Archive for April, 2019

“X” Marks the Spot!

April 30, 2019


This couple was not home when I arrived, so they left a key and I let myself in.

To make sure I knew which wall got wallpaper, they left this big masking tape “X” !

Can We Please Ditch the Ditch?

April 28, 2019


Houston may be the 4th largest city in the nation, but many / most of its older neighborhoods don’t have curbs and gutters, but instead use ditches for drainage.

How would you like to cross this every time you need something from the van?

And why, oh why, did I stash that 50lb bucket of paste in the side door??!

On a serious note, sometimes parking issues like this (another common one is townhome complexes with shared driveways and tight quarters) make an otherwise attractive job impossible to take on.

Leopard Spots Across a Heights Dining Room

April 27, 2019


The original incarnation of this dining room in a nicely renovated bungalow in the Heights neighborhood of Houston, with its medium-grey walls (the first photo shows the room after I applied my white wallpaper primer), was classic and bordered on elegant. But that look did not suit this young couple.

They wanted something more youthful and fun, and also a background that would set off their collection of “somewhat wild and colorful” artwork.

Thibaut’s ‘Tanzania’ wallpaper pattern in chocolate brown on a very light tan background fills the bill perfectly. Note how the dark ceiling plays off the walls.

City Scape Zig Zag Lines

April 26, 2019


I love this headboard. The homeowner and his father-in-law made this from scratch, and they made the bed frame, too. I think it’s supposed to look like rough ship-lapped wood … but to me, it looks like the skyline of a major city.

Realizing that the dark navy paint on the accent wall behind the headboard was flat and boring, the couple went to Dorota (read below) and found this fun and lively wallpaper pattern. It echoes the shape of the headboard, while adding a modern, urban edge to the room. And I think it looks like a city skyline!

Note that this pattern very much resembles one by York, in the Candice Olson line, which I have hung a number of times. I guess there is nothing wrong with a company riding the tide of trends, and making a knock-off of a proven design winner.

This is in a master bedroom in a newish townhome in the Cottage Grove neighborhood of Houston. My photo of the label didn’t turn out (Note to self: Always check your phone’s photo log before leaving work for the day.), but I can tell you that the manufacturer is Designer Wallpapers.

The material is a crisp, stiff, medium-weight non-woven material. This stuff has a fiberglass content, so it does not expand when it becomes wet with paste, and it also is designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece when it’s time to redecorate.

This material would have been more flexible if I had pasted the paper. But since this was one solitary accent wall, with no corners or toilets or sinks or windows to cut around, and since I didn’t feel like lugging my 7′ long and 30lbs table up the three flights of stairs to the master bedroom, I chose to paste the wall.

Because it was a dark paper adhered to a white backing, I used artist’s chalk to color the edges of the strips, so that the white backing would not peek out from the seams.

After cutting the non-woven strips, I roll them up backwards, with the colored surface rolled up inside, and the top coming off the roll first, and then secure it by wrapping an elastic hairband around it. This way, after paste is spread on the wall, when I climb up the ladder with the paper and unroll it, the printed surface will not come in contact with the paste on the wall.

Pasting the wall is a clean way to work, because no paste gets on the woodwork or ceiling, so there is nothing to wipe off. And the excess paper that is trimmed off at the ceiling and baseboard has no paste on it, so it’s clean and won’t stain anything it might fall onto.

The paper went up nicely, and the seams were positively invisible. Oddly enough, because the paper was supposed to not stretch or expand, I did have a little trouble with the pattern match dropping – the pattern matched at the top of the wall, but as you followed it down the 9′ high wall, the pattern began to rise. In order to accommodate this, I had to lower the pattern and allow a slight mis-match at the top of the wall, which permitted me to have a perfect pattern match at eye-level.

Also odd, since the paper was supposed to not expand, even though I hung my first strip against a plumb line (laser level beam), as it moved down the height of the wall, the pattern started to track to the right. As subsequent strips were hung, the paper became more and more off-plumb, until I reached the far left corner, and it was out of whack by more than half an inch from ceiling to floor.

If this had been some wild floral pattern, it would not have mattered. But with a rigid geometric pattern, and especially a vertical one like this, and on a dark background, even with a mere 1/8″ discrepancy, you’re going to notice when things get crooked.

Since the paper is not malleable, I was not able to stretch it into plumb. But I was able to pull a few tricks out of my hat to make it look like the paper was perfectly parallel to that left wall. I didn’t take photos, so no sense in my trying to explain it here. šŸ˜¦

This wallpaper pattern is by Designer Wallcoverings, 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.

Two Pretty Blues Today

April 25, 2019


Another “all white” house gets a little personality and definition from a light dose of color and pattern. What a pleasant change!

The first three photos are Scalamandre’s “Balinese Peacock.” It came with a selvedge edge that had to be hand-trimmed off with a razor blade and a 6′ straight edge.

The last two photos are a fun elongated triangle floral stripe by Schumacher. My “after” sink photo didn’t come through, unfortunately, but the other pictures will give you an idea of the pattern.

Even though these papers are by two different manufacturers, the blue color is identical. It’s a lot brighter and prettier than my crummy camera depicts. The blue picks up hints of blue that the homeowner has in her living room (throw pillows) and in the dining room (navy blue paint above the wainscoting).

The peacock went in a small bar area off the living room, and the foliage stripe went in the under-the-stairs powder room that is right off the bar. The home is in the West University neighborhood of Houston.

Soft Mattress Ticking Stripe in an All-White Bathroom

April 24, 2019


With just paint on the upper walls, this all-white bathroom was simply … too white. The addition of a soft stripe, in the shape of a classic mattress ticking pattern, was just enough to add some warmth and definition to the space.

While I like the pattern, I am not fond of the material, nor the brand. Norwall is one of the lowest-priced manufacturers out there, and … you get what you pay for. This is a solid vinyl wallpaper with a paper backing. The vinyl surface sounds attractive to homeowners, because it is a tad more stain resistant than other papers, and because it repels water.

The bad news is that humidity (such as when someone takes a shower, or splashes water on a seam) tends to find its way behind the seams and into the paper backing. That paper then swells and pushes away from the wall, causing the seams to curl.

Over time, the vinyl top layer can actually separate (delaminate) from the paper backing, leaving curled seams that cannot be reattached.

In addition, the seams are always a little “pouched” when the paper is installed, and never lie completely flat. It’s also common for this material to bubble or blister as it dries … I call it “burping” … or more properly termed off-gassing as the air released by the drying paste tries to find an escape but is trapped by the vinyl surface. So you have to keep going around the room chasing out bubbles. Really small ones usually disappear as paper dries.

Type in key words and use the Search feature here (upper right corner) to read my previous posts about these topics.

This was the first time I’ve encountered a Norwall solid vinyl paper-backed product that was not pre-pasted. Maybe the manufacturer has figured out what made it’s wallpaper so crap…py… er… disappointing. To be honest, the paper I worked with today (which had to have adhesive applied by hand/paint roller) went up with fewer problems than usual. There were still blisters, and still seams that were not as flat as they should have been. But overall, it was better than I expected.

Only time will tell how this product stands up to humidity in a family bathroom.

This is a new-but-classic-looking home in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston. The interior designer is Stacie Cokinos of Cokinos Design.

Keeping Ahead

April 23, 2019


This poor bird got his head chopped off by the window molding. I want to help him keep it!

In the top photo, you see the bird and the point where his head got cut off. On the right side, against the window molding, I am holding a head that I cut from scrap wallpaper. I’ve trimmed it to fit the bird’s body, and to look as natural as possible by sculpting it and cutting around ruffled feathers.

In the second photo, I am holding the appliquƩ in place. Once it is pasted and applied, even though it is far removed from what the bird is supposed to look like, the bird looks intact.

The casual observer would never notice that this bird has been altered.

Timorous Beasties “Indie Wood” Wallpaper in a Dining Room

April 21, 2019


This is some novel stuff!

This wallpaper pattern is something like a mural, but with a little more brain-bending. It is one continuous design, with no element or motif repeating or showing up more than once in the 33′ length of each bolt.

It’s a good thing that no one was living in the house, and that furniture had not been moved in yet. Because I needed a LOT of floor space to roll out and study each bolt.

I had to compare the height of the walls and the length of each strip that I needed, to the placement of various animals in the design. This enabled me to plot where on the wall any given critter would appear, and to get as many creatures as possible on each strip, all while accommodating the homeowner’s preference for a few special ones.

I rolled the entire 33′ long bolt out on the floor, took measurements, and used blue tape to indicate the tops and bottoms of each strip. This enabled me to fiddle with various layouts and animal positions, and I could make changes if needed.

We needed 22 strips, and I was getting 5 strips out of each double roll bolt. So after I cut five strips from the first bolt, I moved on to the second bolt.

To give a more random look, I wanted the same animals (the squirrels, for instance) to be placed at different heights moving around the room. So when I started plotting my strips and cuts from the second bolt, I made sure that the creatures landed at different heights from the first bolt. That first bolt and the animals’ positions I called “A” and the second bolt and positions were “B”. I only got four strips out of the “B” bolt.

This meant that any given motif would appear at the same height on the wall only every 9th strip. This would give a pleasing, random look.

The plan was to hang all the strips taken in order from the “A” bolt first, followed by strips taken sequentially from the “B” bolt. Repeat with another “A” and another “B”, and then back to an “A” bolt again.

To be sure, I measured and marked and double-checked everything carefully before I cut anything. Then each strip was labeled … (“2A,” “4B,” etc.)

Working around the doors and windows, the room was divided into four sections. The next step was to get all those strips of paper placed in proper sequential order, standing in queue all around the room – all while figuring the center point of each of those four spaces and plotting which strips would be placed flanking the middle of that wall.

Some cool features of this pattern is that it was placed smack down the middle of the 20.5″ wide strip, which made it a lot easier to center and balance the design than if it had been placed off-center. Also, the design did not reach across any seams, so (other than plotting the height where each critter would fall) there was no pattern match. This made it a lot easier to accommodate crooked walls and un-level ceiling and wainscoting.

The dimensions of the room were also amazingly in sync with those of the wallpaper pattern. Vertically, the 82″ height of each wall / strip worked with the placement of animals on the paper, so virtually all animals were kept intact. There was only one bird who got cut in half at the wainscoting, and that happened only every 9th strip (twice in the whole room).

Horizontally the pattern worked out just as incredibly. The width of all of the walls worked out to be within an inch or two of a multiple of the width of the paper. So centering the strips / pattern on each wall resulted in a look as if the design were “framed” by the door and window moldings. Sorry, no pics.

The downside was, just by happenstance, I ended up with an extraordinary number 1″-2″ strips that had to be squeezed in. Time-consuming and PITA.

I centered the pattern on each of these four wall spaces. But that meant that the rhythm of the pattern would get screwed up as it passed over the door to the butler’s pantry, two windows, and the 12′ wide entry to the hallway.

Here again, the dimensions worked amazingly well, and so did the very accommodating pattern. In the short 10″ high areas over these doors, I was able to “fudge” the pattern by slicing strips vertically along a tree trunk, for instance, and then overlapping the two sections an inch or two, to “shrink” the strip’s width. Making an inch of width disappear from each of seven strips is barely noticeable, and maintains the rhythm that the viewer’s eye wants to see as it travels around the room. Again, sorry, no pictures.

The walls had been primed a few days before; just laying out and hanging the paper took me 12 hours.

I hung this “Indie Wood” pattern by Timorous Beasties on the top 5′ above paneled wainscoting in a new home in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston. It’s made of non-woven material, and can be hung by paste-the-wall or paste-the-paper (which was what I opted to do). Non-wovens are strong and have a high fiber-glass content. They are designed to strip off the wall easily when it’s time to redecorate. Additionally, they are dimensionally-stable – they do not expand when wet with paste. This makes it much easier to plot placement of strips and motifs.

The interior designer for this job is Stacie Cokinos of Cokinos Design.

Timorous Beasties, Papillion de Nuit

April 20, 2019

Say it in French and it sounds beautifully exotic. In reality, they’re moths.

This rhythmic pattern by Timorous Beasties went in a powder room in a new home in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston. Note the brick and wooden accents in the room.

Whereas most wallpaper patterns repeat either every strip or every other strip (half-drop), Papillion de Nuit has a quarter-drop pattern match, which means that the pattern repeats itself every fourth strip. It’s extremely difficult to figure out and to keep properly placed on the wall, especially when every motif is identical.

In addition, the powder room had some challenging features of its own. The whole job took me about 14 hours! It looks great, though.

It’s made of fiberglass-based non-woven material. This can be installed via the paste-the-wall method, or by pasting the paper (which is what I generally do). Some features of this material is that it is designed to be stripped off the wall easily when it’s time to redecorate, and that it is dimensionally-stable and won’t expand or stretch when wetted by the paste.

The interior designer for this job is Stacie Cokinos of Cokinos Design.

Keeping Ahead

April 20, 2019


Re the Papillion de Nuit wallpaper pattern in my other post, I couldn’t avoid decapitating this moth at the bottom of this wall.

I’m thinking of appliquĆ©ing his body onto the wooden trim.

What do YOU think?

Update two days later … The interior designer loved the idea, so … it’s done!

The homeowner moves in in a week, and we’ll learn then what she thinks.