This design of tree canopies is an unusual subject matter for a wallpaper but it makes more sense when put in context. I’m not sure where this was intended to be used but it seems appropriate for a hallway, den, or maybe a breakfast room. Just another way to bring nature, or thoughts of nature, indoors. The foliage is printed in five shades of green which creates a nice sense of depth, while still being minimal enough to not suggest realism. From a distance the design creates a nice textural pattern.

This paper dates to the early years of the twentieth century and would have been used with another wallpaper or over a high wood wainscot. It was popular at this time to divide the wall into sections, with either a top third, lower two-thirds scheme, or the reverse with a top two-thirds and a lower one-third scheme. Given the subject matter this design would have been used on the top part of the wall, whether it was the greater or lesser portion. Below you can see an image of a similar forest paper used on the upper third of the wall, separated from the lower two-thirds by a wood molding or wallpaper border. The Janeway & Carpender wallpaper design is similar to but different from the featured wallpaper so I guess tree tops were in fashion that year.

Janeway & Carpender catalog, New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1906

It was usually recommended for these more pictorial papers to be paired with more subtle patterns to prevent design overload. Suggested pairings include ingrains which were monochrome papers dyed in the pulp and having the appearance of felt, or a tone on tone pattern as shown in the illustration. This tree paper could be beautifully paired with a tan or brown design, maybe even a deep red. I am all for using multiple patterns in a room and think these wall treatments are brilliant, creating a warm and inviting interior, while also displaying the owner’s ability to balance color and pattern.

Greg Herringshaw is the Assistant Curator for the Wallcoverings Department at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

One thought on “Up a Tree, Decoratively Speaking

Hi can you please advise if it is possible to purchase a licence to use this design from Cooper Hewitt?

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