In the 18th century, rooms were typically named after the color of their textiles, and the wall finishes were chosen to complement these. The name indicates that yellow defined the room’s textiles and wall finishes.

In 1797, after eight years away, the Washingtons made substantial updates to Mount Vernon’s interiors, including wallpapering throughout the house. Documentary evidence indicates that this was the last of several campaigns of wallpaper in the room during the Washingtons’ lifetimes.

The room name pointed to a yellow ground paper, as did a tiny fragment of wallpaper with a yellow ground discovered in the room by Ann Pamela Cunningham in 1869. While the fragment was too small to indicate the type of pattern, curators reviewed surviving papers from the period to choose an appropriate one.

Reproduction Paper

Several important data points guided the selection of the yellow wallpaper and border. Elite households occasionally paired grissaile patterns (gray-scale designs with a 3-dimensional effect) with yellow damask bedchamber suites.

Accordingly, the curators chose a neoclassical, English paper pattern found in the Theodore Lyman house in Kennebunk, Maine (now in the collection of Colonial Williamsburg). The print combines an array of neoclassical motifs – military trophies and floral bouquets on columns composed of palm fronds, framed by delicate chains of bellflowers.

For the border, the curators chose a starburst and arch pattern found in the John Langdon house in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. George Washington visited this house on his Northern Tour in the fall of 1789.

Adelphi Paperhangings, Inc. hand block-printed both the wallpaper and border using hand-ground pigments.

Paint Analysis 

Paint analysis conducted by conservator and paint analyst Susan Buck, using the latest advances in cross-section microscopy and pigment analysis techniques, revealed far more detail about the paint finish history of this space than previous paint analysis.

While in the early years the woodwork was painted a deep yellow and then a verdigris green, by 1776, it was changed to a dark cream color, and it continued to be repainted in similar tones through the end of the century.

As in the Chintz and Blue rooms, as well as numerous other spaces in the Mansion, the change to a neutral color was indicative of the Washingtons’ desire to keep up with fashionable taste.

Learn More about paint analysis

Paint Analysis

Green wallpaper fragment, discovered in the Yellow Room. Mount Vernon collection number RP3229.001.

Green wallpaper fragment, discovered in the Yellow Room. Mount Vernon collection number RP3229.001.

Paint analysis conducted by conservator and paint analyst Susan Buck, using the latest advances in cross-section microscopy and pigment analysis techniques, revealed far more detail about the paint finish history of this space than previous paint analysis.

While in the early years the woodwork was painted a deep yellow and then a verdigris green, by 1776, it was changed to a dark cream color, and it continued to be repainted in similar tones through the end of the century.

As in the Chintz and Blue rooms, as well as numerous other spaces in the Mansion, the change to a neutral color was indicative of the Washingtons’ desire to keep up with fashionable taste.

Learn More about paint analysis

Artwork in the Yellow Room

More than just decoration, fine art prints such as those in the Yellow Room were intended to delight, instruct, and provoke conversation.

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