The weather in New York City is playing a funny joke right now. Visible from the windows of the Cooper Hewitt are sunny blue skies, trees with new green leaves, tulips, daffodils and some cheeky birds flirting with each other. After gray winter months of slush and ice, the city beckons with the promise of an afternoon out of doors, tempting its citizens to shed their sweaters and boldly tell the hostess “Yes, I would prefer a table on the patio, thank you very much.” But, venture outside jacket-less, and the feeling of elation is quickly snatched away by an invisible, chilly breeze which rudely makes it just-barely too cold to truly enjoy that BBQ on your friend’s roof.
To hold us over for these last few weeks of not-quite-BBQ weather, we present a cheerful vintage wallpaper that brings the party indoors. Made in the United States and dated ca. 1955, this sidewall features repeating vignettes of all the stuff you could ever want to have at a backyard party: a nice table with a glass of lemonade, a bucket of fresh corn, lots of watermelons, a gigantic outdoor brick oven (because why not?), and, most importantly, a handsome guy in a chef’s hat mixing cocktails. Birdbaths, lampposts and patches of flowers and grass sprout up between the scenes of food and deck-furniture, placing us firmly in a pleasant suburbia. During the 1950s wallpapers like this one, depicting the accessories of an idealized middle-class lifestyle, were popularly hung in domestic interiors. They are meant to be fun and playful, and reveal the conventionally accepted leisure-time and domestic aspirations of the era. Though this paper was printed over a half-century ago, the pleasant scene it sets is still a perfect representation of the summer fun we all wish would just hurry up and get here already.
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.