Archive for January, 2015

Good Wall Prep Will Follow You

January 20, 2015

I papered a client’s home years ago, and will soon do work in her new home in Bellaire. She told the designer, “Julie is very particular about the primer she uses, and it will seal the wall so I can remove the paper later with no damage to the wall.”

That is true – a good primer formulated for wallpaper applied to a sound surface is one of the keys to getting a good wallpaper job. I am impressed that this home owner remembered that, from years ago, values it, and wants the same thing in this new home.

This is a pretty major house, built with great care. The interior designer overseeing all this is Kimberly Van Belle-Ebel, of KV Designs.

Spliced Roll of Grasscloth

January 17, 2015

Digital Image
You are looking at the back of a strip of grasscloth. See the slightly darker horizontal stripe, between my scissors and razor blade? That is a piece of paper that the manufacturer has pasted across the back of the strip, covering the joint where one strip of paper ended and the next one began. When they do this to regular wallpaper, it pretty well ruins several feet of paper, because it leaves a noticeable bump / ridge under the paper. But in this case, the grasscloth is thick enough to disguise the slight difference in height where the patch is. Once it was pasted and on the wall, you could not even guess it was there!

If You Choose Grasscloth, Expect to See Paneling

January 16, 2015

Digital Image

Digital Image
There is nothing wrong here – this is what grasscloth is supposed to look like. It is, according to the manufacturers, “part of the inherent natural beauty of the natural material.”

All of the strips in the photos above are from the same “run,” meaning, they were all made a the same time. In the second photo, all three strips came off the same bolt of material. As you can see, there are light and dark areas, and abrupt changes in color even in the middle of a strip.

Indeed, it’s pretty hard to avoid this look when using undyed fibers, because the ladies who make grasscloth by sewing the material onto the backing are just grabbing handfuls of grass and reeds from the pile, and the pile is made up of whatever they cut from the fields and marshes. Even when they dye the fibers, there can be very noticeable differences in color from strip to strip, and even within each strip (for instance, darker color on the outer edges of the strip). Most grasscloth is made in China and Japan, with better quality control coming from Japanese factories IMO.

People love textured wallcoverings, and grasscloth is very popular right now. I, personally, greatly dislike this look, and try to steer my clients toward the faux products, which are much more predictable in appearance. Many people say they understand and that they won’t mind the paneled effect. But once it’s on the wall, I think many of them are surprised at how extreme the color difference can be.

On the other hand, many people don’t even see it. When the room above was finished, this client, for example, said to me, “Julles, I know you said you don’t like grasscloth. What about it don’t you like? Because I think this looks fabulous!”

A Passion for Purple

January 14, 2015

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image
Well, here is my day in photos. Just one accent wall in a dining room in near northwest Houston. The walls had a slight texture, so I had to “skim-float” and sand them, to smooth them out. Sorry, no photos of that. In the top photo, the walls have been smoothed, sanded, primed, and I’m ready to hang. The wallpaper brand is WallQuest, their EcoChic linbe, which I like to work with.

Because it’s a dark paper, and because wallpaper often shrinks a little, to avoid the white wall showing, I have striped under where the seams will fall with a matching color of paint. Then several pictures of the cute and lively paper, showing how the homeowners have chosen complementary paint colors for the other walls. I like having a slightly darker shade below the chair rail molding, because it lends weight and balance to the lower area.

I took care to center the pattern on the wall, so the large circles fell smack in the middle, and so equal circles landed on both the right and the left ends of the wall, as well as full circles at the top and bottom of each strip.

The second-to-last two photos are interesting. The chair rail in this room was level, so the circles march along it evenly. But the ceiling was not level, as is pretty common, especially in rooms with vaulted ceilings such as this one. This ceiling dipped down on both the right and left sides of the wall. If I had trimmed the paper along the ceiling line, then some of the pattern would be cut off on either end. On a geometric pattern like this, that would be pretty noticeable.

So, what I did was, on those sloping ends, I wrapped the paper up onto the vaulted ceiling a little bit, and then, instead of cutting along the line where the ceiling meets the wall, I cut along the pattern, to keep the pattern consistent with what was in the center of the walls. The paper in those areas wraps up onto the ceiling a little, but you hardly notice it from the floor. And if I had not done it that way, you definitely would see the pattern cut off at the top.

Then, the day’s trash, all in one neat package, ready for the recycle bin. No need for a plastic trash bag!

This wallpaper pattern is by WallQuest, 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.

Protecting the Wall While Double Cutting – What Is This Funny Plastic Strip?

January 13, 2015

Digital Image
We call this strip of clear polycarbonate plastic a “Boggess strip,” after the last name of the guy (a member of the Wallcovering Installers Association, as am I ) who invented it. It is flexible and somewhat hard, and we use it to cut on, to protect the surface underneath.

Before I got a basswood board table, which you can directly on, I would put one of these strips on my table to protect it from cuts from the razor blade when hand-trimming wallpaper. But mostly we use the Boggess strips when cutting on the wall (double cutting – a type of splice). When cutting through two layers of paper, it’s tricky to know how much pressure to use, to get through both sheets of paper, but not score the wall. It’s really important to not cut into the wall, because, as wallpaper dries, it shrinks a little, and that shrinkage will put tension on the wall, and that tension can cause the surface of the wall to pull away, causing gaping seams, or even curling edges.

Putting one of the plastic strips underneath the seam before cutting will prevent that.

It’s a bit of a juggling act, all these layers of plastic and paper, and you have to move quickly before one strip or the other starts to dry, and then you’ve got to clean the paste off the plastic strip before you use it again.

It’s an invaluable invention, and I’m glad I have a roll of it in my toolbox.

Flaw of the Day – Banged Edges

January 11, 2015

Digital Image
I hate banged edges in any form, but these go way beyond the typical. The wallpaper will flatten out a little once it gets on the wall and dries, but these bashes won’t completely disappear, not at all.

Luckily, this is grasscloth, and I usually trim the edges off anyway, in order to engineer the strips to be certain widths so each wall can look balanced.

Still, you gotta wonder why the manufacturer doesn’t put a little bubble wrap in the bottom of the box!!!

Natural Grasscloth Going Up

January 10, 2015

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image
This dining room and entry were originally papered with grasscloth. Somewhere along the line, the grasscloth was painted over – twice. (Sorry – no pics of that. 😦 ) The homeowner wanted to bring grasscloth back into the room.

Even though grasscloth is textured, it’s best to hang it on a smooth wall, so the bumps and ridges from the underlying surface don’t show through, and so it has a smooth surface to stick completely to, not just on the tops of the texture bumps.

Try as I could, I could NOT get that old grasscloth off. The layers of paint had solidified it. So I “skim floated” joint compound (kinda like plaster) over all the walls, let dry, which took over night because the compound was so thick, to cover the deep ridges in the grasscloth. Then I sanded it smooth, vacuumed and then wiped the dust of with a damp sponge, and finally primed with Gardz, which I love for this purpose because it soaks into the porous joint compound and seals it very nicely. It makes a good surface to hang wallpaper on.

So in the photos you see the new grasscloth going up, on the left side of the corner, and the newly-smoothed wall on the right. Tomorrow I will finish the room, two remaining walls, each with a pass-through window.

So far I’m pretty happy with this grasscloth. It is not showing the shading and paneling effect as badly as many others do, and the natural color is really warming up the room.

“Electronic Ink Gives Walls Mood-Changing Color”

January 9, 2015

Now here’s something new – and wacky. Walls that can be programed to change colors, display graphics, write words, much more. And, yes – pricy.

Flaw of the Day – Misprint

January 8, 2015

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image
After priming the room, and then getting all set up, I hung the first strip of this beautiful “Flowering Quince” wallpaper by Clarence House. Then when I went to hang the second strip, I discovered that the paper had been misprinted. This is an expensive paper going in a very nice new home, and the client should not have to live with a mismatch of this scale.

I took off the two strips and saved them, washed the wall clean, and we will wait for the manufacturer to reprint a new run – which may take a while, as this order took six weeks to arrive, and they will probably wait until they run out of this run, before printing new paper, so we can expect it to take many months. 😦 As you can see in the third photo, a glimpse of how the room will look when finished, it will be worth the wait.

When you run into defects like this, the manufacturer wants you to save all the paper and return it to the company. And they usually have rules about not hanging more than three strips, nor do they want you to cut up the rolls of paper. We are good in this respect, because I only hung the two strips, and had only cut those two strips off the rolls. So most of the paper is intact. The defect is easy to see, and easily a manufacturing problem, so, hopefully, there will be no hassle from the manufacturer in replacing this paper.

Still, it’s quite a hassle for the homeowner, who would very much like to get her new home finished and moved into. And it’s problematic for me, too, because it means a lost day of work.

Textured Paintable Wallpaper

January 7, 2015

Digital Image

Digital Image
I hung this textured, paintable wallpaper several years ago in the hallway of a ranch style home in Westbury (Houston). I was back to do another job today, and had a chance to get a photo of the paper once it was painted a soft Ceylon green.