Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Restoration: Stencils in the Victorian era

I have had a couple of inquires recently about stencils and their use in the Victorian era so I thought I might expand on some answers as well as provide some additional info that might help you "do it yourselfers" out there.
Stencilling and mural work was the preferred method of decoration throughout history. Wallpapers were introduced which were essentially stencilled designs on paper. This opened up decorative art to the masses although wallcovering were rather expensive and purchased mostly by the middle and upper classes of Victorian society.
Stenciling was popular at both financial ends of the Victorian spectrum. Those without means used stencils as a way to decorate their walls and ceilings and "keep up with the Joneses". Stencils were sold in some of the local emporiums and by use of tinted milk paints could create attractive designs.
We also saw stencilling at the very "high end" of Victoriana. The wealthy did not want to decorate with 'common wallpaper' and heaven forbid a neighbor down the street would have the same wallpaper. Instead they employed artisans, many of whom travelled the country. Even Tiffany, perhaps best known for stained glass work did stencilling. Perhaps their best known commission was for Sam Clements (Mark Twain) Twain paid the princely sum of 5000.00 to have Tiffany studios stencil and fauxgrain his home in Hartford Connecticut.

Stencils are today a viable option for those that are uncomfortable with hanging wallpaper or whom perhaps had original stencilling and want to recreate a room based on an original design. Stencilling a room is a time consuming task but the job is made easier by today's stencils which are far superior in quality and durability than stencils of old. Stencil Planet has a wide variety of Victorian Stencils such as the design shown here. More designs at their website:

Epoche designs is also another fine stencil manufacturer and they offer some more complex designs including entire room sets.

I should also mention our own company Victorian Antiquities and Design can create or recreate custom stencils for your project and from time to time hold workshops on stenciling. We will also be releasing anew line of stencils based on historic designs next year. Keep tuned for details. We also do custom mural work and stencil combinations like this ceiling shown here. This room required the addition of a ceiling medallion which we also custom painted and gold leafed wood trimwork between the mural work and the red ceining with its gold starred stencil design. We also did the fabric walls, embossed painted wallaper below the chair rail and installed the wallapaper fiexe at the top of the wall. Feel free to contact us to see what we can do for you.

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