always available in very limited quantities. They often come in small rolls of a few meters that have been abandoned for years in attics, as remnants of long-forgotten wall-covering projects or as leftovers from the stock of old shops or workshops.

Just arrived

Carte da parati stile antico


You are then faced with pieces of extraordinary decorative charm, which may belong to the nineteenth or twentieth century, reflecting the different styles that have succeeded each other in these periods. It often happens that my clients seek advice on how to use them in interior decoration and in the restoration of historical environments, given that the available quantities are usually very limited.

Uses of Vintage Wallpapers

First and foremost, I must say that a fragment of vintage wallpaper can be interesting purely for the beauty of the graphics or for studying the decorative patterns of different eras. In this case, the limited available footage poses no problem.

A modest quantity of vintage wallpaper is also very interesting for use in small decoration and restoration projects. It is well-suited for covering old boxes, books, interiors of old trunks or suitcases, cabinet facades, screens, doors, drawer interiors, small furniture, or niches.

Cassettone con carta da parati antica


I read with interest your post where you narrate a restoration and interior decoration project using ancient French fabrics to furnish a Romantic Chic-style home. It’s fascinating to see how the use of vintage materials can impart a unique character and a special atmosphere to a space.

Regarding the possibility of covering an entire room with vintage wallpaper, even if the available quantity might not be sufficient, it’s encouraging to know that there are artisans capable of faithfully reproducing these wallpapers on demand, providing samples.

The case in which one wishes to preserve, restore, and integrate an old wallpaper during the renovation of an old house is particularly interesting. The preservation of historical elements contributes to maintaining the authenticity and intrinsic charm of a place.

I was impressed by Adelphi Paper Hangings, a company specializing in the reproduction of antique wallpapers. The level of accuracy in their work is truly incredible. It is an excellent example of how craftsmanship can contribute to preserving and transmitting historical heritage through the reproduction of decorative elements.

Adelphi Paper Hangings: Faithful Reproductions Using Traditional Methods

Adelphi Paper Hangings offers reproduced wallpapers using the same hand-printing methods and materials employed from 1720-1860. After this period, machine-printing methods began to dominate the industry. The company’s work is based on continuous research into methods, materials, techniques, and styles. Each order is individually hand-printed by skilled craftsmen without compromising on quality, historical accuracy, or consistency. Every aspect of the product, from the types of paper and paint composition to the printing methods, has been carefully studied in institutions and archives in the United States, England, and France.

Carefully Studied Materials, Techniques, and Styles

Working from original documents ranging from an entire wall of antique wallpaper to a modest box of faded water-damaged scraps still adhered to pieces of plaster, Adelphi Paper Hangings has successfully reproduced wallpapers dating from 1740 to 1930. Understanding the nature of historical designs, the effect of time, as well as the historical context and trends, allows for the successful interpretation of documentary evidence and the accurate reproduction of the style, character, and appearance of original period documents.

Traditional Production Process with Woodblocks

To faithfully reproduce traditional woodblock-printed wallpaper, maintaining fidelity to the originally used methods and materials is essential. By using historical tools, materials, and procedures, Adelphi can produce wall coverings with the same distinctive character and spirit as those of the past. The description of the procedures used allows for a true journey back in time, understanding how wallpaper production was carried out in bygone eras!

The paper stock is first pulled onto a roughly 10-meter-long grounding table, and a hand-brushed coat of primer is applied by hand. It is then laid out on a drying rack.

Once dried, the paper is placed on a 19th-century-style printing press. After pressing the carved wooden block into a paint-saturated felt, it is placed on the just-grounded roll, and pressure is applied. Due to the size of most blocks, a considerable amount of pressure is required to produce a uniform print. This is achieved through a pedal-operated lever mechanism.

After each impression, the roll is advanced for the length of the pattern repeat; registration pins at the front corners ensure accurate alignment. Once complete, the roll is again hoisted onto the drying rack. The next day, the paper is rewound and re-fed through the printing press to be printed with a separate color using the next block in the sequence. This procedure is repeated for each color used in the pattern. As mentioned earlier, some more complex patterns required more than one block per color. This careful and laborious process is exactly how it was done in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Patterns Derived from Original Documents

All of Adelphi’s patterns are directly derived from wallpapers in the archives of institutions such as The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, Historic New England, or the Smithsonian Institution, or from samples that private customers have asked to be replicated.

While very occasionally pristine wallpaper samples are found that have never been installed, in most cases, the documents Adelphi works with are fragmented, faded, and damaged. In these cases, the initial stages of the reproduction process involve assembling the fragments to reveal the complete pattern, determining the original width and length of the repeat, accurately identifying the original coloring, and other period features.

Unless it is established that the original wallpaper document was inaccurately printed, no “corrections” or reinterpretations of the patterns are made, either in terms of scale or design.

Custom-Made Woodblocks and High-Quality Paper

Adelphi’s patterns are printed with custom-made printing blocks coated in pearwood. After the patterns are drawn, a separate block is engraved for each color in the design. In some more complex patterns, more than one block is needed for a single color.

The paper stock used today is a 75% high-quality cotton fiber product, “acid-free,” closely resembling the appearance, texture, and weight of traditional 18th and early 19th-century papers used for block-printed wallpapers.

Roll Styles

Adelphi offers both stitched and continuous-roll paper for its patterns. In most cases, especially for homes dating after 1840, patterns are printed on standard continuous paper. However, for historic homes and museum installations predating the 1840s, where period authenticity is crucial, the option of stitched rolls is much more historically faithful. Stitched rolls are formed by gluing together individual sheets, which was the only method to produce rolls before the widespread use of continuous paper in the 1840s. Once installed, the thin but distinctive horizontal seams are visible; this is one of the most significant features of pre-1850 wallpaper and absolutely essential for authentic reproduction. When stitched rolls are required, traditional techniques must be used. First, individual sheets are cut to size. Using rabbit skin glue, the seams are then hand-stitched to ensure complete adhesion. No other commercial wallpaper manufacturer offers a line of document patterns on hand-stitched rolls.


Tempera paint is the historically used material for block-printed wallpapers; this traditional mixture is a combination of calcium carbonate (chalk), pigment, sometimes kaolin, water, and a binder. The name “tempera” is an English corruption of the French word detrempre, meaning to soak, referring to the process of soaking the chalk overnight in water before adding the pigment. Adelphi initially based its formulas on those found in Robert Dossie’s 1765 work, A Handmaiden to the Arts, a collection of formulas and techniques used in artistic processes. In traditional tempera, the binder, the component that adheres chalk, clay, and pigments to the paper, is an animal skin glue. Although this type of binder results in a moderately stable paint surface, it is water-reversible: that is, when wet, it can stain or run. Needless to say, applying tempera-bound wallpaper requires experience, skill, and precision. Due to the numerous difficulties associated with the application and maintenance of true tempera wallpapers, Adelphi has developed its own “ersatz” tempera formula today. It contains the same basic ingredients, but instead of animal skin glue, a specially formulated modern binder has been substituted. This binder makes the wallpaper much less moisture-sensitive and therefore easier to hang and maintain.

Restoration of Historical Wallpapers by Jim Yates

Another great expert in the restoration of historical wallpapers is Jim Yates:

On his website, you can find an incredible bibliography and various sources regarding the theme of historical wallpapers:

Use of Antique Wallpaper in Set Design

Regarding set design, antique wallpaper can be used to create period settings in theater, cinema, or television. For example, if one wishes to recreate the atmosphere of an old inn or a Victorian sitting room, antique wallpaper with floral or damask patterns could be used. I am proud that some of my vintage wallpapers have been used in the set designs of TV series and films, both in Italy and abroad. I am particularly satisfied with the visual effects achieved in the splendid film “I fratelli De Filippo” by director Rubini, visible on Raiplay, where interior settings obtained with my wallpapers are visible in some frames.

Le mie carte da parati antiche

Le mie carte da parati antiche nei film di costume Le mie carte da parati antiche nelle riproduzioni scenografiche Carta da parati antica nelle riproduzioni scenografiche Carta da parati antica nei film

L’antique wallpaper è un elemento decorativo affascinante e ricco di personalità, adatto sia per l’arredamento interno che per la scenografia. La scelta attenta della carta giusta vi permetterà di immergervi nelle sue suggestioni, creando ambientazioni uniche e indimenticabili.

Carta da parati antica per decorare



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