This piece offers a unique take on border designs. Borders with the bottom edge cut out to follow the printed design began appearing shortly after 1900. This die-cut and embossed example came into fashion around the same time and carried this cut-out idea a step further. This paper is embossed to give it some relief, die-cut to create an irregular bottom edge and expose areas of the background, and airbrushed in a single color to make it more decorative and give it more depth. This paper is one repeat, and multiple repeats would fit together like pieces of a puzzle by connecting the positive and negative cut-out ends together.
The idea behind cut-out borders was to help blend the wallpaper with the top border.
Traditionally, borders were cut to a straight edge at the bottom making a clear delineation between the sidewall and border. The cut-out bottom edge helps blur that division, while the perforated areas let the sidewall paper show through creating a more cohesive or unified wall design. The monochrome and very subdued color palette used on most of these borders would allow them to easily blend with a multitude of different patterned sidewall papers. Unlike trends today, at the time of this border’s production I don’t believe wallpaper borders were ever used over a painted wall, and would always be hung over a sidewall paper. I imagine the use of cut-out borders became popular as ceiling heights were lowered. People no longer wanted to divide up their wall in horizontal divisions to visually drop their ceiling heights, quite the opposite was probably true.
There were a lot more rules in decorating at the turn of the 20th century. Wallpapers at this time were frequently designed to be room specific. Numerous sidewall papers, borders and even ceiling papers designed at this time contain grape motifs. I did a quick count of the Cooper-Hewitt collection and there were over 30 papers in the collection produced between 1905-1915 with grape designs. This count just included loose samples and not papers contained within sample books, easily another 30! These designs were always used in the dining room. This trend of grape wallpapers being used in the dining room seemed to reappear in the late 1920s, but then quickly died out with the Great Depression.