An antique wallpaper so extraordinary that an entire room was built around it — including raising the ceiling

The Court of Noke in Herefordshire is the home of designer Edward Bulmer, and the antique wallpaper in this bedroom shows some of his thought processes in action.

Edward Bulmer breathes new life into houses with a sympathy that is rooted in a deep understanding of their past. ‘What I’m able to offer is a skill, not only a decorative style,’ Edward explains.

‘I can see where details are missing, I can unravel a mishmash of periods — it’s more akin to an architect’s approach.’

It’s a slow game that can last for years and, sometimes, decades — he’s been overseeing the redecoration of White’s in St James’s for the past 10 years, is called into work at Chevening in Kent every five years and has been involved with Goodwood since the early 2000s.

Old houses are in his DNA; in the 1960s, his father, Esmond Bulmer, bought a Georgian rectory in Herefordshire and restored it with the help of the decorator David Mlinaric.

It was in observing the process that Edward acquired a respect for using good-quality traditional materials, such as wood, paper, silk, leather, wool and cotton in interiors.

Recommended videos for you

He brought all those sensibilities to bear after he and his wife bought the Court of Noke, and not least in the bedroom featured on this page.

The Bulmers decided to raise the ceilings of the room by taking the floor out above, and then, to make the most of the new height, they hung a 19th-century Chinese wallpaper.

Antique Chinese wallpaper at Edward Bulmer's home, The Court of Noke, Herefordshire

A detailed view of the antique Chinese wallpaper. Credit: Simon Brown/Country Life

The wallpaper was restored by specialist Allyson McDermott, whose work has appeared in places such as the Brighton Pavilion and The Palace of Westminster — and to make the most of it, the entire room was built around the wallpaper. There’s a lesson for anybody who has ever fallen in love with something but has shied away making everything else fit around it.

Another lesson here is of a more practical nature: the wallpaper starts not from the skirting boards but from the chair rail. ‘I think you see it better that way,’ explains Edward.

It’s not the only bedroom in the house with such a flourish: one room on the other side of the house faces east, so the walls are hung with a tree-of-life fabric by Pierre Frey for warmth.

The Court of Noke is a house that Edward had known since his childhood in Herefordshire, and which — other than central heating and electricity — had remained completely untouched by the 20th century when he and his wife Emma bought it a quarter of a century. Since moving in, however, they have made their mark several times over, with some rooms having seen several different changes in paint colour over the years.

‘The house works as a proving ground,’ says Edward. ‘We put up new colours and see how they look with stone and wooden floorboards — they’re the mainstays of classic English interiors.’