Old, Peeling Wallpaper: Strip It or Flaunt It?

peeling wallpaper

With vintage style exploding on the home decor scene, we're seeing more preservation of the old, imperfect, and deteriorated aspects of home interiors. Decorators and architects are "letting it all hang out," so to speak, by creatively letting the past of a home shine through.

In the case of old wallpaper, many artsy home owners are foregoing the arduous task of removing old wallpaper -- leaving it in its original state, leaving it up partially, and even in some cases of seriously deteriorated wallpaper, leaving it as is. It's one of those love/hate decorating choices, as we saw with Kelly Rae's layered wallpaper project in her son's nursery, which I loved, but many of our commenters could not appreciate.

Let's see a few ways vintage wallpaper is being celebrated in home interiors.


When you hear decoupage artist and designer John Derian (yes, he has that very pretty nature-inspired home collection at Target) has a beautifully decorated Cape Cod home, this might not be what you're expecting.

stairwell peeling wallpaper John Derian

Throughout his 1789 Provincetown home, Derian has chosen to keep several of the vintage wallpapers from the 1930s and '40s -- even, as we see here in the stairwell, in cases where the wallpaper is incredibly deteriorated. As an artist drawn to textures and colors, he even left some of the wallpaper remnants hanging mid-peel.

Here are two sitting rooms where Derian also preserved the wallpaper:

living room John Derian

John Derian home wallpaper

They seem to tell a story -- I couldn't resist. Plus, the wallpaper is beautiful. It has an amazing patina on it, the perfect yellow.

Personally I love the mix of old and new in Derian's home. It's artful and makes the home feel well lived in and celebrates the layers of its history. Peeking through and beyond both of these rooms, you can see even more pretty old floral wallpapers. This visual texturing room to room is incredibly exciting, as if to tease the eye with small peeps of more pretty surprises no matter where you stand.

I'm not sure I have the artistic vision to pull off this peeling paper look -- even though I wholeheartedly adore this look of new against old when the Anthropologie catalog stylists play with it. However, what I wouldn't give to find some pretty intact vintage papers under the paint on our old walls (doubtful since there are at least three layers of paint atop the wallpaper in our bedroom).

All the lovely old floral wallpapers in the country house of Elisabeth of fine little day are so romantic and mesmerizing. I want to move in and stay awhile. It makes me feel like I'm experiencing a place found nowhere else in the world. A special place kept secret from the world.

wallpaper bed bedroom

clock iron wallpaper

wallpaper vintage lamp chair

And even though these old wallpapers, in such good shape, offer a far less eccentric look than Derian's purposeful peelings, it's still a look that probably won't work for everyone.

So what do you think? Vintage wallpaper: should it stay or should it go or does it all depend on the house, the wallpaper, and its condition?


Images via Mabel & Violet, Julia Cumes (via ShelterPop), Elisabeth Dunker


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