Archive for May, 2018

White Damask on Silver Cork as a Backdrop to Family Photos and 3-D Art

May 21, 2018


Here’s a follow-up photo to a space I did a few weeks ago. It’s always nice to see the finished room.

This family is all about its kids, a school-aged boy and girl, hence the block of family photos. They are also keen on their ethnic heritage, hence the African mask.

The wall the mask is hanging on is curved (see previous post), so it would not lend itself to traditional artwork. But because the mask is narrow, it sits nicely on the curved wall. The white color works perfectly with the printed white damask pattern, and the height of the piece makes it a dramatic statement in this large family room.

The wallpaper is a silver cork material by Thibaut, and the home is in Pasadena, in southeast Houston.

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Geometric Pattern in a Powder Room – Flooded Home

May 20, 2018


This home in the Energy Corridor area of Houston was flooded during Hurricane Harvey last August. A lower section of drywall had been cut out and replaced. The contractor’s wallpaper hanger put up this identical pattern. The homeowner wasn’t pleased with the job. To be honest, the installer did a pretty good job, in a room that was very difficult to hang. There were a few minor things that could have been done differently.

But what bothered the homeowner most was that the walls had not been smoothed properly before the paper went up. With that west-facing window blasting angled sunlight into the room, those irregular surface flaws were quite obvious. See the top two photos. (You may need to enlarge them.)

I stripped off the original paper and skim-floated the walls to make them as perfectly smooth as possible. I followed with a primer. (The previous installer had not primed the walls.) See third photo for walls that are ready to go.

This room was a major bugger bear to hang. For starters, there was a large metal mirror that protruded about 4″ from the wall, that could not be removed. This was directly over a pedestal sink. (The previous installer had the luxury of hanging the room before the sink was in place.) It’s hard to explain, but the logistics of winding wallpaper around these three-dimensional objects, preventing the paper from tearing, having the ridged and unforgiving pattern match on all planes, keeping the edges plumb, and keeping the edges straight so they would butt up with the next strip, all while fighting edges of the wallpaper that wanted to curl backwards, were extremely difficult.

In addition, the corners of the room were out of plumb, which pretty much guaranteed pattern mis-matches in all the corners. On a wild floral pattern, no one would notice. But with a geometric pattern like this trellis, the eye would catch even minor mis-matches.

Compounding all of that was the fact that nothing in the room was centered. The window was not in the center of the wall, nor was the toilet – and they were not aligned with each other, either. The sink was not centered on the mirror, the faucet was not in the center of the sink, and the spout was off-set from the handle. I finally decided to balance the trellis design on the mirror, and it did fall perfectly symmetrically on either side. The kicker is that the room is so narrow that you can’t stand back far enough to appreciate all my efforts. 😦

I probably spent 40 minutes plotting how to tackle the first wall, and then a full two hours hanging the first two strips (the ones around the mirror and sink) (sorry – the room was too small to get good pics). The longer I worked, the more appreciation I had for the previous installer and the job she had done.

In the end, the walls I had prepped were smooth, and there were no objectionable bumps or gouges showing under the paper. I pulled some tricks out of my hat and got the pattern to match in the corners pretty darned well.

That window with it’s danged strong light still was a foe, though. The wallpaper seams butted together just about perfectly. Yet because of the way the edges curled back when they got wet with paste, I fought to keep them down tight to the wall. Once dried, they were nice and flat. I was pretty content. But when the sun moved and light came through that window from a different angle – some of those seams looked positively horrid! The light was casting shadows and making it look like the seams were overlapped. Yet they were perfectly flat. The inclination is to go over and over the seams with various tools and try to “force” them to lie flatter – but this can burnish or otherwise damage the wallpaper or the underlying surface. The good news is that as the sun moved, and as the louvers on the shutters were adjusted, the shadows disappeared and the seams looked good.

Let’s hope that the homeowners see this room only in the most positive light. 🙂

This wallpaper is by York Wall, one of my favorite brands. Interestingly, the paper came with the correct label, but the instruction insert was for another line made by this same company. I’m glad that I was familiar with both products, and had the sense to disregard the info that was not relative.

Sunroom With a Wonderful Faux Grasscloth –

May 18, 2018



This den in a 1948 ranch style home in the Oak Forest neighborhood of Houston has two full walls of glass that look out onto a beautiful, green yard. The room was originally papered in really dark green vinyl faux grasscloth – I think the idea was to coordinate the room color with the verdant foliage outside. It wasn’t working. “We’ve lived with this for 20 years,” said the husband, “and have been trying all that time to figure out what would make it look better.” Indeed, I first looked at this room in 2015. Well, three years later, the homeowners finally found something way better.

The new wallpaper is also a faux grasscloth in a textured vinyl material. I like this product much better than real grasscloth, because it is free of the visible seams, shading, paneling, and color variations that are such a disappointment with the real stuff (do a Search here for more posts / info). It is one of the few wallcoverings that are actually water-resistant and stain-resistant, and it will stand up to being banged into now and then – it’s the same commercial-grade material used in hotels and hospitals.

In addition, the scrim (woven fabric) backing, along with the vinyl surface, will provide some “give” – which is good, because this room had stress cracks in the drywall over doors and windows, and showed signs of the house shifting on its foundation, thanks to our contrary Houston gumbo soil.

The mottled color of the paper, along with the woven texture, give the feel of real grasscloth. The tan is a natural color, and it goes nicely with the view outside the window, but doesn’t compete with the scenery like the dark green paper did. The dark furniture in the room is no longer swallowed up by the dark wallpaper, and all of a sudden, the whole space is much brighter.

After 20 years, it’s a big change for the homeowners, but already, they are loving it!

This wallpaper pattern is called Bankun Raffia, and is by Thibaut Designs. It was bought from my favorite source for good quality, product knowledge, expert service, and competitive price – Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or dorotasouthwestern@hotmail.com. She is great at helping you find just the perfect paper! Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

Torn Drywall – Gardz Cures All

May 17, 2018

Wallpaper - Torn Drywall Repaired
When the wallpaper was stripped off the wall, some of the top layer of drywall came off with it. This is bad, because the inner layer that has been revealed will bubble when wet paint or wallpaper paste gets on it. Which, of course, looks bad under the new paint or wallpaper.

Gardz is a penetrating sealer that will soak into the surface, and then dry hard and impenetrable, allowing you to paint, paper, or, as in this case, skim-float over it with smoothing compound, without worries of bubbles or an unstable surface.

Gardz looks milky-white in the can, but dries clear. It is very thin and runny, so be sure to cover the floor and baseboards. In the photo, it has been applied to the lower left corner of the torn area.

The second photo shows the wall after it has been Gardz’ed, skim-floated, sanded, and re-Gardz’ed.

Cure Time – Paint Woodwork LONG BEFORE the Paper Goes Up

May 17, 2018


Why am I posting a picture of a can of trim paint? Because I found this in the room where I am to hang wallpaper today, along with a portable cup of wet paint and some brushes. This tells me that the homeowners were in the room last night, frantically painting all the woodwork in a large room with lots of framed openings and two walls of windows – LOTS of trim to paint.

Folks, this is not good. Woodwork should be painted carefully and slowly. First, the existing paint needs to be sanded or deglossed, and then wiped clean. I like to apply a coat of primer. Then the new paint can go up – but it should be brushed on carefully, paying attention to the direction of brush strokes and eliminating runs and drips.

But most important is that the paint needs time to dry. Not just to dry, but to cure. This can take several days.

This is important, because when I come along and put up the wallpaper, paste will get onto the woodwork. This is normal. No biggie. You just wiped it off with a damp rag.

But if the woodwork was not prepped properly, or if the paint has not had a chance to cure, it’s possible – probable – that the paint is not sticking tightly to the surface, and that wiping the paste off the woodwork will also take some of the paint along with it.

Best to plan ahead, read up on proper prep and materials, allow enough time to apply the paint properly, and then allow adequate dry / cure time.

A Beautiful, Natural Grasscloth

May 16, 2018


I was really pleased with the grasscloth I hung today. The fibers were thin enough that the material was pliable and turned corners well. The texture was a pleasing middle ground between rough and refined, and the color was gorgeous – natural, with bits of brown, gold, grey, and olive all mixed together homogenously.

But best of all, the material had virtually no shading or paneling or color variation issues. Do a Search here (upper right) on these terms to see what most grasscloth looks like, and why I am not a fan of it. But this stuff today – I liked it!

Because there is no pattern to be matched, you will see all the seams. But because the color and the texture were quite uniform, the seams and panels pretty well blended together. The two shots showing the seams are good examples of what grasscloth is supposed to look like.

The room immediately felt warmer and more inviting, with a bit of color and texture from the natural material on the walls.

I don’t know what the brand is, because the label simply said “Wallcovering.” But it was bought at below retail price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or dorotasouthwestern@hotmail.com. She is great at helping you find just the perfect paper! Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

I hung this in a bathroom in a newish home inside the Loop in Houston. Yes, grasscloth will stain if it gets splashed with water, so it’s not recommended in wet areas. But the homeowner is a single gal, and she promised to use the room gently. 🙂

She also promised to keep the door closed, so the cats will not get their claws into the new textured wallpaper.

View of the Day – Funky Artsy Inner City Houston!

May 16, 2018


My colleagues like to post pics of the view from where they were working. You know – big city skylines, tranquil beaches, fancy marinas.

Well, I don’t think anything could beat my view of the day today…Here in inner city Houston, we revere the quirky! You are looking at an Art Car, and Art House, and an Art Trojan Horse … And, yes, that horse is motorized and participates every spring in the Art Car Parade.

Centering and Plumbing Grasscloth Seam

May 15, 2018


Re my previous posts, here I am using my laser level to help get the seam aligned with the light sconce, as well as ensure that it hangs level. The laser level is the small dark object in the lower center of the photo.

Grasscloth Seam Placement on Off-Kilter Wall

May 15, 2018


Because of the textured nature and natural fibers of the material, all the seams on grasscloth are quite visible. So I try to place the seams in a “balanced” or evenly placed pattern on the wall. On this narrow wall that requires just one seam, I would normally put that seam in the center of the wall. However, the electrician was unable to get the light sconce in the center of the wall, so the sconce was placed a few inches to the right of center.

Dilema… Do I place the seam in the middle of the wall, or so that it falls centered on the light sconce?

After deliberating with the homeowner, we decided it would look best to have the seam align with the light fixture. Seeing it finished, I agree that this was the best choice.

Paneling / Color Variations Between Strips in Grasscloth

May 15, 2018


Because grasscloth is a natural product, you can expect color variations between strips, even when they come off the same bolt. See previous post about how the manufacturer worked to minimize this. However, color variations will still occur.

Notice the darker color of the panel on the left, compared to the one on the right. These rolls all had the same run number, which means they were printed at the same time with the same batch of ink. Even so, there will be color variations. This color difference is pretty minor, compared to what you see sometimes. This is not considered a defect, and is considered “part of the inherent beauty of this natural product.”

In this room, most of the panels were pretty uniform in color. When possible, I changed bolts in less noticeable areas, such as you see here, over a door.