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  • Betty Girardeau

How Many Of You Remember Wallpaper?


It's currently out of fashion, but I think that wall paper is really pretty neat. The above image is one that I took of the wall paper in the room at Chateau deGudanes that my daughter, granddaughter and I shared the summer of 2018, our second year at the Chateau. Before the current owners were able to call their French Chateau theirs, years of neglect and the elements paid a terrible toll on much of the interior. They have wisely saved what they could, often maintaining it as they found it, but now no longer subject to the vagaries of wind and weather thanks to a new roof. Only in a few of the rooms were some of the age-old wall coverings still able to be preserved, at least in one form or another. But this brings me back to today's topic of wall paper. When we moved into the house in Ilion, New York in 1946 the previous owners had done a somewhat recent renovation of the house, which included a lot of wall paper, 1930's-40's style, which often tended toward ugly, even tacky to my taste, florals. I think every room in our house, except the kitchen and bathroom had walls covered in wall paper. I remember when my parents decided my bedroom could be "updated," I was allowed to go through the wall paper catalogue and pick out what I wanted on my walls. It was pretty childish as I recall, and my Mother cautioned me that one day I would recognize that and hate it. But that is what I wanted, so they relented and that is what went up on my walls. Sure enough, in a few years I was unhappy because it was so "babyish." It was not covered over with new wall paper, though, but it was painted over, as was the case over the years with much of the wall paper that had been on the walls when we bought the house or, later, added by my parents. I remember that even when painted over, if the light was just right, you could often still make out the outlines of the patterned paper. There was some pretty ugly wall paper on the walls in the first house my husband and I bought, too, and it took me very little time to decide it had to be replaced. Except for the living and dining rooms where my husband actually helped paper the walls, I did the papering myself. The half bath in that house, though small, was real challenge because I had to work the paper not only around and behind the toilet and its water connections, but also the water and drain pipes for the little sink. And while doing that, I also needed to be able to match the "drop" in the designs. It became a bit of a "religious" challenge, if you know what I mean! But I was pleased with the final result. My favorite memories of the task of wallpapering was when a dear friend asked me to help her paper the walls in her circa 1900 house dining room. I had already learned from experience in my own home, that walls are seldom straight and certainly not plumb, but that problem seems to be worse in older homes. Papering three of the walls was surprisingly easy, even around the large windows and a couple of doors. But when we came to the final corner of the room there was no way that we were going to be able to get the pattern to match up easily because the paper joint needed to be a lot wider at the top of the wall than at the bottom. We had been papering all afternoon when we got to that point, and my friend said she thought she should start dinner while I could "carry on" and finish. She also thought I might enjoy a cocktail or two. I did. Thankfully, the paper was a nice floral pattern with several large and different flowers. So while she cooked and also kept refilling my glass, I cut out individual flowers from the remaining paper and collaged them effectively in the corner wrapping around the wall to meet with the first section we had hung. I think I was pretty sloshed by the time I had finished and dinner was ready, but miraculously, the walls really did look great, even the collaged section. And I defied anyone to really be able to tell where it started and ended. This memory just conjures up more wall paper memories and thoughts to share. But that will have to be on another day.

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