Tracing the Past

The stairhall niche will be primed this week!

Then I plan to create a facsimile of the original frieze and ceiling paper via stencils. As there is almost no wall surface below the picture rail (it’s all doors and windows and trim trim trim), recreating the original wall paper pattern is not an issue (at the moment).

For several weeks I have been in touch with the Stencil Library in the UK. They have conditionally agreed to create custom stencils for the original ceiling pattern (easy) and the original frieze pattern (not so easy) and the original wall pattern (also not easy).

To start, they asked for meticulous measurements of the original patterns, of which remnants remain.

I started this but soon realized the absurdity of the request as the patterns have so many differing things to measure. I then thought: Hey! Trace the patterns!


The wall pattern. The original background was silver.


The frieze pattern. I know, this ain’t much to go on…but…


…Bo found this patent document showing the wall paper (bottom) and frieze (top). So, the frieze had a close repeat of the wall medallion, surrounded by a leafy wreath.


The ceiling paper. An easy stencil to create. I am uncertain if the mottled background is an original effect or age related.


I purchased tracing paper and sat on the floor of the upper stair landing where a large horizontal section of 1894 wallpaper exists.

I traced and traced and traced. Geez, this was not easy.

Then I recalled that I had a section of the wallpaper framed and hanging on the wall!


I took the picture off the wall, went down to the dining table, and finished my work. MUCH easier!


The frieze and ceiling patterns will have to be done on ladder. Poo.

I understand that a stencil will NOT recreate what was there in 1894. Rather, I am hoping for a kinda sorta somewhat facsimile to tide me by until at some point I can recreate the original papers. More homage than recreation. The main medallion will likely comprise several stencils, one overlaid upon the other, to recreate the 3-dimensioanl effect of the original medallion. And the Stencil Library emphasized that I will have to do a lot of hand shading. Eek.

In short, not for the first time I am embarking on a project with no clear understanding of what the finished product will look like.

But no one has ever accused me of lacking faith.



  1. Annette on May 29, 2018 at 11:34 pm

    This is gonna be interesting to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing the final result. And all the iterations as well.

  2. Celeste on May 30, 2018 at 3:02 am

    You’ve got a steady hand for painting and a good eye. You aren’t afraid to experiment until you are happy with the result. You can do this, Ross. I eagerly await following the process.

  3. David Gockley on May 30, 2018 at 11:20 am

    This is awesome, I am breathless with excitement to see what you do! If anyone can manage to do that wallpaper justice its you.

  4. Stewart Mclean on May 30, 2018 at 11:28 am

    When they ask for exact measurements would a scan or copy do? Is it possible to scan the paper or copy it on a printer to get the actual size? Are you leaving the remains of the original paper on the ceiling so it can be seen or can you carefully remove it to copy?

    • Ross on June 1, 2018 at 10:17 pm

      Stewart, I am leaving the ceiling paper in situ. Same for the fragments of frieze and wall paper.

  5. Seth Hoffman on May 30, 2018 at 2:42 pm

    This promises to be another rewarding journey to spectate. One filled with excitement and disappointment, but ending in satisfying success. I’m glad your taking us along for the ride!

  6. Dawn Rocco on May 30, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    I’m sure you can do this. It will be awesome and better than wallpaper I think. I also still think you can recreate the wood grain look around the door frame of the niche yourself as well. Sorry I can’t remember what that’s called. No harm in trying is there?

    • Ross on June 1, 2018 at 10:16 pm

      Thanks, Dawn!

      I agree that I could, likely, learn how to do faux wood finishes but such a skill will take time to learn and time is something I have little of.

      But I may have no choice in the end!

  7. Dan Goodall-Williams on May 30, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    This is exciting. I can’t wait to see how it turns out. One thing I am sure of is that it will be stunning!!

    On a side note, how is the outside coming along? Hopeful no more roof top stunts! You have been busy with other things so I imagine things out doors are on simmer. You are doing such an amazing job and I’m a bit jealous.

    Again, thanks for sharing all this.

    • Ross on June 1, 2018 at 10:14 pm

      Hi, Dan!

      The exterior painting will resume next week! Maybe even this weekend!

  8. Cindy Belanger on May 30, 2018 at 7:07 pm

    I think stencils are a perfect fix in the interim until you are able to get the wallpaper recreated. I have faith you will do a great job on the stencils. Who knows, it may turn out so well that you will want to keep them and not go ahead with the recreation of the wallpaper. I’m looking forward to watching your progress.

  9. John Blick on May 31, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    Try taking a picture, print it out and then photocopy it, enlarging or reducing it until you get a print that matches the original in size. Most modern copiers will allow you to make 1% adjustments, so you should be able to get it almost to the exact size.

    • Ross on June 1, 2018 at 10:13 pm

      Hi, John!

      I have an accurately sized image: the one I have been tracing.

      Belatedly, I realized that I should just get another print made and send that to the Stencil Library!

  10. Colin on June 2, 2018 at 1:04 am

    Hi Ross. This will look as good as the main parlour did once you’d finished. I look forward to seeing it in time. Good luck scaling the outside this weekend!

  11. Karen Spencer on June 2, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    Ever onward Ross! This is going to be the amazing. Kind of trompe l’oeil, which is very fun visually.

  12. Sandra Lee on June 3, 2018 at 9:32 am

    Viva trompe l’oeil! Visually this will be a knock-out! All the detailed hard work will be rewarded by the satisfaction of a wondrous result!

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