Fabulous Jolt of Color in a Little Girl’s Bedroom

August 24, 2016
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The homeowner was originally looking at doing one accent wall behind the bed, and was loving a contemporary design with sort of concentric wavy-edged circles in a rhythmic pattern, by a high-end manufacturer that is known for printing defects, and that was crazy expensive and had a 65″ pattern repeat (lots of waste).

Over time, she looked at the room differently, and did an about-face, ending up having block paneling installed on the lower 1/3 of the walls, and then papering all four walls with a classic trellis pattern in a bold and contemporary color.

Unlike the original choice with the wavy circles, this trellis design has been around for hundreds of years and will not go out of style. The strong turquoise color stands out brilliantly against the white paneled wainscoting, so the room looks crisp and fresh for its young inhabitant, a six year old girl. The décor will be pumped up even more with the addition of a few jolts of bright coral – a vase, a throw pillow, and – most daringly – the chandelier.

Although this room presented challenges (unplumb walls coupled with an unforgiving geometric design, plus two windows with crooked edges and dimensions out of sync with those of the wallpaper), it was a fun install. A lot of plotting and brainwork was required to get that geometric pattern to look straight against those unplumb walls.

The 4th photo shows the kill point – the point where the last strip of wallpaper comes back around to meet the first strip. This almost always ends up in a mis-match. This corner did mis-match, but I had a lot of fun fiddling around to make it look like it matched.

Most men don’t care too much about decorating, but this father was really excited about the transformation of his daughter’s room.

This wallpaper pattern is called Downing Gate, and is by Thibaut Designs, and was bought below retail price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. Dorota was also able to get the paper shipped here super fast, so the homeowner could keep her original installation date. (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.

Shadowy, Watercolory Trees in a Master Bedroom

August 23, 2016
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If you saw the rest of this room, with it’s tan walls and soft blue accents, punctuated here and there with very dark brown furniture, plus a little sparkle from mirrored bedside tables, you’d grasp how perfect this paper is for the room. The homeowners have been dreaming of getting the paper up for about a year now, and finally made the jump and called me. I measured, they bought the paper, I got an unexpected opening and was able to get their paper up very quickly.

The pattern is by Harlequin, a British company, and is printed on a non-woven substrate and uses a paste-the-wall installation procedure. I love that the trees look like shadows, and when you get close, it appears to be a watercolor painting. It went on an accent wall of a master bedroom in a new home in the Houston Heights.

Last pic:  The day’s waste, all in one neat package.  Another day, no trash bag used. 🙂

How Many Birds In The Forest?

August 21, 2016
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It takes guts to put a dark paper in a small room. In this small hall bathroom, this pattern looks super! What helps this black wallpaper work is the white tile floor and shower surround, and a black vanity with a soft grey marble top. There are enough light colored surfaces to balance all the dark.

What’s extra cool is that this home is set on about an acre, and all the land is planted with foliage and large trees and looks quite wooded. The homeowner also owns an aviary with several types birds. So this woodland scene is perfect!

This paper is by Witch & Watchman, and is a non-woven material and uses a paste-the-wall process of installation. I ran black chalk along the edges, to hide the white backing, and that made the seams disappear.

I hung this in a home in Hedwig Village (Houston). The remodel work is being done by a company I work for from time to time, Greymark Construction, who does mighty fine work.

“Iconic” Martinique Banana Leaf Wallpaper

August 20, 2016

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This “Martinique” (French island in the Caribbean), wallpaper pattern is the exact same as was used in the ’40’s in the Beverly Hills Hotel – and on TV shows like Friends and the Golden Girls, and in celebrities’ homes, and on a Mariah Carey album cover, to name a few. I have hung it several times – it is retro, it is timeless, and people love it.

It is also expensive. And thus there are knock-offs. Most of the knock-offs are easier to hang. This one was not.

While most wallpapers these days come pre-trimmed by the factory, this paper came with a selvedge edge, which I had to trim off by hand with a 6′ straight edge and plenty of sharp razor blades. I spent maybe an hour and a half just trimming the edges off six strips of wallpaper. And the trim mark arrows printed by the manufacturer were not distinct, so it was hard to tell exactly where to cut, which means it was easy to get an edge that was not perfectly straight. That means you can get perfectly butted seams, but also what we call “gaps and overlaps.” In addition, the pattern was not perfectly matched by the manufacturer, so there were some slight mis-matches once on the wall. Luckily, the pattern is busy enough that these are pretty disguised.

The paper had a thick vinyl coating that was difficult to cut. The thick manila paper backing sucked up paste, leaving little to hold the paper to the wall. The paper backing opposed the vinyl surface, causing curling at the seams. I added extra paste, I added more moisture, I striped the wall behind seams with paste, but I still had seams that wanted to curl up a little. Usually, once the paper is good and dry, the seams give up their moisture and that causes them to shrink, and then they pull tight to the wall. By the time I left, most of the seams were tight and flat.

In the end, the finished wall looks fantastic, and the homeowner loves it.

I put this bright and bold “Martinique” wallpaper pattern on an accent (headboard) wall in a guest bedroom in a new home in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston.

Lotus Leaf Wallpaper

August 19, 2016

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I am grateful to the home ower, for the first two photos. And apologies for my own bad photos – this was very dark paper in a room with poor lighting. In reality, the wallpaper is gorgeous – a very deep and rich teal with a sheen to it. And what’s extra cool is that the texture comes from lotus leaves!

The homeowner loves green, and she wanted a texture for the wall behind the bed in her master bedroom in Montrose (Houston). She was originally considering grasscloth, but after getting my “lecture” warning about shading and paneling (color variations inherent to grasscloth), she searched further, and came up with this unique and dazzling paper. The top photo shows you a bit of the texture, and just a hint of the deep teal color.

The material was difficult to work with. As with most natural materials, I was sure there would be gaps here and there at the seams, so I stripe the wall with paint to match the color of the wallpaper (Photo 2). The lotus leaves on the surface were dyed very dark, but they were attached to a light colored substrate, so Photo 3 shows the deep blue and deep green oil pastel crayons I used to color the edges of the paper, so white would not show at the seams.

As with many dyed wallcoverings, the ink was not stable, so I ended up with hands the color of the paper.

The instructions said this was a paste-the-wall product. I had my doubts, but used that method for my first two strips. Not good. The backing was not non-woven material, but paper, and it soaked up paste like crazy, to the point where there was nothing left on the wall to hold the paper up.

In addition, after I had the first two strips up and looking good, I looked back and saw puckers at the seams. The backing had soaked up paste, absorbed moisture, and expanded, which caused the pouches at the seams.

I ended up taking those two strips off the wall and repasting them, then rehanging. I had to be gentle, because the wet backing could be fragile and delaminate from the surface. Since both strips were already trimmed, I had to carefully line them up at the ceiling and baseboard, while moving the second strip every so slightly to the right, to relieve the stress on the seam and eliminate the pouching.

Because the paper backing appeared to be what is typically used with grasscloth (which is generally pasted on the back), and because of the expansion when wet with paste, it was obvious that this product was not suited for paste-the-wall and dry-hanging. Someone at the factory got his instructions mixed up!

My solution was to roll out each strip and lightly sponge the backing with a damp sponge, then let that sit to absorb moisture and expand a bit, while I rolled paste onto the wall. Because I knew the backing was thirsty, I used more paste than I had with those first two strips.

This proved to be the answer, and the remaining strips stuck to the wall nicely, and there was no more puckering at the seams.

There were, however, a lot of areas at the seams that did not want to lie down. I had to do a lot of repasting and reworking the seams. This is not good, because overworking can cause burnishing, and can even push paste out from under the seam, and which could cause the seam to open up over time.

As noted on the instructions, some of the lotus leaves were fatter than others, so there were areas at the seams that were thick butting up against areas that were thin, which made it look like the seam was popping open, even though it was nice and tight to the wall.

O.K., let’s see what else happened with this stuff … It was thick and stiff, and difficult to press tightly against the ceiling and baseboard, and therefore difficult to get a nice, tight horizontal trim. The vertical trims where the paper met the corners of the wall were even more cantankerous. The material didn’t want to fold into the corner, and it was difficult to cut perpendicular to the grain of the material, even with a brand new razor blade. Manipulating the piece so it I could trim it and so it would fit nicely into the corner resulted in some abrading of the dye from the surface, as well as some minor blemishes on the surface. It’s no wonder that the manufacturer said to not wrap corners, but to cut the material and start each wall with a new strip.

Another problem was that the moisture from the paste, and also from my light sponging with water, could soak through the material and loosen the adhesive holding the lotus leaves to the paper backing. In other words, the leaves could delaminate from the backing. Even though I worked quickly to avoid over soaking, I did have a few areas that bubbled or delaminated. (They could be repasted and re-adhered.)

I hung this on one accent wall with no obstacles. But I would definitely not want to hang it on all the walls in a powder room, for instance, or where I’d have to cut around corners or a pedestal sink or intricate carved moldings, or the like.

Bottom line: I’m glad I got the experience of working with this material. But I’m not 100% happy with the way it turned out. The manufacturer should work out some kinks, and should provide correct installation instructions. The homeowner, though, doesn’t see these little things that I see, and she is quite ticked with her deeply-hued, uniquely-textured, accent wall in her bedroom.

This wallpaper is by York, in their Designer Series, and was bought at a discounted price from 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.

Wallcovering for Geologists, Weathermen, and Oil Drillers

August 18, 2016
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Today’s job was challenging and tedious, but a whole lot of fun. The homeowners worked in the oil patch, and love these seismic charts. Some show places they have worked, and one even shows the family property! They wanted the maps to cover the walls above the wainscoting in their powder room, in a large Victorian 1904 house in Montrose (Houston).

These were real maps, not wallpaper, so I had concerns about what adhesive to use, whether the material would tear when it became wet with paste, if a razor blade would cut it – or shred it, how much it would expand when wet, whether it would shrink when dry, and if ink marks on the paper (both printed and hand-written) would bleed. The homeowners provided me with a stack of maps to experiment with.

In the first photo, the maps are spread out on the dining room table, with the maps most important to them on the left, the maps with moderately significant features in the middle, and then a whole stack of maps that could be cut up to use as filler. They had worked out a few diagrams of where they wanted certain features, and also put yellow sticky paper with notations on the maps. In addition, the homeowner and I spent a lot of time talking about the various elements of the maps and what features were most important to the couple, placement, expectations, feasibility, etc.

Keeping their wants in mind, I plotted out where to place the various maps. It’s more complicated than it sounds, because they were not all the same size (in neither length nor width), the dimensions of the walls had to be taken into consideration, filler material had to be cut to bridge gaps, and “more interesting” sections had to be placed in prominent areas (the family estate went on the back wall – the first wall you see when you walk in).

Some of the maps were very similar, and I thought the walls looked better when there was something dividing the patterns, so I cut 2″ wide strips of filler (choosing material that had a contrasting pattern) to place between maps. You can see this in some of the photos. I also liked the look of a strong line at the point where two maps met, so, if the map didn’t have a printed line at the edge, I used a Sharpie to make one. This gave a lot more definition to the edges of the maps.

I learned the hard way that – regardless, of what they look like – lines on seismic maps are not straight, they are not parallel, and they are not perpendicular. Plus, you can plan on the paper stretching and warping. So, since I was starting from the chair rail and moving up, and I wanted specific things to run horizontally along the top of the chair rail (numbers, words, lines), it was really tricky to, at the same time, get a vertical line to run upwards equidistant from a vertical line on the adjoining map.

I know that sounds complicated. It was! It’s the kind of thing that takes a lot of time and plotting and measuring and trimming, but once it’s up on the wall, all you see is “a bunch of maps – that happen to look pretty straight.” The second photo shows my table with maps, homeowners’ sticky notes, my straight edge, razor blades – and me getting ready to trim!

Walls and ceilings are never plumb, and wet wallpaper likes to twist, so we paperhangers like to say that what’s at eye level is most important. Usually, I start hanging paper at the ceiling. But in this room, with it’s paneling hitting the wall at nearly 5,’ that’s pretty close to eye level, so that became the focal point. Meaning, I plotted the design at the bottom edge of the paper to line up with the top of the wainscoting.

This looks great, but it’s awkward to position, because, while gravity works with you when you are dropping a strip of wallpaper from the ceiling downward, it is definitely working against you when you are trying to work from the bottom upward. The most difficult sheets to maneuver were the largest, which were about 40″ wide by 30″ high.

I really thought that I wanted to use a wheat or cellulose paste with this material. These are both used less commonly, and come as a dry powder that needs to be mixed with water. Wheat paste is what wallpaper was hung with decades, and even hundreds, of years ago. It hydrates the paper nicely, is slippery, and does not create much tension between surfaces when you unbook the paper.

But when I did my tests, I found that my usual pre-mixed vinyl adhesive, diluted, worked very nicely. What worked best for these maps was to lightly sponge the back with water, then roll on a light coat of paste, which I diluted by sprinkling on a tiny bit more water as I spread the paste across the back.

I was pleased that the paper didn’t tear when I unbooked it (“booking” means folding the pasted sides together, and letting it sit a few minutes to relax, absorb paste, expand, etc.). But it didn’t like being unbooked and I didn’t like wrestling with it, so, except for the largest pieces, I tried to keep the paper flat and unfolded. The maps didn’t dry out like real wallpaper tends to do, so leaving it open and unbooked was not a problem.

The maps also responded quickly to the moisture of the paste – or perhaps it was the light sponging with water before pasting that helped. But I found that the material did not need to sit or book for much time at all.

This meant that I could move along a little more quickly. And it also meant that, as long as I brushed carefully and in the right directions, there were no wrinkles or bubbles. Usually I use smoothing brush with short, stiff bristles. But on this paper, a more delicate, longer bristled brush was better. I used a plastic trapezoid smoother, too, especially on the edges.

When the material was wet, it was a little difficult to trim, because it wanted to drag and tear. But a very sharp razor blade, and either a lot of pressure or a very light hand, depending on the situation, resulted in nice, clean trim lines.

I chose to overlap the seams. I wanted to avoid double cutting, because the process of double-cutting (splicing) seams can be hard on delicate paper (tears, stretching, stress on the wall). And the paper was thin enough that overlaps would not show much at all.

See that bull’s eye in the second-to-last photo? The homeowners tell me that is very exciting to oil-patch people. It designates the highest point, and thus the exact spot where oil is to be found.

Logos like that in the last photo were also important to the homeowners. I positioned some in key areas of the room. And, when I could not make that work with the walls’ dimensions, I improvised by cutting the logo off and pasting it over a different part of the map.

Although the job was tedious, in both the plotting and the installing, it went very well, and the clients were thrilled with the finished room.

Using My New Laser Level

August 17, 2016
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O.K. So some &*@#^$%!& broke into my van two weeks ago and made off with some of my equipment and supplies, including my laser level. Here is the one I bought to replace it. This one came with a clamp-on stand, which you can see in the top photo.

In the second photo, the red laser beam is projecting onto the wall, and I am going to use this line to hang my first strip of wallpaper against, to be sure it’s nice and straight and plumb.

I also used the laser level to get plumb cuts on either side of the desk area, as seen in the last photo.

Enjoy This Short Video On How Wallpaper Is Made

August 17, 2016

This Is How I Paper A Ceiling

August 16, 2016
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I don’t wallpaper many ceilings, and when I do, I try to stick to small powder rooms and the like. Larger and higher ceilings are much easier when you have scaffolding and / or a helper – and I have neither.

However, I did this ceiling recently, and used this method … Using two ladders facing one another, I can work on a section and then walk across to the next ladder and reach another section of ceiling. When I’ve done all I can reach, I use push pins to hold the folded paper to the ceiling, get down and move the ladders so I can reach the next 6′ or so.

Normally, pasted paper is “booked” in two folds, one being 1/3 the strip of paper and the other being 2/3 of the strip. In the second photo you can see the more numerous and shorter accordion folds that I use when papering a ceiling. This enables me to unbook only as much paper as I can position onto a section of ceiling. Then I get down and move the ladder, and then unbook another short section of paper. This is much easier than trying to wrestle with a 9′ long strip of pasted paper.

Wallpapering Ceilings With a Fan

August 16, 2016

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Note to Self: The next time a homeowner wants you to put wallpaper on her ceiling, you must insist that they have the ceiling fan removed. Or, at very minimum, have someone remove the blades.

Working two strips of wallpaper around this ceiling fan must have taken nearly two full hours.

The good news is, all went well, with no tears or going off-plumb.


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