Archive for December, 2015

Keeping the Waves at the Top

December 18, 2015
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I hung this wallpaper in a nursery in Montrose, Houston. The crown molding on the left half of the wall was level. But as I moved to the right, the molding went off-level, and that meant that the pattern design started to be chopped off at the top of the wall.

Lowering the design on the next strip to keep it from being chopped off would mean that the pattern would not match the pattern on the previous strip. So I matched the pattern along the full height of the wall, except for the very top row. For this row, I cut horizontally across the width of the strip, roughly following the outline of the design. I could have cut a straight line, but I thought that following the design would do a better job of disguising the cut.

Then I lowered the pattern until it fell below the crown molding just where I wanted it to. The result was a little bit of an overlap onto the rest of the strip below it. I simply added a little extra paste, smoothed everything out, and – voilà!

Once the paper dries, it will shrink and the overlap will be minimal. Plus, at 10′ up, it would be hard to detect even if you were looking directly at it.

The wallpaper pattern is by Waverly, for York Wall.

A Small Adjustment to the Screws is Called for

December 17, 2015

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What you are looking at is the bracket that holds a towel bar in place in this bathroom. I have removed the bar and the outer decorative hardware, and just the support bracket is left. When I first touched this towel bar (not shown), everything was solid and fit together well.

However, after I finished wallpapering the room and went to put the towel bar back up, the bar would not stay in the brackets! The bar was too short, and kept falling out.

This did not make sense, since I had put the bracket back into exactly the same holes in the wall that I had removed it from. I took everything apart again, to try to figure out why the space was suddenly too wide to hold the bar.

Easy solution. See the screw on the top of the bracket, and the gap between the screw and the metal of the bracket? This gap allows you to slide the bracket to the right or to the left. When I replaced the brackets, I had not paid attention to where the screw sat within this 1/2″ space. As it turns out, that 1/2″ was quite important.

Once I slid the bracket so it was closer to the twin bracket on the opposite side of the towel bar, it closed the gap enough that the towel bar fit perfectly into the supports.

I Am Totally Quaking in Fear of This Home’s Guard Dog

December 16, 2015

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He even blends in with my drop cloths!

Hanging a Pre-Pasted Wallpaper

December 15, 2015
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Pre-pasted wallpapers can be vinyl, paper, or non-woven. This particular wallpaper is comprised of a layer of solid vinyl bonded to a yellowy-brown paper backing, and is pre-pasted. This means that a thin layer of dry paste has been embedded onto the back, so all you have to do is dip it in water to activate the paste.

Most of my friends snicker at this method, believing it to be amateur and DIY-ish. I, however, really like most pre-pasted wallpapers, and find them much quicker to hang, and sometimes I can even get away with rolling the paper out on the floor, instead of lugging in my big, loppy pasting table.

In the photo, you see my green trough filled with water, sitting on towels, on top of plastic. A strip of wallpaper has been cut to the appropriate length, rolled up, and has been inserted into the water. As the strip is unrolled, the backing is exposed to the water, activating the paste. Near the bottom of the photo, part of the wet wallpaper has been loosely folded onto itself, pasted-side-to-pasted side. This is called booking. Way to the left of the photo is a strip that has been completely pasted and booked, and is now sitting for a few minutes before being taken to the wall.

This waiting period is an important step, because it allows all the paste to become activated equally, it allows all the paper backing to absorb water and expand to a uniform width, excess water can run off, bubbling on the wall is minimized, it makes the wet, sticky, slippery material much easier to handle, as well as other benefits.

When working with pre-pasted papers, I usually run a little bit of paste around the corners, baseboards, and ceiling line, and roll a very light coat of paste onto the wall, particularly where the seams will hit, to augment the manufacturer’s paste already on the back of the paper.

Once the booked strip has sat for the right length of time, it is taken to the wall, the top portion is unbooked, positioned, smoothed, trimmed, and then ditto with the lower portion.

I find the whole process much faster than when you have to paste each strip on the table, and everything else about the installation (adhesion, workability, slip, expansion/shrinking, strength, etc.) is about the same as with hand-pasted papers.

Silver Cork Wallpaper, Brass Fixtures, and Marble Trough Sink

December 14, 2015

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I hung this silver cork wallpaper in a powder room in a Montrose townhouse a few months ago, and the homeowners were kind enough to send me this photo, with the new sink and faucets and accessories all in place. Man, this looks like a show house!

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

Coordinating Companion Papers in a Powder Room

December 13, 2015
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These homeowners had their painters strip off the old (dark red) wallpaper, and were eager to get the new wallpaper up in time for their annual Christmas Eve party. Even though I am booked up with work through most of March, I had an unexpected opening, and was able to get their paper up today.

It was a little nip-and-tuck, though, because they had ordered their paper without first consulting a paperhanger, and, as commonly happens, they ordered too little. 😦 So, they had to pay mega bucks to get the necessary double roll shipped via 2nd Day Air, smack in the middle of the holiday shipping season. Happily, it got here 12 hours before the install day, and I was able to pick it up from the wallpaper store, to save the client the trip into town. We were also lucky that it was the same run number.

The painters had done a good enough job stripping off the old paper, and originally, I thought all that I would have to do would be to prime the walls. But once I got to scrutinizing the walls, particularly the corners and edges, I knew that the walls could be in better shape. So I skim-floated and sanded just about everything, creating a very smooth, homogenous surface for the new wallpaper. All this added about three hours to my workday, plus some dust from sanding (which I vacuumed and wiped up).

The job would have looked good enough if I had hung the paper on the painters’ “prepped” walls. But I was glad that I had taken the extra time and labor to smooth the walls and ceiling, because the finished job looked fantastic, with no uneven areas or bumps showing under the paper, nor any areas raising questions regarding adhesion.

I am not usually a fan of wallpaper on the ceiling, especially when it’s a dark paper. But in small powder rooms, it can be very appealing – some designers call this sort of treatment in a small room a “jewel box.”

The two wallpaper patterns are by Designer Wallpapers, which is by Seabrook Wallpaper. They are in the same colorway, and are designed to work together, as coordinating, or companion, patterns.

The murky brown, fuzzily striped pattern went on the ceiling. A coordinating brown, hazy pattern went on the walls, and it featured a foggy medallion in a traditional motif. The finished room, with the dark vanity, dark granite countertop, and oil-rubbed bronze light fixtures, looked fantastic. To me, it looked like something out of a 14th Century castle.

Unfortunately, all of these elements don’t show up on the photos (Man, is it difficult to get photographs of tiny rooms!!) But you get the idea. And, I can tell you – this finished powder room looks fantastic.

AND … it will be ready to receive guests at the homeowners’ party on Christmas Eve.

I hung this wallpaper in a powder room in Barker’s Landing, near I-10 / Memorial and Hwy 6, in west Houston. (Interestingly enough, I had done another job, in a dining room, in this same subdivision, just a few months ago.) It is by Designer Wallpapers, which is made by Seabrook, and was unusually nice to work with. Pattern numbers are FR61205 and FR61405. It was bought at a discounted price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or dorotasouthwestern@hotmail.com. Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

I Got Chewed Out By the Mailman Today

December 12, 2015
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I found this note on my window today. The thing is, I know the routine, plus the homeowner had asked me to not block the mailbox. So I thought I had parked far enough back so he could get to the box. For me, this meant I could reach my side doors easily, but I had to walk through grass and mud to access my rear doors.

I live in the heart of the city, and our mail carriers WALK their route, carrying letters up to mailboxes on people’s front porches. But in the suburbs, mailboxes are out near the curb, and all the mail carrier has to do is drive along with his window down and slip mail into the boxes, without ever leaving the comfort of his vehicle.

Chicken-and-egg question: Who has priority? The home repair tech, who is back and forth to his truck many times a day, but only for a day or two? Or the U.S. mail carrier, who has a lot of mailboxes to stuff, day after day?

I have to admit – this is a very polite note. My client thought it might have come from the neighborhood security patrol, rather than from the postal employee.

Laura Ashley for English Country Cottage Charm

December 11, 2015
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Decorating themes by Welsh designer Laura Ashley were all the rage in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s, and every now and then a modern-day homeowner seeks the charm of this very British, flowered, cottagey look. Indeed, today’s client had stored this wallpaper (left over from a previous house) for several years. It was still in good condition, and hung very nicely.

I hung this on just one wall of a powder room in a large home in Sugarland (Houston). Usually I recommend papering all the rooms in a powder room, because such a small room can look very chopped up if different walls are treated differently. But this pattern has so much going on, and is so “sweet,” that putting it on all the walls might have been overwhelming. I think the homeowner made the right decision by putting it on only the wall you see when you first walk in.

This is a solid vinyl material on paper backing, pre-pasted, and the manufacturer is Imperial. Laura Ashley used to be made by another company, and required using their own special (and difficult to get) paste, or you would get horrible bubbles. This version made by Imperial was much nicer to work with.

I don’t usually like solid vinyl material on a paper backing, especially the pre-pasted varieties. In humid rooms (steamy bathrooms), it is prone to the paper backing absorbing moisture and curling back at the seams, and also the vinyl layer can even delaminate from the backing. This type of problem is impossible to repaste or repair.

I didn’t mention anything to the homeowner, though, because, well, gee – she already had the paper. It was funny, though, because she had read my information about which papers to buy and which to avoid, and she sheepishly brought up the fact that this was “one of the papers you don’t like.”

I am sure she will be fine, though. This powder room will not be subject to humidity, and I put a good primer on the wall, plus used additional adhesive to ensure a tight bond. I predict that it will hold up quite nicely.

Pink Flamingos Again Today, in Another Little Girl’s Bathroom

December 10, 2015
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This pink painted bathroom is cute for a little girl – but plenty boring. The mother is an interior designer, and wanted to jazz up the room with this adorable flamingo pattern. In fact, I hung this same wallpaper two months ago in another little girl’s bathroom.

The family is planning to pull out and replace that window. If I had known this, I would not have hung the wallpaper today. It’s quite likely that replacing the window will damage the wallpaper, and some of the surrounding wall. Luckily, this wall is short and narrow, and the wallpaper is made to strip off easily, so hopefully if the new wooden trim does not cover damaged areas well enough, it will be relatively simple for me to redo that wall.

I hung this in a completely remodeled home in Tanglewood, Houston. It is by Cole & Son, a British company, and is a paste-the-wall product on a non-woven substrate. The interior designer is Elizabeth Mann.

Unhappy – Visible Seams Today – But a Solution

December 9, 2015
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I don’t often work in offices or businesses or commercial spaces, but today I did take on a job in an office park (photo 1) off Westpark & Chimney Rock in southwest Houston. It was a pipeline company that was spiffing up their offices, and everyone who worked there was positively delightful.

The wallpaper, however, was not quite so agreeable.

In the second photo, you see the painted wall before I got started. I rolled on a coat of Gardz, a clear primer. Then started hanging this small herringbone pattern by Schumacher. Although I followed the manufacture’s instructions to reverse-hang the goods (a trick to minimize color variances by hanging every other strip upside down, so you are placing the same sides of the wallpaper next to each other – it’s easier to understand if you are actually doing it, rather than typing it. 🙂 )

Anyway, as you can see in the next photo, there is a visible vertical 1/4″ wide line down each seam, between each strip of wallpaper.

I didn’t think it looked good, and the other guys working on the jobsite noticed it, too, so I called the interior designer, who called the clients. Bottom line: Although we all acknowledged that it didn’t look great, it wasn’t horrible, and besides, there would be furniture and a large painting on that wall, which would pretty much cover the white lines, as well as distract your attention to more interesting things (the oil painting).

So, they gave the go-ahead to continue hanging the paper. Still, I thought it could look better.

I was unable to remove the four existing strips, due to surface failure when attempting to pull those off the wall – Meaning, when the wallpaper, which is on a non-woven substrate, which is designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece with no damage to the wall, when I pulled it off the wall, some of the paint came away from the wall, too, leaving an uneven surface on the wall, which would leave dips and bumps under the new wallpaper. I had Gardz’ed the wall, so I thought the surface was stable. But if the paint beneath my primer is not sticking to the drywall, or if there are many layers of paint and they are not all compatible, or dust, or crumbling paint, or who knows what, you can have layers delaminating (coming apart), which is what I had today.

Long story short, I thought the white vertical lines looked better than crumbling walls and bumps under the paper. So I left those strips up on the wall, and focused on the remaining five strips.

Since it was a pattern that allowed it, what I did was, instead of using Schumacher’s factory cut edge, I used my 6′ straightedge and razor blades to trim off 1″ or so from either edge of each 9′ strip of wallpaper, making sure to continue the reverse-hang rhythm, while also making sure the “up” or “down” angle of the herringbone pattern lined up correctly with the pattern on the strips on either side.

This was tedious, but it proved to be the right solution. If you really looked at the wall, you could still see some of the seams, and there was still a bit of white discoloration. But the overall effect was MUCH more pleasing, and definitely worth the extra effort. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the finished wall with the hand-trimmed wallpaper.

Interestingly, if you look closely at the “before” photo (#2), you can see a faint vertical white line on the painted wall, before any wallpaper even went up.  This supports the designer’s theory that the strong fluorescent light is at least partly to blame for those white lines.

The interior designer for this job is Janet Dowlearn.