How the marbled wallpaper micro revival could go mainstream

Marbled paper has been popular, on and off, since the 9th century. Now it’s enjoying a micro revival — and one which Giles Kime is delighted to see.

There’s something deeply reassuring in the fact that there is rarely much that is new in interior design, only a process of revolution and counter revolution often spanning centuries, if not millennia.

Although it might currently be considered daringly modish to paint your walls black, David Hicks was doing it half a century ago and Sir Edwin Lutyens half a century before that. Modernists may like to consider themselves rather edgy, but Modernism was already pretty edgy a whole century ago, when Eileen Gray designed the romantically named House E-1027 at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.

For those of us with long memories, there’s something thrilling about this ebb and flow, in particular the nostalgic micro revivals: cabbagey plates, Constance Spry vases, flokati rugs, lustreware, and so on. The latest is marbling, a pattern that hasn’t been seen since the heady days of the 1980s, when a whole generation of homeowners enthusiastically embraced it, together with other paint finishes such as ragging, dragging, stippling and more.

Needless to say, faux marbling has been discovered and forgotten numerous times; examples were found at Pompeii and it was popular in the 18th and 19th century — there was even a celebrity marbler, Thomas Kershaw, who exhibited at the Exposition Universelle and worked at both Buckingham Palace and Osborne House.

Rosi de Ruig’s marbleised paper lampshades

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The art of paper marbling is thought to have originated in China in the 9th century and later became popular in the Islamic world, reaching Europe during the Renaissance. Over the following centuries, it was used in bookbinding, as well as for lining chests, drawers and bookshelves.

In the current micro revival, marbling tends to be used in moderation, but when employed as wallpaper, it can create a rich and enveloping look. Although the costs are high, the rewards for taking the plunge can breathtaking, as evidenced by the beautiful bathroom by Salvesen Graham that features marbled wallpaper from the interior designer Beata Heuman.

A more discreet decorative touch can be achieved with the marbleised shades offered by Rosi de Ruig. The chances are that this is a micro revival that could become a macro one. Let’s hope so.