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Another one of my exciting adventures!



It’s a snowy cold day here in PA and my thoughts are turning to flowers and birds.

Which reminds me of a telephone call I got from a client back in November 2007.
  My client was the unfortunate recipient of a frozen gutter which backed the water up in her ceiling and ran down her dining room walls.  It ruined her beautiful wallpaper and peeled the paint and she needed to find out who the manufacturer was of her wallpaper so it could be replaced.  The insurance company was involved but they weren’t having any success.
That’s when I was enlisted.  She found me through an internet search on Thibaut’s website.  After contacting them directly, she was told she had to go through a designer for more information.  I happened to be listed as a dealer close to her, even though we are over an hour apart, and after viewing my website, knew I was the gal for her.
In her description of the paper, with birds and flowers, my first thought was Thibaut, but then she described it as being in sections (panels), more of a scenic wallscape.  Hmmmm…no, this was definitely not a Thibaut.
I informed her first and foremost I was an expert at couture window fashions, not wallpaper, but having a quest for learning and discovering,  was confident that  I could definitely help her out so we agreed to work together on this project.
I am convinced that sheer determination and the desire to know  trumps ignorance any day.  I was raised by the motto:  where there is a will, there is a way.
 And so the quest began.  I asked her to have her insurance adjuster send me pics he had taken of the wallpaper.  Seeing is believing and I had never seen anything like this before.    The dreamer in me even thought to myself, girl, this could be a national treasure!  Little did I know……….that after months of research, it was determined that her paper was worth over $126,000!  Let me tell you why:
The internet proved to be an invaluable tool and I Googled many terms relating to this wallpaper.  The search was narrowed down to murals, orientals, flowers and birds.   Of course, the obvious higher end companies came up.  Zuber, Gracie,  A. L. Diament and Co. and de Gournay were the forerunners for handpainted, woodblocked wallpaper murals such as this.

example of a Gracie hand painted wall panel. photo taken from their website.


 Having these vendors in mind, I then went to the Philadelphia Marketplace Design Center to go to every showroom in that building to see if anyone recognized it, whether they carried wallpaper or not.  My first stop was the Stark showroom.  I was introduced to the manager, Lynn Wills, who kindly showed me a collection that although not this pattern, was comparable for insurance purposes.  She didn’t recognize the paper but said she would do more research for me and would help me to figure out a replacement cost value.  

Little did I know, but Lynn shared my zeal in discovering who this paper belonged to! 

 I went to every other showroom in the building and was also referred to someone from the Croce showroom as he works with paper of this nature, but he too didn’t recognize it and told me to try Zuber.

Zuber's "Les Vues d'Ameriques" mural in the Diplomatic Reception Room in the White House


I also contacted the NGPP, the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers.  I figured if anyone would recognize this paper, it would be these guys right?  What a great group of guys.  They were so willing to help and I learned so much from them in such a short period of time.  They too were convinced it was a Zuber.



So I contacted the Zuber showroom in NYC and the gal did not recognize it but was headed to France in the next couple days for a month.  She said she would show it to the company and see if anyone recognized it. 
I thought to myself, it has to be Zuber!  But it ended up not being so. 
In the meantime, a couple of months had passed by and the insurance company was riding me like a horse to get the cost so they could settle with my client.  Personally, I thought Chubb Insurance was in way too much of a hurry to settle.
 Since I was having a hard time pinpointing who made it, I scheduled an appt with the client to come and take pics myself.  I won’t deny it, curiosity was getting the best of me at this point too since the search was getting harder and harder and all the “sure thing” suggestions were turning out not to be a sure thing.
OMG!  This wallpaper is even more stunning in person!  It should be on a tour!  It is THAT gorgeous!
Feeling very deflated at this point and not knowing where to turn, I thought, what the heck, maybe The Smithsonian will know!   So I emailed them!

The Smithsonian

 In 3 days time, I got a response from the Assistant Curator of Wallcoverings  requesting pics.  He was just as anxious to see this paper.   And the results:


 He told me it was produced by Sanderson and called “The Phoenix Bird”.  It was first produced in the 1920’s and reissued in the 1950’s.  My client’s house was built in the early 60’s.  In the 1920’s, it was part of the mural entitled, “Oriental Gardens.”  As of several years ago, several panels were still available.  It came in a set of 13 panels.  The Fonthill showroom in NYC still had it as far as he knew and he gave me the contact info for them as well as the London office of Beauchamp Interiors.  He sent me a photocopy of the panels and yes, that was my wallpaper!  


I had finally found it!  It had taken me 3 months to get to this point!

Or so I thought.  It gets better!

I contacted Fonthill in NY and when they answered the phone I was told they were bought out by Stark.  No Fonthill!  Desperation was sinking in.  Hearing Stark, I was back to square one because if you remember, I had already contacted Stark and Lynn in Philadelphia.  I decided to contact London and emailed them with my request.

The owner himself called me!  He would check the warehouse in London and get back to me. 


In the meantime:

Remember Lynn?  She too had been doing her research and it was within 2 weeks that we both came to the same conclusion, which is:

Even though Sanderson was the original manufacturer for this scenic, Alexander Beauchamp owned the screens and so housed stock in their London warehouse.  They are to refer any interest from the United States to the Stark showroom in Philadelphia! 

Why? Because now Stark owned the rights and the screens for this wallpaper!  I started with Stark and came full circle with Stark on this project.


SO with Lynn’s detective work it was discovered that there were 6 sets of originals from the 1920’s still housed in the London warehouse in my client’s colorway.  They were still in their original wrapping from the 1920’s, therefore true antiques!   Speaking of antiques, every time I watched Antiques Roadshow, Chubb Insurance was always a sponsor. 

I called the client to tell her the good news and she was so happy to know the history of her mother in law’s wallpaper.  However, she had already settled with the insurance agent because of feeling pressured to do so, and at a much lower cost!  It seems it had taken too long of a time in my research and she just needed to get it settled.   I  felt like I was just punched in the stomach by Chubb Insurance.

So when all was said and done, I got a great history lesson out of the deal! 


 Do I feel cheated? 

 Absolutely not!  I fulfilled my end of the bargain to my client and felt like I had just written an episode of History Detectives from PBS!

PBS show History Detectives of which I am a fan. photo taken from PBS site.





Remember Lynn?

This is a picture of her standing next to a Sanderson banner which has the “Oriental Gardens” scenic mural in black on it!  The original Sanderson scenic mural that the “Phoenix Bird” came out of. 

No longer with Stark and on her own now consulting with clients, she and I attended this event held by Sanderson at the Philadelphia Marketplace Design Center back this past October not knowing that the very thing that brought us together would be a feature of their presentation! 



My designer, Lynn Wills. It started with her and ended with her!