St. Martin House: Wallpaper Tour

De-wallpapering at the new house has been a big task. There were eight different rooms, plus the entry, that were heavily wallpapered — including three rooms with wallpapered ceilings!

It felt overwhelming to get started pulling it down, but once we got to work, using a steamer and scrapers, we found it was actually quite satisfying. We made lots of time lapse videos while we worked, which have been wonderful to watch afterwards. We would typically do a 1.5 to 2-hour shift (just long enough to go through one full tank of steam), and it’s rewarding to see two hours of progress condensed into a tidy 30 seconds. (You can watch some of the time-lapse videos on my Demolition Highlight.)

We officially finished de-wallpapering about a week ago, and I thought you might enjoy a little tour of the eight different wallpapers we’ve pulled down at the new house. Something lucky for us: As we’ve explored the house, we found remnant rolls of most of the wallpapers we pulled down.

This purple floral wallpaper was in a third floor bedroom (the bedroom that will eventually become Oscar’s room). Here’s a closeup:

Here it is on the wall:

The interesting thing about this paper is that when water touched the paper, the ink/paint started to run. You could use your finger to easily smear it:

I’m not sure if it was hand-painted or machine painted but it was definitely not water-fast (which means it probably wasn’t very cleanable either). We were told this paper was probably from the 1940s.

This was the first room we tackled. Thankfully it went fast, which was encouraging.

This wallpaper is the simplest of the designs we found in the house. It has a really thick texture. Here’s a closeup:

And here’s how it looked on the wall:

It was used above the tiles and on the ceiling in the bathroom. It’s not particularly fancy but might be nice to use as a drawer liner or something like that.

This wallpaper is the last one we pulled down and it was by far the hardest to get off the walls. It was really, really sticky.

We don’t have a remnant roll of this paper, but we were able to salvage a panel when we were taking it off the wall. This paper had to be taken down in two parts because it was made with two layers. We peeled the top layer, which is sort-of pearly and resistant to water, and then we could steam and peel the bottom layer, but again, it was so sticky!

Here’s a closeup:

Here are a couple of pictures where you can see it on the wall:

I feel like it’s really fortunate that we happened to do this room last. If we had done it first, I think we would have been discouraged and would have been less likely to tackle the other rooms so enthusiastically. This room took us twice as long as any other room — and it’s not even that big.

The other thing about this wallpaper is that it was still in great condition — definitely one of the newer papers in the house. We considered leaving it on the walls, but when the electrical demolition and plumbing demolition started, it was getting ripped up anyway, so we decided to take it down.

Hello 70’s vibe!

This wallpaper is sort of plastic-y and scrubbable. Which makes sense, because it was on the walls and ceiling in the kitchen. Here’s a closeup:

Here are two photos so you can see it on the wall (and ceiling!):

We’ve started tackling the tile in this room as well — I don’t mind the look but it had lots of broken pieces and ultimately wasn’t salvageable. The tile was taking us SO LONG, and we ended up buying a demolition hammer to help out. We’re going to try again maybe this week.

This bold wallpaper was heavily used in the house. I think it’s the most memorable paper of the bunch. Here’s a closeup:

And here it is on the walls and ceiling:

This paper covered the full four walls and ceiling in the dining room (FYI: we’re not going to use this room as a dining room). Plus, it was on the ceiling and walls in the entryway too! It was a lot.

Here’s another paper that we think dates to the 1940s. It was also found in a third floor bedroom (the room that will become Betty’s). The design is the most delicate of all the papers in the house. Here’s a closeup:

Here are two images where you can see it on the walls:

You can see there used to be a fireplace on that wall!

Most of the rooms we ended up de-wallpapering ourselves, but this one we hired out. Our friends were looking for a little side work and we were happy to hire them. In fact, we planned to hire them for pretty much all of the de-wallpapering, but then coronavirus hit and they had to stay home. (Happily, whenever they are able, we’ll have other jobs for them — there is plenty of work to do.)

We don’t have a remnant roll of this wallpaper, and we weren’t able to save a large piece, but we do have some decent-sized scraps. This paper has a sort of imprinted “fabric” texture. Here’s a closeup:

Here are two photos where you can see it on the wall:

This paper was found in the living room on the first floor. It’s handsome and formal — though it was very faded in spots.

In this room, the plaster walls beneath the paper have a really amazing patina and we hope to preserve the plaster as it is right now, as much as possible.

The last paper I’m going to share with you was hanging in a washroom. We don’t have any scraps of this paper, and there was no remnant roll. We meant to save pieces, but totally forgot — and the paper was cleared out and hauled away before we realized it. So I’m really glad we have these images.

Here’s a closeup:

Here it is on the wall:

This might be my favorite of the papers in the house. I like the design, and the faux wood texture it has going on.

One other lucky thing about our de-wallpapering adventures? There was only one paper in each room, instead of multiple wallpapers layered on top of one another. We have had the experience of de-wallpapering a house with multiple layers of paper in each room and I’m sure we will never forget it. : )

We don’t know what we’ll do with all these wallpaper remnants. Maybe we’ll use them on the back of a book shelf or closet. Maybe we’ll frame a bit of each. Maybe we’ll donate them to an artist. Wherever they end up, I’m glad we have a record of them.

What are your thoughts? Are you a wallpaper fan? Have you ever spent time de-wallpapering? What do you think you would do with these remnants if they were yours? Do you have a favorite of the designs?

P.S. — Remember the California Wildlife wallpaper I designed?

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