Victorian Wallpaper at SFO

Is SFO an airport or a museum?

Now that we’re back to traveling more, we’re delighted to have the opportunity to visit San Francisco International Airport (SFO), home to the SFO Museum, which is fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.

SFO is both an airport AND a museum. So, we always make sure to choose the longest layover we can when changing planes at SFO. Not just because we love airports, but because we also love museums. And the SFO Museum always has multiple exhibitions scattered throughout the terminals.

One of the newest exhibitions is The Victorian Papered Wall, which is on view in the International Terminal Main Hall.

Why have an exhibition about wallpaper?

From the press release:

From its inception, wallpaper imitated luxurious materials, providing a more affordable alternative to tapestries, fabrics, mural paintings, and architectural elements. Crafted in repeating rolls and pasted to walls, this decorative art has an ephemeral quality unlike any other. Wallpaper reflects the design styles popular at the time, and in the late nineteenth century during the Victorian Era (1837–1901), walls richly came to life. English “design reformers” insisted on abstract, flat patterns, opposing fashionable French three-dimensional designs. Meanwhile, the Aesthetic Movement, which burgeoned in England, emphasized artful interiors in the 1870s and ‘80s. Eclecticism prevailed—designers drew freely from world cultures and centuries past.

This exhibition features art wallpapers created by Bradbury & Bradbury, based in Benicia, CA. The company hand silkscreens hundreds of historic designs using oil-based paints. Their most complex paper, St. James, requires seventeen individually applied colors. In addition to Victorian-era patterns, the company makes wallpaper using patterns from the Art Deco era, the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. We’re hoping to find the wallpaper from our childhood home in there somewhere.

Here are more samples of the wall and ceiling papers you’ll see in six Victorian-era room sets at SFO.

All images courtesy SFO Museum.

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