Posts Tagged ‘bungalow’

Clever and CUTE Homage to Historic Wallpaper

April 29, 2020


This adorable swatch of children’s wallpaper was uncovered during a whole-house remodel of a 1930 bungalow in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston.

I love the way these old wallpapers retain their intensity of color, even after all these years. There is also some of the “cheesecloth” adhering to the back ….

Back in the days before drywall, when walls were made of ship-lapped boards, the paperhangers would tack thin fabric over the walls, and then hang the wallpaper on top of that. This provided a smooth surface (instead of the seams between the boards showing through), and allowed for the paper to “float” over the walls, preventing cracks or tears in case of the house shifting on its foundation.

The homeowner salvaged some of the wallpaper and preserved chunks in frames, which hang in front areas of the home.

I was particularly thrilled to see this, because, well, I just LOVE old wallpaper, especially from that era.

Crazy Wild Pattern and COLOR!

April 17, 2020


Same 1929 bungalow in West U (Houston) as yesterday. Both the husband and wife have what I call “BIG personalities.” No way they’re gonna live with boring white walls – they like COLOR and PATTERN.

This very small hallway is the perfect place to pull off a really dramatic punch of color and pattern. What makes it even better is the lime green woodwork! (What’s even more cool is that the husband chose the green color (most husbands try to avoid decorating at all costs).

The wallpaper pattern is called Honshu, and is by Thibaut Designs.

This hallway is adjacent to the orange dining room I blogged about yesterday, and the colors and themes blend together beautifully.

Note the old telephone niche built into the wall – and painted that super fun lime green color.

The Honshu is a wild pattern on its own. But what really makes the room is the green accents in the moldings. They even painted the frame around the trap door to the attic!

Lotsa Color, and a Nice Faux Silk

April 16, 2020


I have worked for this couple in their charming 1929 bungalow in West University (Houston) several times since the 1990’s. They definitely are not people to go with the all-white or all-grey or minimalist trends that are popular today. These folks like COLOR!

The dining room walls were originally upholstered in a botanical print on blue (which the homeowner did himself, and did a mighty find job of, too). So the room never was bland white. 🙂 But now, 20 years later, they were ready for an update.

Their contractor removed the fabric and then skim-floated the walls smooth. Usually I have to go back and re-smooth the walls … but this guy did a really good job, and I was able to simply prime, and then hang the paper.

This is a vinyl product named “Wild Silk,” and is by Thibaut. It’s much more stain-resistant and durable than real fabric. Unlike real silk and other natural materials like grasscloth, this product has a pattern match. This means that you are not going to see each separate panel or visible seams, like you do with real silk. So the walls have a much more homogeneous and pleasing look.

The challenge lay with the old house and its un-plumb walls and un-level ceiling and window/door moldings. Since the ceiling was not level, if I hung the wallpaper true to plumb, then it would start “tracking” off-kilter at the ceiling line, and appear to be running either uphill or downhill. This effect was further complicated by the way the pattern ran along the window and door frames.

I decided to keep the pattern parallel to the ceiling molding line. This meant letting it go crooked along the door and window frames, if that’s how it turned out. The ceiling line was more visible and more important.

Since the pattern was tracking off-kilter, I used a razor blade and a straightedge to trim off a wedge-shaped chunk from one side of the wallpaper. This forced the pattern to move up (or down). After a few strips, I had tweaked it enough that the design was moving straight across under the crown molding.

Even though the strips were not hanging plumb, it looked wonderful along the ceiling line. This “silk” pattern was very accommodating of that. If it had been a design with a prominent motif that the eye wanted to see marching straight across the ceiling AND straight down along a door frame, it would have been much more difficult to pull off – maybe impossible.

Going around the window (no pic) was even more complicated. Because I was tweaking the three strips above the window to follow the crown molding, and also the three strips below the window – and you can’t guarantee that these will all adjust at the same rate. So getting the strip to the left of the window (no pic) to match up with the strips above AND below the window would be pretty impossible.

So I was extremely pleased when the pattern on all these strips did match up, within about 1/16″.

This is a vinyl material and was somewhat difficult to push tightly into edges and corners, and to cut through. I was glad that I didn’t have intricate decorative moldings to cut around. I used orange chalk to color the edges of the material, to keep the white substrate from showing at the seams.

I love the way the salmon color coordinates with the painted trim. Who paints door moldings orange??! THESE people do – and I highly applaud it! No boring all-white rooms in this house!

The look is bold, but surprisingly warm. The orange moldings against white walls would have been jolting. But with the salmon colored wallpaper, the whole effect is unified, inviting, and invigorating!

Grasscloth in Heights Master Bedroom

January 17, 2020


This is the 1st floor master bedroom of a nicely-remodeled-but-still-retains-many-original-details-and-all-its-original-charm 1920 bungalow in the Heights neighborhood of Houston.

The textured walls started out dark green. I skim-floated and sanded them smooth. The new wallpaper is a brown grasscloth with a faint greenish tinge, and it has a nubby texture with a lot of knots (more pics tomorrow!)

The homeowner ordered her paper before I measured the room, and I told her to get two additional double roll bolts. In the 4th photo, I am checking labels to be sure we have all the same run / dye batch; we lucked out and the new bolts were the same run as the original lot.

In the 5th photo, I have cut strips for a wall, and have them lined up and ready to paste and trim. In the background, you can see how I place bolts against each wall, as a way of keeping track of how many strips I need and which bolts I will take them from.

Because there are shading / paneling issues with grasscloth (do a Search here on those terms), it’s important to not mix strips from different bolts. That way, if there are slight color differences between bolts (as there usually are) these differences will be minimized. Still, as you see in the third photo, the three strips on the right came from one bolt, and the strips on the left came from another bolt – and there is a noticeable difference in shade. This is not a defect – it’s simply the nature of grasscloth – a product made from natural materials.

This one long wall used seven strips from three bolts, so a color difference could be expected. On the other, narrower, walls, all the strips came from the same bolt, so the color differences were minimized. When I had to use different bolts on the same wall, I was able to place the “break” over a door or window, with only 1′ of color difference. That’s a lot less noticeable than the 8′ you see on the long wall in the photo.

This wallpaper was bought through Sherwin Williams. There is no brand name on the label.

More photos tomorrow!

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.

From Fussy Victorian to Serene Home Office

February 10, 2019


Originally, this front bedroom in a 1925 bungalow in the Houston Heights was wallpapered in a dark green and red floral. It was lovely, and went beautifully with the home’s vintage vibe.

But the new homeowners (who have lived here many years, but are just now getting around to decorating this room) want to use this room as a home office, and they wanted something lighter and more modern. In the top photo, you see me stripping off this floral paper.

They were considering grasscloth, but, after reading my warnings about that product (see the page link to the right), they decided to avoid the color variations, staining, and fragility of that material, and instead went with a sort of faux grasscloth – this textured vinyl in a silvery grey color.

The color of the new paper goes perfectly with the gray paint on the woodwork. The paper has vertical lines in a striped pattern, as well as subtle horizontal shading that mimic real grasscloth, but in a more controlled and pleasing way. The commercial-grage vinyl is thick and durable, and will withstand bumps, splashes, and stains way better than most other types of wallcoverings.

On my end, though, the vinyl material was very difficult to work with. It is thick and stiff, and it is on an Osnaburg woven fabric backing, which is much like canvas. It takes a really sharp razor blade and a lot of strength to cut through it.

And because it is so thick, it’s very difficult to get it pressed up tightly against woodwork – so when you trim against the ceiling, doors, or baseboard, it’s very likely to get a gap that lets the wall behind it show. I have a special trim guide that makes a “fat cut,” which helps eliminate that gap.

Because the wallcovering is made of vinyl, it traps moisture behind it, so when the paste behind it dries, there is nowhere for the moisture to go, so you get off gassing – which is a nice way of saying that the paper “burps” and creates bubbles. I had to continually go back and chase bubbles out of the drying paper.

The design has a textured raised vertical stripe pattern. I had cut my first several strips with the intention to start hanging. Then I started measuring the wall, plotting the layout, and counting stripes. They were not laying out properly across the wall. After studying the paper’s pattern for a while, I realized that the stripes on the ends of the paper would not be spaced correctly – unless paper was trimmed off the edges of the wallpaper strips.

By removing 2.5″ from the edge, the stripes would be spaced correctly. I could trim this 2.5″ off, using my work table, a ruler, and my 6′ straightedge.

But the manufacturer’s trimming roller had left a slight beveled edge where it cut the paper. Since my hand-cut edge would be straight up, you would see an odd junction where my straight cut met against the manufacturer’s beveled cut at each seam.

So the only option for a very smooth seam was for me to trim some off both edges of the wallpaper. This worked out to 1.5″ off one side and 1″ off the other. Which was complicated further by the fact that some of the bolts of wallpaper were 1/4″ – 1/2″ narrower than others. So much for quality control at the factory!

But what this meant to me was that I had to carefully measure the width of each bolt of paper, compare that to the rhythm of the stripes crossing the paper horizontally, and determine how much to trim off each edge, in order to have the stripes be spaced correctly across the room.

In real life, most people are not going to notice a spacing difference of 1/2,” or even 1.” Especially in a room with very dim lighting and tons of shadows, and a pattern that is difficult to see in the first place.

But since I had to trim the paper’s edges anyway, it just made sense to trim it so that the spacing of the stripes fell as perfectly spaced as possible.

Try as hard as you may, hand-trimming wallpaper, especially thick, heavy, fabric-backed vinyl, is not as accurate as what they do at the factory. Thus there is always the potential for slight gaps or overlaps at the seams. With a thin paper, it’s possible to stretch and manipulate the material to make a good seam. But with this thick vinyl, I expected to see these gaps and overlaps. However, I was amazed that the vinyl was more malleable than expected – every single seam melted together perfectly.

Although the specs said that the trimmed paper would be 25″ – 26″ wide, by the time both edges were trimmed off and the stripes spaced as they should be, the paper was actually only 24″ wide (give or take an extra 1/4″ or so). Lose 2″ on each of eight strips going across a wide wall … and that can screw up your engineering of the wall and your plans of the number of strips needed and how many bolts of paper will be required.

All of this fiddlin’ and futzin’ took a lot of time, and I was only able to trim and hang paper on two walls each day. So, with prepping the walls and hanging the paper in this … it was something like a 16 single roll room… it took me a full three days. Which is what I had planned on, so we stayed right on schedule.

There was no brand name, so I don’t know the manufacturer, but the label said “JL 8008.” This commercial-grade paper is available in the 27″ width (which is what I can work with) or the wider 54″ (which is more for commercial settings). It 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.

Longing for the Big Apple

January 20, 2019


Originally living in the heart of New York City, these homeowners “got a better offer” and moved to Houston. In a nicely updated 1925 bungalow in the Woodland Heights, life for these two has changed for the better – but the wife still reminisces over the view she had out her skyscraper office window back in NYC.

She found this really cool wallpaper design, which depicts hundreds and hundreds of New York buildings, from tall to gigantic, from the 1800’s to the 2000’s, with many styles of architecture tossed into the mix.

Where did this cool and sentimental wallpaper go? … In the laundry alcove. But it’s not tucked away in the rear of the house … this laundry room is in the main hall leading through the house – which means that this fun and sentimental wallpaper is on view every time anyone walks through the house.

This wallpaper is by York, in their Sure Strip line. It is a thin, easy to manipulate non-woven material, and is designed to strip off the wall easily and with minimal damage, when it’s time to redecorate. This is one of my favorite brands, because it’s easy to work with, doesn’t tear or crease, it doesn’t shrink and gap at the seams, it’s easy to remove, and it will stand up to humidity, such as will exist in a laundry room.

Patch Disguises Delaminated Wall

December 19, 2018

I hung this paper for a young couple in a cute 1930 bungalow in the Heights neighborhood of Houston a year or two ago. After a year or so, the wallpaper began to gap at the seams. Turns out this is not the wallpaper coming loose from the wall. What is happening is that the various layers of paint and etc. inside the wall are actually coming apart.

The wallpaper dried and shrank and put torque (tension) on the wall at the seams. Also factoring in is humidity in the air, poor air circulation in the air, and possibly a moisture problem inside this wall. Oh, and this wallpaper manufacturer, Hygge & West, is known for using inks that curl away from the wall at the points where they cross the seams.

But the real culprit is years’ worth of paint and other wall surfaces that are not compatible with one another. Back 80 years ago, you had oil-based paint. Cover that with latex paint, then do a project that creates dust that sifts onto the walls, add some gloss paint, roll on a coat of latex, then a layer of texture, then more paint … all without proper prep between.

Proper prep or not, most of these wall coatings are not prepared to adhere to one another, and when drying / shrinking wallpaper puts stress on the surface, the various layers can let go from one anther and “delaminate” – which means to come apart.

In the photo, you can see the thickness of the separating layers. Some layers of paint have held fast to the wall, but others have let go and curled back. Because there is dust and gloss and other factors underneath, it’s not guaranteed that anything will hold the layers back tight to the wall.

Adhesive silicone caulk was my glue of choice. It will stick to porous or glossy surfaces. I squeezed some carefully into the popped seams, spread it around, closed the seam back up, and then waited for the caulk to tack up and grab ahold of the layer above it.

Eventually the caulk dried enough and became tacky enough that it held the layers together. Not perfectly, but at least there was no gaping opening at the seam.

The gap and a slight “pouch” still showed, so I thought of covering them with a patch that would span the seam, holding both sides together.

So next I took some left over paper (ALWAYS save your left overs!) and cut out dark green palm leaves. I made sure to leave a wide section on either side that was cut along the individual fronds, so they would mimic the pattern on the wall, and so there would be a wide area to straddle the seam and add stability. The area I cut out between each front helped the patch blend in with the pattern that was on the existing paper on the wall.

The stupid camera ate my picture of the patch after it was cut and pasted, but before it was applied to the wall. Dang it, because that would have explained a lot of my process.

Anyway, I made several of these frond-leaved patches, pasted them, and then applied them to the wall, directly straddling the popped seams. Not only did this cover and hide the open edges of the seams, but the width of the patch helped strengthen the bond while at the same time lessening the possibility that a seam would open up again.

In the last photo,  at the top of the picture, you can see one appliqué patch applied, straddling the seam.  Moving down the wall, I would add two more similar patches over the seam.

From a distance – heck, even from up close, you could not see the repaired areas.

Wild and Fuzzy in a Heights Dining Room

December 2, 2018

The top photo shows me starting to apply smoothing compound to the textured wall of a 1930 frame bungalow in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston. Originally, all the walls of this dining room were a dark purply-navy flat paint. This wall will become a feature wall.

It took a long time to get the wall smoothed, but when it was finally time to hang the paper, I was ready! – It’s such a beautiful, unusual, daring, and fun pattern. What’s more – it combines a shimmery silver background with 3-dimensional flocking. That’s the coal-balck velvet-like fuzzy material that sticks up about 1/16″ from the surface, creating a dramatically gutsy effect.

The second photo is funny, because it makes the wall look hashed and diagonal. But in real life, you don’t notice this cross-hatch design; your eye only sees the pairs of peacocks and the dramatic colors.

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

The pattern is called “Tail Feather.” It is by ASW – A Shade Wilder, and was bought through Wayfair.com

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. 🙂