SHOPPING FOR WALLPAPER, PART III – Euro Rolls & The Mythical “Single Roll”

America Goes European

Historically, a wallpaper unit was a roll. If you wanted to buy wallpaper, you bought a certain number of rolls. A roll of wallpaper covered about 30 square feet, or roughly, the same as a sheet of 4 foot by 8 foot sheetrock.

Each particular wallpaper pattern was packaged usually in either 2 roll or 3 roll bolts, but could be cut as needed. For example, if you  needed 3 rolls of a particular wallpaper pattern, and that particular wallpaper pattern was packaged in 2 roll bolts, you could get a 2 roll bolt, plus one “single roll” – a “single roll” was just a 2 roll bolt cut in half. Here in America, these 2 roll bolts of wallpaper could be either 20½ inches wide and 42 feet long, or 27 inches wide and 32 feet long – pretty much the same coverage either way.

In the early 1980s, America began importing a lot of European wallpaper. Europe did a good job with wallpaper and manufactured a lot of it – they manufactured lots more than we did here in America. European bolts were 20½ inches wide and 33 feet long (or in metric, 52 cm wide and 10 m long). Europeans called these bolts, rolls. For American marketers, however, there was a problem because these European “rolls” contained more wallpaper than American rolls, and consequently, would cost more. It would mean that a collection featuring European rolls of wallpaper would carry a higher price per roll than collections featuring American rolls of wallpaper.

To remedy this disadvantage, American wallpaper marketers choose to call this European bolt two “single rolls” instead of simply a “roll” (which it had been in Europe); also, the term “double roll bolt” was used – a “single roll” was equal to ½ bolt. If you’re wondering why these American wallpaper marketers did this, the reason is obvious. A $90 bolt of wallpaper could be advertised as $45 per “single roll” – which of course sounds a lot cheaper than $90 per roll (European roll, that is). Of course when you go to purchase this $45 “single roll”, you have to buy two at time – so you end up paying $90 per bolt, anyway.

Soon American sized bolts disappeared, and all wallpaper, including wallpaper made in America, was made the size of European bolts, and were priced by the “single roll”. These newly termed “single rolls” were mythical, however, because there was nothing “single” about them. Customers couldn’t buy a “single roll” because nobody would cut a European bolt. Cutting the already abbreviated 33 foot long European bolt wasn’t practical. Cut in half, a “single roll” would be 16½ feet long, and with any kind of pattern repeat, it would only be enough material for one 8 foot strip of usable wallpaper.

Today, almost all wallpaper is packaged in two “single roll” bolts, so when you see it priced by the single roll, you will end up paying double that single roll price. At we feel that this marketing technique is deceptive, and needlessly confusing. Consequently, all of our wallpapers are simply priced by the bolt.

On our website, beneath each wallpaper product image (brick wallpaper example) is a data sheet that contains the dimensions of our wallpapers. There are several different sizes of wallpaper bolts – but we always price by the bolt, and the dimensions of every bolt are contained in our “data sheet”. We hope that you find our website straightforward and easy to navigate, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to call us – we’ll be glad to help.

More Parts To Follow Of A Five Part Blog

In part IV & V: designer wallpaper & wallpaper brands, discussed, and finally, grasscloths compared.

PART IV – Designer Wallpaper & Wallpaper Brands

PART V – Grasscloth Compared


A Major Shift Occurs With “In Stock” Wallpaper
In the late 1970s, wallpaper dealers were offered “in stock” wallpaper, and wallpaper merchandising was fundamentally changed forever. Before wallpaper dealers carried in stock wallpaper, wallpaper dealers were pretty much the same. Each dealer basically carried the same lines, and bought from the same distributors, for the same prices. By stocking selected patterns from the tens of thousands available at any given time, wallpaper dealers were able to differentiate themselves from their competitors, and to give their customers the convenience of immediately taking their purchase home, rather than waiting on the arrival of a shipment.

About this same time, a west coast wholesale distributor opened a chain of “in stock” wallpaper stores as a way of dumping discontinued, unsold patterns from expired collections. This chain was later franchised, and upgraded with current inventory, and seemed to usher in the general market acceptance of the convenience of in stock wallpaper stores. Many small chains, including ours, popped up across the nation. Wallpaper border, and wallpaper murals, were added alongside the in stock sidewalls.

By carrying in stock wallpaper we have been able to noticeably improve our customer service. We are oftentimes able to deliver next day service to nearby destinations by simply getting ground orders shipped the same day. And several times we’ve been able to scavenge our sample bolt for a customer needing just a bit more of a recently sold out pattern.

More Parts To Follow Of A Five Part Blog

In part III through V: the standard bolt size changes to “Euro” and confusion abounds, designer wallpaper & wallpaper brands, and finally, grasscloths compared.

PART III – Euro Rolls And The Mythical “Single Roll”

PART IV – Designer Wallpaper & Wallpaper Brands

PART V – Grasscloth Compared


Our Association With Wallpaper Began Over 40 Years Ago
Discount Wallcovering has been in existence since 1976 when we opened our first Discount Wallcovering store, in Tulsa, OK. However, we actually began selling wallpaper five years earlier, in 1971, when we began importing and selling grasscloth wallpaper through our import shop, Creative Imports. When our Creative Imports landlord, an architect, found out that we sold wallpaper, he stopped by and told us that if we would get some sample books, he’d order his wallpaper through us, so we contacted a distributor in Memphis, TN, and have sold a variety of wallpaper ever since.

We Started Out By Discounting Prices
When we opened Discount Wallcovering (1976), the idea of offering discount wallpaper appealed to us, because we didn’t have a lot of expertise to offer our customers, but we thought that we certainly could offer our customers a lot of value, with discount wallpaper prices. Our wallpaper sample books came with prices preprinted. We discounted the preprinted prices 10%, which discount at the time made us the price competitive wallpaper store in town.

Generally speaking, discounts have increased over the past 40 years – you know, free enterprise and the market place at work. However surprising it may seem, though, we’ve actually found several of our competitor’s today selling wallpaper at above MSRP, online. More about that later.

First Of A Five Part Blog
This is the first of a five part blog. In parts II through V we tell: how a California distributor creates an “in stock” wallpaper national chain and stocking wallpaper dealers proliferate, how the standard bolt size changes to “Euro” and confusion abounds, about designer wallpaper & wallpaper brands, and finally, how grasscloths compare.

PART II – In Stock Wallpaper

PART III – Euro Rolls And The Mythical “Single Roll”

PART IV – Designer Wallpaper & Wallpaper Brands

PART V – Grasscloths Compared