Wallpaper was recommended in the better rooms of the house, especially the parlor and the best bedroom. Wallpapers were applied following French taste, papering from the baseboard to the cornice using one paper and applying borders for ornamentation. The dominant hue in the wallpaper determined the color of paint used on the ceiling and woodwork.
The designs included architectural papers, landscape papers, natural subjects like plants and animals, historical or biographical containing figures or portraits, ashlar papers representing cut stone and papers imitating woven fabrics such as damask. Another popular paper was called "fresco" which imitated panels, cornices, friezes, moldings, columns and dadoes. In this way you could have architectural elements in a room. Scenic papers, known as views or landscape often accompanied architectural papers
Scenics generally sold in sets of 20 to 30 rolls; each roll contributed a different segment of the view.
Borders were an integral part of any wall treatment. They appeared in rooms with or without cornices, and they covered minor mistakes made in trimming wallpapers during installations. By the 1840’s, borders were fairly narrow, often flocked, and usually in a darker shade that the paper on the wall. The most common border patterns were floral, trailing vines, or architectural details. Borders representing swags of fabric were also used.
The 1870's brought new design ideas which fell into three general groups. The first were geometric patterns employing round, square, diamond, or polygonal shapes laid out in diaper or half-drop patterns. The second were papers depicting natural objects, such as flowers, foliage, and birds in a highly stylized manner. William Morris’s designs were among the most critically acclaimed. A third style were papers with Japanese motifs using a formula relying on the asymmetrical placement of common items such as fans, vases and kimono-clad figures. Tiffany, Dresser, Christian Herter and Walter Crane are among the well know designers who produced this style.
With the brighter light of gas and kerosene fixtures becoming more common, new consideration had to be made with regard to the color theme of the wallpaper.
Wallpaper patterns and styles tended to fall into several traditional themes, including, but not limited to French Empire, stripes, floral, and Renaissance "tapestry" papers.
Many rooms finished employed wall and frieze papers without wainscoting. Popular papers for the walls included those composed of one-inch-wide stripes of two shades of the same hue; these papers were also available in more ornate designs with Empire wreaths, ribbons, or flowers between the stripes. Papers imitating the designs of old tapestries, and flocked papers printed in one color were used in public rooms. Empire designs also employed classical wreaths or damask patterns. Floral papers imitating chintz or cretonne were available with matching fabrics. The florals were popular for bedrooms as well as sitting rooms if the furniture was delicate in scale.
In craftsman interiors, distinctly different wallpapers were applied. Papers printed with realistic displays of foliage or classical motifs were avoided; instead, wallpapers with more geometric, abstracted patterns were used.
In the last decade of the century manufacturers of wallpaper, contracted with companies to produce fabrics and carpeting designed to match their wallpapers.