In the early 1970s, “bright” was the name of the wallpaper game. Pop art and Op art influences from post-war decades coupled with new and improved printing techniques meant that a plethora of attention-grabbing patterns were put in production by wallcovering companies large and small.
This trippy pattern was designed in 1972 by Getulio Alviani for Marburg, a German company that has been manufacturing wallpaper since 1879. The green lines are printed on a background of yellow, ribbed paper that almost makes it seem as if an optical illusion is hiding somewhere in the gradating trellis configuration (if there is one, we haven’t found it yet). The ink was applied using flexographic printing, a fairly new technology at the time. The innovation was in the printing roller, which was made of flexible rubber and allowed for a more economic use of ink than earlier rollers.
To help limit the intrusiveness of such loud patterns and colors, this paper may have been limited in use to a “feature wall,” with more subdued paper, or stark neutral walls, completing the room’s ensemble. The fashion for using complimentary wallpapers within a room was popularized in the United States in the post-war period, where feature walls worked well in the open layouts of newly built baby-boomer houses. It was also popular to use these two coordinating wallpapers above and below the chair rail, or a different one of the papers in each of two adjoining rooms. While using papers in this fashion definitely increased the pattern and texture in these rooms, it also created continuity as the papers were designed to be used together.
Anna Rasche is a student in the History of Decorative Arts & Design graduate Program at the Cooper Hewitt, and is a Master’s Fellow in the Wallcoverings Department