It would be great if we could afford to redecorate this old house in the style of its heyday at the turn of the last century. The old wallpaper in the front hall finally had to come off — years of woodsmoke and sticky fingers made it almost impossible to see the original colour, especially along the wall by the stairs. Much as I loved the old wallpaper, it was time to re-paper those walls.

The wallpaper removal from this area — the front hall, stairwell, and upstairs front hall — took two people and one full day to accomplish. It was an exercise in domestic archaeology as we stripped layer after layer of wallpaper, none of it put on these walls more recently than the mid-1940s.

The bottom layer, the original paper, was a rough-textured brown — once upon a time I knew the name for it, but the word escapes me at the moment. Anyway, the brown paper had a fruit-and-leaf patterned border, about 8 inches deep, along the top of the wall. Removal of the top layers also revealed a row of nail holes that suggests a once-upon-a-time plate rail or dropped cornice on the wall facing the front parlour.

My favourite of the old wallpapers was about three layers down: an opulent subtle floral pattern, restrained and nostalgic. Oh, that’s what I want to see when I get up each morning and stumble downstairs to face the working day! Nothing in the local home decor stores was anywhere close to the vision that was inspired by those faded, buried layers.

So, for the time being, we have repaired the plaster and painted a warm peach colour. The same paint colour was carried through the archway to the living room, where we covered a hideous acoustic-tile ceiling with anaglypta paper to simulate the look of an old pressed tin ceiling. But that’s another story. And my current home-decor dream is to recreate that front hall…

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With the help of a handy online wallpaper calculator, however, I’ve got it all figured out. When I find the pattern I want, I know how many rolls I’ll need to buy.

But first, I’ve somehow got to find that antique paper, or even a faithful reproduction, or at the very least a paper that has the same old-fashioned look and feel. And to find enough rolls of the chosen pattern.

Secondhand Rose and Hannah’s Treasures are famous for their selection of vintage wallpaper — it’s inspiring just to browse the sites. But it also highlights one more challenge: because “vintage” doesn’t necessarily mean “affordable” for the average family budget!

There is hope. Today I cruised the vintage and vintage-style wallpaper offerings on eBay. I may not find the paper of my dreams there, but the odds seem pretty good that a reasonable compromise will show up on auction, one of these days.

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