Disguising a Utility Box

January 21, 2019


Look closely – VERY closely, and in the upper half of the photo, you’ll see a metal utility box that has been covered with wallpaper.

This is a box for a defunct and un-used security alarm system, about 18″ square. The homeowners tried to get the box off the wall – but, despite the use of various screwdriver bits and power tools, the box would not come off.

So they were going to be stuck with a grey metal blob in the middle of their beautiful wallpaper.

Well, I thought I could do something with it. I could make it fade into the background of the wallpaper pattern.

Wallpaper won’t stick to painted metal, because it’s glossy. So I took a bit of sandpaper to knock off the gloss, and my primer Roman’s 977 Ultra Prime and coated the service box.

Then I matched the wallpaper pattern to the paper already on the wall, and covered the box with corresponding wallpaper.

This is more tricky than it sounds, because the box is 5″ deep, which created discrepancies in the pattern match, depending on from which angle you are looking. I opted to keep the pattern matched at the corner junctions rather than matching it as it would be view from a distance on the wall. That all gets too complicated to try to explain here.

The box had been primed, so it provided a good base for the wallpaper paste to stick to. But on some areas, like the edges after an outside corner, I smeared on a bit of clear adhesive caulk, to be sure the paper would hold, even under conditions of stress such as wrapping around a corner.

This whole thing took me 45-60 minutes. I am pleased with the way it turned out. From the floor, you sure would never know there is a large box sticking out of the wall.

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Longing for the Big Apple

January 20, 2019


Originally living in the heart of New York City, these homeowners “got a better offer” and moved to Houston. In a nicely updated 1925 bungalow in the Woodland Heights, life for these two has changed for the better – but the wife still reminisces over the view she had out her skyscraper office window back in NYC.

She found this really cool wallpaper design, which depicts hundreds and hundreds of New York buildings, from tall to gigantic, from the 1800’s to the 2000’s, with many styles of architecture tossed into the mix.

Where did this cool and sentimental wallpaper go? … In the laundry alcove. But it’s not tucked away in the rear of the house … this laundry room is in the main hall leading through the house – which means that this fun and sentimental wallpaper is on view every time anyone walks through the house.

This wallpaper is by York, in their Sure Strip line. It is a thin, easy to manipulate non-woven material, and is designed to strip off the wall easily and with minimal damage, when it’s time to redecorate. This is one of my favorite brands, because it’s easy to work with, doesn’t tear or crease, it doesn’t shrink and gap at the seams, it’s easy to remove, and it will stand up to humidity, such as will exist in a laundry room.

White “Woods” Wallpaper Wakes Up A Dark, Dated Powder Room

January 19, 2019

OK, so my original whole-room photo of the “before” powder room didn’t take. But in the top photo here, at least you can see the dark color that the windowless room was covered with. Actually, this faux-finish pattern and dark color was a good look for back in the ’90’s when this townhome in the Briargrove / Tanglewood neighborhood of Houston was built.

But the homeowner now wanted a brighter room; she was leaning heavily toward black & white, with some hits of red tossed in.

I stripped off the old vinyl wallpaper (those photos didn’t turn out, either! 😦 ), then patched areas where the old paper had pulled paint off the wall, sanded smooth, and then primed all surfaces with Gardz.

The homeowner is completely in love with the new paper and the new, bright powder room. She will accent with a mirror in a wide black frame, and with some custom-painted artwork that will incorporate touches of black, white, and red.

This wallpaper is by Cole & Son, a British company. It is a very popular pattern called “Woods.” It’s on a non-woven substrate, which has a fiberglass component to strengthen it; it is designed to strip off the wall easily and with minimal damage to the wall, when it’s time to redecorate It is a little more cleanable than a paper-wallpaper.

It was bought from my favorite source for good quality, product knowledge, expert service, and competitive price – Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or dorotasouthwestern@hotmail.com. She is great at helping you find just the perfect paper! Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

Rolling Roiling Waves on a Heights Dining Room Wall

January 18, 2019


This pen & ink-like drawing of rolling waves is obviously a knock-off of the very popular (and very expensive) “Nuvolette” in the Fornasetti collection by Cole & Son.

I have to say – I think I like this one better. The pattern is more homogeneous and less overpowering. Yet you still get the same feel of movement from the rolling waves. And it has the same scratchy pen-and-ink feel as the other, plus a few seagulls tossed in, too.

This design is by Eijffinger. I hung it in a newly-remodeled and expanded home in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston. It is a non-woven material, and is designed to be hung via the paste-the-wall method. I did use this method this time, as it was one accent wall in a dining room, with no intricate cuts nor difficult spaces to access. It went up beautifully, with near-invisible seams.

Keep an Eye on Your Razor Blades

January 16, 2019

OK, so today I was digging deep in my toolbox, looking for my screwdriver, which sits against the back wall in the bottom of the box.

Unbeknownst to me, an unsheathed razor blade had fallen into the tool box, along that back wall sharp side up.

You are already guessing – and you are guessing correctly…. My index finger jammed down onto the blade, and the razor slid its way neatly up between the finger and the nail. Ouch!

Actually, it didn’t hurt all that much, and I caught it before it got pushed in really deep. It didn’t even bleed very much.

What’s funny is, I asked the nanny for a Band-Aid, and she brought out two really little tiny bandages. Turns out the family has three young children, and all the Band-Aids in the house are kid-sized.

No worries – she draped the diminutive bandage over my injured fingernail, and then I got some blue painters’ tape and wrapped that around it, to be sure it would stay on my finger.

Clever Kill Point – Eliminating a Pattern Mis-Match, Damask Pattern

January 15, 2019

When you hang wallpaper around a room, usually starting in a corner, the pattern on your last strip will never perfectly match up with the pattern where you first started. So we try to hide this in the least conspicuous place – like behind a door.

But in this room, there were no “hidden corners” that would be obscured by a door. Since all four corners were very visible, I wanted them all to have their pattern match perfectly.

So I had to find another place put that “kill point,” – where the last piece meets up with the first piece. I decided to put that over the door, a 20″ high strip. I figured that would be less noticeable than a 7″ length in a visible corner.

Sorry, for some reason, my “before” photo disappeared; it was a shot of the gap over the door where the last strip was coming to meet the first strip.

In the top photo above, I have overlapped the two strips, to see how “off” the pattern match will be. I am preparing to splice these two strips together, and will use some tricks to make that pattern mis-match less noticeable.

Next, I padded the wall with some scrap paper. This means that I placed a width of scrap paper behind these two pieces that will be spliced together. This is to protect the wall from being scored when I make my splice. You don’t want to cut into the wall when doing a splice, because, when the wallpaper dries and pulls tight, it can put tension on the wall, sufficient to cause the layers to delaminate and pull apart, creating a “popped” seam.

Next, I took a sharp, new razor blade and cut through both layers of wallpaper, using the swerving lines in the damask design as a guild – a swerving cut will be less noticeable than a straight like that cuts abruptly through the pattern.

This is tricky, because you want to cut through two layers of wallpaper, but not into or through the third layer that is being used to pad and protect the wall.

Second photo – I screwed up! For some reason, I had trouble cutting through the two layers of wallpaper. I tried twice, but each time I only cut through one layer. So I attempted it one last time, making sure to push really hard on the razor blade.

Well, now the razor blade was ready to do its job … But it was too zealous … This third attempt, the blade cut neatly through both layers of wallpaper, which is good. But it also cut through the third layer of wallpaper I had put behind everything, to protect the wall. And into the wall underneath. In the photo, you can see how the drywall was scored. This is bad.

To prevent the drying / shrinking wallpaper from tugging on those cut edges of drywall, I grabbed some special paper tape I keep in the van, and placed strips over the curved cuts in the drywall. These are very difficult to see, but the paper strips are there, in the third photo.

Then I fit the two strips of wallpaper back together, smoothing them into place over the paper tape. Then I made sure to wipe off any paste residue that was left on the surface.

Now, if those two spliced strips of wallpaper should shrink as they dry and put tension on the wall, the tension will not be on the cuts in the wall, but rather on the strips of paper. The strip of paper tape will disperse the tension over it’s 1″ width, and keep it away from the weakened areas of the cut drywall. This should prevent any delaminating of the drywall, and prevent any popped seams.

In the last photo, we are back to hiding that last seam, the “kill point.” From down below, your eye will never pick out any pattern mis-match. Mission Accomplished!

Thibaut Historic Damask in a Kingwood Powder Room

January 13, 2019


I love traditional patterns – like this “Classic Damask” by Thibaut.

I hung this in a powder room in a home in Kingwood (north Houston) that had been damaged by flooding during Hurricane Harvey.

It looked fabulous, was nice to work with, and is … not available anymore. 😦 The pattern has been discontinued.

DON’T Write in INK On the Walls!

January 11, 2019


Today I was prepping a room in a home in Kingwood (far northeast Houston) that was damaged during the flooding from Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Look at what some contractor did – he went and wrote on the wall in INK!

Most EVERY workman of any type knows that you NEVER write on walls with ink – nor crayon, Sharpie, lipstick, or other.

Reason being, that these substances will work their way through wallpaper (and paint, joint compound, and other substances, too). It may happen quickly, or it may take a few years, but these materials will show themselves eventually, as ghost-like stains on the wall.

Other things will cause staining, too, like blood, water, rust, oil, grease, food, wood sap (knot holes), and more.

Luckily, there are dependable stain blockers on the market that can be brushed on. I like oil-based KILZ Original, but shellac-based BIN is good, too. Water-based products don’t perform as well, no matter what the label or salesman says.

I like to be extra sure, so, when I can, as in this case, I will take a knife and cut around the stain, then dig into the drywall and remove the top layer, taking the ink with it. This way it is GONE, not just covered up.

Of course, the remaining exposed / torn drywall needs to be sealed, skimmed over, sanded smooth, and then prepped for paint or wallpaper.

But all that is worth it, when you can be assured that no stains will bleed through the finish coat.

Way Fun Splotchy, Inky Lines in a Heights Powder Room

January 10, 2019


Here we are, in another new tract home in inside-the-Loop Houston, with a generic look and beige-everything. The homeowners have twin daughters who are just learning to walk, and they wanted their home to reflect the fresh energy of the young family.

Here comes a fun “angled, tufted pillow” sort of design to the rescue!

This cool design looks like it was hand-drawn in watercolor paint, and has a distinct Rorschach Ink Blot Test feel to it.

The manufacturer is Graham & Brown. It is a nice-quality non-woven material, and was nice to work with. It should hold up very nicely as this young family grows.

Non-wovens are also designed to strip off the wall easily and with little-to-no damage to the walls when it’s time to redecorate.

Poor Photos of a Beautiful Room Trasformation

January 8, 2019


This is a handsome wallcovering, but unfortunately it’s best to see it in person, because it simply doesn’t photograph well. It’s real cork, stained a dark chocolate brown, with glittering flecks of silver in the background. The true beauty of it is revealed when light from the chandelier hits it, which is what I tried to show in the third photo.

The chandelier is stunning in itself, because it came from South America, having belonged to the homeowner’s grandfather. Sorry – that didn’t photograph well, either. 😦 I think it’s cool how the elegant, traditional light fixture works well with the modern style of the wallpaper and the rest of the house.

This natural cork wallpaper went in the powder room of a new contemporary style townhome in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston. The interior designer for this job is Elizabeth Maciel.

The wallpaper is by Monarch, and was bought from my favorite source for good quality, product knowledge, expert service, and competitive price – Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or dorotasouthwestern@hotmail.com. She is great at helping you find just the perfect paper! Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.