Monday, January 5, 2009

If walls could talk

Our farmhouse turns 100 years old in 2012. I'm thinking about holding a big birthday party, and inviting a ton of folks over for the world's largest pot luck. Dozens of tables out in the yard, gallons of lemonade and acres of hot dish. Our house is the old cube-style farmhouse, well-built with original woodwork and lots of character. Character means really cool stuff like ornate vent covers, and only-slightly-less-cool stuff like salamanders in the basement.

Character also means wallpaper. When our third son was born three years ago, we turned the guest bedroom into nursery. We decided to paint it yellow. But first we had to remove the fugly hearts-and-teddy-bears wallpaper from the walls. Easier said than done. Under the fugly wallpaper was another layer of wallpaper, then two layers of paint, then a layer of lead paint (more character). We stopped at that point and decided not to remove anything further. We applied a sealant to the layer of lead, then painted on two coats of our yellow paint. That was the first and so-far last painting project we've done in this house.

We have other rooms with wallpaper, and each design makes its own statement. I personally think a lot can be learned about history by studying the wallpaper designs from each decade. Our house could be a graduate thesis in itself. Our dining room, probably the most recently papered, has a fairly bland floral design.

The living room wallpaper is a little older and features a vertical striped pattern, still floral but a little more flashy. Also please note the yellow ladybug sticker. I didn't until after I took the picture. A few years ago little boys decided to infest the walls and furniture of our house with ladybug stickers. Thought I had found them all. Apparently not.

Then we have our kitchen wallpaper. A colorful montage of flowers, kitchenware, fruit and fungi. Any pictures hung against these walls are immediately lost from view.

But wait! Peel back a little of this kitchen paper (or let it peel itself back in the corners), and see what's revealed: another older layer of wallpaper, of an even brasher design.

I think I actually like this last design best. Maybe because it is the oldest, and most original to the house. Maybe because brown is my favorite color. Maybe because I have no decorating taste whatsoever. Or maybe it's because I believe that art shouldn't match the sofa. If you're going to put something on the wall, make it bright and brassy and fun. And make it you.

If I ever put up wallpaper myself, I'll take a lesson from Willie Wonka (the great Gene Wilder Wonka, not that awful Johnny Depp Wonka). Leave the flowers and nondescrip pastels at the store. Take a risk, stick out a tongue and taste the snozzberries.


Karen said...

"SCHNOZZBERRY? Whoever heard of a Schnozzberry?" said little Veruka Salts!!

It only took one attempt of taking down wallpaper (after having applied it only four years earlier) for me to hate the stuff! Much easier to just repaint the room!

Jo said...

But with paint you aren't able to have mushrooms, corncobs, coffee grinders and phonographs on your walls!