Kitchen wallpaper is a relatively modern development. The types of images that we associate with kitchen wallpaper—what we now think of as “normal” or “usual” designs—tell us a lot about when it was developed in the early part of the 20th century, particularly the 1920s. Its iconography provides a key to understanding how kitchen design has evolved and how the user of the kitchen has been regarded over time. This article pays particular attention to the development and distribution of kitchen wallpaper in Canada.
L’évolution du papier peint dans les cuisines est un phénomène relativement récent. Les images que nous associons au papier peint de cuisine–que nous considérons “normales,” voire “courantes”–témoignent de l’époque où elles se sont développées, à savoir au début du siècle dernier, dans les années 1920. Cette iconographie nous permet de comprendre comment le design des cuisines a évolué et comment les usagers de ce lieu ont été perçus dans le temps. Cet article s’attarde particulièrement au développement et à la distribution des papiers peints au Canada.
Thanks to the many people who contributed their thoughts and recollections about kitchen wallpaper, especially Barbara Bock, Nathalie Cooke, Joan Owens, and Reggie Robbins; the two anonymous readers for CuiZine made many helpful suggestions, as did Ariel Buckley, Alison Pearlstein, and editor Ross Owens. I am also grateful to the staff of the libraries at McGill University (Rare Books and Manuscripts), the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the McCord Museum of Canadian History, and the Cooper-Hewitt Museum of Design. A version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the College Art Association on February 13, 2010.
Gwendolyn Owens is a curator and critic who writes on North American art and architecture. Owens’ publications include essays and exhibition catalogues on 19th-century American landscape painting; on the establishment of a market for American art at the beginning of the 20th century; on food and architecture; and on the intersection of art and architecture in the 1970s.