Restoring History

Feb 6, 2020

In 2019 The Charles Sturt Museum Memorial Trust contacted Signature Prints with a project to replace the original burgundy and gold dining room wallpaper at The Grange – the colonial home of explorer Captain Charles Sturt at Jetty Street, Grange, South Australia.

The brief was to match the original wallpaper as closely as possible, using our modern materials and technology to create a replica that was in keeping with the look of the heritage residence (now a museum open to the public).

The Grange SA before 1

The original wallpaper in the dining room of ‘The Grange’. Image courtesy of the Charles Sturt Museum Memorial Trust.

Matching the shade of burgundy for the base paper was the first step in our process. It was crucial to come up with a shade that was as close as possible to the existing wallpaper and also matched well with the existing furnishing textiles in the space, particularly the existing curtains and rugs. A number of Dulux colours were selected as starting points on site at the SA property – from this our ink technician created a colour-matched formula that we used to coat a custom batch of burgundy base paper on our liquid laminator.

Making a custom base colour

Applying a burgundy liquid coating to our standard paper to make a custom base colour.

We were then tasked with replicating the original wallpaper pattern – without access to the original artwork for the existing wallpaper pattern we needed to come up with a look-alike solution. We accessed our extensive Signature Prints Design Library and were able to find a historical Fleur de Lis pattern in our library that fit the bill for the gold accent motif. From there, a graphic designer on-site was able to use our Fleur de Lis as a starting point to build out a tonal ‘tapestry’ pattern inspired by the original paper. Both sets of artwork were then sent to our graphics department to have scale adjustments and registration checks before being made into film positives.

Film positives of the final two-colour pattern.

The next step was developing the print colours that would be screen-printed onto the burgundy basepaper to create the pattern. From the base colour we developed a lighter burgundy ink colour for the main tapestry, and our metallic gold ink was selected for the Fleur de Lis.

Once our strike-offs were approved by the Trust and the Heritage committee, the final wallpaper order was then hand silk screen printed here in our Sydney studio by our experienced screen-printers. Due to the unusually tall ceilings of The Grange property we printed custom 8m long rolls (rather than our standard 10m) in order to accommodate the larger drop sizes and minimise wastage. We also printed the design at a smaller width of 54cm (rather than our standard 70cm) as this was more historically accurate from a heritage standpoint.

hand slik-screen printed wallpaper

Our hand silk-screen printed wallpaper, trimmed and ready for packing.

The wallpaper was expertly installed on site by paper hanger Andy Shanley – one of our recommended installers for South Australia – who did a fantastic job!

The Grange after

The newly installed wallpaper at ‘The Grange’. Image courtesy of the Charles Sturt Museum Memorial Trust.

The Grange after

The newly installed wallpaper at ‘The Grange’. Image courtesy of the Charles Sturt Museum Memorial Trust.

This was a fascinating project to be involved with from both a historical and a technical standpoint. A hand screen-printed product was the ideal choice for this restoration project as we were able to capture the character of a heritage wallpaper through the inherent nature of a hand-printed product, despite using our more modern paper and ink technologies.

There is very little that is not possible in the realm of bespoke screen-printing, and we love the challenge of bringing these unique visions to life!

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