Tall House: Wallpaper Tour

De-wallpapering at the new house has been a big task. There were eight different rooms, plus the entry, that were heavily wallpapered — including three rooms with wallpapered ceilings!

It felt overwhelming to get started pulling it down, but once we got to work, using a steamer and scrapers, we found it was actually quite satisfying. We made lots of time lapse videos while we worked, which have been wonderful to watch afterwards. We would typically do a 1.5 to 2-hour shift (just long enough to go through one full tank of steam), and it’s rewarding to see two hours of progress condensed into a tidy 30 seconds. (You can watch some of the time-lapse videos on my Demolition Highlight.)

We officially finished de-wallpapering about a week ago, and I thought you might enjoy a little tour of the eight different wallpapers we’ve pulled down at the new house. Something lucky for us: As we’ve explored the house, we found remnant rolls of most of the wallpapers we pulled down.

This purple floral wallpaper was in a third floor bedroom (the bedroom that will eventually become Oscar’s room). Here’s a closeup:

Here it is on the wall:

The interesting thing about this paper is that when water touched the paper, the ink/paint started to run. You could use your finger to easily smear it:

I’m not sure if it was hand-painted or machine painted but it was definitely not water-fast (which means it probably wasn’t very cleanable either). We were told this paper was probably from the 1940s.

This was the first room we tackled. Thankfully it went fast, which was encouraging.

This wallpaper is the simplest of the designs we found in the house. It has a really thick texture. Here’s a closeup:

And here’s how it looked on the wall:

It was used above the tiles and on the ceiling in the bathroom. It’s not particularly fancy but might be nice to use as a drawer liner or something like that.

This wallpaper is the last one we pulled down and it was by far the hardest to get off the walls. It was really, really sticky.

We don’t have a remnant roll of this paper, but we were able to salvage a panel when we were taking it off the wall. This paper had to be taken down in two parts because it was made with two layers. We peeled the top layer, which is sort-of pearly and resistant to water, and then we could steam and peel the bottom layer, but again, it was so sticky!

Here’s a closeup:

Here are a couple of pictures where you can see it on the wall:

I feel like it’s really fortunate that we happened to do this room last. If we had done it first, I think we would have been discouraged and would have been less likely to tackle the other rooms so enthusiastically. This room took us twice as long as any other room — and it’s not even that big.

The other thing about this wallpaper is that it was still in great condition — definitely one of the newer papers in the house. We considered leaving it on the walls, but when the electrical demolition and plumbing demolition started, it was getting ripped up anyway, so we decided to take it down.

Hello 70’s vibe!

This wallpaper is sort of plastic-y and scrubbable. Which makes sense, because it was on the walls and ceiling in the kitchen. Here’s a closeup:

Here are two photos so you can see it on the wall (and ceiling!):

We’ve started tackling the tile in this room as well — I don’t mind the look but it had lots of broken pieces and ultimately wasn’t salvageable. The tile was taking us SO LONG, and we ended up buying a demolition hammer to help out. We’re going to try again maybe this week.

This bold wallpaper was heavily used in the house. I think it’s the most memorable paper of the bunch. Here’s a closeup:

And here it is on the walls and ceiling:

This paper covered the full four walls and ceiling in the dining room (FYI: we’re not going to use this room as a dining room). Plus, it was on the ceiling and walls in the entryway too! It was a lot.

Here’s another paper that we think dates to the 1940s. It was also found in a third floor bedroom (the room that will become Betty’s). The design is the most delicate of all the papers in the house. Here’s a closeup:

Here are two images where you can see it on the walls:

You can see there used to be a fireplace on that wall!

Most of the rooms we ended up de-wallpapering ourselves, but this one we hired out. Our friends were looking for a little side work and we were happy to hire them. In fact, we planned to hire them for pretty much all of the de-wallpapering, but then coronavirus hit and they had to stay home. (Happily, whenever they are able, we’ll have other jobs for them — there is plenty of work to do.)

We don’t have a remnant roll of this wallpaper, and we weren’t able to save a large piece, but we do have some decent-sized scraps. This paper has a sort of imprinted “fabric” texture. Here’s a closeup:

Here are two photos where you can see it on the wall:

This paper was found in the living room on the first floor. It’s handsome and formal — though it was very faded in spots.

In this room, the plaster walls beneath the paper have a really amazing patina and we hope to preserve the plaster as it is right now, as much as possible.

The last paper I’m going to share with you was hanging in a washroom. We don’t have any scraps of this paper, and there was no remnant roll. We meant to save pieces, but totally forgot — and the paper was cleared out and hauled away before we realized it. So I’m really glad we have these images.

Here’s a closeup:

Here it is on the wall:

This might be my favorite of the papers in the house. I like the design, and the faux wood texture it has going on.

One other lucky thing about our de-wallpapering adventures? There was only one paper in each room, instead of multiple wallpapers layered on top of one another. We have had the experience of de-wallpapering a house with multiple layers of paper in each room and I’m sure we will never forget it. : )

We don’t know what we’ll do with all these wallpaper remnants. Maybe we’ll use them on the back of a book shelf or closet. Maybe we’ll frame a bit of each. Maybe we’ll donate them to an artist. Wherever they end up, I’m glad we have a record of them.

What are your thoughts? Are you a wallpaper fan? Have you ever spent time de-wallpapering? What do you think you would do with these remnants if they were yours? Do you have a favorite of the designs?

P.S. — Remember the California Wildlife wallpaper I designed?

21 thoughts on “Tall House: Wallpaper Tour”

  1. My goodness! Wallpaper on the ceiling! That must have been a huge job! I love the idea of framing a piece of each you like and having it somewhere in that room inconspicuously. Like leaning on a bookshelf. I think there are some folks out there that would love to have them for a project especially an artist. We took down (not ourselves) large print ivy wallpaper in our old house. It revealed many cracks in the plaster that were repaired before painting. One sleeping porch we wallpapered in a faux paint which was really cool. We knew we were going to remove that porch so we didn’t want to have to repair all the cracks in that plaster. I love that you took pictures with the kids. Such a great idea!

  2. It’s interesting to me how in the pictures of the kids holding the rolls, each design is interesting and pretty in it’s own way but then when it’s on the walls, it’s so overwhelming to me. I guess I’ve never been much of a wallpaper fan so I do like the rooms without them. Although I do think wallpaper has come a long way in the past few years. I’ve loved watching all your IG stories of home renovations!

  3. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    On Escape to the Chateau, Angel Strawbridge took (very) old remnants and used them in one of the turrets. It was on a grand scale. It could be done in a smaller project. I think she took photos of one of the patterns and made fabric out of it. Anyway, the turret is wackadoodle in the best way and worth a peek. You have some lovely examples to work with.

  4. I’m very impressed that you could see the potential of the house under those busy wallpaper patterns! I’d have been too distracted.

  5. I’ve been a reader and fan since your family went to Normandy the first time. I am enjoying your reno blog posts and IG stories so, so, so much during these strange days. They have me dreaming for the day we can retire to La Belle France. Thank you for doing them. Sending you jazz hands from the ‘burbs of Atlanta, Georgia.

  6. It’s fascinating to watch the progress you’re making. I’d love for you to write a post about how you and Ben made the decision to tackle the enormous project that this house presents and how you don’t become overwhelmed with all that needs to be done… or maybe you do at times? Is the answer just to keep your eye on the prize of a finish date?

      1. I’d put together a binder of your renovation adventures and keep a bit of each wallpaper in a protective sheet protector, along with the room pictures and the photos of your kids holding each one.

  7. Ooh I would absolutely have a wallpaper gallery wall, and frame a sample of each and maybe a photo of the one that was lost.
    I love having things that show the history of places and people. There has to be a balance between being held hostage to original features in a building and changing things for functionality, style etc, but it’s also special to have the opportunity to preserve, remember and honour the history of the house and the people who came before.

  8. When I was in kindergarten our teacher made our drawing journals out of stapled together plain white paper and the outer covers were all 70’s wallpaper (I was in kindergarten in 1990). I still have two or three of these art journals that I’ve kept in large part because of the beautiful floral prints and iridescent silver streaks :)

    1. Oh and about eight years ago I removed the wallpaper cover from one of these books and rolled it into a birthday hat (cone-shape), stapled a bit of elastic in, and use it every year on my dog’s birthday for her birthday picture.

  9. I am enjoying your posts like this Immensely! It is interesting and so relaxing!
    I agree they look so pretty on the remnant rolls but way too much on the walls!
    My husband and I wall papered all the rooms in our 70’s split level in the 80’s, then
    years later removed it all, room by room. We always had to have smooth walls! It is
    amazing that worked on your plastered walls! Thank-you for these posts!!!

  10. A few years after my father died we sold the house he’d lived in for over fifty years. Our front hall had fabulous hand-screened wallpaper that had started to look really ratty in places. I knew that the new owners weren’t going to keep it so i peeled off a piece and framed it in a beautiful frame, and it now hangs in my own guestroom…truly a piece of sentimental art.

  11. so this is super random, but we just renovated a home ourselves and found the trick with getting tile up is to use a sledge hammer to break the tile first, (by hitting it straight on) then try and scrape it off the floor/wall. Hope that makes sense. We thought we would NEVER get the tile up but once we accidentally stumbled on pre-breaking the tile, it went a lot faster. Hope that helps you a bit!

  12. I love (most of) the wallpaper, such a shame none of it was salvageable. The delicate florals are stunning!

  13. 100% recommend keeping a log of each step of the renovation project with images, scraps, as much as possible. My husband’s family has had a house for the last 200 years, which they have renoved since 2014. There are very few pictures, from one summer, at the beginning of the renovation, and every year they add more stuff to the house. It would have been so great to have a scrapbook or photo album to document the transition of the house from 1940’s vibe to 1970’s to how it looks today, to show future generations and those (like me!) that marry into the family, especially because our bedroom only recently became a room, and they went from having 2 bathrooms to now having 6 !

  14. Kate the Great

    We bought a house in Oregon that was built in 1940. The downstairs bathroom has wallpaper that is pink and white stripes with a pink floral border over it. The master bedroom is tiny roses with tan iridescent background. I hate pink, and each is hideous.

    There are three other borders in the house that are in various states of removal, but we also have to live here while we do this.

    You are smart to remove it all while living elsewhere. I would have done the same, but we were in a show and I was pregnant with a medically complex baby. He is now two, and we can all breathe a little more.

  15. Hi, I came across this post while trying to date some wallpaper in an apartment I recently moved into. The building was completed in 1932 & there isn’t anything under the existing papers. As there is wood-chip on the ceilings, everyone is advising me to paint over it to make life easy for myself. It’s all quite lovely really, sadly faded & stained. For some reason I am reluctant to paint it.
    Do you have any advice for dating wallpaper?
    Thank you.

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