The Interesting History of Wallpaper


Almost every home in present times has wallpapers, as it is an easier way to decorate the walls without having to paint them painstakingly for a long period of time. Wallpapers offer a variety of designs that will surely level up the aesthetic of any room in your home, whether it’s the kitchen or the bedroom. While many people are familiar with wallpapers, only a few know about its origins. To fill you in with a little bit of knowledge as to where the decorative item is invented, here is the interesting history of the wallpaper.


The earliest wallpaper is believed to have been first created in China around 200 B.C., which is also after the Chinese invented paper. The first wallpaper is said to have been made using rice that is glued together to form a piece of paper. Then, they would paint multiple glued rice paper pieces with beautiful artworks of birds, trees, flowers, and even mountains. Those who are amazed by the appearance of the glued paper artwork would usually stick it on their walls, and the practice eventually became popular among the Chinese elite.

When several Chinese workers were imprisoned by the people in the Middle East, they were forced to share their knowledge of making paper. The Middles Eastern people then began selling paper, although they would soon change its material from glued rice or wood to linen for durability.

The Chinese also sold or traded their paper to Europeans in the 16th century, and it was at this period that paper transformed into a decorative item for homes.

The First Wallpaper

The first wallpaper was invented in 16th century Europe, although it was not made to decorate walls at first; instead, it was utilized to stick artwork in cupboards and smaller rooms. Contrary to popular belief, it was not the elites who first used wallpapers abundantly, as it was the merchants who traded with the Chinese who improved upon the creative quality of the paper and turned into a decorative item.

By the 19th century, the merchants perfected the wallpapers and started selling them to the wealthiest people in Europe. The elites then began putting wallpapers in almost every room in their mansion, including the bathroom and the kitchen.

Imitation Velvet

The intended use of wallpaper during that period was to act as an alternative for velvet, which is a material that is expensive even for those who belong in the upper class. Merchants created imitations of velvet using paper and then sold it to the elite for a much lower price than real velvet. These imitation velvet papers would soon be called “flocks.”

Imitation Marble and Wood Printing

Velvet is not the only material that paper can imitate, as Europeans would discover that it can imitate marble as well. The imitation marble paper was first created by a guild of French painters called the Dominotiers, which was founded in 1599. 

The guild’s first creation was the imitation marble paper that they sold to the elite who wanted a cheaper alternative to real marble for their floors or walls. The Dominotiers’ invention would still be used today, as you would often see imitation marble wallpapers or flooring pieces in many modern homes. The second most popular creation of the same guild was the wood printing process in 1620, wherein they would paint the wood and transfer the same paint onto several pieces through pressing.

Repeating Wallpaper

The repeating wallpaper is a variant wherein its sides are the same to the sides found in another wallpaper, and if the two pieces are connected, they would still form a cohesive design. This type of wallpaper was invented by Jean-Michel Papillon in 1675. Papillon’s invention, like the imitation marble paper, would continue to be a popular creation up to the present times.

Wallpaper Printing

damaged wallpaper in an old house

While wallpaper is cheaper than the materials that it intends to imitate, the process of creating the item is still rather arduous until the 17th century. Thankfully, a French man named Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf invented the machine that can print designs on wallpaper. The invention would then be improved upon by Alois Senefelder in 1798, when he developed a unique printing process called lithography.

The wallpaper printing industry began to boom in the early 1800s when Charles Harold Potter introduced a printing machine that can print 400 rolls of wallpaper a day in four colors. The amount of wallpaper produced in one day is thanks to the mechanized roller than prints the designs quicker than blocks of wood. Other wallpaper printing companies began copying Potter’s process, thus producing an abundance of wallpapers on the market.

The Invention of Wallpaper Paste

The problem with wallpaper, as many homeowners would realize, is that it doesn’t stick too well on the wall, and it will peel after a few months. The drawback of the wallpaper would soon contribute to the downfall of the wallpaper in the later 1800s, as people would prefer using paint to decorate their homes since it is much longer-lasting.

The wallpaper companies began to think of ways to improve the wallpaper’s ability to stick to walls much longer. In 1888, a man named Ferdinand Sichel invented the wallpaper paste to remedy the problem faced by the companies. With the invention of the wallpaper paste, the industry boomed once again in the 20th century, with the Victorian Era being considered as the “Golden Age of Wallpaper.”

Wallpaper Today

Over the years, the wallpaper never went out style, and it was rather improved upon to enhance its durability and beauty. In the years after World War II, the material used for making wallpaper changed, as the delicate paper would be replaced by a more durable plastic resin. The plastic resin wallpaper is not only longer-lasting, but they also prevent designs and artworks printed on it from fading.

Today, plastic resin wallpapers are commonly seen in millions of homes around the world. Because of how easy it can decorate homes in an instant, the wallpaper may not disappear from the spotlight in the distant future.

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