Friday, January 26, 2018

18th Century Print Rooms

The 18th century Print Room......the ultimate DIY project of it's day. The Print Room became fashionable in wealthier homes and creating one was a craft skill that was perfectly acceptable for ladies to carry out. To attempt the project a lady need only have a good pair of scissors, a ruler, some flour paste, and a step ladder.The prints were not normally framed but pasted directly onto the walls, usually in a very symmetrical pattern with borders painted or cut out and placed around the prints to look like frames. Other embellishment such as ropes, ribbons, and swags were added for visual appeal. Women could always depend on magazines like Repository which contained prints of fashionable ladies of the day or of interesting scenes.

 Architectural historians tend to dismiss the Print Room calling them amateurish hobbies for ladies with time on their hands. However, while the lady of the house might have an affection for prints of flowers, pretty landscapes, architecture, and family pictures, the men also had their own preferences. Masculine examples of maps, caricatures, and travel prints were decoupaged on walls. In fact men valued their wives help in cutting out intricate and ornate frames.

Original early Print Rooms are one of those fashions that for the large part have been lost. A few of these rooms still survive intact in British country houses. However the idea of obscuring the walls with interesting and historical prints is still very much alive in many homeowners. If you have a passion for Print 
Rooms but are not interested in the labor intensiveness involved in manifesting one in authentic style, I have gathered some pictures of ways you can cheat a bit and still create the desired look.

The Print Room at Castletown House

Print Rooms flourished in the second half of the eighteenth century, primarily in England, though there were some instances of this style room found in Ireland. Castletown House was the home of Lady Louisa Lennox Connolly and her husband, Thomas Connolly. It is known that the prints for this room were being collected as early as 1762. This Print Room, with it's cream-colored walls, is covered with sepia-tone prints and embellishments which Lady Louisa and her friends cut out and applied to the walls.

The Print Room at Castletown House, (photo by Paul Raeside)

Wallpaper was very expensive so creating a print room was a fast and cheaper way to cover less than perfect plaster walls.

The Print Room coincided with the growing popularity of wallpaper from the 1740s. This is the Print Room at The Vyne, a 16th-century country house outside Sherborne St John near Basingstoke in Hampshire, England.

Another picture of the Print Room at The Vyne.

London printers cashed in on the trend by selling sheets of paper frames and ornaments that could be cut out and glued around the prints.

The Print Room was a way for homeowners to assemble their collection of prints so guests could admire them. The way the prints were mixed and arranged was very important as it demonstrated the owners knowledge of the fine arts.

Nicola Wingate-Saul

Prints that were used in the more formal print rooms seen by visitors were usually black and white or sepia and not the hand-painted colored types.

When you stop and think about it, the creation of a Print Room was a rather grand form of scrap booking. The beauty of the room is that it is unique and very personal.

Ladies would decorate the inside of closets or their dressing rooms in more of a scrapbook style featuring memorabilia and family photos. These were the private places that were not on display to visitors.

Prints displayed on the walls of many Print Rooms were typically inexpensive and commonly available copies of popular paintings, rather than rare fine art prints.

via Pinterest

Most prints were in grisaille which is a painting executed entirely in shades of gray or of another neutral such as sepia.

The Print Room at Uppark House, a 17th-century house in South Harting, Petersfield, West Sussex, England.
The ribbons, swags, frames, and in this case, flower pots that were many times painted directly on the wall could be considered a form of tromp l’oeil.

Nicola Wingate-Saul

The 18th century Print Rooms were usually never decorated by professional decorators. Most of these rooms were very personal spaces.

Nicola Wingate-Saul @thedailybasics

Many ladies would continue their Print Room craft skills on to other pieces like folding screens. These were also very trendy for the day.

Nicola Wingate-Saul

This is a great decoupage project for today's crafter who wants to incorporate the English vintage look in their homes. With our quality copiers, it doesn't have to be expensive either.

Leslie Ann

You might also try creating the look on closet doors like my friend Leslie Ann did. Think outside the box and you might come up with some other clever places to display some prints.

Eventually wall papers that resembled Print Rooms were on the market and those that had no interest in the labor involved were also able to be part of the fashion.

via Pinterest

 These pictures are of modern wallpapers that are covered with images of prints surrounded by paper frames and other embellishments on a solid color ground. Once hung, they are a good approximation of a Print Room with significantly less effort.

The new wallpapers capture the spirit of the antique Print Room and are decorative and historically interesting as well.

Another image of the same paper gives this bathroom a Georgian Print Room feel.

Another way to invoke the feel of the English Print Room is to make a gallery wall in the original style of these rooms. Arrange pictures of like kind and size and hang them on the wall "old world style" by ribbons or cords.

Or in this case on the doors of a cabinet.

You just have to do your homework and learn how to arrange your collection to make it look like an 18th century Print Room. I like the smaller prints mixed in.

If you want to try your hand at making a gallery wall authentically resemble an 18th century Print Room, you should concentrate on collecting grisaille prints instead of colored ones.

Maps are also a good choice for the Print Room look.

Now for those of you who want the look but STILL find even framing and hanging pictures too labor intensive, don't give up. There is wallpaper available that will give you the gallery wall alternative to the Print Room. You can purchase it through Andrew Martin at

And here it is in yet another color. I think there is also a cream version of it. So now there really isn't a reason for you not to have a Print Room of your own!!

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This blog post was published by Lisa Farmer

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