Archive for April, 2014

Wild for Animal Prints

April 30, 2014

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Digital ImageI hung this huge white tiger mural in between two windows in a dining room in the Galleria area of Houston today. This is the same home where I hung faux snake skin on the master bedroom headboard wall, and a zebra print in the downstairs spare room, a few months ago.

The substrate is a non-woven material with a thick vinyl surface. The vinyl is textured to look like short hair – so you get the effect of real animal hide. The manufacturer recommended the paste-the-wall technique, which usually goes a little faster, especially on plain walls like these (no intricate cuts).

Non-Woven papers usually do not absorb moisture from the paste nor expand, but this one did, by 1/4″ per strip. I spent a lot of time measuring and plotting my strategy to get the pattern centered on the wall, and the expansion of the paper threw it off by about 3/4″ inch. Not that anyone would notice but me. 🙂 But still, next time, non-woven or not, I will test before assuming what width the pasted strips will end up. If it had been a more structured design, that 3/4″ would have mattered.

This wallpaper pattern is by Roberto Cavalli, and was made in Italy, but bought in Russia and carried back to the U.S. by the homeowners.

Smoothing Brush for Delicate Papers

April 28, 2014

Digital ImageI usually use a fairly stiff smoothing brush, which works nicely with most papers I hang. Some people use a flat plastic smoother, and I do, too, at times, but I like a brush because the bristles will push the paper against a wall that is not perfectly flat.

But for the 1930’s vintage wallpaper I hung in my entry on Friday (see previous post and pics), as well as the bat wallpaper that I put in my powder room (no pics yet), I wanted something softer, that had less chance of bruising or abrading the paper. Besides, these two papers were so flexible (and also the special extra wet paste used for the vintage paper), less force was needed to smooth them against the wall and brush out wrinkles and bubbles.

So I used the yellow brush, with the longer bristles. Worked great.

Authentic 1930’s Wallpaper in My Own Home

April 26, 2014

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I think I was switched at birth. I don’t feel like a child of my era, but of a time decades ago, the ’30’s and ’40’s. I like the clothing, music, cars, … and the décor!

This real deal from the 1930’s went into my own home, in the entry foyer, just one wall. I bought it on-line from There are a few other places to buy vintage wallpaper, including,, and, for even older stuff,

Back to my entry … I got the wall done with just one double-roll of wallpaper. The material was dry and brittle and fragile, and it tore and abraded easily. The brittleness made it hard to fit into corners or against woodwork to trim, because it wanted to break and tear easily at those points of stress. It would be difficult to use in a room with lots of decorative molding’s and complicated cuts. And it devoured razor blades like candy.

Like fabric, the wallpaper had a selvedge edge that I trimmed off by hand (see 3rd photo… sorry, can’t get the photo to post). I was disappointed that the pattern didn’t match perfectly, but that’s how it was printed, and, really, get over it, stop being a perfectionist – from a distance (of, like, about four feet), you can’t even see it.

The seams weren’t flawless, either, partly due to not having any trim lines, but also due to the material itself, and how it absorbed moisture, dried, moved on the wall, etc. Some areas showed teeny gaps, and others overlapped just a hair. Once the paper dried, the seams got much flatter, although a bit of a line showed at each seam (the backing showing through the red ink). Again, minimal, and expected with this type of material.

Although the wallpaper claimed to be “waterfast,” it was not. If rubbed with a damp rag, the red color came off. So I “worked clean,” meaning, avoided getting any paste or water on the surface of the paper.

These vintage papers require special paste, as close to possible to what they had “back in the day.” That means none of the handy pre-mixed pastes that we modern installer rely on (much too aggressive for this delicate material), but wheat or cellulose paste, which generally comes in powdered form and is mixed on-site with water and an electric immersion blender.

The other thing the 1930’s wallpaper did was to get really wet. That means that, I could have just finished hanging a strip, and its perfect. Then I go back minutes later and discover that it’s miscolored, blotchy, and shaded. This “wet look” occurs when a wallpaper with no protective coating encounters a little water. As long as it’s water, and not paste or grease or the like, these “dark blotches” will usually disappear on their own. It was fun watching the color get lighter, going from left-to-right, as the wallpaper dried. In that process, many of the seams seemed to disappear.

Once it was pretty well dried, all these minor imperfections faded into the background, and all you see is a beautiful pattern, color, and texture that were inherent to the 1930’s

Garden Oaks Home Tour this Sunday

April 25, 2014

I am excited about the upcoming home tour in Garden Oaks.

Ear Splitting Noise!

April 24, 2014

Digital ImageJackhammering was going on right outside where I was working today. You cannot IMAGINE how LOUD it was! Ear-splitting is no exaggeration. I’m sensitive to noise to begin with, but this was unbearable. It gave me a headache, made me nauseous, and made it difficult to concentrate on what I was doing.

Runs and Dye Lots … Have Me Measure FIRST!

April 23, 2014

I recently did a bid where the homeowners already had their paper. The problem was, they had grossly underestimated how much paper they needed. They had a total of 5 single rolls, but the job actually called for something like 26.

This is a special problem with their selections. They had chosen some quite pretty custom made, very high end papers, made to order out of state.

The problems are many and are serious. Besides having to order quite a bit more of the very expensive paper, chances are the new paper will not match what they already have, so they will have to throw away that paper and buy even more.

When paper is made, there is a “batch,” “dye lot,” or “run” number, meaning all the paper printed at that time came out of the same “batch” of ink. It’s important to use paper all from the same run. Papers printed at a different time from a different run will have a very slight color variation, because the dyes and inks were mixed at a different time.

Will this matter? You bet! If you have to use a “broken run,” it’s best to keep different runs on seperate walls. You don’t notice a slight difference in color so much, because light hits one wall differently from how it hits another wall.

The bad part about this is that if you have to split a strip of paper, as you often do, you can’t use half of the strip on one wall and then on the second wall, and then start with a new run, because the color difference WILL show when strips are next to one another on a flat wall. You can never put different numbered runs next to one another on the same wall – the difference shows as clearly as if you used strips of totally different colors. This means you end up having to buy even more paper, to allow for the difference in dye lots.

Time-Consuming Mess Under the Old Wallpaper

April 22, 2014

Digital ImageDigital ImageDigital ImageWhoever papered this bathroom before me did a good job of using joint compound to smooth the textured wall. However, he failed to seal the new surface with a primer. So when I came along to strip that paper, which I do with plain hot water, the moisture reactivated the joint compound, and much of it clung to the old wallpaper and came away from the wall when the old paper was removed. Left behind was an uneven mess (see photos 1 & 2) that would have looked terrible under the new wallpaper, and especially since it had a metallic sheen which tends to show every bump and dip.

As I went along, I learned that if I didn’t soak the old paper for too long, it would be enough to loosen the paste, but not to reactivate the joint compound, and so I was able to get much of the paper off without too much damage to the wall.

Unfortunately, there were still large places that had to be patched. Once the surface was dry, I used more joint compound to smooth over the uneven areas. Three strong fans and a heat gun, plus the A/C cranked down and the house fan going, all helped dry the “mud” while I was working to strip the paper in the second bathroom.

Once dry, it was a matter of sanding, vacuuming, wiping, then priming the wall. And then, of course – finally – hanging the new wallpaper.

All of this added several hours and much more physical labor to my work day. But the finished result was really nice, smooth walls, and beautiful paper on top. The homeowner understood the work involved and appreciated that I had insisted on having the wall smoothed properly, because that ensured a lovely finished room.

Old World Italian Look for this Master Bathroom

April 21, 2014

Digital ImageI only got one shot of this room, since the $#@&!! camera took a dive and the batteries fell out, and all pics were lost. Anyway, it turned out wonderfully, and the homeowner was so pleased she gave me a great big hug!

She wanted her bathroom to remind her of the places she had been to and seen while in Italy. This wallpaper pattern has a mushy, indistinct, damask type design on a mottly background with crackly lines running through it. In other words, it looks like the walls of an old Italian villa. It handled nicely, thin and hugs the wall tightly, and the seams are practically invisible.

After this shot was taken, I used some craft paint to color the white line along the top of the granite backsplash, then put clear caulk over that, to seal it, and to prevent splashed water from wicking up under the wallpaper (which could cause curling).

The design is by Designer Wallpapers, and was bought from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint near the Rice Village. The homeowner LOVED working with Dorota, and thanked me for putting them together. Dorota works by appointment (713) 520-6262,

A Pretty Paper for a Small Powder Room

April 20, 2014

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Digital ImageThe old wallpaper in this half-bath off the laundry room wasn’t too exciting. This new, updated pattern is lively in color, and cheery in pattern. The homeowner loves the whimsical aspect, with the little critters making an appearance here and there … dragonflies, snails, hermit crabs, lizards, inch worms.

This job was in the Willowbrook area of Houston. The paper was bought through Dorota, at Southwestern Paint near the Rice Village, (713) 520-6262. The homeowner thanked me for turning her on to Dorota, who helped her zero in on just the patterns she wanted, and at a good price, too. Consultations are by appointment.

Hot Pink Lattice & Dots for a Teen Gal’s Bedroom

April 19, 2014

Digital ImageDigital ImageHere are two coordinating wallpaper patterns used as companion papers in a gal’s bedroom and bathroom.

Lattice in bedroom: The wallpaper pattern is #CM2382 by designer Antonia Vella for York Wallcoverings, one of my favorite manufacturers.

Pink polka dots on silver in adjoining bathroom: #RB4286 from the Sure Strip line by York Wallcoverings. It’s one of their newer non-woven substrates, intended to strip off the wall easily and in one piece, when you’re ready to redecorate.

I did this bedroom and bathroom almost a year ago. Interestingly, I was back this week to do their powder room and the boys’ bathrooms.