A Few Shots of the Finished Room

November 22, 2014

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Silver, Cream, & Pearl on White

November 21, 2014

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This homeowner did a fantastic job updating her ’70′s era home in the Tanglewood / Briargrove area of Houston. In the powder room, she kept the original black brick floors, then added a white vanity, Carrera marble countertop, and antique silver light sconces. (Hopefully photos coming tomorrow.)

She wanted the room to make her feel happy. Well, this pattern does it! I call it an ikat star. From the small sample, it looked like white on a semi-shiny silver background. Once it went up on the wall, you can see that it’s really several pale colors – white, cream, and pearl, on the silver background.

This wallpaper pattern was challenging to work with. Those stars all LOOK the same, but they are not. There is actually a 4-star repeat, meaning, to match the second strip to the first strip, you have to roll off and throw away four rows of stars before you can match the pattern. You have to look really carefully, to be sure you have the right stars lined up.

To make it harder, even though you can see the color difference once it’s on the wall, on the table, it’s darned difficult to tell which is a white star, which is pearl, and which is cream.

These goods are printed on the newish “non-woven” substrate material, which is thick and stiff, somewhat difficult to fit into corners and trim around moldings, but designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece when it comes time to redecorate. It was also a paste-the-wall product, instead of paste-the-back-of-the-paper.

This wallpaper pattern is by Thibaut Designs, and was bought at a discounted price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or dorotasouthwestern@hotmail.com. Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

A Week of White Wallpaper

November 20, 2014

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Yesterday, I worked with a silver-on-white paper by Thibaut. Tomorrow and Friday I will hang another silver-on-white pattern. Today it was a cream-on-white choice. It’s a white kind of a week!

This wallpaper pattern is very subtle, because it’s tone-on-tone. It looks just super in this young couple’s home near Highland Village, which is pretty much all white – white walls, white appliances, white furniture, very crisp and modern. This touch of cream on the walls in the master bathroom adds just a touch of warmth, and really looks great.

This wallpaper is a pre-pasted selection by York Wallcoverings, and was very nice to work with. It was bought at a discounted price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or dorotasouthwestern@hotmail.com. Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

Grrrrr!!! Defective Paper!

November 19, 2014

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Look closely, and you will see smudges, mis-prints, white specs, and other disappointing defects in this expensive, hand-screened wallpaper by Schumacher.

At first, I thought it wasn’t too noticeable. But the more strips that went up, and the more pieces I cut and prepped, and the more I looked at the very nice house and furnishings of these homeowners, the more I acknowledged that these people should not have wallpaper in their powder room with little defects here and there.

And these homeowners will be hosting a charity fund-raiser soon, and wanted their bathroom to be finished by then. I had an unexpected opening in my schedule and could get their room done in time for the event, and they paid a lot to have the wallpaer express-shipped. Now the room is stripped of its original paper, but the new paper cannot go up. Can you say “ugly”?

This is a real pain, to argue with the company that the paper is defective and should be replaced. Some companies really buck this (Did you know it’s always the paperhanger’s fault??!), even when you show them proof. Replacement wallpaper from the same run won’t do, because it likely contains the same defects. So we will have to wait until a new batch is printed and shipped, and when I have another opening when I can come back to finish this job.

We had ordered extra paper. But there was not enough to cut around the defects, and still accommodate the pattern repeat, and still have enough to paper all the walls. Luckily, I had only hung two strips, and had only pasted and booked the third. The industry standard is that, if you hang three strips, you (supposedly, according to the manufacturers) have accepted the product, and cannot complain about any defects, nor ask for compensation. Also, luckily, although we had four double rolls of wallpaper, I had only cut and trimmed one double roll. Manufacturers usually won’t replace any goods that have been cut, so we are good there.

On the other, unlucky side, when I stripped off the two pieces I had already hung, because they were half-dry, instead of stripping off in a 2-step process, they both tore some of my primer away from the wall, and even tore the Sheetrock in some places. This leaves something of a mess to be dealt with before the new paper can be hung.

Although the wall needs a little more work before it is smooth and sound enough for wallpaper, I went ahead and primed it again with Roman’s Ultra Prime, Pro 977, simply so that the homeowners would have a white wall, instead of a torn up wall, in case they have to have their party before the new paper arrives and can be hung.

The interior designer on this job is Meg Caldwell, and she says she has a good relationship with Schumacher, so she is dealing with trying to get the paper replaced, or a refund of money so the homeowners, can select something different.

My Helper for Today

November 18, 2014

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Did I mention that I love cats?!

Did I Mention that I DON’T LIKE Solid Vinyl Papers?!

November 17, 2014

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Solid vinyl adhered to a somewhat gritty manila-type paper backing, usually pre-pasted and at the lower end of the price scale, is one of my LEAST favorite types of paper. The photo at top shows you exactly why.

Under humid conditions, or, as in this case, where the original installer failed to use a primer under the wallpaper, it’s common for the seams to curl just a little. It’s not a loose seam that can be pasted back, but rather the material curling back on itself, and it’s virtually impossible to fix.

My theory is that the porous manila paper backing tends to absorb moisture / humidity, and when it does, because it is paper, it swells. But the vinyl surface does not expand and is forced to curl back on itself as the backing gets larger.

There is one redeeming quality about this paper, though. Well, two, actually … The first being that these papers are usually fairly washable, and also resistant to some surface stains. Just don’t brush your cleaning sponge crossways across the seam.

The best thing about them, though, is that they usually come off the wall fairly easily. They are called “peelable” papers, and here is the process:

In the second photo, on the left, you see the dark wallpaper still adhered to the wall. To the right, on the lower half of the photo, I have peeled the vinyl surface away from the wall, which usually comes off in pretty big pieces.

The paper backing is still clinging to the wall. No problem. All it takes is a sponge and a little warm water in a bucket. If you’re lucky, as I was today, the paper will peel right off the wall in large strips. At worst, you will have to gently scrape it off with a putty knife.

On the right half of the photo, you can see where I have wet the paper backing, and the water has darkened it. The paste has been reactivated, and the paper is coming away from the wall easily. At the top of the photo, the paper has already been removed completely from the wall, leaving a nice, clean, smooth surface.

Ready for a PRIMER – which the builder’s installer guy should have done in the first place.

NOTE: I am talking about solid vinyl papers with a paper backing, most of which are pre-pasted, and many of which are sold at a low price-point. The newer vinyls on a non-woven backing behave differently, and will probably hold up much better on your wall, without curling seams.


November 16, 2014

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This zebra-and-arrow pattern is very old, and very loved. Scalamandre has been making it for a long time, in many colorways. Most of those colors are VERY difficult to work with. You see, the inks, combined with the paper substrate they are printed on, cause the seams to curl backwards (because the paper absorbs moisture and expands more than the ink does). My paperhanger buddies across the country who have hung the red and the gold and the green colorways have had real struggles to get the seams to lie down and to look good.

To be honest, after listening to the horror stories from them, I would not have touched it, if it were a printed paper. Except my client had chosen a silver grasscloth overprinted with the zebras. Grasscloth presents its own challenges, but at least you don’t have to worry about curling seams. So I took it on!

Still, it took a LONG time, probably 11 hours to hang (prep was already done) 8 rolls in a hall bath. Like many high-end goods, this paper came with a selvedge edge, which had to be precisely measured and trimmed off by hand. And it takes a LOT more effort to cut through grasscloth than paper.

Flat walls went OK. But the material was stiff and difficult to work with when it came to trimming around decorative moldings. AND… the beautifully remodeled bathroom included a console sink with chrome legs with non-removable support brackets, plus the plumber caulked the escutcheons to the wall so they had to be trimmed around neatly. (Usually you rough-cut around pipes, and the escutcheons cover it up.) It’s a good thing I’m short, because I must have spent an hour cross-legged under that sink, trimming around the brackets and pipes. :)

In the distant shot, you see two strips side-by-side. Note that the color difference between them is normal, and considered part of the “inherent natural beauty” of the product. All of the bolts were from the same run (printed at the same time), and still a color difference is to be expected. In fact, this paper was pretty much made to order, and the client had to wait a good couple of months for it to be printed and shipped.

The homeowner said to me, “I know you don’t like grasscloth’s visible seams, and the color difference between panels. But I don’t mind at all. I love LOVE it!”

The manufacturer is Scalamandre, and I hung this in a bathroom in a darling, nicely-remodeled-but-sensitive-to-its-roots bungalow in the Museum District. The work was done by Greymark Construction, whose work I really like, and whom I have worked with for more than a decade. In fact, I did a job last week in River Oaks where they had totally overhauled the entire housee. Leslie King is the owner. Yes, a woman! ;) http://www.greymarkconstruction.com/

Leaving the ’80′s Behind

November 15, 2014

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The change in pattern motif is not all that different, but the overall feel of the room is totally updated. The first photo is the original paper, circa early 1990′s. The second photo is after I have stripped off the old paper. Next comes a white primer (no photo).

In the third and fourth photos, you see the first two strips of the new wallpaper. Much more punch, better contrast against the white wainscoting, and an updated pattern.

Note how the wall sconces (light fixtures) go nicely with either wallpaper design.

This pattern is by Schumacher, and I put it in a powder room in West University Place. The interior designer is Meg Caldwell of Meg Caldwell Interiors.

Just the Cutest Pattern Ever!

November 14, 2014

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Isn’t this the cutest pattern you’ve ever seen?! I was particularly tickled that it worked out that the tops of the ostriches were at the top of the wall, and their feet fell exactly at the top of the wainscoting tile.

This pattern is “Ostrich 03″ and is by Bespoke wallpaper, a British company, and printed on a non-woven stock. Note, as I have said before, these stiff, thick non-woven papers are hard to work around intricate moldings, and to push tightly into corners and at ceiling lines, making neat cuts difficult.

And, as you can see in the fifth photo, depending on from what angle you are looking, the seams pretty much always show. Most people are not bothered by this.

Still, the non-woven goods have their advantages, the main one being that, when you are ready to redecorate, you can strip the paper off quite easily and with minimal damage to the wall.

Plusses for the installer (me!) is that they don’t expand when pasted, and you have the option of pasting-the-wall, which usually goes a little faster than pasting the paper’s backside. Most are pretty water-resistant, too.

I hung this in a downstairs bathroom in a nicely remodeled bungalow in the Woodland Heights.

Why Have I Not Removed the Switchplate Covers?

November 13, 2014

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Some painters are proud of how well they can “cut a line,” meaning, how neatly they can paint right up to switchplate covers. Some paperhangers don’t remove them, either. I call this plain lazy. It’s a little more work to remove the covers and keep track of the screws, but it looks much better to have the paint and wallpaper go behind the plates, and it keeps the paper from curling up, too.

Yet, in this room, I have finished the priming (except for that Sheetrock patch in the corner, which I will sand and prime tomorrow), but I have not removed the outlet and switchplate covers. I have not removed the light fixtures yet, either. Why?

Well, this family has young children. Since I will not be hanging the paper until tomorrow, I wanted them to have light in the room overnight, so I left their fixtures in place. And because of the slight chance of a child touching an exposed electrical wire, I opted to keep the switchplate covers in place for now.

First thing tomorrow, I’ll remove the covers and the light sconces, and rig up temporary lighting so I can see. Then I’ll attend to the patch, then spot prime the areas that did not get a coat of primer today.


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