A study in wallpaper (or Living in the ’50s)

One of my favourite London museums is the Geffrye Museum. It’s a treasure trove of historical domesticity. Set in a stunning almshouse in Old Street,  a series of living rooms are decorated in the style of different eras, from the 17th century, right up to the modern day. If you want to know what after dinner parlour games were played in the 1830s or the types of curtains favoured in 1695, this is the place to come.*

When I lived in Stoke Newington, I visited often. Now, from South London, it’s a bit of a hike. But then again, I don’t really need to visit at the moment…

The house we live in now is still decorated (and fitted) so perfectly from the 1950s it could really be an exhibit in the museum.

I wasn’t planning on posting much in the way of “before” and “after” shots of our house, because, frankly, it seemed quite rude to move in to someone’s home, photograph it and then stick the photos on the internet, commenting on how you want to change it all. (Less honourably, I don’t own a wide-angled lens for my camera, so the great “tadaaaaaa” moment was probably not going to look that great anyway…)

But, since I broke that intention by sharing a little glimpse of Mabel and the cactus outside, and since our building work is finally (finally!) scheduled to start on the house in a month, I thought I might just photograph and share for posterity the amazing wallpaper we’re currently living with.

Every single room in the house has a different floral wallpaper. Even the kitchen.

I think they probably date to the 1950s (can anyone enlighten me with more specific knowledge?)

Here then, is the full set. A study in wallpaper, if you will…

Let’s start at the beginning. When you first come in, we’re in the hallway. Here, we’ve got a double wallpaper affair, of a faded orangey, pinky metallic variety. The wallpaper above is a sort of pale orange, while that below is a pale metallic pink. Both have faded down to almost look grey. (Though perhaps I should be grateful for that):

Retro hallway wallpaper
Orangey pinky metallicy grey. Just my favourite colour

From there, we’ll head into the sitting room. This is the room I spend the most time (especially over the last freezing cold winter, when the lack of central heating meant I was holed up in here with the heater plugged in for about three months). It faces out onto the street and our front garden (and has my blogging view that I showed you before). It also has the least pleasant wallpaper in the house. Take a look:

Retro wallpaper
Oh good. More orange

Next door, is what we’re currently using as a dining room (though it will become more of a playroom once we’ve knocked the walls down between the two front rooms…) The wallpaper is one of my favourites. It reminds me of the sort of wallpaper you’d have in children’s rooms when I was growing up. Perhaps of staying overnight at my Granny’s house, waking up in the morning and watching the rays of sun come in through the window onto the perfectly pristine floral wallpaper, unadorned by drawings or snot, unlike in my own bedroom at home…

dining room wallpaper
Dining room wallpaper. Nice, isn’t it?

Then we go to the back of the house to the kitchen, where there’s another corker. This is my favourite in the entire house. We were contemplating simply keeping this in place (in a section of the kitchen at least) but unfortunately it’s also in the worst condition, peeling off the walls in places. (Unfortunately, it’s paired with some very lime green tiles, which are a little dazzling on the eyes.)

retro kitchen wallpaper
Kitchen wallpaper. Slightly more simple than the rest, and all the more appealing for it

Back into the hallway now (don’t worry, I won’t show you that one again) and up the stairs. You reach the third bedroom first at the back of the house. It leads directly on to our only bathroom, so nobody can sleep in there at the moment and consequently it’s got my sewing machine, wool, fabric stash and so on in there. Along with lots of boxes and things like that. The wallpaper is quite pleasing as well. It was quite hard to photograph as it’s slightly iridescent and the light bounces back from it:

third bedroom wallpaper
Third bedroom wallpaper; this scene is a bit more woodlandy than meadowy, I think.

I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed when we reach the bathroom. There’s no floral wallpaper at all on the walls. But! We do have these floral tiles:

Retro bathroom tile
I’m not really sure what decade this harks from. Any ideas?

And, that’s not the best bit. We also have wallpaper on the ceiling, along with this (genuinely) amazing ceiling light:

Retro bathroom light
Well, why wouldn’t you wallpaper your ceiling?

I’m going to keep this light in the new bathroom, once it’s built.

So now to the two front bedrooms, where, once again, we find some of my least favourite walls.

This is in our room, similar to the hallway and landing, but subtly different:

Retro wallpaper
Shiny, iridescent, metallic and orange all over again. Oh, and floral, of course…

And this is the second bedroom, aka the toy-strewn sproglet’s room:

Bedroom wallpaper
Orange? Orange.

So, that’s the lot. What do you reckon, should we keep a patch of it somewhere for memory’s sake?

*If you’re close enough to visit the Geffrye Museum, I really recommend it. Aside from all the amazing rooms, the traditional herb garden there sets my heart racing a little bit. If London is too much of a schlep, though, you can see photos and virtual tours of all the different rooms online: Explore Rooms. Which is your favourite? I particularly love the 1910 drawing room…

5 thoughts on “A study in wallpaper (or Living in the ’50s)

  1. Probably chosen with as much care as you are doing now! Isn’t it amazing how styles come around again. Some if those ( I said some!) would not look out of place today. But only on a single wall or as a feature; not all the way round.;)

    1. Yes, the whole house is like that, obviously chosen with love and then lived in and cared for for many years. It’s quite amazing to live in, to be honest… I almost feel bad about changing it all. Almost!

  2. Yikes! I am loving these small before glimpses of the house, I hope you are going to give us some after glimpses as well. I think this blog will serve well as a reminder of the wall paper, it can leave your house now!

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