antique wallpaper, Gracie, handpainted scenic murals, History Detectives, Oriental Gardens, PBS, Philadelphia Marketplace Design Center, Phoenix Bird, Sanderson, Stark, The Smithsonian Institute, wallpaper, White House, Zuber
It’s a snowy cold day here in PA and my thoughts are turning to flowers and birds.
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.
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.
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!
THE REST OF THE STORY
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!