Scope of the rehabilitation intervention

Entrance to the room and damage details

Entrance to the room and damage details

Restoration of retro wallpaper is a continuation of the previous publication which concerned the renovation of a room with vintage wallpaper. This time we are faced with a similar case, but one that has given rise to many and more diverse damages. The wallpaper in question is a patterned wallpaper from the middle of the last century, i.e. retro. The motif of the retro wallpaper is a very variegated serial repetition of bouquets of flowers. With overlapping borders in the frieze, on the door lintel and on the low plinth.

As with the vintage room, the owner wished to limit this intervention. It was their wish to focus on repairing the many and varied types of breakages and damage. Damage had occurred over the course of time up to the present day, without maintenance or replacement. The proposed intervention should not alter the original appearance, only repair the damage, and as far as possible without unnecessary new additions. Under no circumstances should the material be completely renewed and/or replaced, despite the deplorable state of conservation in which it was generally found.

Deteriorated wallpaper and border in the area of the perimeter crack and after repair work

Deteriorated wallpaper and border in the area of the perimeter crack and after repair work

Various causes and defects

The retro wallpaper in this room had previous applications of other wallpapers underneath it, four in number in some areas. Partially, so there was no option of recovering the previous applications due to their irregular decorative deficit. The last model applied, and which we were going to restore, had many flaws and defects to be resolved. Tears, breaks, losses and lack of adhesion. But it covered almost 90% of the room, so it was the only option with a view to recovering the retro decoration in its entirety.

Previous wallpaper applications under the current one

Previous wallpaper applications under the current one

In addition to the lack of maintenance, two incidents had caused serious deterioration and damage. A perimeter crack ran along the sides and top of the wall corresponding to the façade and where the balcony is located. The displacement and separation of the crack at some points reached 4 centimetres or more. This was due to structural movements in the building which were corrected prior to these wallpaper restoration treatments.

Treatment of perimeter crack and replacement of frieze border

Treatment of perimeter crack and replacement of frieze border

On the other hand, the replacement of a main door with a smaller one had left the doorway partially uncovered in its outline. The incomplete and unfinished appearance was obvious. A solution to this visual problem was urgently needed for the room as a whole.

Detail of the initial state of the room and placement of the border on the door lintel.

Detail of the initial state of the room and placement of the border on the door lintel.

Retro wallpaper; Treatment and rehabilitation process

As is reasonable in any restoration process, priority was given to fixing and fixing the original material that was detached and in a precarious state of conservation. In many cases, the wall where the retro wallpaper had been applied had to be consolidated. Because of unfilled cracks that had caused the wallpaper to crack and the edges to peel off later. Also due to layers of plaster from later repairs that had been superimposed, moved and/or displaced.

The perimeter crack and some areas of the plinth were specially treated due to their problems and dimensions. The crack, which was widely spaced in many areas (4-5 cm), displaced and staggered along almost its entire length, was filled to clogging to seal it, and chamfered at the finish. In this way, the paper, and especially the edge, which coincided with the upper horizontal crack, would stick and adapt better to the uneven surface. In some areas of the plinth there were also cavities and gaps that had to be filled before the paper was glued back in.

Restoration process in the area of the perimeter crack with reintegration of the wallpaper and repositioning of the frieze border.

Restoration process in the area of the perimeter crack with reintegration of the wallpaper and repositioning of the frieze border.

Material and chromatic reintegration

The reintegration and replacement of the retro wallpaper motif where it was missing was carried out in two different ways. The border was of two sizes, the wider one on the frieze and the narrower one running along the lower plinth and the door lintel. Fortunately, it was possible to find a fragment of the latter to reproduce, as the remains of the lintel alone were incomplete. However, a fragment with the complete motif was found behind the cupboard on the baseboard, or skirting board, to reproduce the necessary metres of the series. For the replacement needs of both borders where missing, a reproduction was ordered from an online wallpaper factory, after preparation of the master pattern for each of them by the graphic designer.

State of preservation of the lintel border and fragment found for reproduction

State of preservation of the lintel border and fragment found for reproduction

In the case of the retro wallpaper motif, freehand and/or stencil reproduction was chosen. This was because in many cases there was no material defect in the paper, but rather the motif was very worn and almost swept away. Particularly on the doors of built-in cupboards, due to repeated washing. The areas with missing and unreplaced serial motifs were replicated with a stencil and freehand. Especially in the crack, as the motif did not match due to the displacement and step of the crack. Acrylic reintegration was carried out with stencil and freehand. The latter to “cheat” and average out the distance between the motifs on the original papers.

Trompe l’oeil and pretending in reintegration

The corrected door, by reducing its size, left the outline with the wall devoid of any motif. To solve this problem, I took as a reference the decorative programme of the early 20th century that can be seen in the house as a whole. In several rooms there are false lunettes on the over doors, matching the colours of the doors. I therefore decided to make a similar model, but in this case with a flared cladding to match those of the reduced door.

Replacement of the border on the dintel and fictitious painted panelling with a flared appearance in the opening

Replacement of the border on the dintel and fictitious painted panelling with a flared appearance in the opening

In this intervention the criteria for chromatic reintegration were followed for cases of public exhibition and decorative aesthetics. The work must therefore be completed so that it can be perceived as a whole and coherently in the private sphere.

For more information;

Vintage restoration; wallpaper restoration