Archive for December, 2009

Leave Instructions!

December 23, 2009

Almost had a “whoopsie” today… The clients weren’t home when I arrived this morning, and the housekeeper let me in. 

The job was to install a mural – a map of the world.  Most murals divided into eight panels, that are hung four across the top and four across the bottom.  You have the option of moving the panels from the far right over to the far left – in other words, you can have North and South America appear either on the right or the left side of the mural.  In addition, murals are taller than most walls, so you will have to decide whether you will cut off the top or the bottom, to get it to fit the wall’s height.

Well, the clients and I had discussed various options, and, since they weren’t home when I started the installation, I went with what I remembered.  WRONG!  Turns out, they had decided to use a different placement for the North and South American land mass.  And they had left a written note about this.

Only thing is, the note was not anywhere near the wallpaper mural.  The mural was in its box, leaning against a wall, and the paper with the clients’ instructions was on a shelf several feet away!

Luckily, one of them came home before I had gotten too far along, and explained their preferred placement, and the mural went up as they desired.

This reminds me of another similar situation.  The clients were not home, and had left the key under the door mat.  I went on in and did a nice prep and installation job.  When the homeowner came home, she asked why I had not changed the A/C setting, as she had asked.

Well, I hadn’t changed the setting because I had not seen any not asking me to do so…

Turns out she left the note on the front of the refrigerator.  She said, “Everyone looks at the refrigerator to check for notes.”

Well, yes, I agree, that is probably true for most families.  But I was working in the bathroom, and it never occured to me to look on the refrigerator – or to even enter the kitchen, for that matter.

How I LOVE Antique Paper!

December 22, 2009

I was doing some Christmas shopping in a small town north of Houston last week, and came upon an old house that was slated to either be moved or razed.  This was an OLD house – probably dating to the turn of the last century, just sitting on its site, totally empty, doors and windows open to the weather.  I couldn’t resist, and walked inside.

The walls were stripped down to the shiplap and lath.  Over the shiplapped wood was some very old wallpaper, sill in good condition.  In those days, a loose cheese cloth type fabric was tacked over the wooden walls, and the wallpaper was pasted and applied over the cheese cloth.  Because it was suspended away from the boards, the paper would hang nice and straight, and free of wrinkles or impressions.

What amazes me is that the colors hold up so well, with virtually no fading.  The paper itself is generally in good shape, too, although it can become brittle with age and brown on the back side – like the pages of an old family Bible.  The cheese cloth, too, holds up well – until it’s touched, when it can become a little weak. 

I collect samples of these old papers, and have a growing collection.  So I took samples of what was in this house, too.

Since in “the old days” all the rooms (including inside closets) were papered, to disguise the ugly wooden walls, usually they used very bland “background” patterns.  So, unfortunately, instead of bright colorful scenes of poodle dogs in skirts or pink flamingos on seafoam green paper, from this house I got tone-on-tone overall small florals and other not-very-interesting designs.

But just finding these treasures was very exciting to me, and I am thrilled to have little pieces to update my collection.

Out of the Ordinary Paper

December 15, 2009

I have a chance to work with a Colefax & Fowler paper in a few weeks.  This is one of the “higher end” papers, and is designed with a beautiful matt finish.  In addition, instead of using ink like most papers, the manufacturer uses actual paint.  There is no plastic / vinyl coating, either, as most modern papers have. 

A plastic coating protects the finish, from finger prints, splashes, abrasions.  In this case, this will not be a worry, as the wallcovering will be installed in a living room, where there is little chance of hands or liquids coming in contact with it. 

It’s a beautiful paper in a light, subdued color scheme.  I look forward to working with it.

The Holiday Rush

December 9, 2009

It’s that time of year, when people are planning their holiday parties, and suddenly realize their guests will be using their powder room or guest room – and maybe that room has had some damage to the walls, or is simply embarassingly out-of-date.  Oh NO!!   

That’s when I’ll invariably get a call, asking if the wallpaper can be changed – NOW.  As in, THIS week.

Well, the answer is:  Sometimes. 

But realize that changing wallpaper usually takes some time, and definately takes preplanning, if the job is to look good.  For one thing, I encourage people to take their time when choosing a paper.  There are LOTS of patterns and colors to choose from, and, as I like to say, what looks good to you today may be something you hate next week.  That’s an expensive love affair gone bad! So take your time and consider many options, before making a final selection. 

Second, virtually all wallpaper will need to be ordered, then processed and shipped.  Especially during the Holiday Season, shipping can be delayed, making it difficult to guarantee the wallpaper will be here in time to install before your party.

Next, most paperhangers are going to be booked with other jobs.  It always amazes me when I get a call, and the prospective client thinks the job can be done the same week – and sometimes even the next day.  Very rarely is this possible.

First, I need to see the job, measure, give a price, then the paper needs to be ordered and shipped.  Even if the client already has the paper, I am usually booked with other jobs, requiring her to wait until I finish those clients’ jobs. 

That’s why it’s important to plan ahead in choosing a paper, and to be sure to get a date on my work calendar well in advance of your holiday party or other event.

Contaminated Paste

December 5, 2009

I had an interesting occurance last week.  Coming home from the Renaissance Festival a week or so ago, a bucket of past tumped over in the back of the van.  Pain!  I scooped up what I could and salvaged as much as possible of what was clean, and cleaned up the rest.  Carpet in the back of the van is now rock-hard.  : (

Well, the next time I went to use the paste, I was surprised to see the top layer somewhat discolored.  Little bits of wood and debris had gotten mixed in with the paste I scooped from the floor of the van and put back in the bucket.  Over the next week or so, stain had a chance to bleed off the debris and discolor the paste. 

Not very much, but I could notice it.  Stains have a way of working their way through wallpaper, and that phenomenon can occur over time, even months after the paper is installed.   I didn’t want to take risks with the nice Osborn & Little paper I was working with (imported from England), (or any other paper, for that matter) so I spent some time scooping out and discarding the discolored paste – about 2″ from the top of the bucket.  It’s amazing that other little tiny pieces of debris had worked their way down into the bucket of paste, and as I came upon them I removed those, too.

I never want to take a chance that something could cause a job to fail, even way down the road.

An Old Fashioned Craft – Wood Graining

December 2, 2009


I did a bid in a very nice home today, in River Oaks.  The previous owners had a somewhat contemporary style, and the new owners are taking the home back to a more traditional style. 

The kitchen cabinetry and island had originally been painted a sort of rosy–mauve, and the new owners want a wood tone.    So they had a faux finisher come in and repaint the cabinets.  She did a fabulous job!  Unless you get really close and know what to look for, the cabinets now look like they are stained wood, not paint.  There was a lot of cabinetry in that room – it must have taken her weeks!

In our family wallpaper & paint store, like many small businesses that operated out of the same location for decades, there were scads of Oldies but Goldies in the basement – rolls of wallpaper dating to the 1930’s and 1940’s, a machine for cutting window shades (One employee years back had actually cut off a finger using that gadget!), and wood graining tools. 

The graining tools were very interesting – combs that were dragged through the top layer of stain (over a base coat) to simulate natural wood grain, and rubber rollers with imprints that you rocked back and forth at certain points to create what looked like knot holes and natural defects in the wood. 

A skilled artisan could make a plain board or wall look like real oak or maple or any type of wood you could want.  It’s a lost art these days, because there’s not much call for faux wood.  So I was thrilled to see the work of the faux finisher today, and know the craft is alive and well and appreciated.