A Wonderland of Wallpapers

In “Judy Holliday’s Old Home in the Village Deserved a Renovation” in the Real Estate section of the New York Times on August 8, 2023, we learn that Jarrah Al-Buainain, a lawyer, found the 1,500-square-foot railroad-style apartment once belonging to the star of Born Yesterday in pretty bad shape. “As I was going in, there was more wallpaper, more wallpaper and more wallpaper,” Mr. Al-Buainain said. “It felt like Alice in Wonderland.” So he and his architect, Leah Solk, decided to renovate using wallpaper adapted from a furnishing fabric created by C. F. A. Voysey in 1930 (now held by the Victoria and Albert Museum), remastered and reworked by the House of Hackney, where it can be purchased. A photo of the entrance hall drew much Carrollian attention.

Over the years, there have been hundreds of Alice wallpapers. One that is particularly significant for me is this one (anonymous), as it was the wallpaper and bedding in the bedroom in which my father, Sandor, grew up. He became a renowned Carroll collector and scholar, not to mention a LCSNA president, and I’ve always wondered if it had somehow permeated his young brain and gotten into his DNA and that of his offspring.

One of the earliest wallpapers was designed by Tony Sarg (1880-1942), a well-known comic and children’s book artist who flourished in the early-to-mid 20th century.  Tenniel was clearly the inspiration for Sarg’s characters.  In addition to the wallpaper (a roll can be purchased here), which he designed for and was produced by the Thomas Strahan Company in the 1930s, Sarg also created Alice-related marionettes, a pop-up book (Tony Sarg’s Treasure Book: Rip van Winkle, Alice in Wonderland, and Treasure Island. New York: B. F. Jay & Co., 1942), and two Alice-related entries in Tony Sarg’s Alphabet (London: Bennn, 1926?). Sarg may be best known for designing the first flying balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades from 1927 into the 1930s (but so far we have found any of Sarg’s balloons that were of Alice characters; the first Alice float was in 1948).

This is wallpaper for a dollhouse!