Thirty-three years ago, when we remodeled our Alaska house, I papered the bathroom walls with Laura Ashley wallpaper. I bought the rolls at the Laura Ashley store in San Francisco and carried them home on the plane in a huge green plastic bag. I’m both proud and embarrassed that I still look at this wallpaper on a regular basis – proud that it’s held up pretty well and I still like it, but also embarrassed because it hasn’t held up ALL that well, and it really should be replaced.
My grandmother, Agnes Hall, definitely would have picked out and hung new paper by now. She enjoyed redecorating. Housework was not her forte, but she liked change, and moved furniture and repainted and repapered the rooms often.
Except for the whitewashed kitchen, all the downstairs rooms and some of the upstairs ones were busy with the patterns of wallpaper. I don’t know when the first sheet of paper was hung at the farm, but from 1912 to 1914, spring meant it was time to repaint and repaper the walls.
Friday, April 12, 1912 – “Pauline taking off the paper in front chambers. Getting ready for the paperhanger. Hard work scratching it off.” – Lydia Jane hall
Saturday, April 13, 1912 – “Pa scratching off paper in Ellen’s room.” – Lydia Jane Hall
And in the midst of this domestic activity my great-grandmother announced:
Sunday, April 14, 1912 – “The steamer Titanic went down. Many lives lost.” – Lydia Jane Hall
But the decorating at the Hall farm went on as usual.
Wednesday, April 17, 1912 – “Ellsworth painted the two chambers upstairs.” – Lydia Jane Hall
Friday, April 19, 1912 – “Mr. Goodspeed here papering.” – Lydia Jane Hall
Tuesday, May 7, 1912 – “Ellsworth painted the bathroom.” – Lydia Jane Hall
One of the upstairs chambers was the room my mother and father used after their marriage in 1943. The photo is in black and white, but I like to imagine the paper in soft pink and cream, so I added a little of my own color.
The dining room was repapered at least three times between 1945 and 1968.
My grandfather, Ellsworth Hall, in addition to his duties as a farmer and a turkey carver, was also the family painter. It makes sense given his patient and methodical way of doing jobs. In another life he might have been an artist, painting pictures of rooms instead of the rooms themselves.
Wednesday, April 16, 1913 – “Ellsworth whitewashed the kitchen. Looks nice.” – Lydia Jane Hall
Monday, September 22, 1913 – “Ellsworth painted upstairs.” – Lydia Jane Hall
Tuesday, September 30, 1913 – “Mr. Goodspeed here papering the bedroom and preparing the other two rooms.” — Lydia Jane Hall
Here is the living room wallpaper in 1942.
And here it is in 1949.
I wonder how the wallpaper patterns were chosen. Did someone come to the house with a book of samples? Were they ordered from a store? However it was done, it must have been fun to have fresh walls every year or so.
Tuesday, June 9, 1914 – “A nice day. Two weeks ironing. All day work, with that the paperhanger called up. Coming tomorrow to paper the bathroom. The paper to be taken off which took until bedtime, and part of the next morning. Everything all stirred up.” – Lydia Jane Hall
Thursday, June 25, 1914 – “Ellsworth whitewashed the kitchen.” – Lydia Jane Hall
The parlor was always such a cozy room, and I love the paper on the walls in this photo of the Capable Cooks Club meeting in 1932. Later on it was replaced by a covering with wide stripes, which never seemed quite so pleasing.
I wonder why paper instead of paint? Maybe it made the rooms seem warmer. Certainly it made them more colorful. Perhaps it was just the times. The downstairs bedroom, where my grandmother slept for as long as I knew her, was a lovely room with a door leading into the backyard and flowery paper on the walls. My brother told me that when the house burned in January 1971, my Grandma’s Hall’s bedroom remained intact- the wallpaper untouched by the flames. I have no photos of that bedroom, but here’s my grandmother standing near the door to her room around 1962. I wish the door had been left open so that I could have one last glimpse of the bedroom walls.
On Monday: A Few Old Books