The Room Beautiful: The W. L. Donehower Wallpaper Catalog of the 1920’s


The booklet shows handsome roomsets in full colour illustrations. The wallpaper designs are notable for featuring “panelled wallpaper treatments”, a fashionable method of paper hanging in the 1920’s. The wallpapers are bordered with narrow borders – sometimes called “fillets” – to give the appearance of a more richly decorated room.

The popularity for historic reproduction wallpaper is illustrated as well.  The pattern called “The Cherry Valley” was:

 “an exact reproduction in design and colour found in the Morse House at Cherry Valley, New York”.

The design was known to be “at least 100 years old”. In an unfortunate (to today’s eyes) reference, the booklet notes that it was found in the village “made historical by the terrible Indian Massacre of 1778”, as if that somehow made the design more attractive.

The illustrations also give useful information on how rooms were furnished in the 1920’s. Historically designed reproduction furniture in Sheraton and Hepplewhite styling was fashionable, and arranged in a sparse, slightly formal manner.  One notation adds that the wallpaper goes with  “with mahogany or the painted furniture now so popular”.

Draperies – especially in the bedrooms illustrated – are primarily decorative. Valances and non-working side panels coordinate with the decoration of the room, but daytime privacy and control of sunlight is managed by the use of sheer curtains and night time light-blocking by the use of roller blinds in pale colours.

Carpets in the bedrooms are wall to wall, sometimes with borders added close to the baseboards.  In formal downstairs rooms, large loose carpets with borders are used, exposing the wood floors that were fashionable at the time. The wood floors were often laid in oak or other hardwoods, and featured inlaid decoration at the edges.

In any period, Interior decoration has a look and feel all of its own. By observing carefully what makes up the small differences of each era, one can determine the “look” of each fashionable period, and if one desires, recreate the entire ambiance of the time, or simply choose wallpaper that respects the architecture of your own home, and mix it with furniture from other periods.


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