Floral wallpaper has been a popular choice for interiors for many years. And throughout the decades, its appeal hasn’t really dwindled.
I vividly remember my mum and dad’s migraine-inducing wallpaper/carpet combinations of the 1970s. It was all the rage back then. But the palette of brown and yellow florals — alongside vivid royal blue and green carpet — still haunts me occasionally.
I once remember saying that wallpaper wasn’t really my bag (potentially because of these early memories of it).
Paint felt a lot more contemporary – and much less aggro to work with too. But as the years rolled on, I realised that paint was (obviously) relatively one-dimensional. And sometimes, it just wasn’t enough.
Cue my love affair with wallpaper. Particularly floral wallpaper.
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The History of Floral Wallpaper in Interior Design
Although flower-strewn wallpapers are the height of fashion right now, interior designers’ love of floral wallpaper dates back several centuries and has evolved over time.
Renaissance and Baroque Era (14th to 17th centuries)
Floral motifs were commonly found in tapestries, textiles, and frescoes during the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
Wallpaper —as we know it today— hadn’t yet been invented, but decorative floral patterns were created through intricate hand-painted designs — or fabric — on walls.
Trailblazer Louis XIV (whom I don’t mind admitting, I’m a little bit obsessed with) was a paragon of exceptional taste, and this can still be seen today throughout his home in Versailles.
The Queen’s bedchamber, for example, is the most exquisite example of early floral wallpaper. The fabrics hanging on the bed and walls were re-woven in Lyon using the original patterns.
Wallpaper production became more widespread during the 18th century. In Europe —particularly in England and France— floral designs gained popularity.
French wallpapers were characterised by delicate and refined floral patterns; they often featured roses, tulips, and other botanical elements.
English wallpapers showcased more naturalistic and realistic floral motifs. Wallpapers were generally block-printed by hand, and it was a slow and labour-intensive process.
Unsurprisingly, manufacturers were keen to find ways to expedite production. Then in 1839 Charles Harold Potter invented the first wallpaper printing machine, patented by Potters & Ross, a cotton printing firm based in Darwen, Lancashire.
In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution brought significant advancements to wallpaper production, making it more affordable and accessible to a wider audience.
Floral patterns continued to dominate wallpaper design during this period.
In the early 19th century, neoclassical designs with symmetrical and stylised floral motifs were in vogue.
Later in the century, the Victorian era saw an explosion of intricate and densely patterned floral wallpaper designs, often incorporating large-scale floral arrangements.
Arts and Crafts Movement (late 19th to early 20th centuries)
As a reaction against mass-produced goods and industrialization, the Arts and Crafts Movement in England, headed up by William Morris, celebrated craftsmanship and the use of natural materials.
Floral patterns in wallpapers during this period often drew inspiration from the natural world, featuring stylised flowers, leaves, and vines. These designs were so beautifully crafted they’ve not lost any of their original charm.
And — thanks to the internet — Morris’ designs are even more popular today than they were back then.
His Blackthorn wallpaper hanging pride of place in our downstairs toilet.
Art Nouveau (late 19th to early 20th centuries)
Meanwhile, as the Arts and Crafts Movement took off in Britain, the Art Nouveau movement was in full swing in France and other parts of Europe.
This artistic movement embraced organic and curvilinear forms. Floral patterns were prominent in Art Nouveau wallpapers too. With flowing and sinuous lines, often depicting exotic flowers, lilies, irises, and other botanical elements.
During the mid-20th century, floral wallpapers declined in popularity, as minimalism and more geometric patterns gained favour (apart from, it seems, my parent’s house!).
That said, floral designs — especially those by Laura Ashley — were still in use, particularly in traditional and cottage-style interiors.
The Modern Day
In recent decades, floral wallpaper has made a big comeback in interior design.
With advancements in printing techniques, there are a vast array of floral patterns available, ranging from traditional to modern interpretations.
Designers and homeowners embrace floral wallpapers for their versatility. Plus, the ability to create a focal point and evoke a sense of nostalgia or charm.
Brands such as Les Domonotiers and Photowall offer custom wall-murals, with no repeat pattern, that make wallpapering much easier. This modern take on traditional floral wallpapers bring the outside in, and are a great way of bringing biopholic design elements into the home.
Why Floral Wallpaper Will Never Go Out of Fashion
We, humans, have such a deep-rooted connection with Mother Earth. Even though we live in houses and flats, nowadays, rather than caves, we still want to surround ourselves with elements from the great outdoors.
We fill our homes with plants and foliage. Often choose materials, fabrics and patterns that evoke a sense of nature. And using floral wallpaper is just one more way to bring more botanical elements into our living spaces.
Bringing the outside in is more than an interior trend. It’s a primal urge. One that makes us feel calm and content. Surrounding ourselves with depictions of plants, flowers, leaves and vines is just another way of connecting with nature.
And that, my friends, is why floral wallpaper will never go out of fashion
Caro Davies is a former art-director turned writer and content-creator, and editor behind UK lifestyle blog The Listed Home. She writes about home-related topics, from interiors and DIY to food and craft. The Listed Home has been featured in various publications, including Ideal Home, Grazia, and Homes & Antiques magazines.