decollage wallYou know I like to collage. In my last class, I learned about collage’s opposite: Décollage. As I understand it:

  • To collage — is to build up layers, artfully letting the various layers show through, for effect.
  • To décollage — is to strip away layers, artfully leaving bits of each layer showing, for effect. Originally, decollage was a “happy accident” — like the beauty of layers of torn posters on a city wall. Later, it was pursued as an art form of its own.

In our collage class, we experimented with purposeful décollage — we would add layers, then sand away. It is so satisfying to sand away! I loved this effect in our little works of art — and I love the effect, large scale, on the wall of Andre’s living room, above. Andre’s didn’t just strip wallpaper to achieve this life-after-the-apocalypse beauty — he painted, then stripped. Again: Purposeful décollage.

Andre, who featured this story on his blog A Beautiful Revolution, gave me permission to show his process here:

decollage wall

andre jordan doodleI discovered Andre’s walls, because Andre draws “doodles” for my friend Margaret’s blog, A Way to Garden. He has written several books. He now also has a shop on, his rugs are gorgeous. What an interesting person. I asked him why he did his living room wall this way. He said:

We are very interested in creating what we refer to as a ‘bohemian decay’ look. We sell many rugs that are worn – i think the trend is now to have a rug that looks like it has been walked on for a hundred years and i think that same line on thinking applies to the original wallpaper – it tells a story, lots of stories about those who were here before us.

This blog — Retro Renovation — is about the “retro”. But there are no prescriptions about how to do it. Can Décollage… Detritus… Decay… make for… Decorating? Sure. In fact, Andre’s Bohemian Decay does not seem too far from Shabby Chic or plain old junk yard style on the Decorating Continuum. I totally understand the aesthetic — raw patina is interesting and can be very beautiful, once you get your head around the idea.

And you know I like vintage wallpaper. ‘Most any way it’s served up.

Thank you for sharing, Andre!

  1. Tim says:

    This is stunningly beautiful. It takes a ho hum wallpaper pattern and turns it into high art. And it demands an artistic eye. I can see this however being like many faux finishes…in the right hands it can be beautiful. In th earring hands it can look like vomit.

  2. Annie B. says:

    Fantastic! Andre, to me, it says “heritage” and “legacy”. I love this style. Thanks to you and Pam for opening my eyes to something else to appreciate.

    Love your bored garden gnome!

  3. AC says:

    Just beautiful. I have wanted to do this but got talked into full stripping of the wall and paint. Now I have proof it works. THANK YOU.

  4. Janet in CT says:

    Not for me but I am old school. I just can’t get used to things like tinting the bottom half of your hair which to me looks like roots way grown out. I grew up with friends whose houses were like this, and I have seen way too many of these walls looking at old neglected houses up in Maine. Of course in these cases, the wallpaper was old and dirty and peeling and looked really shabby. It is an image that doesn’t leave my head so it It will always distort my appreciation of something like this. Kind of like my dislike of the new trend to clear coat rusty old cars! But hey, whatever floats your boat! I am sure many people can appreciate this look but it just isn’t for me.

  5. Betty Crafter says:

    I absolutely adore this. Such a fresh twist on vintage decorating! Instead of a time-warpy look, it pays homage to the age of the home and the years that have passed. LOVE.

  6. Sandra says:

    My bedroom door in a 1922 home had so many layers of paint on it, and it was peeling. But I loved the old door and the old knob and lock, so I decided to strip it.

    As the outer layers of white and off-white started coming off, there were other layers of dark blue and other blues (on one side) and yellow (on the other), and it just looked wonderful partially stripped, that I stopped right there. My plan was to seal it (lead?), although I never got to it before I sold the house.

    1. pam kueber says:

      hey peeples: a Precautionary Pam reminder: There by be lead in old paint (including the paint underneath wallpaper layers) — consult with a properly licensed professional before you start stripping.

  7. My husband and I bought a 5,000 sf Italianate home built in 1875 through a bank repo sale to open as a B&B. One of the rooms to be used as a guest room had neon green wall paper on all the walls. I started stripping it off last July and it was so hot and there was so much wall paper I stood back and looked at the walls to see how much I had left to do. I had uncovered two other lays of wallpaper along with old repair patches. This room was going to have a Tuscan theme and after looking at it for a few minutes I decided it would look more authentic if I left patches of wall paper. A professional painter told me I could coat it with dry wall condition to keep the wall paper edges from peeling off. I then color washed it about five times with various oranges and yellows and reds and finally got the old Venentian plaster look I wanted. I wouldn’t let my husband repair the cracks and holes and he was horrified at first but now loves it. Glad to know that I’m not the only one that likes this look. I was afraid our guests wouldn’t “get” it but they all love it.

    1. tammyCA says:

      Your B&B is beautiful, Sharon. I love B&Bs and have stayed in some lovely historic ones.
      I think in the right stylish house the decollage would look cool…but, not in most (and, I love cool vintage wallpaper & really want some). It’s like the shabby chic look…I’ve got the shabby part but not the chic so it looks like “you know what”. 😀

  8. Diane in CO says:

    I love this – thanks Pam for educating us about decollage. Andre, not everyone could pull this off and you obviously are an artist.

    I was wondering about your red vinyl/chrome chair. Is it manufactured by the Simmons Mattress Co. in Wisconsin by chance??? I have a very similar vintage Simmons chair, which was designed by Norman Bel Geddes, also a “porch” chair which has a springs-and-canvas support under the seat cushion. Yours looks to have the same construction – is it labelled Simmons? Do you know more about the chair?

    Thanks for sharing your provocative wall metamorphosis with us!

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