Internal Walls in the Period House

This section describes how paint and wallpaper has been used in different eras and design styles, including Georgian, Victorian and Edwardians houses, as well as those from the 20th century.

See also the section on wooden mouldings.


Paint has been the main finish used for walls and ceilings throughout the Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian eras, and into the 20th century. Floors, doors and other woodwork have also been painted, particularly in less public rooms and smaller houses.

As well as flat colour, a wide variety of paint effects have been used including graining, marbling and stencilling.

The chemical composition of paints has also evolved. Until recently, 'gloss' paint was a semi-gloss rather than a high-gloss. Because of the colourings used, the paint did not have a uniform colour when looked at closely. White paint was not the modern bright white until about 1890, but a grey, cream or beige off-white.


Wallpaper has been used for walls from the Georgian period onwards. To a Georgian lady with her wallpaper in pictorial or floral designs, the strong geometric patterns of the Gothic revival of the mid-Victorian decades must have seemed brutal and gloomy. They were too much also for later generations of designers who returned to oriental themes and elaborate plant-inspired patterns in more subtle colours.

In the mid-19th century, mechanisation made wallpaper cheaper and available to the masses. However, higher quality papers such as those printed by hand or with special finishes such as flock continued to be expensive and the preserve of the better off.

Higher quality papers were used in public rooms with cheaper papers and designs used in bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchens.

The dominant colour in the wallpaper was then used for the woodwork.

See the section on Colour for examples of colour palettes used in different eras and with different styles.

See individual rooms in Design by Room for specific comments.

See also the DIY section for information about types and uses of paint.

Visit our advice on caring for internal walls.