On the Selection of Wall Papers.

Manufacturer and builder 7 / 1877

Some people think that if their walls are covered with paper hangings of a showy design, the object of a wall decoration has been attained, and that they have but to select some bright pattern, hightened by a touch or two of gold to prove their taste. It is true many will admire a room so papered, and wonder where the hangings were obtained; and there are those too, who, going to the other extreme, will be amazed that any one could content themselves with it.

That color is essential to our happiness, man in every stage, from the lowest in the scale to the most cultivated, acknowledges. It matters not how degenerate he may be, how far removed from every trace of civilization, of one thing we may be certain - the visage of the savage, wherever found, will be daubed with colors, and his bark canoe and murderous club will be incised with red and yellow ochres. A higher civilization finds expression in a more thorough appreciation of colors, and the examples left us by the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Pompeiians bear witness to their love of an skill in the decorative arts.

When wall paper first appeared, it was a great advance on the only custom then in vogue - that of decorating with the painter's brush, or covering the walls with tapestry. Both of these methods of decorating were beyond the reach of all but the wealthy; and when it was found that house paper, although loaded down with a burdensome tax, could be produced at a cost not much below that of painting, it at once came into favor, and has continued to be populat.

While we recognize the good wall paper has done, we are not unmindful of its shortcomings, or what it yet has to accomplish.That the manufacturers are not wholly to blame we admit; the public, hungry for display, demand the greatest amount of show for the least money, which has led to bringing out designs intended to catch the eye rather than to appeal to our sense of propriety and the fitness of things.

No man can give rules for selecting house paper, or aid one in that work, if he be not present when the selection is made and has no knowledge of the room in which it is to be hung. To do this successfully, he must know the size of the room, its aspect, its use, and what the paper is to be brought in contact with in the way of carpets, furniture, and pictures. Lacking this information, he cannot say whether the room should have a bright and gay paper, or one plain and subdued. If the ceiling be low, it might require a design calculated to give it apparent hight; or if the ceilings are already too high, something to reduce the apparent hight would be needed. Through a lack of windows, or from being on the shady side of the house, it may be dull and unattractive without some fresh and spirited design on the walls: or, basking in the sunshine, it may need subdued colors to balance and counteract an excess of light. One pattern looks best in the roll; another appears to be better advantage on the walls. A bright bouquet may strike one as pleasant, but repetition of a set pattern makes a wall look blotchy. Figures in the round are not to be tolerated; but some of the flat designs are good, though not all.

We caution all who have this matter at heart, to study it carefully, and not rely too much on their own judgment until they have strengthened it by experience. A woman studies the dress of every other woman, and sees through and through every detail of her intricate make-up. With her it is intuitive, nothing escapes her scrutiny, and even a casual glance enables her to describe dress with an accuracy that attests her skill in unravelling such enigmas. The same amount of attention to the subject under consideration would enable her to make judicious selections when the time came to re-paper her walls and re-furnish her rooms.

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