Silk Wallpaper – Sealed, Trimmed, Railroaded, No VOC’s

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image Today’s wallpaper install was a little atypical. The interior designer had found some silk fabric that the he and the homeowner (a soon-to-be-first-time-mother!) loved. It was to go in the bathroom adjoining the new nursery. The designer had the fabric mounted on a 36″ wide non-woven backing, which is a common contemporary substrate for wallpaper. He went a step further and had the material sealed, to make it more durable and to prevent stains. Good move, especially in a child’s bathroom!

The designer had ordered enough square footage of the material to cover the one wall the homeowners wanted papered. However, the material was 36″ wide, and the wall was 48″ wide, so I needed two 9′ strips to cover the wall. So, while there was enough square footage, there was not enough running length to provide two 9′ strips.

I played with it a while and figured that there was enough to cover the wall if I ran the paper horizontally (called “railroading”) instead of hanging it vertically. This meant two horizontal seams instead of one vertical seam, and it meant that the “clouds” would be positioned sideways. I discussed this with the homeowner, and she was fine with it – the most important thing was to get the beautiful fabric and color up on the wall…and before the baby came!

The backing was uneven in width, plus, some of the silk had gotten wrinkled at the edges where it was attached to the backing. So the goods had to be hand-trimmed to cut off the selvedge edge and the wrinkles, and to straighten out the edges and get them parallel. That’s what I’m doing in Photo 1.

In addition, the wall was a little less than 9′ high. So, with 36″ wide material, I had to be careful how much I trimmed off each edge, so I would end up with three strips of paper that, stacked one atop the other, would be wide enough to cover that wall. Plus, because the seams would be very visible, the panels needed to be similar enough in width to look uniform on the wall.

I ended up trimming two strips to 34.5″ wide, and left the final one untrimmed on the bottom edge, so I could trim it precisely against the baseboard once it was in place.

In the second photo, you see the paper running horizontally, as it butts up against the doorway, waiting for the last piece to be positioned below it. The third shot shows the finished wall. You can see that this “water-stained” pattern has no design to match, so all of the seams carry a mis-match. Photo 4 is a close-up of the mis-match. From a distance, you don’t notice it much, and it’s considered part of the hand-crafted appeal of this product.

Another interesting thing is that, the edges that I cut by hand didn’t come together on the wall as nicely as most wallpapers do. I only had two seams, but I wasn’t 100% in love with the way the first seam looked, so, even though I know that most papers pull closer to the wall and look much better when they dry, I wanted the second seam to look better while I was still there.

So I did what we call a double cut – which is a fancy paperhanger’s term for a splice. I overlapped the seam area about a half of an inch, taking care to keep the proportions as close to 34.5″ wide as possible (who’s gonna notice a half an inch, or even an inch, difference in width?!), protected the bottom strip of silk paper with waxed paper to prevent paste from staining it, put padding beneath the area to protect the wall from being cut into, and then used a straight edge and a new, sharp razor blade to cut through both layers of paper (but not through the padding).

Once the excess paper on either side of the splice, and the padding beneath it, were removed, the seam was nice and flat and perfectly butted. The pattern mis-match was still there, but that’s just the nature of the beast.

As you can see, the finished wall looks great!

Oh, also, like many first-time parents, the homeowners were concerned with fumes and chemicals getting into the baby’s room. I made sure to keep the door between the bathroom and the nursery closed, and I used a primer that, although it has a little scent, contains no VOC’s or harmful fumes.

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