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( Article orginally published January 1958 )
A little imagination goes a long way in using a collection of antiques. Take the matter of a collection of antique prints. Of course, you can keep them in portfolios, leafing through them occasion (but what a waste of a collection) ; or you can have some of them framed and hung about the house (but too many framed and hung prints often produce the effect of an art shop or picture gallery).
So imaginative print collectors have hit on the splendid idea of using antique prints as wallpaper. This wonderful idea is spreading now from the collectors, to the interior decorators...who have put their professional stamp of approval on it and carried it to further lengths.
Old prints of the 19th century were printed on wonderful heavy paper and painted in fine colors. Both paper and color will stand the test of time better than most modern wallpapers.
The fact that old prints can be tried with such wonderful effect will justify their expense (which may be even less than the cost of a good contemporary wallpaper). I certainly do not suggest using really fine rare collectors prints, but there are many charming prints that can be bought at reasonable prices for use as wallpaper. The best way to buy a quantity of prints for wallpaper use is in the book. An old book on botany, birds, costumes or military uniforms may often yield over 100 prints.
These are many ways to use your prints as wallpaper. They can cover an entire small wall, or make a panel on a larger wall, or a dado all the way around a room. They can be used to cover a guest closet or a tiny powder room, to cover the panels of a door, or completely cover a flush door, or a folding screen. They can be used with wonderful effect to outline an architectural feature as a small window, or an archway. Smaller quantities of prints can be utilized to cover a tray, a coffe table top, a lampshade, wastepaper basket or trinket box.
Choose the prints to suit the room...vegetables or herbs in a kitchen, ferns in a powder room or bath, leaves in a small hall, flowers for a bedroom. A man's study can be done in military costumes or political cartoons. Junior's room might be papered with nautical prints or maps, a young girl would love a panel of pretty birds for her bedroom (or an inexpensive wooden headboard covered with flower prints).
Using prints for wallpaper is an excellent opportunity for the do-it yourself addict, or a professional decorator can be called in. In any case you must use perfect pages, no ripped edges. You can keep the deckled page edges or trim them off. The prints can be applied with any wallpaper paste, to almost any surface. In a bathroom or kitchen you might want to protect them with a coat of shellac or a sheet of clear plastic film. For table tops or trays a covering of glass or plastic is a must.
You will find that these prints keep their beauty a long time, and, the fact that each print is different means you won't get tired of the effect as quickly as you tire of some other decoration.
Few of us can ever hope to own a panel of museum-piece old wallpaper for our homes. But, with careful browsing and buying of antique books many of us can afford to use inexpensive prints as wallpaper. We repeat, do not use expensive or rare prints in this fashion.