Archive for October, 2016

Swoopy Trellis of Glass Beads Brightens a Powder Room

October 30, 2016
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This powder room in a new home by Ridgewater Builders in the Houston Heights neighborhood is large, but still it felt a little claustrophobic, not to mention completely personality-less.

This fluid lattice design adds pattern and movement, and the glass beads embedded into the surface are a glittery touch of glamor.

But, if you are seeking glitter and shimmer, these tiny round beads made from real glass are not all they’re cracked up to be. Look at the third photo. Only the glass beads that are hit by light at a certain angle and a certain intensity will shine. The others simply lie dormant and dark.

In addition, the beads detached from the wallpaper in droves, raining down and covering the floor (see photo) to the point where things were sliding along the floor as if on an air hockey table. The beads also impaled themselves onto the back of the wallpaper, creating ugly “pimples” that showed from the front.

The non-woven material that was used as a substrate was very thick and stiff and difficult to work with; it would not fit snugly against moldings or ceilings, it left gaps an overlaps in the corners, it was very difficult to cut through, it ate up my razor blades and destroyed my scissors, and the material resisted being twisted (such as when trying to work a wrinkle out of a strip of wallpaper.)

Glass bead wallpaper is trendy, and it’s also spendy. And – does it really live up to its expectations?

There are plenty of “fake” glass bead wallpapers available in stores and on-line. I would encourage you to look at some of these faux products. Many of them use glitter, which is seductively shimmery from any angle, in any light. There are no beads to fall on the floor or work their way through the storm drains and then down into Galveston Bay. And the papers are thinner and conform to the corners and angles and moldings of the room much better.

The interior designer for this project is Rachel Goetz. The wallpaper is in the A-Street Prints line, by Brewster.

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Two Years of Barren Finally Beautified! (Coordinating Patterns)

October 29, 2016
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In yesterday’s post, I wrote about a family that has been living with a partially-remodeled powder room for more than two years. Today I got them one large step closer to being finished.

The once-drab, dark, and windowless room is now bright and crisp. An ikat trellis (“Bungalow”) was used on the walls, with a coordinating leopard print (“Tanzania”) on the ceiling. The trellis has a lot of movement due to the curved lines, so it really energizes the feel of the room.

The room had unplumb walls, unlevel crown molding, and bowed drywall, so it presented a bit of a challenge, and took me ’til after dark to finish. But the completed job looks great, and the homeowners are very happy.

Both wallpaper patterns are by Thibaut Designs. Two designs and colorways that are intended to work together are called coordinating or companion papers. This home is in the Memorial / Energy Corridor area of Houston.

Stripping Wallpaper Today

October 28, 2016

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This poor homeowner has been waiting TWO YEARS to get her powder room redone. Every couple of months, some facet of the project gets completed. About two years ago, someone ripped off the red vinyl layer of the existing wallpaper – so they have been living with gritty tan manila paper walls since then. Most recently, the pretty new countertop you see went in. The faucet still needs to be installed. But the room is ready for wallpaper, so here I am …

The red vinyl layer has already been stripped from the wall, so what you are looking at is its tan paper backing that has remained on the wall. This usually comes off pretty easily (depending on the underlying surface) simply by soaking with plain water. The dark tan areas are where I have wet the paper, using the sponge and bucket of warm water in the foreground.

Once that tan paper backing came off, lo and behold – the previous installer hung his red wallpaper over the original floral wallpaper. It’s usually best to remove wallpaper, and not hang over it, but sometimes there are reasons why you can’t, and it looks like this guy did a good job of prepping the surface to accept new wallpaper. The cloudy white you see is his primer, which is a good thing.

I didn’t try to remove that original floral layer, either, knowing that it might well open a whole can of worms that would require a lot of work to repair. It was all adhering tightly to the wall, so I skim-floated over it, sanded smooth, and primed it with the penetrating sealer Gardz, by Zinsser.

By tomorrow, everything will be nice and smooth and sealed, and ready for the new wallpaper. Keep posted!

Innovative Use of Mural – In a Powder Room!

October 27, 2016

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Usually, murals go on single walls. But this homeowner in the Houston Heights had a vision of what her powder room could look like, with this colorful hand-painted-looking mural on all four walls. It turned out fantastic!

What’s especially cool about murals is that the pattern does not repeat. So you have a 12′ wide stretch of flowers and mushrooms and turnips and beetles spanning two walls, before you see the same flower or mushroom or critter, when the second mural is called upon.

And that brings up an important point – in a setting like this, it is important to be sure that pattern on the right side of the mural will match up with the pattern on the left side of the mural, so that when two murals are placed side-by-side, the design will be uninterrupted.

This mural came in eight panels, had light texture to its surface, and is on non-woven substrate. Paste could be applied to either the back of the panels or directly to the wall. (I chose to paste the paper, which was easier when going around the toilet and pedestal sink.) It was surprisingly flexible and nice to work with. It is made by either a German or French company.

Math & Spatial Concepts

October 26, 2016
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Here’s a little of what goes into figuring up how much wallpaper a client needs to buy.

The Best Tool To Tackle Wrinkles

October 25, 2016
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When hanging wallpaper, you can end up with little wrinkles, for many reasons. Oftentimes, these will disappear as the paper dries. But there can be times when you want to be sure the wrinkles are gone before the paper gets a chance to dry.

Your first option for smoothing a paper against the wall is a smoothing brush, as shown in the first photo. I like a short-napped brush, although many installers use brushes with longer bristles. In this scenario, the bristles were too soft to remove the wrinkles from the wallpaper.

So I grabbed what I call a trapezoidial “squeegee” and used that to chase out those last little wrinkles. The squeegee worked fine for this purpose.

But you have to be careful, because it is not intended to smooth entire strips against a wall. If you try to use it for that, it can twist and stretch and distort the wallpaper, and you could end up with worse wrinkles and warps, and an edge that is off-plumb or even unstraight, so that the next strip will not butt up against it as it should.

This is a lively colorway of a popular pattern, called “Feathers,” by Serena & Lily, an on-line company. I hung it in a guest bedroom of an older bungalow in the Houston Heights.

Faux Brick Wallpaper Revisited

October 23, 2016

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I hung this faux brick wallpaper about a year ago, and was back to do another job, so was able to grab a shot of the finished room.

This is a boy’s bedroom and the home is in the Cypress suburb of Houston, and the interior designer is Pamela Hope Designs.

Difficult Grasscloth Install Today

October 23, 2016
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Boy, oh boy, today’s installation was a bear! To begin with, I had a 12′ high accent wall that required using my 8′ ladder, which is unwieldy and can push you away from where you want to work. The wall had a thick texture (typical in new homes in the Houston suburbs – this was near Cypress), that took hours to smooth, dry, sand, and prime.

When it was time to hang the paper, I pasted and booked (folded pasted side to pasted side) and prepared to trim a bit off each edge, which is pretty standard procedure for grass, plus I had planned to trim all the strips to 34.5″, which would make all the strips the same width, which is nice with grass since all the seams are quite visible. I got one seam that looked great. But there was some warping in the material, but I was able to smooth it out.

But when I tried to trim the next strip, the folded edges did not line up, no matter how many times I rebooked it. If the edges don’t line up perfectly, you will not get a straight cut. I dicked around with it for a while, but eventually had to get the strip on the wall, or it would become unusable – and we did not have even one extra strip.

I decided to use the factory edge and leave the strip it’s full width, which was going to screw up my balanced widths of 34.5″. I soon learned that unequal widths of strips was one of the least of my woes that day…

The paper backing had absorbed moisture from the paste, and the whole strip had warped out of shape. No way would the edge butt up perfectly against the previous strip. In the end, I got most of the strip butted and smoothed, but the bottom 1′ or so insisted on overlapping onto the previous strip, so I took a straightedge and very sharp razor blade and cut away the overlap.

This turned out to set the mood for the rest of the job. All the subsequent strips warped significantly, not matter how long or short I booked them. No way would the seams butt up. So I ended up overlapping all the seams and double cutting – the industry term for splicing.

This is not as simple as it sounds, though. For one thing, the newly smoothed wall was soft, and you don’t want to cut into it, or when the paper dries and shrinks a little, the torque it creates can actually pull the wall surface apart, resulting in a curled seam that cannot be pasted back.

So I ran out to my truck and got some special polystyrene strips that are 2″ wide and are placed behind the seam, to protect the wall from the cut. I also grabbed a really nice straightedge that is made just for this purpose, with a handle and a non-slip surface. And some blue plastic tape, because I had to protect the bottom layer of grasscloth from the paste on the strip that was to be overlapped on top of it during the double cut. This is important, because any paste that gets on the surface will stain grasscloth – you have to work absolutely clean.

All three of these special items, by the way, were invented by fellow paperhangers, and fellow members of the Wallpaper Installers Association.

Positioning all these materials took a lot of time. Making the cut itself was intricate, because I could get a good position on it for only a foot or so, then would have to climb down and move the ladder over a little, so I could get right in front of the next couple of feet as I worked my way down the 12′ high strip. Also, two layers of grasscloth are quite thick, and it takes a lot of pressure to do so – while trying not to push myself away from the wall and onto the floor. And you only get one chance to cut, because multiple swipes result in a jagged and ugly seam.

Once the cut was finished, I had to go back and remove the two excess pieces, and the polystyrene strip, and the blue plastic tape, all the while making sure that no paste got onto the surface of the paper. Finally I could take my tool and smooth the two edges together. Double cutting does make a beautiful and perfectly butted seam. But, boy, it sure does take a lot of time, effort, and you need the right equipment.

Including prep and installation, this one accent wall with just six single rolls of grasscloth took me a full 12 hours.

So the seams were nicely butted. But, as you see in the photo, the grasscloth displayed the typical color variations that I find so displeasing. We call it shading and paneling. In the top photo, you can clearly see a difference in color between the two strips, even though they are from the same batch. The second photo shows a little more of this. The third photo is dark, but if you look closely, you can see three strips (two seams), and the slightly darker area along one edge, which is quite noticeable because it butts up against the next strip which is lighter in color.

All reasons why I dislike real grasscloth. The faux products are much more uniform, and seams can be invisible.

In addition, this is a pretty finely textured grass, and on a large, tall wall like this in a large room, I really don’t think the texture shows up very much, unless you are standing right at the wall.

The grasscloth product is by Brewster, and the interior designer on this job is Pamela O’Brien of Pamela Hope Designs.

Bathroom Revisited

October 22, 2016
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I hung this wallpaper a year ago, in the hall bath of a vintage bungalow that had been very nicely updated, in the Houston Heights.

It is by Serena & Lily, an on-line company, and was very nice to work with.

Fun, Colorful, Playful Wallpaper

October 21, 2016
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Today I worked in a nicely re-done home in the Houston Heights. (Last year, I did their hall bathroom.) The home is a nice mix of true-to-period bungalow and mid-century modern – with a lot of cream and grey (including the bathroom I did last year).

I was tickled to see the homeowners choose this fun pattern for the guest bedroom. In many bedrooms, just the headboard wall (an accent wall) is papered. When you do this, you can get away with a lot of drama and color. But when all the walls are papered, as in this home, it’s best to keep the feel much more subtle.

The color is bright orange, but the pattern is composed of skinny line drawings in a single color on a white background, so the look is not overly bold and does not overwhelm the room.

The wife is a clothing designer, so she understands color, texture, pattern – I think she hit the nail on the head, with this pattern.

This wallpaper design is called “Feather,” and is by Serena & Lily, an on-line company. Their paper is truly lovely to work with, and will hold up nicely in this guest bedroom.