Archive for August, 2018

Beautiful, Funky 1960’s Mural

August 30, 2018


This mural is on the wall of a dining room in a 1960’s home in the Cottage Grove neighborhood of Houston. It is actually larger than it appears in the photos. It’s original to the home, in perfect condition, and the ink colors are as vibrant today as they were the day it was hung.

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Keeping Wallpaper Lined Up Around a Window

August 28, 2018


Coming around a window can be tricky, because wallpaper likes to twist out of shape, windows can be off-plumb and / or not square, and other reasons, so it’s possible that the pattern can match above but not under the window, or the edges above and below the windows might not line up. Or everything can start going off-plumb.

In the first photo, you can (barely) see the vertical line of my laser level, which is helping me keep the left edges of the wallpaper strip lined up as the paper hangs over and then under the window. Next I hung the shorter strips above and under the window. I kept them “open” (did not trim the tops and bottoms), so I could “tweak” them if necessary.

In the second photo, I have positioned the next strip, again using my laser level to create a straight, plumb line on the left edge. This will ensure that subsequent strips will also hang plumb. I let this new strip hang a bit below the pattern match of the previous strip, so I could accommodate any rise or fall in the pattern; the section under the window was longer, so this is the area I wanted the best pattern match. By leaving the paper loose, I was able to match the pattern at the under the window, then pull the paper up to meet the strip over the window.

Sure enough, the pattern match was off a bit above the window. In addition, the strip on the top reached about 1/2″ further to the left than the strip under the window. This meant I was going to have a pattern mis-match, as well as an overlapped seam. But because I had not yet trimmed the top or bottom of that strip above the window, I was able to manipulate this strip to avoid these issues.

I took this strip and cut it vertically along a flower stem. The right half I aligned with the pattern match on the right. The left half was moved down to match the pattern on the full-length strip on the left, while also butting it up against this strip. This meant that I had a slight pattern mis-match in the middle of the cut strip, as well as an overlap.

All this was OK with me. The busy pattern easily disguised the slight pattern mis-match, as well as that 1/2″ overlap. In addition, it was way up high, over the window.

Standing back, you cannot notice any pattern mismatch or overlap. But what you do see is that the pattern runs perfectly across the top of the wall, and the subsequent strips are all and plumb and nicely butted together.

Narrow Strip Coming Out of a Corner

August 28, 2018


See that narrow 3/8″ wide strip of wallpaper sitting on my table? That is to be my first piece coming out of this corner.

When you hang wallpaper around an inside corner, you don’t wrap it around the turn, but, rather, split the piece vertically so it wraps 1/16″ around the corner. Then the strip that you cut off is hung on the next wall, butted up into the corner. This avoids twists and wrinkles and bubbled areas caused by walls and corners that are not perfectly straight or plumb.

But when the piece that is to be the first strip on the new wall is this narrow, it presents problems, because it’s very likely to not hang straight, and you can’t hang the next strip of wallpaper against a crooked edge because you will get gaps and overlaps.

Adding to the dilemma is that this narrow strip had already been pasted. I had finished for the day, and intended to hang the window wall to the left the next day. The strip was already pasted, but I couldn’t hang it because of the aforementioned issues, plus, you are supposed to hang a whole wall at a time, because all of the strips have to “meld” together – you can’t hang a wet piece against a dry piece.

My solution was to wash the paste off this narrow strip, and hang it up to dry overnight. I just had to hope that the water would not cause it to expand too much, or warp, or other.

The next day, I pasted this narrow 3/8″ wide strip, along with the strip that would be placed next to it. Then I hung them together, as if they were all one piece of wallpaper. That way, I could work them into the corner snugly, and keep the seam between them nice and tight.

When coming out of corners, it’s common for the wallpaper to go off-plumb, because the corner might be out of wack. So you can (barely) see the red line of my laser level on the left edge of the strip of wallpaper, ensuring that the new strip falls plumb.

Dining in the Meadow

August 26, 2018


Such a beautiful pattern really transformed this dining room in the Highland Village area of Houston.

The homeowner started out wanting the whole dining room papered, but the material (by Peter Fasano, called “Meadow”) is crazy expensive. So she toyed with the idea of papering just the fireplace wall. Then she decided to paper that fireplace wall, and also the mirror-image fireplace wall in the living room directly across the hallway.

But as we approached the install date, she decided that she wouldn’t be completely happy unless she had what she really wanted, which was her original vision for the room – all four walls.

Now she’s crazy happy. And her husband is happy, too – he likes the wallpapered look so much that he is ready to do another room. 🙂

From my point of view, this is one of the nicest papers I’ve ever worked with. It had to be hand-trimmed to remove the unprinted selvedge, and the trim marks were spot-on. The paper took the adhesive well, and it was easy to smooth into place. It would stretch when needed, and wrinkles of excess paper could be eliminated, which helped a lot when accommodating for unplumb walls. There was minimal shrinking as it dried. It is thin and hugs the wall tightly, and was easy to turn corners.

The design is a soft black line drawing on a slightly off-white pearlized background.

Hoping to Rectify Failure (Humidity Causes Poor Seams)

August 24, 2018

Humidity is the great enemy of wallpaper. In addition, the lower-end, pre-pasted, solid-vinyl papers with the gritty manila paper backing are not a good choice, in my opinion, in any room, but particularly not humid rooms like bathrooms. This house on the beach with irregular climate control spelled double trouble.

This home on Pirate’s Beach on Galveston Island (south of Houston) was on the beach, so was exposed to lots of humidity. In addition, because the homeowners use it only sporadically, they turn the air conditioner off or set it to a run less while they are away. This means that the home fills up with humidity. And even when the A/C is running, air circulation in this room is poor.

Metal elements such as the light fixture and screws holding things into the walls were rusted. Mildew was found behind some sheets of wallpaper. And the wallpaper itself was curling at the seams – a result of the paper backing absorbing moisture from the air, expanding, and forcing the vinyl surface to curl backward at the seams. (Read more about this on the page to the right about vinyl wallcoverings.)

Another factor for the poor performance of the original vinyl wallpaper was that the walls had not been primed, but the installer put the vinyl paper on top of new drywall. And nothing was done around the shower to protect the paper from splashing water.

I stripped off the old vinyl wallpaper, washed the walls with bleach to kill the mildew, and primed with the penetrating sealer Gardz. Once the new paper was up, I ran caulk along the top of the vanity backsplash, and all along the shower and tub, to prevent splashed water from wicking up under the paper.

The new wallpaper is a thin non-woven material that is “breathable.” No wallpaper is going to hold up under very humid conditions. But this one has a much better chance of staying nice and flat for many years.

The new wallpaper is very similar in appearance to the original, and keeps with the beachy feel of the home. It is by Brewster, in their Chesapeake Bay collection, in the Easy Walls line, and is reasonably priced. It is a pre-pasted material. I did augment the manufacturer’s paste with a .

In the photos, the paper looks blotchy. That is because it is still wet; it will be nice and white when it’s finally dry. The drying time worries me, though, because after six hours, even some parts of the first strips were not dry. This is a real indicator that the room has some serious humidity and air circulation issues.

From Humid Houston to the Sunny Shores of the Mediterranean

August 22, 2018


If you’re stuck in the city but long for the warm shores of an exotic land, what do you do? How about using a scenic wallpaper mural to fool the eye into believing you’re in Paradise?

I hung this on a wall in a garage in inside-the-Loop Houston near Montrose and downtown. It will be surrounded by automobiles, bicycles, lawn equipment, and all manner of “garage stuff” – but, boy – what a view! The homeowners plan to have a big party later this year, and will use the decorated garage as an extended dining area.

This is the typical, old-school, 8-panel photo mural that has been popular for decades. After the “palm trees swaying over a tropical white sand beach” scene, Mediterranean themes like this are the most popular. But these days, you can get just about anything, even custom made from your own photos, and sized to fit your wall.

Most of these murals are 12′ wide by 9′ high, but this one was 13′ 8″ wide by 8′ 3″ high. It was smaller than the wall all-around, so I placed it more or less in the center, and also balanced on the stairs to the left (not pictured).

The mural comes in eight panels, and is hung with four panels across the top, and four across the bottom. Unlike regular wallpaper, where the seams are butted, these seams are overlapped by about 1/4″. The top photo shows just four of the panels (two top and two bottom), rolled up and laid out on the floor. It’s essential to plot and double-check like this, before you grab pieces and paste them and go to stick them to the wall.

These murals are printed on a somewhat flimsy, plain paper type material. They come with special powdered cellulose paste. I’ve always used the provided paste with these murals. But since this was going in a garage and would be exposed to heat and humidity, I wanted something a bit stronger. The instructions mentioned that, alternately, a traditional pre-mixed wallpaper adhesive could be used. So I used my go-to, Sure Stick Dynamite 780 paste.

The 780 is not as liquid as the cellulose, so it wetted-out the material differently from what I was accustomed to. It is also more aggressive, so it was a bit harder to unfold the booked sheets; too much tugging could cause the delicate paper to tear.

The cellulose paste always causes bubbling. (These disappear as the mural dries. But, still, they are unsettling.) I was happy that the pre-mixed paste did not produce any bubbles, and also allowed the paper to be more stable, with fewer wrinkles and waves. The paper did expand once it got wet with the paste, as much as a full inch per panel, so even with the 1/4″ overlap at seams, it ended up being nearly 14′ wide.

This is a paper mural, and not very durable. The homeowners plan to use a sealant, or perhaps will cover it with huge sheets of Plexiglas, to protect it. How it holds up in the humidity and heat of Houston remains to be seen. They had a similar mural (different scene) up for close to 10 years. I didn’t hang it originally, but I did some touch up and repaste a few years ago. Eventually, though, it succumbed to the elements and had to be removed. This time around, I’m hoping that my use of a wallpaper primer, along with a stronger paste, will help keep the mural nice and tight to the wall for many years to come.

Dark Surface / White Substrate

August 21, 2018


Re yesterday’s post, because it was a dark pattern printed on a white substrate, I worried that some of the white backing might show at the seams. This is especially pertinent with thick papers and with papers that may shrink as they dry.

To help prevent any white from peeking out at the seams, I used a mud-hued artists’ pastel chalk to color the edges of the paper. In the top photo, you can just barely make out the line of muddy grey chalk along the right edge of the wallpaper.

This trick worked great. The seams pretty much melted together and disappeared. However, as you see in the second photo, there were a few sections where seams shrank and opened up just a tad – a half a tad. If the paper had a white background, you would never notice. But with a strongly-colored choice such as this one, you have to be prepared to see minute gaps in between the seams.

Leopards Walk the Room Right

August 19, 2018


I’ll be the first to admit – I love a darkly decorated room. But this all-black powder room in the home of a young couple in the Heights neighborhood of Houston was not making the grade. With shiny black paint on all four walls, there was nothing to define the room. You literally could not even see where one wall ended and another began. And the work had been done poorly, with zillions of bumps and bits of stuff stuck in the paint.

My first task was to use Liquid Sandpaper to degloss the shiny paint. Then I skim-floated the walls to smooth over the irregularities. Sanded smooth, wiped off the dust with a damp sponge, then primed with the penetrating sealer Gardz. Sorry, no pic of the prepped walls.

The new homeowner was fine with the dark idea, but she wanted something fun and a little sassy, that would wake you up when you walk into the room. These marching rows of leopards do just that!

The new wallpaper is still dark. But not quite as dark. And because it has pattern and some variations in color, you can easily see the corners, and each individual wall. The room is no longer stark and oppressive, but warm and fun.

This wallpaper design is called Leopard Walk, and is by Cole & Son, a British company. It is a thin and flexible non-woven material with a vinyl surface that will resist splashes and stains better than most papers.

Birds for the Bold of Heart

August 18, 2018


A lot of clients tell me they love birds, and are seeking wallpaper patterns with foliage and birds. (Do a Search here (upper right corner) on the word “birds.”) Most of those are what you would call sweet patterns. This design, on the other hand, can only be called BOLD.

The homeowner, also in the Houston Heights, is the sister to the guy mentioned in yesterday’s post. As you can see, they share an adventurous taste in decorating!

Although the pattern has a lot going on, it doesn’t feel busy, even in a powder room, partly because of the fairly homogenous color scheme, and also because of the all-over placement of the design elements. Besides, who can resist those intense faces? My favorite is the owl-like bird staring you dead in the eye.

The walls in this new home were heavily textured, so I had to smooth them first (see top photos) and then prime with a penetrating sealer called Gardz.

This wallpaper pattern is by Clarke & Clarke, a British company. As are many British products, it is printed on a non-woven substrate and is quite durable. It can be dry-hung using the paste-the-wall method – but I prefer to paste the paper. It was a little easier to work with than yesterday’s paper, being thinner and softer and less prone to creasing.

This 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.

Some Patterns are More Fun to Hang than Others

August 17, 2018


Wow! What a cool pattern, and super fun colors – I couldn’t wait to hang it!

This wild dragon and flora wallpaper on a silver metallic background went in a largish powder room in a new townhome in the north Heights neighborhood of Houston. The single guy homeowner went through a maddening number of choices before finally settling on this one. Boy, is it a great one!

The paper was a little testy to work with, though. It is a thick and stiff and somewhat spongy non-woven material which was difficult to manipulate around features like the light fixture and the vanity top. In addition, the metallic surface was very prone to creasing.

The wall-mounted light fixture could not be removed, and I knew that working the paper around it would result in visible creases. My solution was to split the strip horizontally right where it would land on the light fixture. This made it easier for me to make relief cuts and to ease the wallpaper around the fixture.

I used similar techniques in other areas of the room.

The paper is a lot more vivid and colorful than the photos show. All that teal and chartreuse and silver, and the relentless swirling tails and scales and leaves combine to make one mesmerizing room! A mirror with a wide, dark brown frame set it off.

This wallpaper pattern is by York, in their Dwell Studios line, and 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.