Allyson McDermott

Historic Wallpaper Specialist


An artisan in the truest sense of the word, Allyson McDermott is arguably the world’s leading authority on conserving, recreating and hanging historic wallpapers. Part artist, part scientist, part sleuth, she peels away the layers of history for clients including The National Trust, Historic Royal Palaces and interior designers and architects worldwide. Much of Allyson’s work is for architectural gems such as Brighton Pavilion and The Palace of Westminster, but she gains equal pleasure from creating decorative wallcoverings for private houses. Her studio holds an important archive of designs dating from the 17th – 20th Century, any of which can be recreated to order, and she is also working on her first 'Portfolio' collection, combining historic patterns with contemporary colourways. Restoration schemes often begin with just a delicate shred of original paper, and Allyson uses a battery of investigative techniques to identify the pigments, papers, varnishes and processes used by its makers. She is famous in the conservation world for her ability to piece together minute clues, allowing fragments to live again as complete designs. Where she is only restoring damaged areas of wallpaper, her new work will hang alongside original sections - and be completely indistinguishable. Former Head of Sotheby’s Conservation Studio, Advisor to the National Trust and Chair of the Historic Interiors Group of ICON, Allyson McDermott has spent a lifetime conserving original historic wallpapers and researching materials and techniques, rediscovering century-old processes including woodblock printing, varnishing, gilding, embossing, hand painting and flocking. Her expertise is built from years of hands-on experimentation; learning from success and failure alike. No detail is too small to get right and solutions are often extremely resourceful; from texturing gold-leafed paper with re-purposed mangle rollers to chopping wool into flock with a rotary lawnmower mechanism. Housed within a medieval manor in Gloucestershire, Allyson’s studio is one of the last remaining block printing studios in Europe and preserves many associated crafts including formulating historically correct paints. There are high-tech elements too, with advanced digital processes used to address particular projects. Above all, the studio’s work is about preserving and rediscovering the beauty of what had so nearly become a lost art. Allyson McDermott’s practice offers a wide range of specialist services including wallpaper design and printing, conservation and restoration of original wallpapers and interiors, investigation and research and historic interior design consultancy.
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