Have you seen the wallpaper in Sherlock Holmes’ and Dr. Watson’s flat in the British TV crime series? How could you miss it? The first time they walked into that living room with the brown and white pattern sweeping across one side of the room, I stopped hearing what Benedict Cumberbatch was saying. I couldn’t take my eyes off the wall.
I like this TV series for lots of reasons. Joe and I are currently rewatching it from the beginning to prime ourselves for the next season. The writing and acting are completely engaging, but I have to admit the wallpapers are right up there with my favorite things about the show.
When I was a kid, our ranch house had graphically bold wallpaper in the entry hallway and along one wall of the dining room. Both wallpapers featured green flocking against an off-white backdrop. The entryway wallpaper had broad vertical green stripes, and the dining room wallpaper was a large-scale green fleur de lis pattern. I’m not sure if I truly liked them at the time, but I think I appreciated the uniqueness. It was not the kind of thing I saw in other peoples’ homes at that time.
Fast forward to the late 70s and my first non-shared apartment. There I was, putting up a large deco-inspired floral—and yes, metallic—wallpaper on one of my living room walls. I’d never done it before but managed to figure it out enough to get one wall decently covered. I would later inhabit places with wallpaper I was either indifferent to, or that I found exotically appealing (such as textured seagrass).
In the mid 80s, wallpaper was coming down. And when I moved into an apartment with (metallic) wallpaper, I took it down and repainted. My landlord was pleased and agreed the place looked improved. He said his drunken uncle had put the wallpaper up, which accounted for the pattern being upside down. I also removed an enormous sunset mural from the bedroom wall, and the landlord was not sad to see that go, either.
When I bought my first house in the early 90s, a two-family in a Boston hilltop neighborhood, the back bedroom had been wallpapered with a brown and orange 70s-inspired design made to like bookshelves filled with books. I’m pretty sure that too had some metallic element to it. The first thing to go was the dark brown shag carpeting, but right after that the wallpaper came down.
And then somewhere along the line, maybe around the time we bought our modern place in the city, wallpaper had seeped back into my aesthetic awareness. In a good way; as something potentially attractive and atmospheric. I saw how it could bring subtle understated interest to an environment, or create a luxurious backdrop or a handsome anchor for a space. I appreciate it more in small doses now; covering a single wall in a room, or making a dramatic all-over show in a small bathroom.
Up until I began writing this, I had never given this much thought to my history of wallpaper. What are your wallpaper memories?