The history of wallpaper is not simply a history of ornamental patterns and designs. It is also a fascinating record of technological ingenuity and changes in patterns of consumption and domestic taste.
Originating in the 16th century, the earliest wallpapers were used to decorate the insides of cupboards and smaller rooms in merchants' houses rather than the grand houses of the aristocracy. But by the beginning of the 20th century, it was being used everywhere, in hallways, kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms as well as reception rooms, and was popular in both the wealthiest and poorest homes. Yet, it was this very popularity that led to wallpaper being regarded as the poor relation of the decorative arts. Take a journey through the V&A's vast wallpaper collection, dating from the mid-1500s to the present day, to discover its fascinating design history.