The second half of 2019 saw the decoration of the upper floor rooms in 18 Ormond Quay get underway in earnest. From the outset, it was our intention to finish the rooms in the spirit of the age of the building, the early 1840s, using traditional Irish wallpaper on the walls and authentic paint colours and stains on the architectural joinery and floors. This would bring back the residential qualities of the upper floors as they were originally set out, occupied by various solicitors during the middle of the 19th century.
The early 1800s saw an explosion in the production and consumption of wallpaper in Ireland as demand grew from the emerging middle classes. While there was a vibrant trade in wallpaper, or ‘paper-staining’ as it was known, in 18th-century Dublin, a growing number of manufacturers and retailers, as well as emerging mechanisation, fuelled growth of the industry in the first half of the 19th century.
Many wallpapers were produced in the vicinity of 18 Ormond Quay Upper, including on the quay itself, as well as on Capel Street, Essex Street and Bachelors Walk. The most successful of these was James Boswell of Bachelor’s Walk and Patrick Boylan of Baggot Street.
We were determined to revive the spirit of this Dublin trade by engaging the services and expertise of David Skinner, Ireland’s leading historic wallpaper expert and manufacturer.
Who is William IV?
Historic rooms that we nowadays perceive to be loosely ‘Georgian’, often decorated in pastel paint colours, were in fact hung in robustly patterned wallpapers paired with grained and mid-toned woodwork. This overlooked ‘transitional’ period – between Regency and Victorian – may be termed ‘William IV’ after the monarch who reigned from 1830-1837, but whose stylistic reign spanned until almost 1850 when Victorian tastes took over.
The Irish William IV style is eclectic and ‘confused’, often consisting of surprisingly modern, fresh patterns and colours, as well as overwhelmingly busy design concepts and colour pairings. Wallpapers regularly clashed with carpet patterns and joinery decoration, while in other cases, rooms of surprising coherence and elegance could emerge from the competing materials and fashions of the period.
Furniture at this time was broadly masculine and architectural, executed mainly in mahogany and rosewood, and often featured softening flourishes such as swirling lilies, acanthus leaves and Greek anthemia. Much of this furniture was made in Dublin by firms such as Mack, Williams and Gibton, Gillington's and Strahan and is of an exceptionally high quality.
First floor parlour
The focal point of the first floor front parlour in 18 Ormond Quay Upper was restored using a white Carrara marble chimneypiece installed by David O’Reilly Fireplaces of Francis Street to an authentic 1840s design, featuring plain pilasters, robust corbels and a slightly chamfered mantle shelf. The c.1912 sanitary paper frieze, installed c.1912 for The Douglas Hotel which occupied the building by that point, was conserved in-situ.
Underneath the picture rail, we commissioned David Skinner to remake an original wallpaper design made in Dublin in the 1840s. Many of these Irish patterns have been discovered by David in the National Archives in Kew, London, which retains original wallpaper design samples sent to Britain for official patent. Our first floor paper was stamped, signed and dated to 1841, made by James Boswell of 28 Bachelors Walk, Dublin, then the largest wallpaper manufactory in the city. The date is one year before 18 Ormond Quay Upper was rebuilt in 1842-43, meaning the paper would have been newly available at the time of the building’s decoration.
The paper can be described as a typically 'wild' William IV pattern, consisting of gold acanthus leaves on a watered silk 'moire' ground. David Skinner screen-printed the pattern on thick paper using emulsion paints to achieve the textured effect of traditional block printing.
We think you'll agree that it has re-introduced a dramatic flavour of the 1840s, befitting a modest mid-19th century Dublin building.
More coming soon...