Archive for May, 2016

Beautiful View Today

May 18, 2016
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This week, I am wallpapering a “her” master bathroom in a home west of Tanglewood (Houston). There isn’t room in the house for my work table, so I set everything up on the patio just outside. No complaints!

(Although I am having a little trouble with the hot Texas sun drying out my strips of wallpaper almost as fast as I get them pasted. Keeping the pasted strips inside a plastic bag is helping to keep themΒ  pliableand viable.)

Flames, Tails, or Swirls?

May 17, 2016
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Top Photo: Which do you prefer? … The powder room’s original blue and white mini-print, or the grey and silver swirly geometric with feeling of upward movement? The original small pattern was good in its day, but the new homeowner had updated this under-the-stairs powder room in a Galleria-area townhome with a new marble countertop, and brushed nickel light fixture, faucet, and towel ring. The blue country-ish small print no longer cut it.

After studying magazines, HGTV, and HOUZZ, the homeowner thought she wanted a geometric pattern. She was also concerned about getting the right shade of grey to coordinate with the marble counter top. And she wanted something that was youthful, yet would not soon go out of style. The wallpaper seller (read below), and I both encouraged her to explore other patterns.

This homeowner took her time, did research, got samples, sought input – and settled on this softer, more fluid take on a geometric design. The shade of grey is on the cool side, and goes perfectly with the marble. She chose a complimentary mid-tone grey paint for the vanity cabinet (not shown).

The painters had prepped right over the old wallpaper, and it was intact and tight to the wall. So, in this case, rather than strip the old paper, which would have raised many ugly heads, I left it on the wall and skim-floated over it (the white areas show this), and then sealed everything with Gardz, a penetrating sealer. That’s what you are seeing in the first photo.

I love the way the metallic areas (really vinyl / Mylar) reflect in the top of the toilet. πŸ™‚

This wallpaper pattern is by York, and I hung the exact same thing a few months ago, also in a powder room. 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 was happy to consult with this homeowner several times before the wallpaper went up. She took her time and defined her likes and the parameters of the room. Result? She loved the finished powder room, with its soft, upward-moving swirly pattern.

What’s cool is, she said, “I realized that I don’t even really like geometrics.” She had been swept along with what is popular right now in the media. I’m glad she settled on this softer-yet-energizing pattern, which suits her taste and the room perfectly.

More Reasons NOT to Let the Painters Prep the Walls for Wallpaper

May 16, 2016
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This week, I got at least three calls / e-mails that declared: “Our painters prepped the walls for you, so everything is ready to go.” NOT TRUE! Painters are good at painting, and at prepping walls and woodwork for paint. For PAINT. So why would you have them prep the walls for WALLPAPER?

I run into this a lot. I think the painters are at the house working on something else (like PAINT), and they want to pick up a little extra money, so they tell the homeowners that they can prep the walls for the paperhanger. Folks – don’t fall for it. Let the wallpaper professional do what he / she is good at. Let the WALLPAPER HANGER prep the walls, not the painter (or anyone else).

Here’s what I encountered today. The walls in this bathroom were originally textured. The painters (or contractor or some other worker) skim floated the walls to smooth them. They did a decent job. In the middle of the walls.

But look closer. These guys did not bother to remove the switch plates or the light fixtures (top photo), so there are rough areas under where the new wallpaper will go, plus a difference in height of the wall surface. I always remove towel bars and light fixtures and smooth the wall as completely as possible.

They also did not get the smoothing compound tightly into corners or along the ceiling and baseboards (second photo). This leaves a gap or jagged area where the wallpaper is supposed to be trying to hold onto the wall. Not good at all. I ask myself, “Is this a good bed for the wallpaper to lie in?” What you see in the photo is not. I always squish the smoothing compound into the corner, and then take my finger and run it along there, like you would with caulk, creating a smooth transition, which gives the wallpaper something solid to grab ahold of.

The painters did a good job of sanding the walls smooth, but they did not wipe dust off the walls. Nothing sticks to dust. Not paint, not primer, and not wallpaper. These things will “kinda” stick, but once tension / torque is put on the wall (by drying / shrinking paint or wallpaper), the subsurface is likely to let go, resulting in peeling paint or curling seams. It is imperative that sanding dust be wiped off the wall with a damp sponge, rinsed frequently, before paint or wallpaper are applied.

One e-mail I got the week stated that the painters had “prepped the walls” (whatever that means), and then applied KILZ 2 as a primer. “These guys prep walls for a high-end interior designer all the time, and this is what they use.” But why would you not ask the paperhanger who is going to hang the paper which primer he / she prefers? KILZ 2 is a sealer and stain blocker. It is not a wallpaper primer. It was developed as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to KILZ Original, but is not nearly as good. It is also latex, which is not a good choice under wallpaper.

Once a product is on the wall, it’s on there. You can’t get it off. So you can only go over it with something more suitable. This results in more and more layers piled up on the wall, some of which may be compatible and may adhere to one another, and some of which may not. Now put paste, wallpaper, and tension-while-drying on top of that. See where this is going?

If you want to have your painter prep the walls for wallpaper – go ahead. But as I tell my clients: You can pay your painter to “prep the walls,” but you’re going to pay me to do it over again.

A Word to the Wise – Measuring, Ordering, Prepping Walls

May 15, 2016

People! Please do NOT let your painter or handyman or Uncle Billy “prep the walls for paper.” They may be good at painting or at general home repairs, but they do not know the intricacies of wallpaper, or what constitutes a properly smooth and sound and sealed surface, nor are they familiar with or know where to purchase wallpaper-specific primers. Trust me – I am much better at wall prep than they are.

As I tell my clients, “You can pay your painter to prep the walls, but you will have to pay me to do it over again.”

And, People! Please do NOT pull out your ruler and calculator and try to measure the room yourself, and do NOT go by any “guides” posted on-line, nor by the calculations of someone who works in a paint store and has a few wallpaper books on display.

Figuring up how much wallpaper to buy is multi-faceted, and can be tricky. Many concepts need to be factored in – type of paper, manufacturer, pattern repeat, width of paper, length of roll, height of wall, on and on.

And, People! Do NOT order your paper until the walls have been properly measured by a professional. A professional PAPERHANGER, that is, not a professional painter or Sheetrocker.

Major Transformation – From Dark & Dated to Sleek, Serene & Modern

May 14, 2016
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This under-the-stairs powder room in a townhome in Montrose (Houston) was originally papered in a dark murky blue striped wallpaper – very trendy back in the early ’90’s when this home was built (just like the shiny gold faucet and towel ring πŸ™‚ ).

Neal LeBouef of L Design Group is helping the new homeowners bring their home into the New Millennium, with a sleeker, cleaner, and more contemporary look.

I don’t like grasscloth in bathrooms because it stains and runs when it gets splashed with water, and I really dislike the shading and paneling (color variations between strips) inherent to grasscloth. But I really do like Neal’s choice of this faux grass product! Thibaut Designs’s Bankun Raffia is a faux grasscloth in a woven pattern that has real texture and a subtle shadowing effect. It looks a whole lot like the real thing, but is free of the color defects of real grass, and is much more durable in wet areas.

I have hung this pattern many times, and it always looks crisp and clean and serene and, depending on the color, tailored and handsome. It’s thick, which makes it a little difficult to work around corners, but after many hangs, I’ve got the corners mastered.

In this room, I was unable to get the original wallpaper off the walls. It was coming off in 1″ pieces, and the 1′ square section I did get off took more than an hour, and left the wall a mess. So I opted to smooth over any uneven areas, and then sealed the paper with Gardz, by Zinsser, which soaks into porous materials like this (won’t work on vinyl or anything with a gloss), and then seals it, drying hard. It dries fast, and is suitable for hanging new wallpaper on top of it.

In the second photo, you see one wall in the original dark paper, and the wall to the right covered with the new fake grasscloth. With all the walls covered, the new look is fantastic. The shiny gold faucets will be changed, and a new light fixture and mirror will be added.

A Twitter With Birds in a Powder Room

May 13, 2016
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The homeowner was ecstatic with this cute and lively wallpaper. In fact, she said she has other bird-themed accents for her home (like framed Audubon prints), and worries that people might call her the “Crazy Bird Lady.” Well, no fear of that! This wallpaper pattern is very popular, and I have hung it many times in several colors.

This went in a powder room in the Heights, which has beaded-board paneling going about 4′ up the wall, a brick floor, a hanging pendant light fixture, and 12′ ceilings. The builder is Dee Todd-Simmons of HDT Builders, who works primarily in the Heights, and who does phenomenal work and exceptional quality on custom and spec homes – plus, she is great to work for.

This wallpaper pattern is called “A Twitter,” and is by Schumacher, 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.

Because it was Schumacher, I anticipated printing defects, and I was not disappointed – I had to discard a certain amount of paper due to printing flaws, and other strips I was able to engineer so that the flawed area would be cut off by door frames, etc.

From Child-Centric to Adult-Sophisticated in Two Days

May 12, 2016

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In the first photo, “children use this bathroom,” is the message, loud and clear. This is a home in Katy (west Houston).

The new homeowners don’t have kids (yet), but they do have overnight guests, and they weren’t ready to commit to bright colors and stripes. They wanted something more adult-friendly.

Over two days, I stripped off the primary color stripes, primed the surface, and then hung the new selection in this hall bath, which consisted of a sink room and a potty/tub room.

The transformation is nothing short of “Wow!”

The homeowners loved it (they even asked me to measure another bathroom they might want to wallpaper), and this bathroom will surely be soothing and attractive to visiting guests.

This wallpaper pattern is a textured solid vinyl product on a paper backing 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.

A Home’s Decorating History

May 11, 2016
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Today I stripped wallpaper off a 2-room bathroom in Katy (Houston). There were several layers of paper underneath, and it was fun to see the changes the room had been through. Well, actually, in this case, three of the four papers were very similar, and brightly-colored with playful designs, so it appears the homeowners were shooting for a fun, colorful bathroom for their children.

Scraps of the previous papers were found under the brackets for the towel bars, and one was lying on top of some decorative molding around the light box / fur down. The first choice was a pretty bland tan paper with tiny brown leaves and vines on it. After that, the parents went for primary colors in splashes, and then in stripes. At some point, there were primary colors in a skinny stripe with diminutive flowers.

These four papers reflect not just the homeowners’ taste and vision for the room, but the styles that were prevalent at the time each paper went up.

Pretty Tub – Pretty Difficult Tub

May 10, 2016

Perry Bathtub

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This slightly-scooped, free-standing bathtub is aesthetically pleasing. But if you’re a paperhanger tasked with wallpapering the 9′ high walls with tricky-to-paper windows behind that tub, it is a bugger bear!

Normally, I protect the tub with padded moving blankets, and then lay a piece of plywood over the tub, and put my ladder on top of that. But with the curved edge of this tub, that would not work. Luckily, my ladder fit into the tub, and was tall enough that I could reach the top of both walls.

So much for the top of the walls.

I still needed to affix the wallpaper to the bottom half of the walls.

Squeezing my body down behind the tub, and squirming behind the floor-mounted faucet, and trying to move my arms and hands so I could smooth and trim wallpaper between the tub and the wall, well, that was an adventure in itself.

I’m glad I’m small. That’s all I can say.

But – We got ‘er done! πŸ™‚

Peeling Paint – What Is Going On?

May 8, 2016

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I was “undressing” a bathroom today, to get all the fixtures off the wall so I could put up the new wallpaper. When I removed the hand towel ring, paint from the wall stuck to it, and pulled away from the wall. Latex paint peeling away from the wall like the skin of a balloon.

Why did this happen? Probably because whoever applied the paint used a cheap brand and put it over some other cheap paint. The paints were not able to bond together for a tight hold.

Another possibility is that the room had undergone renovations, which left dust on the walls, and when paint was applied over the dust, a tenuous bond resulted, which gave way the first time it was tested (by me pulling off the towel ring).

Moral: Properly prepare the wall, by removing all dust (with a damp sponge, rinsed frequently), using the right primer, and then following up with a good quality paint, properly applied. Waiting for the paint to dry and cure before attaching towel bars will also help keep these fixtures from getting stuck in the paint.