Colonial Colors, the Blog Brand, and History of Course: Let's Talk About Wallpaper

Colonial Colors, the Blog Brand, and History of Course: Let's Talk About Wallpaper

Jun 17, 2023

Branding is necessary, no matter the topic.

And let’s be honest, it’s one of the fun parts of creating a blog! As I was working on putting this blog together, even though it is planned to be “for fun” and a hobby blog, my thought was I NEEDED it to give off the right vibe. That’s what branding is about after all.

I opened my laptop and my phone (because I wanted to have two screens) to research and match up colors. Jumping on the Rockefeller Library's website to search for anything written about interior restoration in Colonial Williamsburg seemed to make sense.

I’m going to be the first to admit, it was a bit of a rabbit hole, and I was caught up in the documents. But what didn’t really happen: nobody dropped a bunch of hex numbers for me to use so I can create a palette on Canva!

Disclaimer: As a blogger, I use affiliate links sometimes, even in this blog! I may receive commission from purchases I share; it does not change your price but sometimes you might get a discount.

Author's note: hex numbers are the code identifying colors that can be used in applications like Canva to create branded graphics and content.

Then a paint collection popped up at me from a 2013 research document.

Ok, I already knew about Benjamin Moore’s proprietary collection. However, seeing someone with expertise actually mention it made me think it was worth looking for color inspiration.

Kristen Travers’ 2013 research report (click here to read the report I reference) analyzed the interior paints in the Nicolson House and I was EXCITED y’all!

Not only was jumping into the paint collection online inspiring, but I’d say it was even overwhelming! I had so many colors I was trying to match up to hex numbers. I ended up with quite the palette. It was like I just couldn’t stop!

NOTE: You can find so much information in the Rockefeller Library’s research reports tab online!

Next: I had to step away from my screen and then I experienced serious serendipity.

I saw a lecture at the museum on wallpaper.

OK- it may not sound exciting to any non-designers on the surface, but as someone who LOVES history, I can tell you it was SO interesting! If you’re here on the blog, you may already subscribe to the belief that every bit of history is a clue into the lives of those that came before us.

That includes wallpaper!

Current programming in Colonial Williamsburg’s Hennage Auditorium includes presentations by art curators, archeologists, and architectural researchers – and it is a gold mine of historically significant information.

Seriously though- the day I’m launching this blog is the day I stumble upon a presentation about wallpaper and the colors painted/used on the wallpaper? Yes. Serendipity.

I say all this to say, I was able to confirm Williamsburg’s experts had a role in creating the paint line and I ran to the store immediately after the presentation to grab samples. Of course the colors are proprietary, but I used several as inspiration for any colors you’ll see on this site.

But what about the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg’s buildings?

I wasn’t going to end this post without mentioning it, don’t worry!

A few fun facts about wallpaper in 18th century Williamsburg below.

Currently, the Upper Middle Room in Williamsburg has red textile wallpaper! It’s actually tacked to the wall. Why is this significant? It’s EXPENSIVE. It displays the wealth of the Royal Governor in a room that “special guests” visit.

The Governor’s Palace also showcases painted wallpaper in solid colors, it wasn’t just about prints!

The R. Charlton Coffeehouse, currently open for tours, displays wallpaper known to be documented as used in the Chesapeake region. Stylistically it makes sense for a coffee house to have this design.

Whereas it’s popular to focus on color flow in design style today, in the 18th century each room was independently decorated and unique. It was common in wealthier homes to see very conflicting and contrasting colors!

If you tour Colonial Williamsburg homes, or any other 18th century restoration focused on bringing history alive, take note of how the rooms are designed, especially spaces that were private vs. those guests would see.

Being historically accurate is a process.

There are many resources used in accurate restoration, here are a few I’ve learned about.

  • Paint and wallpaper fragments found in the buildings. (the science is amazing and may be a future article!)
  • Invoices and purchase orders.
  • Letters and diary notes.
  • Newspaper articles and advertisements.

You can see samples from the Everard House at the Museum but I’m looking forward to getting into that house when it’s completed. Being able to see a finished product is amazing, like the photo below of paper used in the Wythe house!

The Department of Architectural Preservation and Research has a Facebook page to follow the restoration of the Everard House as well as other projects currently happening, including the Bray School.

RELATED: Click here to read about what paint analysis can tell us about Bray School!

Other places utilize the collection and resources here.

In Emily Campbell’s presentation I attended at the Hennage, several homes outside Williamsburg from New Hampshire’s Wentworth house to Mt. Vernon were discussed. In fact, this article shares the work done on the Yellow Room. Emily shared with us her team’s involvement in accurate restoration of the room.

In fact, other museums and historical sites often consult our research teams and conservators to study our collections and restore their properties in a way that accurately reflects the era. You can see an example of this in “Mr. Madison’s” room at Monticello by clicking here.

Side note on the French style, as used in the Madison room: after our break from England, the French style became popular (not a surprise considering the impact they had on the result of the war!).

RELATED: Want more on American history and wallpaper? Click here!

Closing it out: history is everywhere and in everything.

You’ll continue to see posts like this one, sharing my inspiration for the blog but also sharing the amazing work being done so we can get a peek into the daily lives of the humans that made American history.

There is a huge practical disclaimer to the content on this blog, which is my way of sharing my excitement and basically journaling online.

1) I am not a historian nor an expert. I will let you know I’m relaying the information as I understand and interpret it. The employees of Colonial Williamsburg base their presentations, work, and responses on historical documents and mainly primary sources.

2) I will update for accuracy as history is constant learning. If you have a question about accuracy, please ask me! I will get the answer from the best source I can find.

3) Photo credit to me, Daphne Reznik, for all photos in this post! All photos are personal photos taken in public access locations or with specific permission.