Posts Tagged ‘booking’

Brunschwig & Fils’s Biblioteque in a Heights Library

July 14, 2019


Another installer hung the paper in the first photo. For some unknown reason, two half-walls were left unpapered. I was called in to finish those two areas.

Brunschwig & Fils is a French manufacturer, with a long history. Like many higher-end brands, this product came with a selvedge edge that I had to trim off by hand (see last photo), using a razor blade and a 6′ long straight edge (not shown).

And, like many higher-end brand papers that are printed with ink that smells like mothballs, once paste is applied to the back of the paper, the inked surface absorbs moisture from the paste differently from the back side. When the top inked layer expands at a different rate from the substrate, you get waffling, or quilting. Sorry, no photo, but you can do a Search here to see previous blogs on this topic. Essentially, it’s a wrinkly mess.

One way to deal with this is to even out the moisture differential by lightly sponging water onto the face (inked side) of the wallpaper. The front can then absorb moisture from the sponging at the same time that the substrate is absorbing moisture from the paste.

As I worked with the paper, I discovered that it wanted to dry out quickly. So it helped a lot to also use a sponge to get a little moisture onto the back side of the wallpaper strip, before pasting.

Other tricks to slow drying out are to 1.) Book the paper (fold pasted side to pasted side and then roll up loosely like a newspaper) and then dunk the ends into a bucket of clean water. 2.) Place the booked strip into a black trash bag, which will prevent evaporation during the time the paper books. 3.) When the wait time is up, gently unbook the paper and lightly spritz the back with clean water from a spray bottle. Alternately, you could sponge the surface once again. The idea is to introduce a little more moisture, to loosen up the paste and to make the paper more malleable.

I had been told that this paper was difficult to work with, and that the seams wanted to curl. I had the opposite experience – I thought it was lovely to work with. The seams laid nice and flat, and the paper was easy to manipulate, and it clung tightly to the wall. Applying moisture to the surface and back got rid of the waffling, and any that did remain (there were small puckers in the white horizontal “shelf board” areas) disappeared as the wallpaper dried.

This home is in the Houston Heights neighborhood, and the interior designer is Stacie Cokinos, of Cokinos Design.

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.

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.

Prepasted Wallpapers

August 3, 2018


Yesterday’s post was regarding a pre-pasted wallpaper. A lot of my colleagues scoff at pre-pasted papers, because they are lower-priced and because they are targeted to the DIY crowd.

But I like them! As long as they are paper or the newer non-woven materials (and not vinyl, which is horrible low-end stuff!), I think they are fabulous products, as well as much faster to apply. Please read yesterday’s post for more reasons why I like these papers.

In the photo, you see the water tray I use. I roll the strip up and run it through the water to activate the thin layer of paste which the manufacturer has applied to the back. As the paper comes out of the water, I fold the pasted sides together – this is called booking. The paper is set aside for a few minutes so the paste can activate, the paper can absorb moisture and expand, and to let excess water can drain off.

I will often roll on and cut into the edges a very light coat of paste, just to augment the adhesive already on the paper.

Then the paper is applied to the wall. Because a lot of water comes in contact with the surface, it’s important to wipe the surface completely, and to rinse your cloths frequently.

Playful World Map With Fun Animals for Baby’s Nursery

August 8, 2017

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Couples love this mural for their new baby – I’m betting it’s all over HOUZZ and Pintrest, and that’s where web surfers are finding it. This is the third time I’ve hung it, each time in a different color. The seams were much better this time, having been cut straight so there were not gaps of overlaps, and lying down better. (Search to read my previous posts.)

The mural came from Portugal, and was custom-sized to fit this accent wall in the nursery. The homeowner did the measuring, and he did a good job (as opposed to a prior install – read previous post), and the manufacturer also added a little around all the edges, to allow for trimming at the side walls, floor, and ceiling.

Now, if the homeowner had called me before he ordered that mural, I would have had him get it a little larger. The manufacturer’s guidelines allowed for a scant 1″ at the ceiling and baseboard. In a perfect world, this would be fine.

But in this room (in a beautifully renovated 1940 bungalow in the Houston Heights), the walls were not plumb, and the ceiling was not level. If I had hung the mural true-to-plumb, it would have started tracking off-kilter along the ceiling and floor lines, quickly eating up that 1″ allowance, and quite possibly ending up running out of paper at the top of the wall or at the baseboard. The same thing could happen at the corners, too. (That did happen on one of my other installs.)

Before I pasted a piece, I did a lot of measuring and plotting, to be sure I could position the mural so it would cover the entire height and width of the wall space. Much too complicated to explain. But, in a nutshell, what I did was to hang the mural off-plumb, but parallel with the un-level ceiling.

I started with the center panel, to minimize any tracking on either the left or right sides. I also made sure that the strips falling on either side of that center piece would be wide enough to reach the two wall corners, even if they hung crooked.

My strategy worked, and I ended up trimming off 1 1/4″ from the top, and 3/4″ from the bottom, on each strip. This meant that the mural was running parallel with the ceiling and floor, which was more important than being perfectly plumb. (Note: Usually you’re trimming off 2″ at both top and bottom, so today we were really cutting it close.)

Another complicating factor to this install was that, while most wallpaper widths are 20.5″, 27″, or 36,” these three mural panels were each 4′ wide. I’m 5’3″ tall, and my arm stretch is probably not a full 4,’ so handling, positioning, manipulating the pasted 9′ long strips was very difficult.

Additionally, it was important to “work clean,” because the surface is textured and it’s not easy to remove any paste that might get on the front of the wallpaper.

There’s more: My work table is 33″ wide, so pasting and booking the 48″ wide x 9′ long strips was a challenge. And the pasted strips, which I booked in accordion folds, were heavy and unwieldy.

All that mental plotting and physical gymnastics were worth it, though, because the finished mural looked fantastic, and the mom-and-dad-to-be loved it.

I have a pretty long lead time (4 months), but this couple called at the moment when another job had just postponed due to construction delays, so I had an open day and could get them done right away. That’s really good, because the baby’s coming, and the parents want to get the room furnished and decorated and ready.

I’m glad I was able to help them. 🙂

Puckered Seam Due to Material Expanding

January 24, 2017
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This is a popular wallpaper pattern, and the previous times I’ve hung it it was called “Wood” by Cole & Son. It has a matt finish and has always gone up beautifully.

But today I hung the same pattern, this time curiously with a label from “Blooming Wall.” The material had shiny surface. Both brands are a non-woven substrate and a paste-the-wall product. Because the material is dimensionally stable, it will not expand when it gets wet with paste like regular wallpapers will. So you can put paste on the wall instead on the back of the paper, and hang your strips immediately, with no booking / soaking or waiting. The Cole & Son performs as it’s supposed to.

But this Blooming Wall product did soak up moisture from the paste, and shortly after I put it into the paste on the wall, it expanded just a little, causing puckers at the seams. It also warped and twisted a little, and created bubbles that had to be worked out or cut open.

Once I figured out what was going on, my solution was to lightly dampen the back of each strip with water, to allow the material time to absorb moisture and expand before it got to the wall. This did help eliminate the seam puckers and the warping.

Wallcovering for Geologists, Weathermen, and Oil Drillers

August 18, 2016
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Today’s job was challenging and tedious, but a whole lot of fun. The homeowners worked in the oil patch, and love these seismic charts. Some show places they have worked, and one even shows the family property! They wanted the maps to cover the walls above the wainscoting in their powder room, in a large Victorian 1904 house in Montrose (Houston).

These were real maps, not wallpaper, so I had concerns about what adhesive to use, whether the material would tear when it became wet with paste, if a razor blade would cut it – or shred it, how much it would expand when wet, whether it would shrink when dry, and if ink marks on the paper (both printed and hand-written) would bleed. The homeowners provided me with a stack of maps to experiment with.

In the first photo, the maps are spread out on the dining room table, with the maps most important to them on the left, the maps with moderately significant features in the middle, and then a whole stack of maps that could be cut up to use as filler. They had worked out a few diagrams of where they wanted certain features, and also put yellow sticky paper with notations on the maps. In addition, the homeowner and I spent a lot of time talking about the various elements of the maps and what features were most important to the couple, placement, expectations, feasibility, etc.

Keeping their wants in mind, I plotted out where to place the various maps. It’s more complicated than it sounds, because they were not all the same size (in neither length nor width), the dimensions of the walls had to be taken into consideration, filler material had to be cut to bridge gaps, and “more interesting” sections had to be placed in prominent areas (the family estate went on the back wall – the first wall you see when you walk in).

Some of the maps were very similar, and I thought the walls looked better when there was something dividing the patterns, so I cut 2″ wide strips of filler (choosing material that had a contrasting pattern) to place between maps. You can see this in some of the photos. I also liked the look of a strong line at the point where two maps met, so, if the map didn’t have a printed line at the edge, I used a Sharpie to make one. This gave a lot more definition to the edges of the maps.

I learned the hard way that – regardless, of what they look like – lines on seismic maps are not straight, they are not parallel, and they are not perpendicular. Plus, you can plan on the paper stretching and warping. So, since I was starting from the chair rail and moving up, and I wanted specific things to run horizontally along the top of the chair rail (numbers, words, lines), it was really tricky to, at the same time, get a vertical line to run upwards equidistant from a vertical line on the adjoining map.

I know that sounds complicated. It was! It’s the kind of thing that takes a lot of time and plotting and measuring and trimming, but once it’s up on the wall, all you see is “a bunch of maps – that happen to look pretty straight.” The second photo shows my table with maps, homeowners’ sticky notes, my straight edge, razor blades – and me getting ready to trim!

Walls and ceilings are never plumb, and wet wallpaper likes to twist, so we paperhangers like to say that what’s at eye level is most important. Usually, I start hanging paper at the ceiling. But in this room, with it’s paneling hitting the wall at nearly 5,’ that’s pretty close to eye level, so that became the focal point. Meaning, I plotted the design at the bottom edge of the paper to line up with the top of the wainscoting.

This looks great, but it’s awkward to position, because, while gravity works with you when you are dropping a strip of wallpaper from the ceiling downward, it is definitely working against you when you are trying to work from the bottom upward. The most difficult sheets to maneuver were the largest, which were about 40″ wide by 30″ high.

I really thought that I wanted to use a wheat or cellulose paste with this material. These are both used less commonly, and come as a dry powder that needs to be mixed with water. Wheat paste is what wallpaper was hung with decades, and even hundreds, of years ago. It hydrates the paper nicely, is slippery, and does not create much tension between surfaces when you unbook the paper.

But when I did my tests, I found that my usual pre-mixed vinyl adhesive, diluted, worked very nicely. What worked best for these maps was to lightly sponge the back with water, then roll on a light coat of paste, which I diluted by sprinkling on a tiny bit more water as I spread the paste across the back.

I was pleased that the paper didn’t tear when I unbooked it (“booking” means folding the pasted sides together, and letting it sit a few minutes to relax, absorb paste, expand, etc.). But it didn’t like being unbooked and I didn’t like wrestling with it, so, except for the largest pieces, I tried to keep the paper flat and unfolded. The maps didn’t dry out like real wallpaper tends to do, so leaving it open and unbooked was not a problem.

The maps also responded quickly to the moisture of the paste – or perhaps it was the light sponging with water before pasting that helped. But I found that the material did not need to sit or book for much time at all.

This meant that I could move along a little more quickly. And it also meant that, as long as I brushed carefully and in the right directions, there were no wrinkles or bubbles. Usually I use smoothing brush with short, stiff bristles. But on this paper, a more delicate, longer bristled brush was better. I used a plastic trapezoid smoother, too, especially on the edges.

When the material was wet, it was a little difficult to trim, because it wanted to drag and tear. But a very sharp razor blade, and either a lot of pressure or a very light hand, depending on the situation, resulted in nice, clean trim lines.

I chose to overlap the seams. I wanted to avoid double cutting, because the process of double-cutting (splicing) seams can be hard on delicate paper (tears, stretching, stress on the wall). And the paper was thin enough that overlaps would not show much at all.

See that bull’s eye in the second-to-last photo? The homeowners tell me that is very exciting to oil-patch people. It designates the highest point, and thus the exact spot where oil is to be found.

Logos like that in the last photo were also important to the homeowners. I positioned some in key areas of the room. And, when I could not make that work with the walls’ dimensions, I improvised by cutting the logo off and pasting it over a different part of the map.

Although the job was tedious, in both the plotting and the installing, it went very well, and the clients were thrilled with the finished room.

How I Hang Wallpaper On A Ceiling

August 13, 2016
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Ceilings are challenging to hang wallpaper on, and go better if you have scaffolding and a second set of hands. Because I work alone, I don’t take on a lot of large ceilings. But when I do, here is how I do it…

I’ll put my 5′ and my 6′ ladders next to each other, so I can smooth paper onto a section of ceiling, and then walk from one ladder to the other, positioning and smoothing more paper as I go.

Another big help is booking the wallpaper in accordion pleats of about 2′ each (instead of the 1/3 / 2/3 fold that is common for paper to be hung on a wall). In the second photo, you can see me unbooking paper that has been folded like an accordion, and then positioning it on the ceiling.

But wait – what is holding the paper to the ceiling? Wallpaper adhesive will ultimately secure the paper to the surface. But until that dries, when you get down to move the ladder so you can position the next couple of feet of wallpaper, the strip can peel itself off the wall. The whole strip. 😦

So a good trick is to use push-pins to hold the booked paper in place, until you have moved your ladder and are ready to unfold the paper and work with your brush and smoother to get it into place.

The push pins will leave holes, true, but they can be minimized. So be sure to put the pins into an element of the pattern design, rather than into “blank” space.

Hanging a Pre-Pasted Wallpaper

December 15, 2015
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Pre-pasted wallpapers can be vinyl, paper, or non-woven. This particular wallpaper is comprised of a layer of solid vinyl bonded to a yellowy-brown paper backing, and is pre-pasted. This means that a thin layer of dry paste has been embedded onto the back, so all you have to do is dip it in water to activate the paste.

Most of my friends snicker at this method, believing it to be amateur and DIY-ish. I, however, really like most pre-pasted wallpapers, and find them much quicker to hang, and sometimes I can even get away with rolling the paper out on the floor, instead of lugging in my big, loppy pasting table.

In the photo, you see my green trough filled with water, sitting on towels, on top of plastic. A strip of wallpaper has been cut to the appropriate length, rolled up, and has been inserted into the water. As the strip is unrolled, the backing is exposed to the water, activating the paste. Near the bottom of the photo, part of the wet wallpaper has been loosely folded onto itself, pasted-side-to-pasted side. This is called booking. Way to the left of the photo is a strip that has been completely pasted and booked, and is now sitting for a few minutes before being taken to the wall.

This waiting period is an important step, because it allows all the paste to become activated equally, it allows all the paper backing to absorb water and expand to a uniform width, excess water can run off, bubbling on the wall is minimized, it makes the wet, sticky, slippery material much easier to handle, as well as other benefits.

When working with pre-pasted papers, I usually run a little bit of paste around the corners, baseboards, and ceiling line, and roll a very light coat of paste onto the wall, particularly where the seams will hit, to augment the manufacturer’s paste already on the back of the paper.

Once the booked strip has sat for the right length of time, it is taken to the wall, the top portion is unbooked, positioned, smoothed, trimmed, and then ditto with the lower portion.

I find the whole process much faster than when you have to paste each strip on the table, and everything else about the installation (adhesion, workability, slip, expansion/shrinking, strength, etc.) is about the same as with hand-pasted papers.

Substrate Fighting the Ink – Wrinkles, Contrary Seams

December 2, 2015
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The first photograph is showing the back of a strip of wallpaper, after paste has been applied. It is wrinkled and warped. The reason is because the substrate is absorbing moisture from the paste and expanding at a different rate from that of the ink on the front, so the two materials are fighting one another.

This makes it difficult to work with on my table. But the real hassle is when the paper is on the wall, and the seams curl in areas where ink crosses the seam (second photo). It was very difficult to get the seams to stay down. Often, if you wait until the paper is dry, they will dry taut and flat. But you can never count on that, so it’s best to make sure the seams are closed and tight while you’re still working.

But overworking the seams can cause visible burnishing or other damage to the surface.

I experimented with booking times, humidity control during booking, smoothing techniques, and I used my trapezoidal smoother tool to push the cantankerous areas tight to the wall. Still, I was not 100% happy with the way most of the seams looked.

This manufacturer, a small American company called Hygge & West, is pretty customer-friendly, so I sent them an e-mail with photos and suggested they might research other substrates and inks. There are plenty of companies that make wallpaper that doesn’t curl at the seams, and Hygge & West should be among them! Many people love the patterns of Hygge & West, and I would love for them to have papered rooms that are as close to perfect as possible. http://www.hyggeandwest.com/