7 places to buy vintage wallpaper — from 80 cents to $200 per roll

vintage wallpaper lotto

I am the world’s number #1 fan of vintage wallpaper for midcentury homes. I think it is wonderful to warm up a foyer… it’s great in a guest bath… and for the kitchen: Yes! Honestly, once you start with the wallpaper, it’s kind of hard to stop. You know how you can’t be “just a little bit pregnant”? Similarly, it’s difficult to add “just a little bit of wallpaper.”  There are several spendy “go-to” places to buy vintage wallpaper in the U.S. I’ll list them here. But in this “Retro Renovation 101″ post, I also will share how I found some of my gorgeous wallpapers for as little as $1.25 a double roll.

1. Buy vintage wallpaper from one of the big three specialty shops

The hardest part about finding and buying vintage wallpaper, in my opinion, is that you need quite a few rolls to do most jobs. Unless you get stripes or a small geometric print, there often are large “repeats” in wallpaper, which means that lots goes to waste as you match up the design laying the paper. I have a small mudroom and argh, the wallpaper person I use said I needed 6 double rolls. Who’da thought? So, a key reason to go to the expensive, specialist places is that they know this, and they’ve collected lots and lots of multiple roll sets. Remember: Time is money, and these places have spent lots of time amassing their collections… now, they need to monetize it. Time is also money in the sense that, if you are out of time, or don’t want to take the time or wait it out, here’s your wallpaper ready to buy. All of this is build-up to say:  Vintage wallpaper from one of the “Big Three” specialty shops is going to be expensive, as I write this, up to $200 roll, in some cases more. And no ranting about it. Time=Money. The big three places to go — all of which have good online stores are:

2. Buy vintage wallpaper on ebay

The key to ebay shopping is search terms, and tenacity. I am nuts for vintage wallpaper, and my Saved Search says: “vintage wallpaper rolls”. I put that word ROLLS (plural) in there, because I don’t want to see single rolls, of which there are multitudes. If you are really truly madly deeply on the hunt, make up multiple searches, such as: Antique wallpaper, midcentury wallpaper, 1940s wallpaper, 40s wallpaper, etc etc…. Also, once you find a seller who seems to deal in this stuff save that sellers’ searches as well.

One more ebay tip: If you see flashes of goodness, go down that seller’s rabbit hole. This takes a lot of Time.

3. Buy vintage wallpaper from an old-time wallpaper store in your town

I found and purchased dozens of fantastic rolls of vintage wallpaper from a local store in the next town over that had been in business since the 1950s. Over the years, they had transformed to sell art supplies and had phased out their wallpaper business. I saw some vintage rolls on display — they were selling it for craft projects — and simply asked, Is there more? Yup. Owner Steve took me down to the basement, where my head started to spin and my fingers started to itch, I couldn’t slap that credit card out fast enough. I have used a bunch of this wallpaper throughout my house, and I am hoarding the rest. Because I have an attachment issue. Also, because I think *some day* I will have a use for it.  Bottom line: Think about it and then stalk (nicely) your local old-time stores to see what stock they may have forgotten about and would be happy to get rid of. Oh, here is some of my collection:

 

Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer

 

4. Attics and basements of estate sales

Run to the basement of estate sales. Then the attic. Then the closets. You may find some there.

I found 10 rolls of this vintage wallpaper for $8 total at an estate sale last summer!

This past summer I scored 10 rolls of the absolutely gorgeous pink-gold-creamy-gray design wallpaper (above) at an estate sale for $8. That’s my 80 cents per double-roll best-price-of-all-time find — and the photo does barely scratched the surface of this paper’s beauteousness. It was in an upstairs bedroom, in a box, probably pulled out of a closet, it was 100 degrees up there, and the box was horrifically dusty and very off-putting. But not to me. Fear dirt on your hands, and you will go home empty-handed.

5. Search for vintage wallpaper with a “wanted” ad on craigslist or in your local newspaper.

Okay, here’s one last idea: Put a “wanted” ad in your local newspaper and/or on craigslist. When I was looking for a bathroom sink about eight years ago, I found it by placing an ad in my local newspaper. I live in the kind of market where that could work … it’s a tight community and back then, at least, “everyone” read the newspaper. Today, I would start on craigslist, though, because all listings are free and because craigslist is so much more well known. Lots of folks read these ads with great intensity — maybe yours will catch their eye, causing them to remember, “Hey! I have some of that in my basement!” That’s exactly what happened with the person who saw my ad for a sink. I bet that, event today, there are thousands of rolls of vintage wallpaper stored in basements and closets of America — waiting to strut their vintage stuff for YOU!

Do you love wallpaper as much as I do?
See all my stories about wallpaper — vintage and retro-new — here.

Get our retrolicious free newsletter.

Newsletter-sign-up-2NMAS

Comments

  1. says

    Vintage wallpaper is the best, Marilyn from Hannah’s Treasures is a friend of mine, her collection is amazing. New wallpaper does not compare to the vintage. The printing process and the inks were different then. Enjoy your hunting for fabulous papers.

  2. says

    Oh G! I love that flower paper you found at the estate sale (the pink-gold-creamy-gray design) Are you going to use it all? I have a perfect project (the 1/2 stairwell to my laundry room in my vintage 40′s house) that I think would require abt 2 rolls (I would have to measure to confirm that). I would happily double your money $16 for what I need!! or more! Love!.

  3. Wendy M says

    I love your collection! I can see how it could become addictive to collect…it’s such functional art.
    I do have a question…is there a source (or sources) cataloging wallpaper by period (or is it just too vast a catagory)? I’d love to confirm that the wallpaper in our bathrooms is original, but I’m not sure how to go about doing it.

  4. Jeanne says

    I love your collection! I grew up with the fourth one (in different colors) wallpapering one wall of our kitchen, with brown tile counters, linoleum floor and a maple hutch.

    I have a question about purchasing vintage wallpapers. If I wanted some for my bathroom, should I only look at paper marked for bathrooms – as it would probably be vinyl coated??

    • Lynne says

      I hope this reply isn’t too late. We are right now hanging vintage wallpaper in our pink bathroom. It was listed in the “bathroom” wallpaper catagory. It isn’t vinyl, JUST paper, and NOT pre-pasted. A couple of things: if you are putting up a vintage paper, a clay based wallpaper paste is necessary. My husband is very experienced at hanging paper, and he tells me this has been very difficult. The paper doesn’t bend or give in any way-it tears. He says its like working with antique documents. Secondly, watch the run numbers to make sure you are going to have the same dye lot. I am a little nervous to see how this holds up with steamy showers, but its a gamble I’m willing to take.

      • Handyandy says

        Thanks Lynn, for the reality checks when dealing with vintage wallpaper. For the last 40 years my philosophy has been if it doesn’t move, wallpaper it. But these days I search long and hard in current books for period “look alikes” because old paper and old walls can equal real wallpapering misery.

      • Jeanne says

        Thank you Lynne. That puts a bit of a perspective on it. I used a vintage pattern (new wallpaper) from Bradbury & Bradbury and it called for clay based paste as well. I’m not familiar with what that is, but I hired someone to hang it anyway and she did a fabulous job.

        There used to be more vintage-patterned “new” wall paper but I guess the demand wasn’t there. Back in the late 80s I purchased several different designs from a book of vintage patterns but I can’t remember the company. They were more renditions rather than actual reproductions. I remember one was called “Twilight Zone” that was a grey/pink large floral. Another was pink with chevron shapes.

  5. pam kueber says

    i was just thinking how i love the novelty papers with graphic backgrounds and then, drawings on top :)

  6. says

    Hi Pam! Outstanding estate sale wallpaper!
    I love all three of your sources above. Their selections are wonderful! I have also had good luck with ebay shop Vintage Wallcoverings (aka colleenabean–your featured ebay shop) whose prices are quite good. (http://stores.ebay.com/Vintage-Wallcoverings ).

    There are also lots of sellers of vintage wallpaper on Etsy but as so many of them sell with crafters in mind you must weed through to find sellers of full rolls. Since I use vintage wallcoverings for lampshades and can use intact partials, I have also learned to look for sellers who say to convo them if you want more than one “sheet” or yard, which means that they only take cuts from a roll as lengths are purchased. If you are in love with the paper then it may be worth checking, because sometimes I have caught them when they still have most or all of a roll left.

  7. Jeff says

    Pam, LOVE the collection- especially the one with what looks like little rectangles of Italian? scenes.

    I have perused the online vintage paper stores, all with great stuff, but not enough in multiple rolls for me, sadly.

    I do have a local source near dad’s place in Florida, a thrift that gets alot of it, and I haved been lucky in scoring some vintage rolls there, 2 bucks a roll, mostly good for drawer liners and backing bookcases, etc.

    I will definitely start haunting the old design stores still in business near my place in Michigan for more!

  8. says

    ooooh – your collection is amazing! (those poodles – to die for!) I keep thinking how gorgeous these papers would be as fabric. I can imagine some awesome skirts and dresses in them! :)

  9. Elena says

    I recently visited the showroom of a company in the San Fernando Valley in So. Cal. that has a wonderful collection of vintage wallpaper (trade only), and if you have the $$$, also makes custom wallpapers. Go to:www.designyourwall.com and check out the “retro. vintage wallpaper” – there are some wonderful pink themed papers (pink fish for a bath palace anyone?!) The gal I spoke with said that they are getting many orders for red flocked paper these days – perfect for a 50′s dining room. I am looking though for “rose red” more a bluish red. I may go with a gold pagoda pattern embossed on grass paper made by Schumacher, though the red flocked stuff is tempting for our 1956 California ranch dinging room. Any suggestions Pam – I am in the exploratory phase? P.S. Anyone seen any great vintage looking wall paper murals? My grandmother always had them in her living/ dining room and the nostalgia factor has me searching. And Pam, you have no idea how you’ve inspired us to purchase a very neglected Carmichael, CA home and embark on bringing it back to its glory. Many thanks, Elena & Brian

    • pam kueber says

      Welcome, Elena. Vintage flocked paper is the most expensive of all. I have always wondered about Designyourwall and whether they can truly replicate the fantastic inks of vintage wallpaper. Personally, I would aim for the true vintage stuff, or the higher end stuff with excellent printing technology from the likes of Bradbury, Sanderson and Schumacher. Oh, Thibaut, too — who, I believe, has a few murals still! I bookmarked them a ways back – thank you for the reminder to me to check them out in more detail. Good luck and SO HAPPY about your new/old house. Take lots of before and after photos and I’ll put you on the blog when you are ready for prime time.

  10. says

    Any ideas for getting wallpaper remade? I am restoring a house that has been in my family since early 1970′s, all the furniture, decor, and wallpaper is original from when the home was built in 1963. I have gotten a hold of one company but they said that they have to change the print 20% for copyright reasons, but if they do that, it won’t match the rest of the room since I am using it to repair not completely replace. Can you recommend anyone else who re-manufacture the prints, I still have some of the original but not enough. Thanks!

  11. Karen says

    I am super duper envious of your collection!!! Are you sure you wouldn’t sell a few rolls? I have some projects going that I would love to use them in. Like… those poodles in my half bath! Please!?? It’s just no fair! Agh!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *