This section is from the book "Spons' Mechanics' Own Book: A Manual For Handicraftsmen And Amateurs", by Edward Spon. Also available from Amazon: Spons' Mechanics' Own Book.
With regard to the choice of paper, Edis has lately offered some well-considered remarks. The sizes of rooms should first be thought of, for papers with large patterns and wide dadoes are not generally adapted for small rooms, and vice versa, insignificant designs do rot suit spacious rooms. In the first instance, a cramped effect is obtained where there should be freedom and expanse, and in the second a feeling of vacuity is produced, and the intention of the design is lost, owing to the vast extent of wall exposed to view. A good deal also depends on the design. No strongly marked patterns should be accepted - such as birds seemingly in flight, or cherubs holding festoons, frozen into rest, or bunches of flowers fossilized into unnatural forms, so as to present longways and crossways, or any way they are looked at, clearly marked lines or spots on the general surface, at all times fatiguing to the eye, and tending to discomfort and mental annoyance. In the main, broad, free designs suit nearly all classes of rooms, and plant-life offers most opportunities for producing pleasing and elegant figures embodying these qualifications, which possess the advantages of a simplicity and purity of form that never wearies or grows tame and conventional.
Moreover, with careful treatment, and an observance of natural conformation, floral designs may be rendered far more consonant to nature and adapted to harmonize more thoroughly with surroundings than birds or figure subjects. Squares or circles at regular distances, or conglomerations of mathematical or architectural figures are to be avoided, for they invest a room with a solidity and formality that can only be wearisome, and the sameness of pattern, which is rendered doubly apparent by the methodical arrangement of lines, angles, and circles, tends to tire both the eye and brain.
As to colour, drawing-rooms are usually furnished with lighter tinted paper than morning rooms. It is not advisable, however, to select a monochromatic paper, for although when first put up it may present a very clean and light appearance, yet the absence of variety, more especially in dull weather, invests it, after a time, with cold and commonplace appearance. A paper should be selected, therefore, that appears to contain to the most advantage pleasing diversity of colour without gorgeousness, and easy and natural outlines without formality. Papers with considerable gold in them are suitable for drawing-rooms, because gold is in itself warm and at the same time light. Cheap gold papers unfortunately soon lose their gloss and look dull, but generally speaking, gold, if used sparingly and discreetly, forms a rich addition, and combines agreeably with ordinary tints.
The dado is an indispensable addition to a modern room, and should be of a slightly darker colour than the wall paper; this arrangement serves to show the paper to greater advantage than if the whole were of the same tint. The top of the dado is usually finished off with a narrow strip of printed paper, and though this is apparently of minor importance, it will if properly treated form a pleasing bond or connecting link between the dado and paper. The frieze is also an important item, and this Edis suggests should be treated in good decorative subjects of figures, birds, or natural flowers: but papers modelled on the latter are, as already pointed out, the simplest if not the best suited for ordinary decorative purposes, where agreeable effects are sought without any great expenditure of money or artistic skill. A frieze may also be formed of thick flock paper, stamped leather, or raised plaster-work slightly tinted or gilded. This destroys the deadness of the wall, and conceals the junction of the paper with the ceiling.
As regards the dining-rooms, and other rooms of a similar nature, it is advisable that the paper selected be of a dark, warm hue, not necessarily elaborate, but simple and appropriate. Here the dado may be finished at top with a small oak or deal moulding, in lieu of the narrow paper band before mentioned; this prevents the walls being broken by chairs or other furniture pushed against them. In choosing colours it should be remembered that gaslight completely changes the effects of some tints, such as blue, green, and yellow, and the 2 former also, in a measure, absorb light, and thus, unless employed with discretion, render a room somewhat darker than other colours. The so-called aesthetic "washed out" colours rarely suit the surroundings of ordinary life. Respecting bedroom papers, much might bo written in condemnation of the hideous and artificial productions that pass by this name, and it is really surprising, considering how essential to health and comfort a light and cheerful sleeping apartment is, bedroom wall papers have not suffered greater improvements in accordance with the requirements of the age.
The papering of halls, staircases, and passages are points that require very careful deliberation if we wish to render them something more than long vaults walled in with blocks of imitation marble. As a rule we find varnished marble paper selected for these places, and the plea for its adoption usually hinges on the supposition that it renders passages " light," and possesses the property of being clean. Now it dots not require much deep thought to arrive at the fact that there are 50 papers at least in existence that will bear varnishing, prove equally "light," and yet be more appropriate to everyday life and every-day surroundings.
The entrance hall should present a comfortable appearance, and a dark, rich paper with Indian matting dado is very suitable for covering the walls. Light coloured papers are not adapted for this purpose, as they show the smallest particle of dirt or the faintest trace of a fingermark with alarming distinctness. And apropos of this point, it may not be out of place to suggest that hanging a few etchings, drawings, or paintings on the walls of landings, stairways, and halls will prove a simple and effective way of introducing a little "portable" decoration in places where the eye usually finds merely an infinite deal of nothingness.
Respecting wall coverings for kitchens and similar apartments, plain, washed walls are undoubtedly cleaner than any papers, but if the latter are to be employed, a plain, white tile paper is perhaps most in keeping with the fittings and furniture. If varnished, such papers may be easily washed, and thus rendered always clean and fresh.
Expensive papers require to be hung with the most skill and care. At the same time, common papers are more difficult to hang well, as they are very apt to tear with their own weight when saturated with paste. In hanging flock or other thick papers, the paste should be applied some time before they are hung, in order that it may soak well into them. The ceilings should be finished before the paperhanging begins.
Before commencing to paper a wall, it is essential to see that the plaster is in a perfect condition and free from holes; if not, these must be made good and allowed to dry. If the wall is being repapered, the old paper must first be stripped off thoroughly and all hidden defects remedied. The stripping is accomplished by well wetting the paper with a whitewash brush dipped into hot water. When soft enough, it is pulled away from the wall in a careful manner by the aid of a broad so-called chisel knife, or any smooth and square edged substitute, repeating the operation on obstinate spots. It is best to burn at once the paper scraped off, especially when there has been illness in the room.
The walls being in a fit condition to receive the paper, a point is chosen at which the hanging shall begin, and, if necessary, a perpendicular line to work by is drawn in pencil by the aid of a plumb-level. A line in the pattern is decided on for the top margin, where it meets the ceiling or frieze, and this must be carefully adhered to all round the room. In unrolling a piece of wall-paper, it will be found that it commences at the top of the pattern; consequently, as the papering should proceed towards the right, commencing at the left corner of the room farthest from the window, the right blank margin will be the one to cut off, and this can be conveniently done as the unrolling progresses. Bearing in mind the top margin, strips are next cut off, of the required length, in succession, always allowing a small margin in excess to be cut off at the bottom. Each strip is pasted by laying it face downwards on a long smooth table (3 yd. long if obtainable) at least a few in. wider than the paper.
The paste is made by mixing old flour with lukewarm water to a smooth consistence, then stirring and pouring in boiling water till the paste is complete; to this may be added, while hot, a solution of alum, at the rate of 1 oz. alum in 1 pint water, say 1/2 pint of the solution to the pail of paste, or 1/2 oz. dissolved mercury bichloride if vermin abound.
The paste is allowed to cool, and is applied in a thin even coat by a small whitewash brush, avoiding splashes and careless strokes. Some care is needed in lifting the pasted strip from the table to the wall, as it is rendered rotten by the moisture. There are 2 ways of folding the paper to facilitate its transport, as follows: - (1) Double back about 2 ft. of the lower end of the pasted paper and form a loop of it; then fold about 1 ft. of the top back on the unpasted side, so as to form a loop for the hands; lift the paper by this loop, attach it to the wall a little high but square in place, adjust the top edge accurately and pull off the first patch which adhered, letting it fall smoothly back into place; press it sufficiently to hold, and then proceed to unloop the bottom fold, and allow it to fall into place. Finally, from the top, gently press down the centre of the piece with a soft clean duster, and from the central line perform the same operation sideways, till the whole has been gone over.
(2) This plan is better when the strip is very long, and is shown in Fig. 1387, which almost explains itself: 18 in. at the bottom is folded paste to paste; a treble fold the same depth is made at the top, leaving enough for the hands to hold by, the thumbs being put under a and the fingers under b. The same mode of procedure is followed, always avoiding anything like rubbing the paper, but rather patting it flat. Excess of paste should be wiped off immediately from the edges with a damp rag, renewed as soon as it gets dirty, and the top and bottom margins are pressed in close with the scissors, and cut off to pattern while damp. Soft brushes and padded rollers sometimes replace the simple clean duster for patting close. The scissors should have very long blades.