In Walter Mathis’ bedroom and adjacent upstairs sitting room, there was wallpaper hung in the old-fashioned way, on cheesecloth which was nailed, in no particular pattern, to the boards that form the walls in those rooms. It was also hung directly on plaster over solid masonry. It was actual paper, as opposed to vinyl, and patterned to look like cream-colored linen. Over the years, this paper got wet, the result of a leak in the roof. The paper didn’t take too well to being wet and wrinkled and molded a bit. Insects thought it was marvelous, however, and began munching away on the glue, and in the process, eating the paper, too.
Wallpaper replacement is part of Villa Finale’s restoration project, so the contractors painstakingly removed every last piece of the old wallpaper, and we set out to find paper exactly like it. As all wallpaper hangers know, one procures ten percent more paper than one needs for a project and Mr. Mathis had done just that. A spare roll, with name, color and manufacturer printed on the plastic wrapper was found in the Carriage House.
We presented this to our interiors specialist and over the course of several weeks, she sent us samples from all over the United States. Nothing. No one makes this paper anymore. Then, I had a very happy revelation. We would be able to replace the faux linen with real cream-colored linen, the color of Isak Dinesen’s skirt in Out of Africa…(or something like that). I was torn – as museum people are supposed to “replace like with like”. Well, I’ll be honest, I didn’t like the like with like.
After several more weeks, the painting contractor found the paper. Almost exactly our paper. Yes, I was sad I did not get my linen, but relieved that we are behaving as a real museum should acting professionally and replacing our paper, instead of putting my our personal preferences on the wall. Here are some of our samples; the winning, matching paper is on the right with a piece of the original.