MQ Vienna

An Ode to the Phantasmagorical Allure of Hand-Marbled Paper

Associate editor Martha Moskowitz is enthralled by this age-old technique.

February 22, 2023

There is something endlessly fascinating about marbled paper and fabric. The process requires skill and delicacy, but the results are bold and liberating in their spirited form. As an avid book collector and specialty paper enthusiast, I’ve always been enraptured by the history and technique of marbling. Suminagashi, literally “floating ink,” was used in Japan for bookbinding and ornamentation as early as the 12th century; when brought to Germany in the 17th century (and shortly after to Italy), the art form become widely popular for its distinctive and sophisticated pattern formations, which continued to change with the prevailing fashions of the day. Perfectly imperfect and impossible to replicate, hand-marbled papers and fabrics lend a storied feel to modern-day living.

  • At the Hotel Saint Vincent in New Orleans, Austin-based firm Lambert McGuire used their Turtles Have Short Legs wallpaper for Voutsa.

    Hotel Saint Vincent
  • Lee Jofa’s Taplow Print wallpaper in a space by Brittany Bromley Interiors.

    Shea Kastriner

Martha’s Picks

  • I’ve been using these notebooks for years and love how beautiful and functional they are. People have approached me on numerous occasions to ask where they are from! Once filled, they look wonderful lined up on a shelf.

    Extra-Thick Composition Ledger, £50, choosingkeeping.com

  • I have long admired the work of Parvum Opus founder Erika Stefanutti. Each of her hand-made pieces is crafted to perfection and has the potential be a true heirloom.

    Octagonal Pyramid Lamp, $980, parvumopus.com

  • What a great way to map out my family tree on the wall! A set of these in different colors would also be perfect for a collection of miniature paintings.

    Wallet Size Hanging Picture Frame, $100, parvumopus.com

  • This hand-marbled lampshade is a prime example of the intricacy that marbling can produce. I can imagine it gives off an intriguing glow.

    Double Marbled 10” Lampshade, $105, petreath-hall.com

  • I don’t like seeing any wastepaper bins, but this is so beautiful I might be tempted to put it on show next to my desk.

    Persian Standing Wastepaper Basket, price upon request, scanlonapoarati.com

  • I’ve always believed in wrapping a gift nicely. It shows the recipient you care as much as the gift itself.

    Florentine Marbleized Paper, set of six $95, juliab.com

  • These plates add a unique dimension to any table setting and are a good way to complement mismatched tableware.

    Library Marbled Side Plate (Set of 4) by Siren Song, $68, chairish.com

  • Perfect to keep hair ties or cotton balls organized; this little paper jar will spruce up your vanity.

    Scalloped Paper Jar in Marbled Pink, $41, daydress.com

  • This would be sumptuous in a jewel-box bedroom or study full of books and a comfy chair.

    Florence Wallpaper in Carnelian by Schumacher, $1,098 for 8 yards, chairish.com

  • I love the undulating forms and earthy colors of this frisky wallpaper.

    Ribbit Wallpaper by Lambert McGuire x Voutsa, $700 for 5 yards, voutsa.com

  • These large-format marbled pillows would add some real vibrancy to an otherwise simple sofa.

    Hand-Marbled Pillow, $220, johnderian.com

  • Use these stunning archival boxes for sorting and storing everything from letters to photographs.

    Wooden Keepsake Boxes, $145, ilpapirofirenze.com

  • A beautiful addition to your mantelpiece or coffee table.

    Fireplace Matches, $165, shandells.com

  • Perfect bookends to keep a set of classics close at hand.

    Wooden Marbled Paper Bookends, $65, ilpapirofirenze.com