Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Decorated Wall

Utilized by the early Egyptians, stenciled walls are still very popular today.  Refined stencils were used in this 1800's home in San Miguel, Mexico.
Art dealer Jennifer Gyr invited me to attend Florence de Dampierre's lecture on her new book, Walls: The Best of Decorative Treatments. In her research, de Dampierre found that in many people, walls stir passion. Thus, she began the lecture with Oscar Wilde's deathbed quote: "my wallpaper is killing me - one of us must go!"
Walls offers multiple examples of each decorative technique, arranged chronologically (mural, fresco, canvas, chinoiserie, wood panel, stencil, fresco mixed with stencil, and wallpaper) and explained based on period, style trends and geographic location.

Fresco is one of the oldest mural techniques and dates back to 7,000 B.C..  In fresco murals, an artist applies tempura paint to fresh, still-wet plaster. This Pompeian red fresco (from the House of the Priest Amandu) depicts Hercules.

Frescos decorate the ceiling of the Roman Palazzo. 

Landscapes and mythology are the subject of many Roman frescos.  Ferragamo's dining room fresco portrays Diana and her hunting party.

Europeans became captivated by the Orient in the late 17th Century and created chinoiserie wall designs in every medium.  This one is from the Chinese Pavillion at Dottingham Palace.

Starting in the Middle Ages, wood paneled walls have been used for beauty and for practical insulation purposes.  Here, landscapes on wood panel decorate the entry at Sandemar Manor in Sweden. 

 In the 17th Century, many wood paneled rooms followed a formula of parquet floors, faux marbre painted baseboards and boiseries (carved paneling) below and above the chair rail. The Parisian living room by Albert Pinto offers an elegant example.  

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, lacquered rooms were in vogue and displayed royal grander in mansions throughout Europe.    This one is originally from Turin's Palazzo Riccasoli, circa 1750.

Chinese wallpaper dates back to 200 B.C.  Wallpaper was hand painted prior to printing technology.  Here, a New York City guest room is papered in painted chinoiserie wallpaper.

In the late 18th Century, the French developed scenic, panoramic landscape wallpapers some of which are still available through iconic French paper house, Zuber.  Zuber's "Decor Chinois" is shown above.
Potterton Books hosted the lecture at the New York School of Interior Design.  Many talented designers were in attendance, including Albert Hadley.  Visit Potterton Books website (http://www.pottertonbooksusa.com/) for information on upcoming lectures and book signings and check out http://www.florencededampierre.com/ to learn more about the career of Florence de Dampierre.


  1. Beautiful!
    The next time you are in Richmond you should stop by MacLaren Jewelers and see our hand-stenciled walls! The design is inspired by a William Morris print. Byrne Wheeler of Charlottesville, VA did the hand-stencil work. He also painted a few designs on our display cases. You can see some interior pics on the website: http://maclarenjewelers.com/local-flair.html

  2. Very cool! My mom would love this book. But I'm shocked "Walls" didn't use Robert's old apartment as an example!

  3. Lizzie, thank you for sharing! William Morris prints are so good looking. Will have to pop by your shop the next time I am in VA! xo

  4. Chase, you are so right! I totally forgot about the murals at Robert's old bachelor rental - how hideous! I need to get a photo to share with readers - too hilarious!

  5. LOVE Painted Walls!

    The one's in Florence's Pitti Palace are some of my favorites! Great blog!


  6. Thank you, MacKenzie, and for passing along the link to your blog - very nice!!