We are so excited to have recently acquired another stunning collection of vintage wallpaper--this time from Europe! We love all of our American papers of course, but we're thrilled to be able to offer some great vintage designs from across the ocean too.
Sorting through all of these papers brought up a good question: What's the difference between American and European vintage wallpaper? What makes Europeans designs different? Well, there are a few noteworthy comparisons which can help answer these questions and also show why adding a load of European papers to our collection so exciting.
1.) Roll Size
Certainly the most tactile and immediately noticeable difference between European and American vintage wallpaper rolls is the size. European rolls are typically about 1/3 smaller than American rolls. So while traditional American double rolls cover approximately 50 square feet of wall space after matching, European rolls only cover an estimated 35 square feet. This does mean that you'll need more rolls of European wallpaper to cover a space than you would American rolls, but with such fantastic designs, they are certainly worth it!
2.) Color Palette
Just by sampling American and European patterns from the same era, it's easy to tell that there are striking differences in color. Let's take the 1930s for example and look at these two vintage wallpaper palettes below. The first is American, the second European.
American 1930s Vintage Wallpaper
European 1930's Vintage Wallpaper
During the 1930s, the American printing colors for wallpaper were generally muted pastels with lots of emphasis on peach, beige, soft pink, and hazy blue. This provided for a very subdued palette that easily transitioned from room to room. With their delicate hues, American 1930's wallpapers tempered living spaces with a gentleness and softness that was both elegant and modest.
European 1930s wallpaper colors, on the other hand, are a little more daring. Bright reds, brilliant blues, oranges, and yellows emerge from their blue-gray or beige bases. The 1930s European palette is unified by its subtle edginess more than the ability of each paper to blend into another. Amazingly, even this potent chartreuse found a place in European wallpaper during the 1930s.
This same color waited until the 60s and 70s to move into American wallpaper design.
3.) Line Quality
To go along with their pastel palette, American 1930s wallpapers tend to have a gentleness to their lines as well. Notice how a close up view of this 1930s American botanical reveals multiple, staggered printings around the leaves. By finely offsetting both color and line, this technique carefully dissolves the harsh edge and contributes to a general softness for the paper.
1930's European wallpapers tend to have stronger lines that clarify the design. These lines are often of darker colors such as brown or black. Whether through outlining or selective placement, these lines serve to emphasize and enhance the images on the paper, rather than subdue and soften.
While smaller rolls, bolder colors, and more distinct lines do characterize European vintage wallpaper in general, there are of course exceptions to the rule. You will certainly find surprising colors among 1930's American wallpapers, and some European vintage wallpapers have hazy edges. You may even run across European wallpaper rolls that are large like the American rolls (please note that any European roll that is smaller and thus covers less square footage will be marked as such on our Website), but for the most part, these little guidelines hold true.
Here's a better look at the 1930's European wallpapers for more oohing and ahhing...