Retro Wallpaper Wizardry

New authentic mid-century designs stage a comeback with fine art and unique style
Fridays on the Homefront
Though wallpaper has been around for centuries, retro patterns, including some terrific new mid-century modern ones, are getting revived today by the Bradbury & Bradbury company based in the East Bay. Above: Inside the B&B production house in Benicia. All photos courtesy Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers

The mere mention of the word 'wallpaper' conjures up centuries-old Victorian 'painted ladies' overflowing with flowery, antiquated patterns.

"Ugh, not for me," quips the mid-century modern purist.

But hold on. Though wallpaper has been around for centuries, it's also true that retro patterns that play well with the present are getting rediscovered today, with exciting design motifs and color combinations.

To our delight, some are indeed authentically mid-century modern!

California-based Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers, well known to architects and interior and movie-set design insiders, recently launched a fabulous new '1950s Vintage' wallpaper collection, adding to their existing extensive 1920s, '30s, '40s, and '60s inventory of vintage 20th-century patterns.

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Above and below: Three of Bradbury & Bradbury's authentic new 1950s wallpaper patterns.

Designer Betsey Johnson's 'Malibu Dream Home' and tour, which showcased several of Bradbury's delightful mid-century wallpapers, put their new '50s patterns in the New York Times spotlight in July—a rousing way to launch the new line nationally.

But did you know the Bradbury folks are locals, rooted in the East Bay? In fact, their eye-popping new collection of authentic 1950s wallpaper patterns was created at the company's production house in Benicia.

Bradbury handles every phase of production in-house, where their "wallpaper alchemists" see the process through, "from the selection of patterns through layout and printing," according to Stephen Bauer, Bradbury's owner and artistic director.

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"We have an incredible team of craftspeople who have continued our longstanding tradition, creating some of the most beautiful papers from start to finish," says Bauer. You can see some of these processes in action on Bradbury's Facebook page.

Bradbury is well known in the industry for recreating fine historic wallpapers, producing accurate design patterns for restorations dating from the 1880s up through 20th century Arts and Crafts, Art Deco, and, yes, mid-century modern periods.

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