Archive for March, 2010

How I Got My Name

March 30, 2010

Way back when I was starting up my business, I attended a seminar given by SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives). During the segment about choosing a name for your business, one thing them emphasized strongly was to pick a name that would be easy for people to think of and remember.

My business name, The Wallpaper Lady, fills that bill perfectly!

But I can’t take credit for that clever and valuable name. To be honest, it was my clients’ children who gave me that name.

You see, often when I would arrive for work, if the kids beat the parents to answer the door, They’d take one look at me, turn toward the inside of the house, and holler, “Mommmm! The Waaaallpaper Lady is here!!”

I heard that so many times, I got used to being thought of as “the wallpaper lady.” And soon I snapped to the idea that it would be the perfect name for my business.

The words “wallpaper” quickly state what I do, it tells clients that the work will be done by a woman (important for many of my female clients), and it’s catchy and easy to remember.

I registered it with Harris County (Texas) and have been using it ever since!

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Wallpaper Installer in Houston

March 25, 2010

Please check the links at right, to learn about me and my business in the greater Houston area.

Fixing the Underbidder’s Job

March 21, 2010

Wallpaper Installer in Houston

A comment to my previous post about loosing a job to a someone who underbid me, said that I may end up fixing the cheapo job. Well, that DID happen, at least once. I LOVE the story, too. Read on…

The client (once again, in a lovely near-million dollar home) had some gorgeous, hand-screened, $100+ per roll, Bradbury & Bradbury reproduction turn-of-the-century wallpaper (Google it), that had to be hand pasted and hand trimmed. Not a job for a novice.

I gave her my price, and she whined. I NEVER lower my prices (will blog on that at some point), and she whined some more, and finally went with another installation company who underbid me by FIFTY DOLLARS.

Well, it was gratifying to me, in a way, when, a week or so later, she called me and asked me to fix the other guy’s mess.

Whereas I work alone (for quality control and to reduce the impact of people tromping through the home) and planned to devote the entire day to this job, Wallpapers To go sent a crew of guys to all squeeze into the little powder room, knock out the job, and then GO ON TO A SECOND HOME to do another job that same day.

EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS worth of wallpaper, and they’re going to “knock it out” in one morning?! What about prep? (Didn’t do any.) What about carefully matching the pattern? (Had many mismatches.) What about the care and precision required to “double cut” (splice) the hand-trimmed paper? What about wiping excess paste off the surface? What about just paying attention, taking your time, and doing a careful, detailed job?

I can’t say their work was HORRIBLE, but it was by no means good. There was no way to make the room look great other than removing the old paper, buying more, and completely redoing the entire room, and that was out of the question. I was able to fix a few little things, and make the overall appearance much better. The client was satisfied, and realized that her $50 bargain meant she would have to live many years with the result of a “lowest bidder” job.

I Lost a Job Today

March 19, 2010

Wallpaper Installation in Houston

I lost a job today, due to price. Yes, it happens from time to time. But it puzzles me a little, and it concerns me, when people choose an installer seemingly based on price ONLY.

This job was for a room in a very nice home – valued at nearly a million dollars; with furnishings and accessories, the value is easily over a million.

You could safely assume that money was not an issue with this family. You would also logically assume that, in a home of this caliber, quality and perfection would be an expectation.

When I visited the home, measured, and presented my estimate for the job, as always, I took care to explain exactly how I would prepare the walls, why prep is important, the types of materials I use, and the care and attention to detail I employ when installing wallcoverings. I spent quite a bit of time at the home, consulting on colors and selections for several rooms, in addition to the wallpaper selection for the children’s bathroom.

Yet the client chose to use another installer, who supposedly said he would do the job for half my price.

Now, you have to wonder, HOW can he do the SAME job, for half the price? The answer is, he most likely is NOT providing the same work.

I’ll bet you that this other installer is not going to prep the walls as carefully as I would. In fact, I’ll bet you that he will not do ANY prep at all – and simply install the new paper right over the existing paper. This is a combination leading to disaster.

The thing is, usually such jobs LOOK good, at least, as I like to say, until the guy cashes her check. At some point down the road, and probably not too far, problems with improperly installed wallpaper will pop up.

Or, another scenerio, he may simply do a sloppy job, rushing through, or not bothering to remove paste from the surface of the paper, not using sharp razor blades – who knows what short cuts of sloppy techniques he might employ?

Well, chances are, I will never know, because it’s unlikely I will ever hear feedback as to how the job turned out. But I am left wondering – why, when money obviously is not in short supply, does a client make her decision based solely on price?

The Kind of Phone Call I LOVE to Get!!

March 17, 2010

I got a call from a woman yesterday, and I just had to save it on my answering machine.

She said something like, “We want you to come finish wallpapering our entry. My husband and I tried doing it ourselves. After just about all day, we got one strip up, it’s all twisted and shredded at the top, and we looked at it and decided we need to get a professional to come and do it correcty.”

I LOVE clients like that! They have tried it themselves, they know how hard it can be – or at least how much technical knowlege and proper materials are required – and are willing to pay a fair price to have someone make the job look good.

In this case, the wallpaper is grasscloth, and that’s a material that takes special know-how to install correctly. You need special very clear paste, sharp cutting blades, and must take great care not to soil the surface. Oh, and, my big crusade – proper wall prep with an oil-based primer.

Know Your Clients! Protocol

March 10, 2010

I had a potentially dicey situation yesterday.

I am currently working for a design firm, to paper a powder room in a nice home being updated for new occupants. I know the homeowners only as “the Joneses.”

The designer had asked me to also measure two other rooms, a second powder room and a laundry room on the second floor.

While I was getting set up to start, a woman came in and identified herself only as “Sue.” She asked me to be sure to measure the two additional rooms, and talked about her wallpaper selections, how quickly they could be shipped, and if they would arrive in time to be installed that same week.

I assumed she was a member of the design team. When she asked if I could recommend any places where she could find wallpaper, and especially stores with paper in-stock, I gave her my printed sheet that lists Wallpapers to Go http://www.wallpaperstogo.com/index.htm , which is about the only nearby place that still carries wallpaper in-stock, and also two other stores with which I deal frequently, Southwestern Paint http://southwesternpaint.com/ on Bissonnet and Sherwin Williams http://www.sherwin-williams.com/ in the Rice Village.

The woman also wanted to know how many rolls of paper she would need to buy. So I gave her my yellow sheet, which lists how many rolls are needed for each room, how many days to do the job, and my price for labor and materials.

BIG mistake!

Turns out the lady was NOT a designer, but the HOMEOWNER herself!

Now, when a contractor (such as me) is working for a designer, it is very important to learn their “ground rules” up front; how they like me to interact with the client. Some designers want the homeowner to pay me directly, and don’t mind if I talk freely with her. Other designers prefer that I keep communications with the homeowner to a minimum, not interfere with their decisions, not give my opinion on selections, and not discuss prices or payment. In these cases, when a designer is working with a client, she doesn’t want “meddling” to interfere with choices they have made. Also, since many designers add a mark-up to my installation fee, they prefer the client not be aware of this. Now, it’s perfectly all right for a designer to tack on a little, because, after all, this is how she earns her living, and a little commission on a sale is simply a way of doing that. They also like to deal with their own vendors, where they quite likely get a discount on the wallpaper, and then, frequently, do a markup on the price of the paper, earning a little more income the same way. This is all quite common in the design industry, perfectly acceptable, and should never be viewed as “cheating” or “gouging” the customer… It’s simply a way of making a living in a field that does not pay like a 9:00-5:00 job.

If you’ve read this far, you understand the goof I made. This particular designer had asked me NOT to discuss money with the client, and here I had gone and done just that Then I went a step further and even suggested other places where the client could purchase wallpaper. Some designers aren’t that touchy about this subject, but others can get quite upset, even angry. I certainly don’t want to upset the designer, nor do I wish to compromise either the relationship between the designer and her client, and especially not the relationship between the designer and ME… I very much want to continue to work with this design firm, and hope this one error hasn’t jeapordized that.

Wallpaper & Rich People

March 9, 2010

I attended the Azalea Trail yesterday, a home and garden tour in River Oaks, one of Houston’s (and the nation’s) wealthiest neighborhoods.

People say that “wallpaper is out of style.” Well, if the decor in homes of the well-to-do is any indication, that statement is FALSE!

EVERY house had either wallpaper or fauxed finishes in virtually every room, demonstrating that people feel more comfortable with at least a little pattern in their surroundings.

As soon as you entered one home, your eye was struck by the stunning two-story entry, with it’s wallpaper that looked like cut-stone blocks. (Oddly enough, I had installed that very same pattern, about 10 years ago, and even have a piece of it at home, because I contemplated putting it in my TV room at one time.)

A butler’s pantry had a large and bold blue and brown pattern on the walls, to complement the soft blue woodwork and cabinets. (Designers in these homes tend to like colored wood trim.) The installed had taken care to center the huge pattern on certain walls, and the effect was show-stopping.

A large 2-section powder room had a red and black Oriental paper on all surfaces – including the ceiling. (Interior designers in these grand homes also seem to love paper on the ceiling – I do not.) The paper was pretty, but the dark color on the ceiling was overwhelming, I felt.

A den was outfitted with grasscloth, which lent a warm textured feel to the room.

Many other rooms throughout the tour showcased wallpaper, from simple background textures to bold eye-stopping patterns and colors.

Oddly enough, I had done a bid at a home the day before, to quote prices for removing wallpaper from several rooms, and the homeowner had been on the same home tour. She commented, “Everyone keeps telling me that wallpaper is out, and that’s why I thought I wanted my paper removed. But I see that these expensive homes are covered with wallpaper.” I could see the wheels turning in her head… Hopefully she’ll consider installing paper again.

I think the seed has been sown!

Bragging

March 5, 2010

I can’t help it – I just have to!

Regarding my previous post, about the bedroom I had installed wallpaper in 10 years ago, and just redid it this week, because the son is now 10, and he needed an older decor in his room.

Well, it was VERY gratifying to me to see that the original wallpaper, installed 10 years ago, was in PERFECT condition. Not one seam lifting, not one corner curling, and not even any finger prints or dings from a growing boy.

I attribute that to proper installation techniques, of course, but also, my big soapbox – proper wall prep, including an oil based primer.

Interestingly, in contrast, the wallpaper in the adjoining bathroom, which had been installed at the time of construction by the builder’s crew, that wallpaper did have some curling edges and contrary seams.

Working Behind Myself – A GOOD Thing!

March 4, 2010

The job I did this week went great. One reason? The original paper had been installed 10 years ago – by ME!

Because I had prepped the wall properly (floated smooth, sanded, wiped clean, primed with KILZ), the old paper came off easily, with NO damage to the wall. All I had to do was patch a few holes from nails and picture hangers. The primer was intact, and there was no need to reprime.

This is SO MUCH preferable to working behind another paper hanger, who cut corners in prep, or who didn’t bother to prime, or who used a latex primer.

Flaws & Defects – Frustrating!

March 3, 2010

Sometimes clients protest, and claim they don’t think they should have to order as much paper as I tell them. Well, today was another good case in point, about why it is a good idea to have a little extra.

This week, I’m installing good quality, high end Thibaut paper. It’s a nice brand, a “designer” brand, and I rarely have problems with this manufacturer.

But today, nearly 30% of the paper (a 16 roll job!) had a flaw – smudges and scratches and markes all along one edge of the paper, running half way through about 1/3 of the rolls.

Luckily, this particular pattern is a simple stripe, and it’s realtively easy for me to finagle a way to cut off the bad edge and still use the remaining paper.

But with most patterns, it’s not possible to do this, meaning that all this paper would be unuseable. That upsets the client’s plans, forces me to shuffle other clients and reschedule everyone, paper has to be shipped back, reordered, rechecked, and … the manufacturer always tries to get out of paying to replace the paper, even if it’s obvious the defect originated on his end.