Prints Charming Give Room a Happy Ending


The print room is sort of an 18th-Century version of a vacation photo album. As an expert-level decoupage project, it’s more labor intensive than an album. But from an artistic standpoint, it’s far more interesting. And with today’s quality color copiers, it doesn’t have to be expensive.

The print room is just what it says it is: works on paper, such as engravings in paper frames, pasted onto the walls of a small room.

Print rooms were popular among English upper classes in the 18th and 19th centuries as a byproduct of their grand tours of Italy and France. Travelers would buy prints of famous places visited and hang them in a small room as a memento. Some sought professional help; others installed their own. London printers catered to the trade by selling sheets of paper frames and ornaments that could be cut out and glued around the prints.

Print rooms are believed to have been popular with early American immigrants, too. The evidence is a newspaper advertisement of 1784 in which a Philadelphia decorator offers to create print rooms and to “superintend the business of hanging rooms,” according to Catherine Lynn, author of “Wallpaper in America,” published by Norton.


“As practiced in the 18th Century, putting up a print room was a laborious process,” author Donna Lang says. “I can’t imagine anyone today being willing to sacrifice fine engravings. But the idea is too good not to be revived.”

Thus, in her book, “Decorating With Paper” (Clarkson Potter, $24), she suggests using color laser prints of original artwork. Copy shops can reproduce print sizes up to 11 by 17 inches and can enlarge or reduce the image.

Travers & Co. in New York, through designers, sells paper borders and friezes that can be used for frames. Additionally, there’s a $54 “print room sheet” of decorative paper ornaments.

Originally, walls were glazed to create an antique surface before the prints were adhered. Hanging textured wallpaper is an easier way to create a suitable surface.


“If you get tired of the look, you can strip the wallpaper,” Lang says.

Dee Davis, a decoupage specialist in New York City, designed several print rooms as magazine projects and now sells print room kits for $55. One kit features 18th- and 19th-Century botanical illustrations and another has scenes of chinoiserie drawn from “The Ladies Amusement,” a book published in England in 1762.

Davis’ kits include prints, frames, garlands, swags and rosettes plus instructions, adhesives and preservatives. There are enough materials to fill a 6-foot by 8-foot surface lavishly or a larger area more sparingly.

The prints can be applied to any painted surface. In lieu of a print room, Davis suggests using the decorative technique in a small powder room, dressing room, bath or foyer. It also can be used on a headboard, table or folding screen.


Even simpler than pasting up prints is to buy print room wallpaper. Fashon’s Framed Botanical wallpaper, about $20 a roll, imitates a print room with botanical illustrations. Other companies such as Brunschwig & Fils also offer print room looks. However, wallpaper removes one of the main charms of the look--its personality.

“The beauty of the print room is that it is unique,” Lang says, “totally original and very personal.”


Additional information is available from Travers & Co., (212) 888-7900. For a catalogue of Dee Davis’ print room kits, send $3.50 to Adventures in Craft, P.O. Box 6058, Yorkville Station, N.Y. 10128. (212) 410-9793.