Wall Upholstery History – Part 3 by Eric Ahlfors

Posted by Eric, May 7th, 2013 in Wall Upholstery

Wall Upholstery History, Part 3

In the mid 18 century came the “Toiles”, inspired by the fabrics found in the orient and Asia. They are a light printed cotton cloth and depict themes of the “New world.” They were first printed using engraved wooden plates then copper plates and later on engraved copper rolls, by a manufacturer in the town of “Jouy en jonas” who used to wash the raw cloth in the river “Bievre” for its chemical property gaving the material its distinctive off white “ecru” background. The fabric was then left to dry in the fields around the town and then printed with monochrome designs. Originally red and purple and then pink, light blue, and then polychrome. It became commonly known as the “Toile de Jouy” because of its origin, but was also produced around Muhlouse in Alsace, using the same techniques.



ITile of recovered Chair

Chair recovered in a Toile

It has been and still is one of the most popular and recognizable fabric of the history of French furnishing fabrics http://www.museedelatoiledejouy.fr/iso_album/dossier_de_presse_en_anglai.pdf.

Lots of beautiful and sophisticated silk fabrics were still produced under Napoleon’s reign. The Emperor demanded great precision in the rendering of the motifs.

In modern times the wall upholstery, has always been popular, but still stays quite exclusive mostly because of the cost of beautiful fabrics. The purpose of wall upholstery hasn’t changed,  its still used to make a room cozy, acoustically sound and beautiful. Some large patterned fabrics can completely change the visual aspect and dimensions of a room.

powder room1

Large visual fabric – wall upholstery in Powder Room

It has evolved in techniques through the years. In the early days tapestries were simply hung on walls; after the renaissance it was stretched and fixed with tacks on ornamented wooden frames lining the walls inside each room of Castles and Grand houses.  We used to hold tacks in our mouth and using a magnetic hammer picked then individually and hammered them on the wall or furniture.  This allowed us to hold the fabric with the other hand, but wasn’t good for the teeth, the stomach and the organs below. Nowadays Fabrics can be stretched on an entire wall and all the walls of a particular room, or just a feature wall like the bed head wall in a bedroom. Doors and inbuilt furniture can be upholstered as well to make one with the walls. All rooms without exception can and have been upholstered, even the dog house. Entire ceilings have been upholstered, tented or pleated, in the past as well as in modern times.


Upholstered wall panels behind bed create a dynamic feature wall.

Upholstered walls can be just flat, buttoned, pleated, paneled etc…

pleated ceiling

Silk Pleated Ceiling

Wall upholstery renders the wall visually soft and slightly curved which with the help of a beautiful pattern or rich texture, can transform a room and transport you into a different universe.  Like wall paper and other wall finishes, furnishing fabrics and therefore wall upholstery has followed the fashion trends through the years.

wall upholstery and bedhead to match

Matching wall upholstery and behead with piping.

photo (4)

Wall upholstery in Colefax & Fowler fabric with custom made bedhead for Cameron Kimber.

photo (5)

Wall upholstery with matching bedhead & valance.



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