Anthropologie Gem Stones on Dining Room Accent Wall

April 11, 2019

Talk about going from boring to bold! The homeowner likes geology, didn’t like the boring beige walls, and wanted to pull in some blue to this dining room, because she has dark blue accents in the adjoining living room. What a great choice this paper is!

The paper is by York, in the Antonia Vella line, and was bought through Anthropologie – but it is available via regular wallpaper retailers, too, like my favorite source (see page at right).

This homeowner purchased her paper before I came out to measure and, like many people unfamiliar with measuring for wallpaper, she ordered too little. So I had her order one more double roll… which, even though she requested the same run of #58, they sent run #88. I ended up needing that additional bolt for just the two short strips over the window, so the color difference between the two runs was not really very noticeable.

The dimensions in this room relative to the dimensions of the wallpaper were amazing. Because the two walls on either side of the window were symmetrical, and because the homeowners had a buffet and a china cabinet centered on each wall, I wanted to center the pattern in the middle of each wall. This meant that as the strips of paper met over the window, there would be a pattern mis-match. But since it was only 10″ high, and since the pattern was so wild, I figured I could disguise the mis-match fairly well.

What’s cool is, each of those wall spaces turned out to be just a tad less than the width of three strips of wallpaper (27″). So when I centered the first strip, and then hung one more on either side of it, only about 3/4″ needed to be trimmed off each side – and the pattern remained virtually intact. Meaning that none of the swoopy lines got chopped off vertically.

And then, as I was bringing the two pieces over the window together in the center of the window, it turned out that the width of the window was amazingly just a smidgen less than the width of the two strips of wallpaper. So when the two strips met in the middle, there wasn’t much of a pattern mis-match at all. Only about an inch of paper was lost, and the pattern was not disrupted visually much at all.

I don’t think I’ve ever hung wallpaper on a wall where the dimensions worked out so miraculously perfectly.

This home is in the Timbergrove neighborhood of Houston.

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How Do I Hate Thee? Let Me Count The Ways…

April 10, 2019


This wallpaper is by Anderson Prints. It was more than a little difficult to work with. I hung it in two different colorways, and both were equally cantankerous.

~ Top photo – see the streak of darker color at the tip of my scissors? This defect ruined a 9′ strip of paper.

~ Second photo – look at the left edge of the toilet, from that corner up to the ceiling … see the darker color? Every strip showed a little darker color at the edges. Close up, you don’t notice it, but from a distance, there is a vertical line that catches your eye. This is on every seam, in both colorways. So, from a distance, you see this faint but noticeable vertical line every 27″, all across the room.

~ The substrate sucks up paste, enough so that after pasting and booking for a few minutes, by the time I got it to the wall, there was virtually no paste left to hold it up, and absolutely no paste on the edges. I tried several tricks – rolling paste under the seams, spritzing the edges with water, dipping the edges of the booked strips into water to keep them hydrated, unbooking and repasting, unbooking and spraying the back lightly with water to reactivate the paste, and finally, the best option was to paste the back as normal, but use a squirt bottle to add a bit of water, and then cut the booking time a little.

~ No matter which pasting technique was used, particularly on the tan colorway, in some areas where the ink crossed the seam, the paper wanted to curl back and leave a tiny gap.

~ The pattern matched in most areas, but dropped a little in some of the motifs, resulting in a mis-match. Then it would match up perfectly again as you went further down the wall.

~ The paper, particularly the silver colorway, twisted and warped horribly. I would butt a strip up against the previous strip, matching the pattern, then go to smooth the rest of the strip against the wall – only to find HUGE puckers and warps. OK, you can tease away minor wrinkles. But when you have several warped areas that are each protruding 1/2″ away from the wall, it’s really difficult to get that strip of paper to lie flat against the wall. I spent at least 20 minutes working and easing the puckers out of one strip and getting the paper to lie flat. To be honest, I’m astonished that I was able to do that. This particular wall had only three 7′ high strips … Because the warping increases as you hang subsequent strips, if I had had to hang many strips in a row, and taller strips, such as on a bedroom accent wall, I don’t think it could have been done without making some relief cuts or double cuts and resulting in some serious pattern mis-matching.

~ The tan colorway was reasonably durable, plus minor creases would pretty much disappear when the paste dried and the paper pulled flat to the wall. But the silver colorway was very delicate, and was prone to creasing at the drop of a hat. Don’t fold it, don’t wet-trim it, unbooking a pasted strip was very likely to cause a crease, and ditto when pressing the paper into a corner to trim … and working around that toilet was the prime area to put stress on the paper and cause more creases. This toilet was butted up against the wall, so it was impossible to slip the paper behind it, so it was necessary to cut the paper to fit around it. That’s hard enough to do with an electrical outlet that protrudes a half an inch from the wall, but veeery difficult when you have something as three-dimensional as a toilet. I must have spent the better part of an hour working the paper around and behind and under that toilet. Note to Self: Next time, make the homeowner pull the toilet out of the room!

~ The silver colorway had a metallic sheen, and every way the light hit it made the pattern look different. It was literally impossible to see the pattern match in some instances, particularly when turning a corner. What looked like a tan line on the right wall would literally show up as a silver line on the left wall. Look at all the horizontal and vertical lines in this design… It was virtually impossible to tell if I had the right line matching up with its proper partner. Trimming on the table (such as when I needed to split a strip) was equally difficult. I was just about impossible to tell design from shadow, and to know if I was cutting straight along the pattern.

~ Metal left marks on the paper. So I had to be very careful while using my straightedge, as well as other tools such as scissors, trim guide, etc.

~ The paper wouldn’t slide around on the wall as most do, so it was difficult to get each strip perfectly positioned.

~ It ate razor blades like crazy. The paper somehow dulled blades faster than even heavy vinyls.

~ When I cut a strip off the bolt, it wanted to stay rolled up. This made it very difficult to trim or paste the strip. So I had to roll all the strips backwards, until the paper relaxed and got rid of the “memory” to curl.

Most of these issues have to do with the substrate used by the manufacturer, but toss in the metallic ink and whatever engineer screwed up the pattern match.

The Wallpaper Lady in Houston House & Home Magazine, Jan 2019

April 9, 2019

The writer did a great job in passing along accurate information, and I hope this article entices more people to venture into these interesting, textured vinyl wallcoverings.

http://www.houstonhouseandhome.net/0119_webupdate/product-January-2019.html

More Wallpaper from BH&G April 2019 Issue

April 7, 2019


The top photo is a look from a 1972 issue; these days, both geometrics and metallics / Mylars are popular. The second photo is also a throwback to late Mid Century Modern – terrazzo, like so many ’50’s and ’70’s homes had on their floor, but this look-alike is wallpaper. Third photo shows wallpaper framed in panels and hung on either side of an entry to a dining room.

You might have to look closely to see the pattern in the last photo, because it’s soft and faint. Everyone (including me) calls this “the blowfish,” but it’s really called “Aquario” and is by Cole & Son. I’ve hung it a number of times, in several colors, mostly on a more dramatic dark background, in small powder rooms, where you can get away with a lot of drama. This pale colorway is much easier to live with when the pattern is on all the walls of a large room.

Shrinking Flowers to Get a Good Kill Point

April 5, 2019


As you hang wallpaper around a room, the pattern in the last corner will end in a mis-match, because the motifs on that last strip won’t match with those on the first strip. So you try to hide that kill point in an inconspicuous place, such as behind a door.

But this large dining room didn’t have any hidden corners. So we were likely to have a 6′ long corner of flowers that didn’t match one another.

But over the entry arch was an area only one foot high. Since this was very short compared to the other full-length walls, and since it was an area that was not going to be viewed much, it was a better place to put this kill point.

So I hung paper on the walls on the left side of the arch, then on the right side, and prepared to have strips meet at the center over the arch. When the strips met there was going to be a flower motif that repeated itself before the normal pattern repeat rhythm. In other words, there were going to be two flowers too close to each other, with one of them being chopped off abruptly at about 1/3.

After pondering different solutions, I figured that if each flower were a bit narrower, that 1/3 bit of excess could be eliminated.

I tested two different methods of “shrinking” the flowers. First, I tried cutting through the flowers vertically, then overlapping a little. This made the flower motifs narrower. See third and fourth photos.

In the second method, I cut around the right outside edge of the flower motifs, and again overlapped. This reduced the spacing between flowers. It did crowd the motifs next to the others a bit more than I liked. And the cut, being made in an unprinted area of the wallpaper, was a bit more noticeable than that made in the printed area in the first option.

I decided on the first option. Cutting through the middle of the flowers resulted in a less visible pattern mis-match, left the spacing between motifs as the artist designed it, and left less of a noticeable ridge at the point of the overlap.

In the second photo, you can barely see that some of the flowers are narrower than others. This looks a whole heck of a lot better than having a flower-and-a-half-flower next to each other over the arch.

Double-cutting (splicing) these areas would have resulted in perfectly flat joins. However, I chose to overlap instead, because this area was up so high and was only about 30″ wide, with no side lighting, that no one is going to notice any ridges from the overlapped areas. More important, I don’t like double-cutting because it almost always scores the wall, and once the paper dries and shrinks and pulls taught, that can lead to the paper pulling the layers of wall apart, leaving gaps that cannot be glued back down. Overlapping won’t allow the wall to delaminate, and it results in a much stronger join.

This pattern is called “Indian Flower,” and is by Jasper Wallcoverings.

“Indian Flower” by Jasper Wallcoverings, Hand Trimmed Goods

April 5, 2019


The selvedge edge of this wallpaper had to be trimmed off by hand, using a paperhanger’s straightedge and a razor blade.

Once that was done, the paper could be pasted, booked, and hung, just like any pre-trimmed paper.

The manufacturer is Jasper, and the pattern is called Indian Flower. I hung it in the dining room of a home in the rapidly-developing area off the Grand Parkway and Birnham Woods, in the Spring area of Houston.

Trimming and Trash

April 4, 2019


Hand-trimming the selvedge off untrimmed wallpaper sure makes a lot of trash.

This is paper (not vinyl or non-woven or grasscloth), so these scraps can go in the recycling bin.

Trick in Hopes to Stave Off Popped Seams from a Crumbly Wall

April 3, 2019


The walls in this powder room in the West U neighborhood of Houston had had many treatments over it’s life, including paint, more paint, skim-floating, wallpaper, and more. Sometimes, and particularly if prep is not done properly, these various layers are not compatible, and won’t adhere to one another well.

When the old wallpaper was removed, this was clear at the seams, where the various layers of the wall had pulled apart, leaving ridges along the length of each seam. This happens because the wallpaper dries and pulls taught and creates tension on the wall; if the wall is unstable, the layers can be pulled apart (delaminate). Sorry, no pics of the “before,” but you can do a search here to see pics of other rooms. This condition can happen over time, as the house fills with humidity and the paper absorbs it, then dries and shrinks again.

I dug out the raised ridges and applied tape over them, sealed with Gardz, a penetrating sealer that dries hard. Then I skim-floated over all the walls, to create a smooth surface for the wallpaper. Sanded, wiped dust off with a damp sponge (nothing sticks to dust), and primed all walls with Gardz.

One good way to deal prevent this from happening again is to cross-line the walls with a special liner paper. This is a thin paper that is usually run horizontally before the actual decorative paper is hung. The idea is that if the new paper shrinks and applies tension, it will be distributed by the liner paper, and will not pull at the wall. If the liner shrinks and pulls, the tension is off-set by the decorative paper on top of it. So the two layers are working together to distribute any harmful tension on the wall surface.

Unfortunately, using liner adds a day of labor plus the cost of the material. The homeowner’s budget had already been busted by other factors, so she wanted to keep the job to one day. After collaborating with my colleagues in the Wallcovering Installers Association on our Facebook page, I decided to try this method:

From Office Max I got some plain old cash register tape. I plotted where each seam would fall, and used my laser level to guide placement of a floor-to-ceiling strip of the tape. I adhered it with regular wallpaper paste. At first, I worried that it would soak up moisture and bubble, but once it was smoothed into place, it laid down nice and flat.

Then I hung the wallpaper. The seams fell nicely on top of the tape, held tightly, and looked beautiful. There is the possibility of seeing a very slight ridge under the paper because of the thickness of the tape, but it’s very minimal because the tape is quite thin. And it’s much preferable to popped seams or delaminated walls.

The idea is that the tape will bridge the seam, and distribute tension from the drying paper across the width of the tape, keeping tension away from the wall itself. The tape is very thin, and doesn’t appear to have much tensile strength, but my buddies who have tried this method say it works well.

Time will tell, but I have a lot of confidence in this method.

Three-Dimensional Square “Dots” on Pale Neutral Grasscloth

April 2, 2019


Thibaut’s “Union Square” wallpaper pattern is a response to the popular Phillip Jeffries’s “Rivets.” Thibaut’s looser design and pattern placement make it much easier to align with the walls and woodwork – including rooms that are out of square and out of plumb. Which is just about every house in every neighborhood in every state.

The 3-D squares are made of some kind of plastic stuff, and are virtually impossible to cut through with a razor blade or a scissors (such as when trimming at the ceiling door or window moldings). I was able to engineer the room so that I did not have to cut through any of those rivets! Because the PJ pattern is much tighter, this would have been virtually impossible.

Also, I found that my soft short-bristled smoothing brush worked well enough to press the material against the wall while skimming over the 3/8″ high square bumps (sorry, for some reason, the photo did not turn out). But my beloved plastic trapezoidal squeegee smoother was just about useless, because it would not accommodate the 3-D “rivets.” So I had to adjust my install tactics a bit, and figure how to get along without the plastic smoother.

This wallcovering is made of grasscloth, which provides the subtle texture that homeowners are loving these days. But because grasscloth is made of natural fibers, there can be a lot of variations between bolts, and even between strips off the same bolt.

For that reason, Thibaut not only notes the run number of a bolt of wallpaper, but also the sequence in which the material was produced (see photo). The idea is that if you hang strips sequentially, you will see less shading or paneling (difference in color between two strips of wallcovering). Thibaut’s insert also includes a LOT of jargon about the color differences inherent to natural products, and the admonishment to use the bolts and strips sequentially.

I used three double rolls / bolts of grasscloth for this entry. Two of the bolts (the first two in the sequence) were pretty homogenous in color. The room was small and had low ceilings, and so I was able to keep the three strips needed for the longest wall all from the same bolt (#1).

I cut my other full-length strips from the second bolt (#2). That left the third bolt (#3) for the many short pieces needed to go over the four doorways in the room. As you can see from the last two photos, even though it was the same run number and printed at the same time, this third bolt was noticeably different in color from the previous two. The background color is the same, but there is a lot – a LOT – more dark brown fibrous material that got worked into the woven grass material.

Keeping these darker strips over the doors was a good way to minimize this color difference. The strips were only 9″ high. If these strips had been placed side-by-side on an 8′ high wall, the color difference would have been abruptly noticeable.

Color variations are to be expected with grasscloth, or any natural product. But helpful labeling by the manufacturer, and careful plotting by the installer, can minimize these differences.

This ’60’s-era ranch-style home in the Briargrove neighborhood of Houston is very much a “sea of tranquility,” as the whole house is entwined in off-whites, creams, and tans, with various textures like rough wood, sisal, and this grasscloth, used to pull in depth and warmth.

The interior designer on this project is Layne Ogden, of Layne Torsch Interiors.

Wall Prep – Missing Chair Rail and Stain Repair

March 31, 2019


What an unexpected surprise I got when I arrived at work to discover that the chair rail in this entry had been removed (top photo). Not only did I need to figure how to get enough paper to cover the additional wallspace, but I needed to smooth over the damaged wall area where the molding had been torn off. (See previous post)
I skim-floated the wall and sanded smooth. It looked great. But brown coloring from the torn Sheetrock had worked its way through the smoothing compound (second photo). Torn drywall is not something that I would normally worry about bleeding through wallpaper (you are concerned mostly with things like grease, ink, water, tobacco, rust, and the like), but this stuff was 60 years old, so who knows what its properties and characteristics were back then? And besides, it had already worked its way through a layer of joint compound – in just one night! No sense in taking the chance that it might bleed through this nearly-white grasscloth natural fiber wallpaper.

The Gardz penetrating primer / sealer (not pictured) I planned to use on the wall would be fine to hang wallpaper on, but could not guarantee that that brown stain would not work its way through the primer and through the wallpaper.

I applied the Gardz, because it’s a great penetrating substance that seals new smoothing compound, and also provides a good surface for hanging wallpaper on. Once that was dry, I followed that with a coat of KILZ Original, an excellent oil-base stain-blocker. But wallpaper paste will not stick to the new KILZ formula (required in order to comply with current EPA requirements.

A little 3″ width around the lower center of the room with wallpaper not sticking tightly to it probably would not be problematic. But you never know, and I didn’t want a “hula hoop” of delaminated wallpaper circling the room. So once the KILZ was dry, I followed up with a coat of a wallpaper-specific primer, Romans Ultra Prime Pro 977.

Now the room is ready for wallpaper, without fear of a band of tan bleeding through the new surface.