AskDefine | Define wallpaper

Dictionary Definition

wallpaper n : a decorative paper for the walls of rooms v : cover with wallpaper [syn: paper]

User Contributed Dictionary




From wall + paper


  1. Decorative paper-like material used to cover the inner walls of buildings.
  2. An image used to cover and thereby personalize a desktop.
  3. A style or design of such material or image.
    He is letting her select the wallpapers for the whole house.


decorative paper for walls
computing: image used to cover a desktop
  • Czech: tapeta
  • Finnish: taustakuva
  • German: Hintergrundbild , Wallpaper
  • Greek: ταπετσαρία (tapetsaría), φόντο (fóndo)


  1. To cover (a wall, a room, etc) with wallpaper.



to cover with wallpaper

Extensive Definition

This page refers to the material used for interior decoration. For other uses, see wallpaper (disambiguation).
Wallpaper is material which is used to cover and decorate the interior walls of homes, offices, and other buildings; it is one aspect of interior decoration. Wallpapers are usually sold in rolls and are put onto a wall using wallpaper paste.
Wallpapers can come either plain so it can be painted or with patterned graphics. Wallpaper printing techniques include surface printing, gravure printing, silk screen-printing, and rotary printing. Mathematically speaking, there are seventeen basic patterns, described as wallpaper groups, that can be used to tile an infinite plane. All manufactured wallpaper patterns are based on these groups. A single pattern can be issued in several different colorways.
"Wallpaper" is also a term for computer wallpaper.


Wallpaper, using the printmaking technique of woodcut, gained popularity in Renaissance Europe amongst the emerging gentry. The elite of society were accustomed to hanging large tapestries on the walls of their homes, a tradition from the Middle Ages. These tapestries added colour to the room as well as providing an insulating layer between the stone walls and the room, thus retaining heat in the room. However, tapestries were extremely expensive and so only the very rich could afford them. Less well-off members of the elite, unable to buy tapestries due either to prices or wars preventing international trade, turned to wallpaper to brighten up their rooms.
Early wallpaper featured scenes similar to those depicted on tapestries, and large sheets of the paper were sometimes hung loose on the walls, in the style of tapestries, and sometimes pasted as today. Prints were very often pasted to walls, instead of being framed and hung, and the largest sizes of prints, which came in several sheets, were probably mainly intended to be pasted to walls. Some important artists made such pieces, notably Albrecht Dürer, who worked on both large picture prints and also ornament prints intended for wall-hanging. The largest picture print was The Triumphal Arch commissioned by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and completed in 1515. This measured a colossal 3.57 by 2.95 metres, made up of 192 sheets, and was printed in a first edition of 700 copies, intended to be hung in palaces and, in particular, town halls, after hand-colouring.
Very few samples of the earliest repeating pattern wallpapers survive, but there are a large number of old master prints, often in engraving of repeating or repeatable decorative patterns. These are called ornament prints and were intended as models for wallpaper makers, among other uses.
England and France were leaders in European wallpaper manufacturing. Among the earliest known samples is one found on a wall comes from England and is printed on the back of a London proclamation of 1509. It became very popular in England following Henry VIII's excommunication from the Catholic Church - English aristocrats had always imported tapestries from Flanders and Arras, but Henry VIII's split with the Catholic Church had resulted in a fall in trade with Europe. Without any tapestry manufacturers in England, English gentry and aristocracy alike turned to wallpaper.
During The Protectorate under Oliver Cromwell, the manufacture of wallpaper, seen as a frivolous item by the Puritan government, was halted. Following the Restoration of Charles II, wealthy people across England began demanding wallpaper again - Cromwell's regime had imposed a boring culture on people, and following his death, wealthy people began purchasing comfortable domestic items which had been banned under the Puritan state. By the mid-eighteenth century, Britain was the leading wallpaper manufacturer in Europe, exporting vast quantities to Europe in addition to selling on the middle-class British market. However this trade was seriously disrupted in 1755 by the Seven Years War and later the Napoleonic Wars, and by a heavy level of duty on imports to France.
In 1748 the English ambassador to Paris decorated his salon with blue flock wallpaper, which then became very fashionable there. In the 1760s the French manufacturer Jean-Baptiste Réveillon hired designers working in silk and tapestry to produce some of the most subtle and luxurious wallpaper ever made. His sky blue wallpaper with fleurs-de-lys was used in 1783 on the first balloons by the Montgolfier brothers. The landscape painter Jean-Baptiste Pillement discovered in 1763 a method to use fast colours. Towards the end of the century the fashion for scenic wallpaper revived in both England and France, leading to some enormous panoramas, like the 1804 20 strip wide English one showing the Voyages of Captain Cook, which is still in situ in Ham House, Peabody Massachusetts. The French manufacturers of panoramic scenic and trompe l'œil wallpapers, Zuber et Cie and Arthur et Robert exported their product across Europe and North America. Zuber et Cie's c. 1834 design Views of North America is installed in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House. Like most of eighteenth century wallpapers, this was designed to be hung above a dado.
During the Napoleonic Wars , trade between Europe and Britain evaporated, resulting in the gradual decline of the wallpaper industry in Britain. However, the end of the war saw a massive demand in Europe for British goods which had been inaccessible during the wars, including cheap, colourful wallpaper. The development of steam-powered printing presses in Britain in 1813 allowed manufacturers to mass-produce wallpaper, reducing its price and so making it affordable to working-class people. Wallpaper enjoyed a huge boom in popularity in the nineteenth century, seen as a cheap and very effective way of brightening up cramped and dark rooms in working-class areas. By the early twentieth century, wallpaper had established itself as one of the most popular household items across the Western world. During the late 1980s though, wallpaper began to fall out of fashion in lieu of Faux Painting which can be more easily removed by simply re-painting.
"Wallpaper" is also a term for computer wallpaper, referring to an image used as a background on a laptop screen, usually for the desktop of a graphical user interface. "Wallpaper" is the term used in Microsoft Windows, while the Mac OS calls it a 'desktop picture'.



Like paint, wallpaper requires proper surface preparation before application. Additionally, wallpaper is not suitable for all areas. For example, bathroom wallpaper may deteriorate rapidly due to excessive steam. Proper preparation includes the repair of any defects in the drywall or plaster and the removal of loose material or old adhesives.


Interior decorating styles change over time, and eventually a person may wish to remove that once lovely wallpaper.


Most of the methods of wallpaper removal can be aided by mechanically perforating or scoring old wallpaper with a tool called a Paper Tiger, which looks like a puck with a wheel of sharp teeth. Rolling this tool on the wall in a clockwise or counterclockwise motion effectively creates tiny holes in the surface of wallpaper, but leaves the drywall undamaged.
The paper tiger is used for removal of non-peelable vinyl papers. Peelable vinyls are 2 layer papers, the top layer peeling off to leave a paper backing, which, being porous, is removed by just wetting it.
Perforation is followed by the application of either water, a chemical wallpaper stripper or steam to dissolve the underlying wallpaper paste.


The simplest removal option is to brush the paper with water. Water soaks through the paper and saturates the glue, allowing the paper to be peeled off.
This does not work well with nonpeelable vinyls, as vinyl is not porous. Nevertheless it is still effective on many modern papers.

Chemical Wallpaper Stripper

Chemical wallpaper stripper can be purchased at most paint or home improvement stores. It is mixed with warm water or a mixture of warm water and vinegar, then sprayed onto wall surfaces. Several applications may be required to saturate the existing wallpaper. Perforation can aid in the absorption of the mixture and lead to faster removal. After the mixture has dissolved the wallpaper paste, the wallpaper can be removed easily by pulling at the edges and with the aid of a putty or drywall knife.


Another method of removal is to apply steam to wallpaper in order to dissolve the wallpaper paste. A wallpaper steamer consists of a reservoir of water, an electric heating element, and a hose to direct the steam at the wallpaper. The steam dissolves the wallpaper paste, allowing the wallpaper to be peeled off. However, care must be taken to prevent damage to the drywall underneath. Sometimes steaming can lead to the crumbling of underlying drywall or plaster, leaving an uneven surface to be repaired.


A newer method of removing wallpaper from drywall or plasterboard is the patented Wallwik approach. This 5-step process involves scoring the wall, soaking fabric sheets in a paste-dissolving solution, placing them over the wallpaper to be removed. Usually 15 minutes is all that is needed before the wallpaper and Wallwik can be peeled off the wall. The main advantage of the Wallwik method is the reduced mess, lack of potentially scalding steam, and the fact that the wallpaper tends to come off in larger sheets.

See also

Faux Painting


A Hyatt Mayor; Prints and People; Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1971 (reprints Princeton).

External links

wallpaper in Arabic: ورق الحائط
wallpaper in Czech: Wallpapers
wallpaper in German: Tapete
wallpaper in Esperanto: Tapeto
wallpaper in French: Papier peint
wallpaper in Scottish Gaelic: Boltaigeadh
wallpaper in Dutch: Behang
wallpaper in Japanese: 壁紙
wallpaper in Polish: Tapeta (budownictwo)
wallpaper in Portuguese: Papel de Parede
wallpaper in Russian: Обои
wallpaper in Finnish: Tapetti
wallpaper in Swedish: Tapet

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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