Paintable Wallpaper a Good Option for Heritage Homes

Applying paint glaze to Anaglypta
Applying paint glaze to Anaglypta

Here’s an email I received for information about paintable wallpaper for old houses:

Dear Johanne: Several years ago I attended one of your courses about Heritage Houses.  You showed us how you had renovated your bathroom, using paintable wallpaper.  It was gorgeous. Was it a difficult product to work with?  Some of the reviews that I have read indicated that there were adhesion issues.  Was that your experience?  Is it “better” to apply the wallpaper dry, or to use the type with the adhesive on the wet wallpaper? Can I apply this paper over paneling?  

Hi Karen: The wallpaper I showed the group when I held the class in my home is known as “Anaglypta”. This is a wallpaper that has been around since the late 19th century. It was developed as an alternative to “Lincrusta”, its older brother, because the latter was rigid, heavy and expensive. I have installed Lincrusta wainscotting and friezes and can attest to all three.

Made of wood pulp and cotton, Anaglypta was of a lighter weight and much more flexible. True Anaglypta is still being made by the Crown Company in England. This paper is not pre-pasted and it has  an embossed raised design. The underside of the wallpaper is hollow where the design is raised on the surface. That is how you can tell you have actual Analglypta.

Priming Anaglypta
Priming Anaglypta

This is one on-line advertisement for the product with my comments in italics next to it:

1. The paper is often hung on ceiling to mimic antique tin ceilings yet a wide variety of designs are available. (Look for the original Anaglypta designs. In order to remain relevant in today’s market, the company has introduced designs that are solid – no hollow spaces left by raised surfaces. These are made of vinyl, not cotton, and many of the designs are too contemporary for authentic period style.)

2.  Anaglypta is paper-based and relatively easy to hang. (Ah, the word is “relatively”- relative to what? It can be done but timing is of the utmost importance. You need a special clay-based wallpaper paste which you apply to the back of the paper. You then have to time how long you let it soak into the paper before hanging it up. Once you decide how long to soak it, say 10-15 minutes, each piece you apply thereafter has to be left for the same time. If there is a difference in soak times your patterns will not line up when they are dry. Remember you are working with cotton here and cotton shrinks. This can be quite tricky when papering ceilings – which I also have done.)

3. Installation of Anaglypta on walls as well as using it as a base for decorative paint treatments is common.( I love it for that reason. I created a glazed wall over heavy Anaglypta in our entrance. It looks great and really suits the house.)

Glazing anaglypta
Glazing anaglypta

4. Due to the raised relief pattern and thickness of the paper, Anaglypta is often ideal to cover wall damage. (Yes, it is ideal for that, however the paper is made of cotton so as it dries it moulds itself on to the wall. If you have gaps or cracks or texture from paneling the paper may simply accentuate that. Make sure you fill any spaces with caulking or fillers suitable for your wall and prime the surface before you apply the paper. Papering walls with glossy finishes is not recommended without priming them first.)

Regarding the adhesion, yes I have had issues with this but it was mostly when I installed the heavier paper. Interestingly enough however, the problem was only in certain areas. It is very difficult to attempt to re-glue any of these sections and I had to resort to using wood glue.

Would I use it again? Yes, most definitely. Our bathroom walls were done eight years ago and the Anaglypta is holding up remarkably well.

3 thoughts on “Paintable Wallpaper a Good Option for Heritage Homes

  1. I love the look of anaglypta! What products are used for glazing? I’m confused about exactly what glazing is. I know it can be used for antiquing a piece of furniture, but can it be used instead of paint? Thank you! Linda

    1. Thanks for the comment, and a very good question too. Glazing is done with a glazing liquid – a base that is colourless. It can be made of oil (dries slower leaving you time to adjust your effects) or water-based which dries fast. Make sure that you know this (read the container) because it will affect the kind of paint you use in combination with the glaze. Without getting into too many details, the idea is to cover your base colour with a thin glaze of another colour. The proportion of glazing liquid to paint (or concentrated pigment) will give you different looks. Test the transparency you want by starting with a 3 to 1 ratio. That means 3 parts glaze to 1 part paint or vice versa. Paint it over your base colour then use a cotton rag to wipe some of the colour off. If you find it’s too transparent, add more paint. If it’s too opaque, add more glazing liquid. Make sure that you use the same recipe throughout your entire project. There are some good books on the market that show you how to do this. It’s possible that you may find a course close to where you live. Good luck!

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