18 patterns of vintage wallpaper – 277 squares – for my Big Fat Retro Office Remodel

Pam's office remodel with 18 patterns of vintage wallpapermy crazy crafty office remodelHow to make the office remodel “epic”? How about: 18 different patterns of vintage wallpaper covering the four walls. Ta da! After two months of work, the majority of the office is done — in particular, all the architectural stuff that was part of the gut remodel. All this week I’ll be talking about the various details in My Big Fat Retro Office Remodel Special Report. But the highlight, no duh, is the vintage wallpaper: Yes, 18 different patterns spanning the 1940s to the 1970s… applied in 12″ x 12″ squares railroad-style, choo choo choo boom chicka boom. I counted 277 squares in all. Getting them cut and onto the walls took about 50 painstaking (Advil for me) hours. My friend Denise — who is a decorative painter and also Astro’s rescue mom — was a godsend and came up for a couple of days to help me get it done. That’s us, above, playing Love American Style Gothic with the wallpaper and daring everyone in America to embrace: Pattern and Color and Being Crazy. Portraits by another good friend, Erica Berger, who played right along and egged us on and made us look beautiful. Read on for more about the inspiration — which included two readers, and, umm, my hoarding gene — behind the room, as well as more about Special Report week.

So I guess I better remind you what this room looked like “before”:

my office before remodelAnd with my furniture and decoration:

my office decorated but before the remodelI started the remodel about three months ago. My goal, first and foremost, was to make the room warmer — not decoratively, but really truly. It’s in the basement, and in the winter it gets quite cold. Since I now work from home fulltime on the blog, I wanted to address this issue. At the same time, my husband and I decided to move the bookshelves to his office, which would open up space for me to work on my vintage collages and give him more storage for all his books.

As this week continues, I will spotlight other aspects of the remodel. In this story, I wanted to focus on the inspiration behind the flower power vintage wallpaper crazed walls:

    • I first wrote about the office remodel on March 19. At that time, I thought that — after pulling down the outside walls and adding insulation — I would just paint the new drywall a nice shade of burnt orange (my favorite color). I had a little chip on the wall, and I was kind of excited about an orange room.
    • On April 9, I wrote about Brian and Keri’s knotty pine den — and was blown away by the original vintage wallpaper on the ceiling. I had already been in constant thought and research about all the various elements of  my new office… and when I saw their den with all that vintage wallpaper loveliness… it was like boom kaPOW, I just had to use some of my vintage wallpaper. Paint = too easy.
    • I have a problem with the vintage hoarding thing. I am so smart and lucky to have collected a whole bunch of vintage wallpaper over the years — most of it in onesy-twosey rolls. I had always wanted to do a crazy quilt with tiles in a tub-shower surround. And, I have been starving for a mega-blast of flower-power colors. Starving. So I started thinking: Maybe… a crazy quilt with the wallpaper?
    • The whole idea of the repeat squares also came out of my fixation with vintage collage. I like to make collages on 4″ x 4″ squares — the education packs from Dick Blick that already have holes in the back. I was thinking: I could put wallpaper squares on the wall — and then collage onto them also. Like, the room will be my ongoing canvas…
    • Then, just a few days later, on April 12, I did the behemoth story on Cullen Meyer’s insanely genius Brooklyn apartment. It was a for-sure-no-question-who-was-I-kidding moment: I was going to do the crazy quilt on my walls. Cullen’s apartment definitely inspired me to cut my office wall design loose from any sense of propriety or restraint.
    • I also got a bit obsessed with vintage 12″ mirror tiles. I now own $100 worth. But none of them made it on the wall. No matter. They have entered the hoard and will find epic life elsewhere soon, I am sure.
    • Oh, there’s that word, “epic.” Last fall, I learned the phrase “Do Epic Shit.” I learned it here from Julien, who writes a blog that my friend Margaret pointed out to me. I like that phrase. A lot. My mom always tells me that since I was a baby, I would always do things “the hard way.” So of course, it was predestined that Denise and I would have the time of our lives wallpapering away. It was an epic blast, and I could not be possibly be more ecstatic about this room and how it turned out.

Pam Kueber and Denise Love American Style GothicFashion Sidebar: Denise and I also had epic fun getting ready for our big photo shoot. The night before, she brought over five vintage suitcases of vintage dresses collected at thrift shops. I had a bunch, too, but she had better ones and both these dresses are hers. The vintage go go boots were mine — they are now Denise’s, they fit her better so off they went home with her. The orange drop earrings are mine, and so are the eyeglasses — estate sale finds.

Coming up in this week’s My Big Fat Retro Office Remodel Special Report: How I created the crazy quilt design and how we installed the vintage wallpaper… An overview of all the things included in the gut-remodel … Spotlight on storage and special accessories … Trim … What I decided to do for craft storage … What’s left to do; ugh, will it never end… and maybe a a few more closeups of this ‘n that.

Link love:

See all the stories about my crazy craft office remodel by clicking here.

  1. Michael says:

    What a clever idea, Pam– and so beautifully executed. It looks even better than I was picturing in my head when you described it to me during our phone conversation two weeks ago. I imagine it will be very uplifting or even energizing to work in that space. Bravo!

  2. Caryn says:

    LOVE. IT. Did a much smaller version of this for the backsplash behind my cooktop and sink, had some 1/8″ glass cut to fit to protect the wallpaper. Used a 1968 wallpaper sample book scored on etsy.com… looks fab in our 1970 ranch.

    Now after seeing your office I am thinkin’…. maybe tackle one wall in my sewing room? hmmm…

    Can’t wait to see more of your room!

    1. pam kueber says:

      I’d love to see a photo of your backsplash, Caryn! Yup: This idea is a great one for using onesie-twosie rolls of vintage wallpaper that are much cheaper to acquire than big lots. Story coming up on this subject at noon today!

  3. Lynn-O-Matic says:

    Ha ha ha, Pam–when I first saw the picture I thought it was a brilliant photo illustration you had done to show how difficult it was to choose just ONE wallpaper. Then I realized that it was real. Squeee! And, I kid you not, my actual first thought was, “OMG, that is EPIC!” And then I read on and of course that is the precise word to describe it.

    You led me astray with all the posts on Scandinavian wall systems (which I love). I was expecting some very pared down, sleek Danish modern-type space. Never underestimate The Pam! This is SO you. This is your destiny.

    You are so cruel to make us wait to see more, however!

    Oh, and I hope you traded Denise the boots for your dress. It’s perfect on you. You’re both perfect.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Haha, I like leading you astray! Keep ’em guessing, that’s what I say. Sleek. Crazy. Kitschy. Sophisticated. I LOVE IT ALL!

  4. marta says:

    Wow! That does not look like collage at all to me. It looks like the ‘faux collage’ wallpaper they used to make. Great eye for arranging the colors and patterns! Love it.

    Also, I really think this pic needs to be framed and hung in the upstairs part of the house.

    1. pam kueber says:

      Hi Marta. I wasn’t meaning to say the design was a collage. I meant to say that the combination — and the squares — were inspired by my love of collage. Later — when I get the guts — I will begin creating 12″ collages right onto the walls using each wallpaper square as a substrate. And I agree: That photo might need to get framed and hung in both my and Denise’s houses! Thank you for the idea!

      1. Marta says:

        Pam, I didn’t mean you meant collage. I meant it looked too good to be collage-like. The patterns and colors look so well balanced. Of course, now that I’ve read your post about the process, I can see why!

        The pic of you and Denise in the room has been nagging at my brain, and I just figured out why. Over the weekend, I went through all my vintage American Home magazines, and your pic is very reminiscent of the artwork in the ’67-’68 issues I have.

  5. Marta says:

    I’m really fantasizing about how cute this would look in kids’ rooms. Nursery paper samples in a baby’s room, maybe comic book pages in a boy’s room. Even if you only had enough paper for one wall . . .

  6. Laurie V says:

    Love it! Also love the “Do Epic Shit”. My mother always used to say “Well I better do something, even if it’s wrong”. Sometimes that has been helpful to me, and other times it’s gotten me into a bit trouble. lol

    1. pam kueber says:

      I like that a lot, Laurie V: “Well I better do something, even if it’s wrong.” That about sums it up.

  7. Blondie7 says:

    I’ve been reading this phenomenal blog for nearly 3 years. I never took the time to post a comment…I would read and enjoy the blogs. Well, I am commenting today. Dear Pam, I love your office vintage wallpaper…it is superb! You and Denise look super Hot(Pam you look like a 1970’s Crissy doll)lol….I love your retro gear! Phenomenal! Even though I am a huge fan of French Provincial, Marie Antoinette etc. I am a huge fan of Mid Century too. Pam I Love your blog. I visit nearly everyday. Blessings to You and your Lovely Family.

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