Archive for June, 2019

Similar Color, But More Uplifting Pattern

June 29, 2019

The original wallpaper in this rear powder room / pool bathroom of a home in the Memorial Villages neighborhood of Houston was very dark blue with tiny black dots on it – from a distance, it looked like a solid color. It was an interesting pattern, but didn’t have personality of its own, so needed artwork to set it off.

This new pattern is very similar in background color, but the upward-moving foliage, accented by the beautifully painted hummingbirds, add a whole lot of movement and character to the room.

The leaves are a shimmery metallic champagne sort of color, and the hummingbirds have a mesmerizing iridescence; they almost look like photographs.

The stained glass window, which had been a bit of an odd duck – mostly because of the baseball in the center – became an asset when the wallpaper went up, because the colors of the birds miraculously matched the colors in the window.

Because the dark paper was printed on a white substrate, I used chalk to color the edges, so that white would not peek out at the seams.

This paper is by Harlequin, a British company. It is on a non-woven backing, and could be hung by the paste-the-wall method, or, as I did, by pasting the paper. It was nice to work with, but it could be creased easily, which would have made it difficult in a room that required more turns and intricate cuts and objects to trim around.

The wallpaper 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.

Saving on Trash Bags

June 28, 2019

I like to see if I’m able to get by without using a trash bag. Most days I win this little game!

I am usually able to roll trash up in the scraps from the job. See photo. Then I haul it home and put in the trash or recycling, depending on what the material is made of.

Chinese Hand-Painted Silk Mural

June 27, 2019


Here is some delicious stuff! This is silk wallpaper, hand painted in China with these beautiful bird, butterfly, and botanical motifs. Look at the close-up shots to see the gorgeous paint detail.

There are some historic companies who make these murals, like Zuber, Gracie, Fromental, and de Gournay, and they can run $500-$1200 per panel. (This wall took seven panels.) But my client found another manufacturer who was way more reasonable. http://www.worldsilkroad.com/

The mural was custom-sized to the homeowners’ wall. The studio added 2″ to the top and bottom, and a little more to each side, for trimming, and to accommodate walls that are not perfectly plumb and ceilings that are not perfectly level. (Never order a mural to the exact dimensions of the wall, and always best to have the paperhanger measure before ordering.)

There are a lot of things that make an install like this much more complicated than a traditional wallpaper. For starters, the silk can easily be stained by just about anything … wallpaper paste, water, hands. So it’s important to work absolutely clean. You will NOT be able to wipe off any errant bit of paste. The paper also had a half inch “bleed” of excess paper along the edges that had to be trimmed off by hand (no photo).

The material was thicker than expected, wanted to stay curled up as it had been in its shipping tube, and the backing was very absorbent, which meant that it sucked up paste and was almost dry by the time it was finished booking and got to the wall… So it required extra paste on the edges to get them to stick tight, while, once again, taking care to not get any paste on the surface of the paper.

The company provided precious little information. Well, actually there was information, but it came in Chinesnglish, and, bless their hearts, was virtually indecipherable. The company was very responsive, but, unfortunately, was unable to provide adequate information about paste recommendations, booking time, was a liner spec’ed, if the substrate was paper or non-woven, if the silk had a protective coating, and even whether or not the goods had to be hand-trimmed or came pre-trimmed. There was a lot of other mysterious content on their instruction sheet that ended up best being disregarded.

So I used common sense and traditional installation methods, and it turned out great.

In one photo, I am rolling out the panels, to be sure they are in the correct sequence. Even though the manufacturer had told me the panels were pre-trimmed and ready to butt on the wall, while rolling them out, I discovered that if I did that, the pattern match would be off. This is when I discovered that 1/2″ had to be trimmed off one side of every strip.

This also meant that each strip would be 36″ wide, rather than 36.5″, so my measurements and layout calculations had to be revised. This was particularly important because that first area to the left of the window was barely more than 36″ wide – and I didn’t want to end up having to piece in a 3/8″ wide strip of this delicate material.

Two other pictures show some crinkles in the material. I believe these happened at the factory or during shipping, because the same defects appear in two consecutive panels, at the same position. They were both up high, and, once the material got wet with paste, expanded a little, and then applied to the wall, these flaws were not detectable.

The last photo shows what you should expect from hand-painted products. They probably had one guy working on Panel 6, and another working on Panel 7, and each probably had a different size paint brush, and possibly their stencil (or whatever they use) was a bit off. Either way, this mis-match is not considered a defect, and is part of the beauty of a hand-crafted mural. There were really only two areas that matched this poorly, and they were both low toward the floor. In the upper areas where branches crossed the seams, the pattern matched very nicely. Really, it’s quite incredible that their precision can be as good as it is.

I’ve never worked with this brand before, but overall, I was pleased with the quality and the installation. You can find the manufacturer by Googling World Silk Road. It comes from England, but is made in China. (Gee…. why can’t they have one of those British guys translate the installation instructions?!)

This mural went on one accent wall in a master bedroom of a home in Idylwood, a small, idyllic, and very desirable neighborhood of 1930’s and 1940’s homes on Houston’s east side. The homeowners love vintage as much as I do, and are keeping most of their home true to its original state.

Trouble Brewing? Paint Not Adhering to Wall

June 26, 2019


Top photo: A small circle of paint had been pulled away from the wall. When I picked at it, I was able to easily detach more paint.

Second photo: When I removed the light switch plate, some paint had stuck to it, and pulling the switch plate off the wall took some of the paint underneath along with it.

The exposed wall underneath the paint was gritty and dusty. I could not tell if it was a layer of old paint, drywall, dust, residue from ancient wallpaper paste, or other. I had the feeling that if I had tried, I could have peeled all the paint off the dusty subsurface.

This is not good.

This is an old house, and many layers of paint and other treatments have been added to the walls over the decades (100 years!). Many of these substances are not compatible with each other, and especially not if the walls were not prepped properly before applying another coat of paint.

Latex paint won’t stick to oil based paint. New paint won’t stick to a glossy paint. Nothing sticks to a dusty surface.

All these various materials will adhere to one another – for a while. But when a stressor is added to the formula, there is the potential for the layers to delaminate (come apart). That’s what happened in the two areas above, when a bit of a tug was all it took to peel several layers of paint away from the wall.

The issue here is that wallpaper comes with its own stressors. Wallpaper gets wet when it’s pasted, expands a bit, and then when the paste dries, the paper shrinks a tad and puts tension on the walls. Over time, with changes in temperature and humidity, foundations shifting, and just plain old passage of time, this tension could cause the paint to give way from the walls – this usually manifests at along a seam.

I use a wallpaper-specific primer, and among its attributes is the ability to withstand this type of tension.

Let’s hope that over the years, the many layers of paint, the new coat of primer, and the wallpaper all work together to stay nice and tight to the wall.

Note: If I had known about the wall condition earlier, and if the homeowners’ budget had allowed, a liner would have been a good option in this case. A liner is a special type of paper that is applied to the primed wall the day before the paper goes up. It serves several purposes, but one is to distribute tension across the wall. Because the seams of the liner do not line up with the seams of the wallpaper, drying and shrinking wallpaper puts tension on the liner, and not onto the unstable wall itself, thus pretty well eliminating the chance that the wallpaper seams could cause the wall to delaminate.

The downside is that using a liner adds an extra day (or more) of labor, plus the cost of material.

The Source of Yesterday’s Drama

June 25, 2019


Before I learned to put plastic over the smoke detectors, I’ve had sanding dust set off the alarm. But this is the first time that fumes from my primer tripped the blasted thing!

It was EAR SPLITTING, and went on forever! Finally I climbed up on the ladder and disconnected it from the power source. Still going off!! Turns out there was an alarm up on the next floor, that was also going off! Luckily the homeowner was reachable quickly by phone, and apparently this is a common problem in their home. She said to turn on the ceiling fan … and that did the trick.

I was smoothing a textured wall, and the penetrating sealing primer I like for that is Gardz, by Zinsser. The fumes won’t make you high like the KILZ Original that I used to use (even that never triggered a smoke detector), so I was surprised that it had anything in it to be detected by a smoke detector. Maybe it includes a carbon dioxide detector, and that somehow got tripped.

Either way, I’m sure glad we got the danged thing turned off … I like hanging wallpaper in peace and quiet so I can THINK!

Soft Geometric in Bedroom Niche

June 23, 2019


This is an alcove leading into a master bedroom in a new townhome in the Houston Heights. This niche is recessed between bookshelves on either side, and above.

The geometric pattern adds a modern touch, and the soft color promotes the feel of calm relaxation. Brass sconces will be mounted over the electrical boxes, and the homeowner has a settee that will be placed in the center.

This was a non-woven wallpaper, and I hung it using the paste-the-wall method.

Jungle Paneled Installation, Italian Product, for a Nursery

June 22, 2019


The top photo shows a sample panel of the wallpaper taped to the wall of the nursery. You can see the sharply sloping ceiling line to the right.

The mother-to-be fell in love with the jungle theme and the colors of this paper. She bought it on-line from an Italian company. Unlike most wallpapers that come in rolls, this product came in sets of panels, each of which was 27″ wide x 39″ long. In the second photo, you see the first three tiered along the left, and the next two strips positioned to the right. Other panels will be filled in above and below, and to the right.

Precious little information was available on how to install this product … and what there was came in Italienglish, which was little help. There was a brief on-line video, plus you could read the experiences of previous DIY clients in the customer reviews section. In such cases, you have to use the scant available information, along with your own experience, to decern an install method.

Turns out, this is similar to the old-school paper murals that come in panels and call for powdered paste. Except this company did not include paste (as most do), nor were the panels meant to be overlapped.

Luckily, I have sources for wheat, cellulose, potato starch, and other powdered wallpaper adhesives. These are mixed up on-site, are less aggressive as far as stickiness goes, and are more wet than the pre-mixed pastes used for most installations today.

More wetness, along with the particular type of paper these murals are printed on, means that the paper will absorb more moisture and can expand substantially. This is why most of these types of murals are designed to be overlapped at the seams. The seams of this product, however, were meant to be butted … which means that when that paper dries, it could shrink, and that could result in gaps at the seams.

Because the mural came in panels instead of continuous strips, the edges of the strips could not be lined up exactly perfectly, neither vertically nor horizontally. And this was exacerbated because each panel absorbed paste and expanded differently from the others, so there could be a difference in width or height between panels of as much as 1/8″.

This meant that there were some pattern mis-matches between strips. It also resulted in some seams overlapping. I left before the paper was completely dry, but I imagine there are areas where the some seams gap, too.

But I tend to overthink things, and fret about minute details that most people never see. The bottom line is, the accent wall looks fantastic, and will set a theme for the new baby’s room.

Note that this paper gets really wet when it’s pasted, and so you see a bit of blotchiness in the photos. This will disappear and the paper will be much lighter and brighter when it’s all good and dry.

The product is also not really technically a “mural.” But it comes in panels like many murals do, so I’m using that term for simplicity’s sake.

Besides the special paste, because this product was printed on a rather flimsy paper, I used a softer brush to apply the paste (as opposed to a roller), and I used a soft, long-bristled smoothing brush.
The video showed the guy using his hands to attempt to smooth the paper into place. If you looked closely, his finished wall had a lot of bubbles and wrinkles. My long soft smoothing brush was much more appropriate.

Preventing Scratches on the Light Fixtures

June 21, 2019


I’m getting ready to remove this over-the-mirror light fixture, so I can get wallpaper behind it. The screw caps were on too tightly for me to turn by hand, so I had to get a pliers to help turn them.

If the metal pliers rubs against the silver canopy of the light fixture, it’s likely to scratch the surface. Also, the teeth in the pliers could mar the round metal screw caps.

So I put blue tape on the base of the light fixture, as well as on the screw caps, to prevent the pliers from coming into contact with any scratchable surfaces.

I Did Not Hang This Wallpaper. How Do I Know?

June 20, 2019


I hung wallpaper in several rooms of this house back in the ’90’s. I thought the homeowners said that I had hung this bathroom, too. But once I got to looking more closely, I knew that I had not.

Top photo – hard to see, but the wallpaper had been wrapped around the inside corner. Wallpaper strips are supposed to be measured, and then split in two vertically, so that one half of the strip wraps a wee 1/8″ or so around the corner. Then the second half of the sheet is hung on the new wall so that it overlaps that 1/8″ bit, and then continues on along the wall.

Also in the top photo, to the right of the corner, the pooching seams on this vinyl wallpaper are probably caused by moisture in a humid room (do a Search here to learn more, or read my page to the right). But I do think that if the original installer had used a more appropriate primer, the paper would have performed better.

Photos 2 & 3 – Some papers can get soggy when wet with paste and become difficult to trim. But, gee, I do hope that I would never leave a homeowner with torn, jagged cuts like this.

Likewise with Photo 4 – See the patch above the window molding and the splice above the backsplash?

Photo 5 – Trimming along shower edges like this is difficult, but I would endeavor to give a straighter cut than the previous installer did.

Last photo – Not my handwriting, not my terminology, and, OMG, my father would roll over in his grave … definitely not my spelling!

A Nice Faux Silk

June 19, 2019


Recently, I’ve had a number of young client families interested in silk wallpaper. For their bath or powder rooms.

Silk is beautiful, and certainly creates a calming mood. But it is also highly stainable. Which makes it a bad choice for rooms where it may be splashed with water, sprayed with toiletries, or touched by peanut butter and jelly-stained hands.

There are faux product that make good alternatives, though. The lower-end paper-backed vinyls are not a good option, due to issues with seams (do a Search here).

Today I at Dorota’s store and she showed me this new product, from Thibaut, in their Texture Resource Volume 6 collection. It’s vinyl, so it’s extremely resistant to water and stains, and the backing is a synthetic non-woven material, which will not absorb moisture and curl at the seams like the lower-end vinyls do.

Dorota works in a Benjamin Moore store near the Rice Village. By appointment: (713) 520-6262.