Vintage kraft wallpapers are easy to spot. While most vintage wallpaper designs were printed on relatively thin, light in color, and pliable paper, some vintage wallpaper patterns were printed on a thick, dark, almost cardboard-like kraft paper. Today we call these darker, stiffer wallpapers "vintage kraft papers" or "vintage kraft wallpaper," but at the time they were printed, they were known as "decorative building papers".
The two pictures below show the difference between regular vintage wallpaper and vintage kraft paper:
The differences between traditional wallpaper and vintage kraft paper may be obvious (especially if you touch the two types with your own hands), but what's not obvious is the purpose behind vintage kraft papers. What were they created for anyway?
These vintage kraft papers or "decorative building papers" were primarily used to insulate and decorate small cabins, farm or ranch houses, and summer homes. The heavy-duty durability of these papers made them ideal for keeping out dust and cold drafts in log cabins, and they were also great for putting up in temporary residences for seasonal farm and ranch help. In homes that were only occupied in the summer, they offered just enough insulation to keep out the dust and wind while still letting the house remain cool. These decorative building papers were especially popular in the 1930's because they were inexpensive, functional, and decorative.
While vintage kraft wallpaper could be applied to the wall with a traditional wheat paste, it was most often hung by simply using tacks.
The paper was tacked directly into the logs, keeping the overall installation of the wallpaper very inexpensive. They came in either red, green, or gray, and one box of tacks was sufficient for a whole room. Most rolls of this decorative building paper came in extra large bolts (and sometimes even expanded widths) in order that one whole roll would cover an entire room. With one low-cost bolt of paper and one cheap box of tacks, the purchaser should have been able to insulate and decorate one whole room. These papers were truly the definition of economy.
One of our customers, Todd, used a vintage kraft paper floral to restore his great-grandparents' log cabin.
This log cabin, built in 1904, was purchased by Todd's great-grandparents in 1950. During the restoration process, Todd found one bedroom with its original kraft wallpaper tacked to the wall. He carefully removed the paper in order to repair and secure the log walls but then simply tacked the paper back up in its original place. He purchased this pink floral kraft wallpaper for the front bedroom, and applied it with linoleum tile tape to make it more permanent.
Todd furnished the cabin with family pieces from his great-grandparents', grandparents', and mother's home.
Todd is still in the process of finishing the other bedrooms, but his great-grandparents' cabin is currently listed on the National Historic Registry.
Decorative building papers came in a variety of patterns and styles to be used in many different rooms. Here are a few of the vintage kraft papers that we have as part of our Hannah's Treasures collection: