“I hang the wallpaper — I don’t take it down,” says John Golden, who has worked in Provincetown as a wallpaper installer for 27 years.
“I think I know why wallpaper died,” Golden says. Wallpaper that went up a generation or two ago was all pre-pasted. “It’s a nightmare to remove.”
Golden has seen enthusiasm for wallpaper ebb and flow. But you could argue it suits the Outer Cape personality in some ways, providing either the drama or charm that homeowners and designers are seeking. And this is a place where artistry like John Golden’s is appreciated.
He worked with Norris Church Mailer for years as she added wallpaper to every room of the Mailers’ house on Commercial Street. “We let Norman pick the paper only in one room,” Golden says. Norman’s choice: Monet’s water lilies.
Golden understands the fussy particulars of wallpaper, and he’s reticent when asked about advice for those embarking on a DIY project. It’s simpler now, he says, but with wallpaper being all about pattern, small mistakes can cause big problems.
Not too long ago, Golden hung five panels made by Zuber, the French wallpaper company founded in 1797. The scenes were printed from original woodblocks and the paper cost $10,000. He felt sick for days beforehand. Getting glue or water on the front of the paper would have ruined it. But he and the paper got through the job unscathed.
Wallpaper doesn’t have to create a grand tableau. In his own house, a small bathroom gets a painterly hummingbird print with delicate birds at rest and in flight. Does he favor a particular style or trend? Golden demurs: “I like it all.”