The son of a preservationist/antiques dealer and a scientist-turned-old-time-hardware-store-owner, Bo Sullivan grew up in a 200-year-old house in a 300-year old-town that had been forgotten by time. He spent his teen-age years digging up bottles and bits of china, and exploring cobwebbed attics and abandoned garages. After graduating from North Carolina State University School of Design with an architectural degree in 1988, Bo spent several years as a designer and carpenter renovating older homes before beginning a 20-year association with Rejuvenation Inc. in Portland, Oregon. It was here that he encountered his first roll of M.H. Birge & Sons wallpaper...
“We found these in the basement of our house,” said the young couple, dropping two boxes of old wallpaper rolls in front of Bo at the architectural salvage desk… “Want to buy them?” Deeply embossed and richly colored, these rolls looked just like actual tooled leather, with burnished metallic highlights and hand-brushed stain finishes that were breath-taking in their beauty. The seed of a wallpaper obsession had been planted.
In addition to buying and selling salvage, Bo was Rejuvenation’s architectural and design historian, developing authentic reproduction lighting and hardware products, helping craft the look and feel of the company’s unique retail stores, giving presentations and seminars on American old-house history and culture, and writing the copy for the company’s national mail-order catalog.
As a part of this work, Bo built and managed Rejuvenation’s research archive of over 4,000 rare original period trade catalogs, plan books, photographs, sales samples and other ephemera related to the American building arts from 1870 to 1970. Bo purchased his first wallpaper sample catalog for this archive – a spectacularly shabby circa 1904 sample book from Potter Wall Paper Mills – and that seed was watered.
In 2012, that slowly sprouting wallpaper seed got a big pile of fertilizer dumped on it in Western New York with the acquisition of not one, but two remarkable collections from families of long-passed wallpaper installers – hundreds of original wallpaper rolls from the 1880s through the 1920s, and in early 2013, that sprouting seed finally burst into flower as Bolling & Company.
Bo is also the founder of Arcalus Period Design, a consulting resource established in 2009 for old-house owners, preservationists, architects and design professionals engaged in projects with a deep and meaningful connection to history. From 2010 to 2013, Bo also wrote the regular "A Page From History" feature for Old-House Journal magazine, and he continues to produce articles on period design and building topics for national audiences.
Gwen Jones has always known what she likes and been attracted to beautiful things. Through her mother’s love of sewing Gwen developed an early understanding of fabric – the kind where she can guess fabric content by feel (though this is a harder trick these days with the amazing advances in fabric types). Her first objects of desire were clothing and she has always regretted not learning to sew. Instead, she followed a path that allowed her to afford to buy the clothes and other objects of beauty she admired, working for technology startups and telecommunication companies in sales/project/product management and customer service.
Like many old house lovers, Gwen grew up in a house that was not old and didn’t pay much attention to that fact. But a move to San Francisco in her mid-20s changed all that, when she found herself in the most architecturally captivating place she’d ever been. Living in the oldest building in Dogpatch, Gwen realized that houses, like clothes, were also clearly better made then than now, and her love of beauty and craft motivated the pursuit of crafting something beautiful herself.
Gwen co-founded Gracewood Design in 2004, and there created and produced the largest selection of hand-made floorcloths available anywhere, with designs ranging from Early American to Op Art, with an emphasis on Arts and Crafts styles. Over the course of twelve years, Gracewood Design delivered over 1000 custom-made floorcloths to clients in 19 countries. Focusing on the creative side of the business and managing all its business aspects, including the development of the company’s website and marketing materials, Gwen amassed more than a decade of experience working with homeowners, designers and corporate buyers in developing custom solutions to perfectly meet the customer’s vision and needs.
Joining Bolling & Company in 2016, Gwen is delighted to have found a new outlet for her desire to promote useful and historically relevant goods that have a unique place in today’s décor, immerse herself in color and pattern, and increase the number of beautiful objects in the world.
We’ve been trying to explain this to family and friends for years...
Bolling & Company buys and sells rare original museum-quality wallpapers (mostly American) produced from the late Victorian period through the Postwar era.
We love old wallpaper, and while you’ll find vintage, kitsch and collectable examples here, it is the truly antique survivors from a century ago or more that really light our fires.
Because this material is extremely limited, we offer it in the form of remarkable fragments presented as custom-made, ready-to-hang artworks, or adapted as one-of-kind folding screens and room dividers, or as loose cut remnants ready for your own mounting, framing, scrapbooking or other creative adventures. And when quantities allow, we offer actual rolls for installation in exceptional historic or contemporary settings.
While searching for wallpapers, we often come across other cool and weird things we love, so we sell some of those unique finds, too.
When grading our papers, we take into consideration both objective facts like the age/rarity of the sample, the expense/skill of the original printing methods, the quality of the substrate, and the number of colors/metallic pigments used, as well as more subjective features such as the boldness or impact of the design, the beauty of the color combinations, the scale and salability of the pattern, and general novelty or appeal.
As in any field, the work of certain manufacturers is more highly valued than others (Birge vs. Standard, for instance), and some historical styles are more broadly appreciated (Arts & Crafts vs. Rococo). Our prices reflect the specialness and scarce nature of our unique offerings, and are in line with other more familiar forms of fine art and antique prints.
The terms “bespoke” and “curated” have been so over-used by trend-driven marketers today, that they have lost all meaning – this is the only place on our website where you will find them. We call our papers “museum quality” because that Is what they are – you will find exact examples of our wallpapers in the collections of the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Historic New England, and the Victoria and Albert Museum – three of the most important historic wallpaper repositories in the world.
The term “antique” is typically applied to items that are 100 years old or older. Most of our papers date from around 1880 through the First World War and beyond – the golden age of machine-printed papers. We also offer collectible (WWI to post-WWII), retro (1950-1960) and collectible (post-1960) wallpapers, but generally these have to be out-of-the-ordinary in some way. Some of our favorite friends and dealers online specialize in these eras, and we appreciate their large selections.
Our collection was born with the acquisition of two large lots from the families of former wallpaper installers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and we have since supplemented it extensively with smaller lots and individual purchases from a wide variety of sources. Sometimes the stories behind the survival of these papers are as wondrous as the papers themselves. Attics, basements, estate sales and cupboards under the stairs often figure into these tales, and we never know where the next great find will turn up.
That is the question, isn’t it? Wallpaper isn’t for everyone, and even if you DO like wallpaper, you won’t like all of ours – roses are red and violets are blue, but not everyone wants them on their walls. Fair enough.
However, if there is one thing we have learned, it is that just about everyone has a wallpaper story. There is something about wallpaper that is different from anything else.
Our experience has shown us that no one needs to like ALL wallpaper to fall in love with just ONE (kinda like with human beings) – and our goal is to help you find just that one. With any luck, you might even find more...
Well, this is a question with two answers...
First, we can’t judge the motives and experiences and ideals of beauty of the past – times are different, people are different, and tastes are different. Keep in mind that many of these papers represented cutting-edge style and fashion when introduced. There were hip decorators and trendy homeowners even in the Victorian era, and they proved it on their walls.
Second, not many of us Apple-influenced minimalists today could even handle the richness and elaboration of walls hung with papers like these. BUT we feel that most everyone can handle a few well-presented square feet – a “window” into your own wall’s past.
Ironically, though wallpaper rolls were printed by the tens of millions in their time, all of this ephemeral material has virtually disappeared today, and mint-condition pre-World War I papers are now very hard to find. In fact, wallpapers from before 1915 are also typically much different than anything most folks have ever seen. Simply put, these aren’t your Grandma’s Sears catalog wallpapers.
Most of our stock was produced on a range of pulp-based papers either by hand block printing using oil pigments, or on large surface printing machines applying distemper paints via up to twelve hand-tooled wooden print cylinders. Add in rich metallic treatments and deep surface embossing, and you end up with materials and manufacturing methods that have been long-abandoned by the industry today.
The result is that our true antique papers look different, feel different and even smell different than papers today. For all practical intents and purposes, the quality and character of these papers cannot be truly reproduced. The available supply is finite and ever-shrinking, and nothing quite like them will ever be made again.
We focus on American wallpapers because, well, we are American. And we think the American wallpaper story has been under appreciated and inadequately told for a long time.
Let us be clear – the English and the French were industry leaders in the design and manufacture of fine paper hangings for centuries, and many American manufacturers looked across the Atlantic for their technical and artistic inspiration. But we find American papers more resonant and more interesting, even if they aren’t associated with famous names like William Morris, Zuber & Cie, Paul Balin, Walter Crane, or Charles Voysey.
The embrace of European “sophistication” has always been how the American upper classes (and academic elites) distinguished themselves from the masses. Perhaps we are deluded provincial oafs, but we like to think maybe they’ve missed what’s special about our own place in the paper-hanging pantheon. If nothing else, at least our story is our story – and there is meaning and charm enough in that.
Our wallpaper inventory can be purchased in four different ways:
We also build our papers into custom room dividers and folding screens, just like they did back in the day. These are stunning pieces of collectible furniture that are both functional and beautiful, and they make spectacular vehicles for antique paper. Call or email us if this is something that sounds like it might have a place in your home or project.
Ah yes, that is the $190/sf question, isn’t it?
We grade each of our papers on a scale of 1 to 10, then they are priced by the square foot and sold by the single full repeat. Each grade has a square foot price that is about 20-25% greater than the grade below it. Our cheapest papers can be less than $20/sf, while our finest examples can exceed $200/sf. We do discount for condition when applicable.
All of our ready-to-hang pieces are produced in close collaboration with our trusted local partners for fine art framing. Bo and Gwen personally select every paper, design every treatment, choose every mat and frame, and specify every mounting detail, to craft stunningly artful and thoughtful presentations that are intended to complement and enhance each individual paper.
Our framing partners are equally passionate about our papers, embrace our most demanding challenges, are meticulous in their execution, and we all stand firmly behind our work. Together we welcome your most creative and inspired visions for personalized presentation of our wallpapers.
Here are some basic guidelines for using our loose papers to create your own custom artworks:
All of our papers and custom pieces are carefully packed and shipped in the way that best fits each product type. This may be a flat pack, a box or a crate. It may go via UPS, FedEx, United States Postal Service, or travel by common carrier.
The cost of standard shipping within the US is included in our product price for most products, which is to say that standard shipping is "free". For higher value framed and custom artwork, special handling procedures are required and therefore these products do have shipping fees associated with them. For any product that requires special handling, this is noted on the product page and you will need to contact us so that we can provide a custom quote based on your location and delivery requirements.
We charge pass through costs for expedited and international shipping-please contact us for a shipping quote if you require either of these types of shipping.
If you have specific shipping preferences, please let us know.
Our Return Policy is addressed in great detail here.
The condition of our papers ranges from almost impossibly fragile and/or tragically stained, torn or damaged, to as sharp, clean and sturdy as the day they were printed. Some will have ragged edges from decades of neglect and rough storage, some have water stains/oxidation spots/foxing, certain rolls have faded along their selvage due to air exposure or light infiltration, and mice and worms have been known to munch through them on occasion.
Often imperfections actually add to the charm and character of a piece more than they detract, but we will inform you of condition issues in our descriptions whenever possible. We carefully repair small tears, and in most cases these (and even moderate creases) are minimally noticeable after dry mounting to acid-free board.
Actually, what is remarkable about our collection is the excellent condition of most of our papers, given that they are in fact antique.
Regarding fading, just like when they were first printed, our papers will potentially fade or perhaps discolor from exposure to light, moisture, heat, or harsh environments. This should be gradual though, and occur imperceptibly over time if proper protection is in use.
Believe it or not, with appropriate care and professional handling, most (though not all) old papers can still be installed today, a century or more after they were first printed. This requires a certain level of artistic courage and a talented and experienced paper hanger (we recommend hiring a member of the Wallpaper Installers Association).
Some of our papers are more readily installed than others (for instance, so-called “leather papers” on high-quality heavy stock are easier to work with than the very brittle and acidic pulp papers of the 1890s and 1900s), and the same limitations the papers have always had still apply – you have to be careful with paste and moisture staining, papers are fragile and require hand trimming, and most old papers are neither lightfast nor washable. But the results will be unlike anything anyone else has – that is for sure.
We do not guarantee a trouble-free or fully satisfactory installation (that is out of our hands), nor do we provide mounting instructions or guidance, as conditions and papers vary widely. Please rely on an expert installer, plan your layouts carefully, and always test a small piece or two prior to mounting.
That’s what Bolling & Company was founded to do – collaborate creatively with passionate designers, decorators, home owners and collectors to produce uniquely personalized, high-impact artwork from our singular collection of antique material that is available nowhere else. You bring us your enthusiasm and excitement, find the paper that speaks deeply to you, tell us about how you want to use it, and we’ll work with you to produce a piece of artwork like no other.
Our heirloom-quality pieces should be hung and treated just like any other antique print or piece of fine art. Avoid direct sunlight, temperature extremes, and proximity to sources of humidity/moisture. Our papers glow and shimmer brilliantly when well lit, but use only UV-filtered or non-UV light as colors will fade and papers can become brittle.
However, in the end nothing lasts forever – our approach is to focus on the beauty and pleasure these unique artifacts provide rather than being overly concerned with fading or damage. Loving them to death can be better than long lasting but lonely and unappreciated…
We are currently developing our capacity to reproduce papers in our vast collection of document patterns and sample books to produce the nearest thing practical to a truly authentic period paper. Though not an endeavor for the faint-of-heart or light-of-wallet, these reproductions can capture many of the beautiful effects and imperfections of the old surface printing process and the rich texture of the ingrain and embossed papers that sets antique paper apart from new papers. Call or write if you have a serious interest in pursuing your own custom reproduction of a paper in our collection.
Samples are both essential and tricky. Essential because you really can’t tell much from a computer image. Tricky because we sell our papers in repeats, and cutting samples will often result in the loss of a valuable full repeat for just a small snippet.
That said, in many cases we do have scraps or other cut-offs that we can send as color or pattern samples. Samples – when we can provide them – are $20 each, and size varies based on availability. The $20 sample cost will be credited against any purchase that follows, or $10 will be refunded if the sample is returned in good condition. The samples can be fabulous material for note cards, scrapbooking or other creative endeavors, should you decide to keep one.
There is nothing that we value more than establishing long-term relationships with talented professional designers for repeat custom business, or with high-quality retailers who want to offer unique or exclusive products unavailable anywhere else. We feel our papers present unmatched opportunities for creative, high-impact custom art and décor treatments, and look forward to discussing your ideas with you.
While our pricing structure is not set up to accommodate true wholesale or trade pricing, we would be happy to discuss the possibilities of custom solutions, limited editions, restricted patterns, special quantity purchases, or proprietary product ideas that offer advantages to the sophisticated and visionary designer, dealer or retailer. Please email, or give us a call.
When available, trade or wholesale pricing is handled on a case-by-case basis. We require that dealer or trade customers have an active website.
We can’t make any promises, but that is what we do after all. So we would be happy to look at your papers and make you an offer if they meet our criteria – just send us a few pictures and dimensions, and let us know if there are any identifying details in the selvage. Please understand that we may say “no thank you,” that we do not provide appraisals, and that we do not disclose the prices of past items bought or sold.