Archive for August, 2014

Wouldn’t You Like to Wake Up to this Beautiful Bedroom?

August 21, 2014

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital ImageThis gorgeous hummingbird print is a historic pattern dating to the 1800’s. I hung this in the master bedroom of a 1935 home in the Museum District of Houston. There is beautiful green foliage outside the windows, and the bedspread is a whispy cheesecloth-like material. The whole room looks like it’s floating on a cloud, with birds and leaves everywhere!

This wallpaper is of what we call a British pulp composition, and is by Cole & Son, and was bought at a discounted price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.


August 20, 2014

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital ImageOn a job I am doing this week (historic hummingbird wallpaper in a master bedroom), an old home in the Museum District being remodeled, the homeowners wanted to let their contractor do the wall prep in this bedroom. I usually insist on doing my own prep, but sometimes the painters or other contractors have already factored this into their bid. So I’ll give the workmen detailed instruction on how to prep the walls, and hope for the best.

As you can see, as far as priming the walls, it looks like they used a roller only, and did not use a brush to cut in along the woodwork, ceiling, or even the corners of the room (the somewhat dark lines you see along these areas). There is flat paint from the ceiling on the walls, and glossy paint from the woodwork on the walls, and wallpaper will not stick to either flat or gloss.

To rectify this, I spent at least 1 ½ hours cutting in along the woodwork and ceiling and corners with my primer.

The layer of primer was not adequately thick / solid, because there were gaps in it, allowing the bare joint compound to be exposed – which is porous and wallpaper does not want to stick to it.

Also, I’m not sure they used the product I asked them to, because I had instances of delaminating when I needed to pull a strip of paper off the wall and reposition (primer peeled away from the wall). Either that, or they failed to wipe the dust off the walls before priming – and nothing sticks to dust.

And, photo 3, this is how they left some areas – at least three areas, plus a 7’ section between the door and the corner. “Don’t worry – the door is open all the time and will hide it.” NOT!!

My point is, if a contractor is prepping the walls instead of me, they had better do a better job than this. The primer HAS to be cut in WITH A BRUSH along the woodwork and ceiling, and in the corners.

Even more important is that all dust be wiped off the surface of the wall with a damp sponge (not a dry cloth), before applying the primer. Nothing sticks to dust. If they don’t do this, the job will look good for a while. But the potential is for the paper to dry and pull tight, and that means putting tension on the seams, and if the surface below isn’t sound, it can give way and pull away from the wall, resulting in curled seams and gaps at the seams. And these usually cannot be “glued back down.”

Like I usually tell my customers – You can have me prep the walls correctly, which is usually included in my fee for papering the room. Or you can pay your other guy to do it – and then pay me to do it over again.


August 19, 2014

Digital ImageThis week I am to hang paper on a wall that was originally mirrored from floor to ceiling. When the glass guys removed the mirror, some areas like this were exposed. Here I am floating the wall to smooth it, but below the white smoothing compound, you can see the recessed area in the wall, and the little bitty brown specks. Can you guess what this is?

OK, well, the title gave it away. Yes, this is a sign of termites, as they chew into the drywall and leave their guano (poop) behind (the little specks). It’s an outside wall, which is where you most typically see this sort of thing. It’s probably old damage, and the house has probably been treated and the termites long gone. I have, in the past, seen live termites and their larvae inside walls!

Some of the chewed drywall is crumbly, and the guano definitely is loose, which would provide an unstable surface for the wallpaper to stick to. So I used a product called Gardz to seal the loose areas, and then am skim-floating the wall to smooth it (the white stuff). Once it’s dry, I’ll sand and prime, again using Gardz, and the wall should be good and solid for the wallpaper.

This home is in the Clear Lake area of Houston.

Plotting What to Put at the Top

August 17, 2014

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Digital ImageIn the first photo, I have laid this 36″ wide bolt of grasscloth out on the floor, to get a good look at the design. I’m trying to decide what part of the motif to put at the ceiling. You can see my metal yardstick lying across the paper, showing one option of what could be placed at the top of the wall.

This kind of wallpaper pattern is always hard for me to decide, because there is no definite start or stop to the design, because one element blends into the next. You want to get a whole motif up at the top of the wall, but you don’t want to chop off too much of another motif.

Don’t worry – I eventually made a decision and it looked great, as you can see in the second photo.

Tone-on-Tone Geometric / Trellis on a Master Bedroom Accent Wall

August 16, 2014

IMG_1069I hung this wallpaper on a recessed accent wall in a master bedroom in a new home in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston. The feel is modern, yet cozy. Notice how the symmetrical placement of the pattern enhances the overall look.

A Lesson in Pattern Repeat and Match

August 15, 2014

Digital ImageHere is a wallpaper pattern by Stroheim, a somewhat high-end brand. Pick out a left-facing leopard. I’ll bet you think it is an exact match to the left-facing leopard beneath it. But you’re wrong!

This pattern has a 36″ repeat, which means that you’d have to roll off 36 inches of left-facing leopards before you came to the exact same leopard again. It’s important to not assume it’s a typical straight-across match, and to catch this before you start cutting up the roll of wallpaper, because lining up a leopard on one strip to a different leopard on the next strip, there will be an eye-catching mis-match along the entire seam.

Whoever designed this pattern gave us paperhangers a break, though, and did not put any leopards at the seams. Instead he put the trees and leaf motifs at the seams. And, oddly enough, even if these were not matched up to the proper motif on the next strip, it didn’t show, because all the tree canopies lined up, and all the leaves lined up. Well, some of the leaves were a little off, but we’re talking a 32nd of an inch, and with this busy pattern, no one’s gonna notice.

I could not believe it, and had some fun butting different tree canopies up against one another, and proving that all of them matched perfectly. That’s some pretty amazing engineering on the designer’s part!

This wallpaper pattern is by Stroheim and was hung in an entry hall in Clear Lake, near Houston.

Weird Valves Under the Sink

August 14, 2014

Digital Image Digital ImageHere are two small vial-type things, with caps, worked into the wall near plumbing pipes.  I have seen these curious things under pedestal sinks, and today there was also one under the toilet.  These have been spotted in newish homes (less than 20 years old).  I have no clue what function they serve, nor does anyone else I have talked to. 

All I can say is, they are darned hard to wallpaper around!!

Weird Plumbing Valve

August 14, 2014

Digital ImageHere are shots of some odd little plastic vials with removable caps that are stuck into the wall underneath a pedestal sink and a toilet.  I have seen these before under pedestal sinks, but today was the first time to see one behind a toilet.  


I have no clue what purpose they serve, and have not been able to find anyone who knows, either.


All  I can say is, boy, they sure make it difficult to get the wallpaper to lie nicely against the wall, and to trim it neatly around the little gizmo. Digital Image

Mirror Tar + Wallpaper = Bad Stains!!

August 14, 2014

Digital ImageThe dining room wall to be papered in this Clear Lake home was originally covered in floor-to-ceiling mirrors. When the glass guys removed the mirrors, these big globs of black tar (used to adhere the mirror to the wall) were left behind. (the two black spots on the right of the photo) Oily tar like this is very bad for wallpaper, because it will bleed through the paper, creating a dark stain on the surface of the paper.

Oil-based KILZ is a wonderful product for sealing stains like this (and also blood, ink, water, rust, etc.) However, since KILZ is oil-based, and so is the tar, when the KILZ is applied to the tar, instead of sealing it, it seems to reactivate it, and mixes with it, and would allow the tar to come in contact with the wallpaper – which means a dark stain.

So to prevent this, I’ve found that, rather than try to seal off the tar, it’s best to remove it completely. So on the left of the photo, you see where I’ve taken a Stanley knife and cut out the surface of the Sheetrock, taking the icky tar with it.

Now I have Sheetrock with an torn, uneven surface, which needs to be skim-floated to smooth it out. But putting water-based joint compound on top of torn Sheetrock causes bubbles, and bubbles would show under the wallpaper. To counter that, I have applied Gardz (by Zinzer), a sort of miracle cure for torn drywall, over the torn area. Once it’s dry, moisture won’t penetrate it, and I could skim-float the wall with joint compound with no worries about bubbling.

Still, some residue of tar remains on the wall. I need the joint compound to smooth the wall, but I have found that “mud,” as we call it, also helps to seal the tar. Plus it is porous and allows the sealer to soak in, creating a better seal.

So, once the mud is dry and sanded, I am going to put Gardz on the area. Gardz is a very thin, watery sealer that will soak into the mud, hopefully sealing it. Once that is dry, I will apply a coat of oil-based KILZ. KILZ is a wonderful sealer and stain-blocker. If any stains continue to show through, I will apply more coats of KILZ, and possibly more coats of mud, as well.

Powder Room Drama

August 13, 2014

Digital Image Digital Image Digital ImageDigital ImageHow does gold-on-black strike you for a little drama in a powder room?  I say – WOW!  This under-the-stairs powder room in EADO had been through three changes of paint colors, but still was uninspiring.  The homeowner is a gal with a vibrant personality, so something more dramatic was calling her.  She LOVED it!  A large, carved, gold mirror will be added, pumping up the volume even more.

There were some real challenges to this job, however.  With a regular geometric pattern like this, your eye wants to see the same element at the top of the wall all the way around the room, and ditto for the vertical butts next to the door molding.  In addition, the pattern should match perfectly (or as nearly as possible) in the corners.  But the walls in this room were wildly off-plumb, and the ceiling was not even trying to be level.  This meant that at the ceiling, the pattern would look like it was marching up or down hill, and in the corners there would be noticeable mismatches from floor to ceiling.

I advised the homeowner about this, and she understood the constraints of the room and gave her OK.  But I knew that those mismatches would look pretty obvious and pretty terrible.  So I thought about it a while and came up with a way to make everything look pretty darned good.

Even though it’s a constant geometric pattern, it’s small and busy, so I knew the eye wouldn’t notice if it went a little off-kilter at the ceiling.  Besides, since the room was under the stairs, much of the ceiling was sloped, and there is no way you can keep the “X’s” marching straight across a sloped ceiling. 

But where the eye would notice something off-kilter would be in the corners.  If the paper ran into an un-plumb corner, the pattern would become disfigured, with part of the motif larger at the top of the wall and then getting cut off narrower at the bottom of the wall.  If I hung a plump strip next to that, it would mis-match horribly.

So I thought, “Why not hang the next strip NOT plumb?”  That way, I could tilt the paper and align it so the pattern on the new strip matched the previous strip perfectly.  It would mean that the design would go crooked (downhill) along the ceiling line.  But as mentioned above, the ceiling line was not really important in this room.

This turned out to be the perfect solution.  There were no glaring mis-matches, and no one noticed that the “X’s” along the ceiling or door frames are not absolutely level or plumb. 

In fact, when the homeowner came in to look at the room, she mentioned more than once that “It looks like one continuous piece of paper.”  Meaning, you can’t see the seams, nor any mismatches in the corners.  Mission accomplished!  🙂

This wallpaper pattern is by York Wallcoverings, and was bought at a discounted price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby.  (713) 520-6262 or  Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.