Paint on rolls? Belgian modernists, household experts and residents on the use of wallpaper as an interior finish during the interwar period

Verf op rollen? Belgische modernisten, huishoudexperts en bewoners over het gebruik van behangpapier als wandbekleding in de woning tijdens het interbellum
Start - End 
2017 - 2022 (ongoing)
Department of Art, music and theatre sciences
Other institution(s) 
Department of Architectural Engineering (VUB)
Research Focus 
Research Period 
Research Region 
Research Language 



Although wallpaper defines the living environment of so many people, this type of wall finish is often criticised. During the interwar period, when ‘the art of living’ became an important societal topic, opinions differed significantly. In their writings, progressive architects and artists (i.e. modernists) were opposed to the use of wallpaper even though, in practice, they often designed this type of wall covering themselves. This research aims to determine why Belgian modernists held this opinion, uncover what they hoped to achieve and identify which (innovative, or not) type of wallpaper they designed. While Belgian modernism has been extensively examined, the history of wallpaper in Belgium is still an unexplored field of research. During the period in question, Belgium was a significant export country, even as it imported foreign influences. Thus, the Belgian case offers an excellent starting point to explore the (impact of) international modernists’ ideas on the use of wallpaper as a wall finish. These ideas are compared to the recommendations of influential household experts who addressed residents with diverse social backgrounds through education and different magazines. Their impact is examined by comparing their advice to the actual choices made by these residents. These choices are studied by the (still quasi unknown) production of Belgian wallpaper manufacturers. This research will also identify whether or not the modernists’ wallpaper was favoured by some of these residents.



Phd Student(s)


Ann Verdonck

VUB, department of Architectural Engineering, æ-lab research team, Renovation and Reuse