25 vintage mid-century wallpaper samples from the ’60s

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Choosing wallpaper? Careful selection important (1963)

By William Pahlmann, Fellow, American Institute of Interior Designers

A beautiful design on a fine wallpaper can lose its charm and effectiveness if it is not properly used. Wallpaper is always an outstanding motif in a room. It can set the style, period, atmosphere and establish the color scheme.

Since it’s a compelling factor, never choose a paper which takes over a room and does not lend itself to the other furnishings. Dominating wallpaper can be with you for years. Labor and installation costs are not cheap.

Styles in wallpaper are apt to change faster than styles in other furnishings, so an eccentric design may look out of date or pall on you long before you can change it. Don’t choose anything too exotic or flamboyant unless you can afford to change it every five years.

25 vintage mid-century wallpaper samples from the '60s

25 vintage mid-century wallpaper samples from the sixties

All of these samples are from the 1963 “Fashions Of Today” wallpaper book from Gamble Stores

Mid-century wallpaper: Some groovy wallcovering choices

The size and species of pattern should be appropriate to the size and nature of the room. If you have a large, formal living room, you can accommodate a large formal pattern. Other elements in the room should be chosen to enhance, and not compete with, such a wallpaper.

If you use a big floral, for instance, choose a plain-colored fabric and use plain rugs. A floral chintz and a flowered carpet would be too much unless you want a busy effect. Furniture should be in keeping. Casual or provincial styles of furniture look embarrassed against a formal wallpaper.

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Scenic wallpapers must be chosen with considerable care and assigned to the right place. Scenic wallpapers are most successful in rooms where drama can be accommodated. Dining rooms or living-dining areas lend themselves to this style, as a scenic paper may open up a vista as perspective deepens space. A big scenic wall in a bedroom could keep you awake.

Florals and small geometric patterns are satisfactory for bedrooms. If you like stripes, choose muted colors. Blaring stripes are not reposeful.

Small rooms, oddly-shaped bedrooms, or rooms in which eaves, set-in windows, gables or other architectural problems are present, benefit by having the same paper on walls and ceilings. In an all-over paper job, be sure and choose a non-directional pattern. (Non-directional means that the paper looks alike from every standpoint.)

Don’t try to use landscape, grilles, trellises or any other pattern which looks upside down on the ceiling. The all-over treatment is also good for other small areas such as halls or foyers, or for bathrooms or kitchens.

MORE: Walls with a fashion future! Vintage wallpaper samples from 1940

There are many charming wallpaper designs suitable to kitchens, but my advice is to avoid anything coy. You probably spend a lot of time in this room, and you may get very tired of whimsical teapots.

Wallpaper is intensely personal, and if your children are old enough to be consulted, don’t fail to let them have a voice in choosing paper for their own rooms.

The most important consideration in choosing wallpaper is appropriateness to the persons and the places. Always try to obtain a large sample, as patterns can be deceptive.

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2 Responses

  1. “Groovy”?? Not in 1963. 1963 was still mid-century, and I Love Lucy was still a thing, TV was black and white, Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was released. Think Gidget, bouffant hair-dos, and “What’s My Line” on TV. In NO wise was anything groovy in 1963!

    My grandparent’s house on Crest View Drive in Hollywood Hills was built, and they had wallpaper on a lot of walls, but none of these. What really was popular were classic, upper-class luxury like rococo, gilt and pale blue floor to ceiling draperies, grand piano and white wrought iron patio furniture. That was my grandparents house, and it was furnished like that when they had it built, and to the day they passed, and it never, ever was out of style. They passed away, and against my precious wish the house was sold and a young couple bought the place and completely destroyed the interior- even removing the priceless Italian marble foyer. Young and stupid with too much money.

    1. Hi, and thank you so much for the comment! That is a huge shame about your grandparents’ house. (Especially removing the grand foyer!) Sadly, the process of remodeling and destroying the heritage and the history of a home has undoubtedly been done thousands of times. :-( Heartbreaking.

      As for the term groovy, I researched it again just now, and confirmed that it was indeed in use in 1963. (In fact, it was not hard to find it in 1950, too — for one instance, the old comic strip “Curly Cayoe.”) The word was not particularly popular until a few years later, but it certainly was a known expression — and I thought it fit the feel of some of the more bold floral wallpaper styles shown, like those orange and yellow daisies.

      That said, there were definitely a lot of the more traditional styles in that sample book as well. I can only fit so many descriptors into an article title, so had to make a judgment call based on what I felt would both describe the content and capture a reader’s attention.

      You also mentioned the classic upper-class color schemes, which I am sure looked elegant and timeless in their home. However, I only have access to a limited number of materials, and don’t currently have other wallpaper catalogs from the era that would more thoroughly document the interior design styles of the mid-’60s. I try my best to include as many insights as possible, though — whether through ads or catalogs or recipes or photos from decades past.

      Thank you so much for visiting the site, and for taking the time to not just offer feedback, but to share some of your family’s history.

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