Of all the unique artisan shops that we know and love, none is as invested in engaging, exploring, and expanding their use of vintage wallpaper as Fondue Vintage Homewares. Fondue specializes in using old wallpaper to transform humdrum items into extraordinary coversation pieces. Switchplates, tissue boxes, and lamp shades, once merely functional and hardly worthy of a passing glance, become localized pieces of art for your wall or table, and with a large collection of varying patterns and styles, you can find something for every room. We spoke with Nicole (the creative force behind Fondue) about her shop and infatuation with vintage wallpaper. Here's what she shared with us:
We always use authentic vintage wallpapers — not reproductions, so our items hold that little bit of history and hands-on craftsmanship. We often do not have more than one or two rolls of each pattern and when it’s gone, chances are, we may not be able to acquire it again. Our items are made to order according to customer specifications and everything is handmade by us in our home studio in middle Tennessee.
This all got started 10 years ago. During a snowy New England day in 2004, I decided to cover some of our switch plate covers throughout our home in a few patterns from a couple 1950’s wallpaper sample books I had found at a barn sale that summer. At first my husband, Mark, thought I was a little nuts, but once they were up on the walls, we were both amazed at how much impact they had — like miniature pieces of artwork — we couldn't stop looking at them!
About a year later we decided to move south to Tennessee and put our house on the market. When the house sold, the buyers wrote in the contract that the switch plates in the home remain there. It was then that we thought we had something that would appeal to others who are also tired of their lackluster, almond-colored, plastic switch & outlet covers…an item in the home that’s used daily, but oft completely overlooked and ignored.
We started collecting rolls of vintage wallpapers in as many styles and pattern varieties as we could find. In 2006, we opened up an Etsy shop and started selling our switch plates online. Eventually we started covering tissue box covers and then drum lampshades. We also set up shop at various craft shows around the U.S. to gain exposure for our wares.
I love vintage wallpaper! I enjoy discovering the variety of patterns (some are wild and hard to imagine covering a whole room), the colors, the textures, even the smell of the old papers. Beyond pattern design, each paper has its own personality —some are thin, others thicker; some are brittle, some more pliable; some papers are easy to work with, some tend to bubble and be difficult. I get to know them all rather intimately like they are family members (some are easier to get along with than others!).
Vintage wallpaper may have quaint characteristics, but there is nothing simplistic about it to me. I’m often impressed by the amount of colors used —colors that would be applied one at a time and with keeping everything in register. It’s the hand of the artist / crafter that’s still present. Upon initially seeing our work, a lot of people ask if our pieces are hand painted. What’s funny is they are often more impressed when they learn it’s vintage wallpaper!
Lampshades can be challenging to build, but they are my favorite to make because of the big impact they have with showing off the pattern. I collect vintage lamp bases that I clean up, rewire, and sometimes paint. I love designing shades for them making truly one-of-a-kind pieces. Lamps are such a fun accessory to a room and can add so much character. Why top it with a boring white shade? Have some fun with it!
There are many things that motivate me: Color, pattern and texture. Good design. Being outside and taking time to look at, be with, and listen to Mother Nature. Watching our cats, dog, and chickens comingle happily in our backyard and cooking with things that grow in our garden. I feel lucky to work at home and to be surrounded by the things I love, but I also find new perspectives on things when visiting cities, new places, and meeting new people.
Inspiration, for me, is often found unexpectedly out of the clear blue …a juxtaposition of mundane or arbitrary items that all of a sudden create an interesting harmony and “speak” to each other. Maybe there are two completely different styles of patterns that work surprisingly well together because they share a similar palette or have interesting contrast in scale or proportions and create a serendipitous energy. I love eclectic style and playing with combinations – especially with home décor.
Our items are all made to order and we are happy to help customers with finding the right size of lampshade, suggesting the best pattern for their space, etc. I have worked with customers who have come to our home studio prepared with swatches, paint chips, and pictures of rooms, and together we’ve hand-selected patterns from our drawers of papers. I have also visited their homes for a consultation with paper samples in order to test and select patterns. I work in person with customers in the middle Tennessee area and also offer a complimentary 15 minute consultation via Skype for those who live farther away.
Visit Fondue on Etsy to see the increidble selection they have to offer. All of their items can be made with any pattern that you see (with only a few exceptions), and they can work with whatever kind of wall plate or shade need that you have. Be sure to like them on Facebook too to get the updates on their latest projects and special promotions.