It's a modern notion that the 18th and early 19th c. past was a place of genteel good taste: colors were muted and subdued, and the dusty pastels of a Wedgewood vase set the fashion. A pretty idea, yes, and likely there were plenty of houses "done" in exactly those colors, just as there are today.
But if you were a Georgian homeowner who wanted to follow the absolute cutting edge of London style, you wanted wallpaper, in bright, bold colors and eye-popping patterns.
The wealthy Virginians who resided in Colonial Williamsburg loved this bravado look in wallpaper. As gaudy as the effect might seem now, these wallpapers were carefully documented as having been in use in the 1770s, and in some cases were replicated by the same London companies (still in business!) who had printed the originals. But we NHG have to admit that the scale of the patterns surprised us, dwarfing the rooms (and us) with their boldness. The top three rooms, left, are all in the George Wythe House.
But the room that really takes the prize for dizzying wallpaper is the dining room, bottom left, in the newest building in Colonial Williamsburg, Charlton's Coffee House. This room would have been hired out by wealthy gentlemen for private dinners and parties, and everything in it was chosen in the most elegant taste to appeal to them.
Still, we couldn't help but imagine a group of colonial Virginians, in town for a meeting of the House of Burgesses, gathering in this room for a late supper. Fueled by the caffeine of Mr.
Charlton's potent coffee and chocolate and staring at that dancing patterned wallpaper as the night stretched on, it's really no wonder at all that they plotted the American Revolution.
And for anyone who thinks that this kind of gaudy splendor will soon fade before the more refined tastes of the Regency, we offer only two words: the Royal Pavilion.