Posts Tagged ‘chair rail.’

Light-Hued Geometric Updates a Hollywood Bath in West U

June 8, 2019



The kids are grown and gone, so it’s time for an update to this bathroom. The original black & white floral wasn’t bad, but perhaps a bit outdated. And most of the seams had succumbed the curling and pouching that happens when you use the lower-end pre-pasted paper-backed solid vinyl wallpapers in humid rooms – like two teenaged girls showering. 🙂 Besides all that, Mom wanted a fresh new look for her empty nest.

I stripped the paper and prepped the walls – both of which took a lot more work than expected, and way more detail than you want to read here. The install also took a long time … Let’s just say it was way after dark when I finished and went home.

The room had its share of complicated elements. But also working with a geometric print requires a lot of extra steps, to keep the design elements plumb and aligned with the ceiling and woodwork (which are not necessarily plumb), and to keep the pattern matched up as it turns corners – most of which are wonky.

Also, it took a certain amount of plotting and measuring to have the pattern look uninterrupted as it played out above and then below the chair rail.

This paper is in the SureStrip line by York, and is one of my favorites to work with. It is a thin non-woven material, and is designed to strip off the wall easily and with minimal damage to the walls when it’s time to redecorate. It’s pre-pasted, which means that there is a thin layer of dry adhesive on the back, that is activated by water – you can use several methods to do this. SureStrip is always a nice, cooperative paper to hang, and on the wall, it performs well over time.

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What’s Missing?

March 29, 2019


Here’s a wall in an entry in a 1960’s ranch style home in the Briargrove neighborhood of Houston. See that brown line around the middle? Someone has removed the chair rail.

All that is fine and good – but no one told me that the chair rail would be removed, and that they wanted their wallpaper to go floor-to-ceiling.

So, unfortunately, when I measured this room (while the chair rail was in place), I did not figure for enough paper to do the full-length walls. In other words, they don’t have enough paper to do the job.

The other thing is, the walls have a light-to-medium texture, and I planned to skim-float them to smooth them before the paper goes up. That was to take the first half of the day, and I would hang the paper in the afternoon.

But removing the chair rail changes things … Because when the chair rail came off, it took many 50 years’ worth of paint with it – about 1/4″ worth – which means that the area of the brown horizontal stripe needs a thicker layer of smoothing compound than the rest of the walls. This means that it needs more time to dry. A LOT more time, like at least overnight, or even better, a second day. (Quick dry hot mud was not an option, for several reasons.)

This means that this one-day job now requires two, and it means that the homeowners will not get their room done as they expected, and will have to put up with me being there another day. It’s also disrupted my schedule.

Good communication at the beginning and when I first visited this site would have prevented this, kept us on-schedule, and kept everyone happy.

Industrial Modern Comes to West U

March 23, 2019

The first photo shows this master bedroom in the West University neighborhood of Houston after I have smoothed the bottom portion of the wall below the chair rail and primed.

A softer, yet slightly industrial look is brought by the ostrich skin-looking wallpaper, in a color that coordinates nicely with the wall paint. Note the intermittent horizontal lines.

The wallpaper is by Arte. It is 36″ wide, is sold by the yard, and comes in one continuous bolt, this one being 22′ yards. It is a non-woven material. It was nice enough to work with. I pasted the paper, but it could have been hung by pasting-the-wall instead.

It has a high fiberglass content – and I can attest to that, because by the end of the day, my fingers had been stabbed many times.

That fiberglass makes it easy to strip off the wall later, and also makes it “dimensionally-stable,” meaning that it doesn’t expand when it gets wet with paste, and won’t twist or warp while you are working with it.

Birds on Black Wallpaper by Witch and Watchman

March 2, 2019


This very cool wallpaper pattern looks almost photographic. The design has depth, and look at those eyes! – you feel like you are being drawn into the jungle.

The paper was pricy, so, to cut down on the number of rolls needed, the homeowner ran chair rail around the middle of the room, and had the paper applied to the top 5′ only. She painted the bottom an almost-black purple (it’s way darker than the photo shows), and the ceiling got the same paint, too.

The room will be finished with a sort of mosaic, three-dimensional, leaded-glass mirror – that lights up!

Tucked into a large powder room, this is a bold, gutsy look that not every home is ready for. But it’s perfectly suites to this Montrose (Houston) couple!

My second black paper in two days, I again used artist’s chalk pastels to color the edges, so the white substrate would not show at the seams. I tried different install methods, but this non-woven material worked better and had less shrinking when I pasted the wall (rather than the paper).

This is a perfect example of “If you love it, nothing else will do, so find a way to make it happen.” The homeowner saw this pattern and went nuts over it – then went nuts when she learned the price. I suggested that she search for similar patterns by other companies … but nothing grabbed her like this one. After a few months, she came back to her original choice. Eliminating the bottom portion of the room helped bring the price down.

The paper is by Witch & Watchman, and is called “Folia.” It comes in other colorways, but nothing is nearly as dramatic as this “Dark” option. Their patterns are pretty cool. I’ve hung a similar jungle-themed design, but it had cute furry animals on it in addition to the birds – with the same piercing, luring eyes. https://wallpaperlady.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/how-many-birds-in-the-forest/

Blue Faux Woven Grasscloth In A New Home’s Dining Room

February 20, 2018


This homeowner was originally considering grasscloth for the dining room in her home in a new subdivision in Cypress, in far northwest Houston. I sent her my “info pack” showing the visible seams, color variations, staining, bleeding, and other problems inherent to a natural material like grasscloth (see the grasscloth link on the right side of this page). She quickly realized that she would not be happy with the look of real grasscloth.

Instead, she chose this faux product made of embossed vinyl. This ‘woven look’ pattern has the texture that people love, and the different shades of blue add depth. This paper has become quite popular, and is available in about 30 colors. The homeowner was able to find this beautiful cloudy blue, which coordinated beautifully with furnishings and accents in her home.

One option for this dining room was to paper just the top 2/3 of the walls, and then leave the part below the chair rail painted. As you can see in the second photo, this look was a little lifeless. Once paper was added to the bottom area below the chair rail, the room began to feel snug and inviting.

This wallpaper is called Bankun Raffia, and is one of my favorite alternatives to real grasscloth. The seams are invisible. There is no shading or color variation between strips. It’s extremely durable, and is also water- and stain-resistant. It’s one of the few wallpapers that is a good choice for bathrooms or areas where it might be splashed by water or touched by grimy hands.

This wallpaper pattern is by Thibaut Designs, and was bought at below retail price from 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.

Metallic Cork Married With Earthy Cork Breathes New Life Into A ’70’s Living Room

October 13, 2017

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This 1967 home in a unique neighborhood in Pasadena (Houston) is like a time capsule. It’s a little larger and nicer than the typical ranch-style houses of that era. And just about everything in it was original when my clients bought it … terrazzo floors, dental crown molding, upholstered wall panels in the dining room, diamond paned windows, French Provincial painted iron stairway railing, heavy pleated drapes, and much more.

The homeowners love the look and want to preserve as much as possible. But they also want the home to live a little more modern, and they want it to work with the lifestyle of their young – and very busy – family. They’ve already done a fabulous redo of the kitchen that still respects the era and feel of the home’s bones.

Now it’s time to update the living room. Enter – wallpaper! They used the same grey-brown, wood-look floor tile that they put in the kitchen. They kept the chair rail molding that runs around the room. A sliding barn-style door was custom made to divide the living room from the dining room, and it immediately became the focal point of the room.

Wallpaper was the next element … The couple wanted something earthy, yet elegant, and it had to meld with the vintage theme of the house.

They fell in love with a dark brown cork wallcovering enhanced with metallic accents called Enchanted Woods, by Phillip Jeffries. Whoops! – that brand is crazy expensive! My source (below) found them something nearly identical, but at a much more reasonable price. This dark brown material was used on the bottom 1/3 of the walls, below the chair rail. I was able to railroad this product (run it horizontally, instead of vertically), which eliminated seams. (Sorry, I did not get any photos of this.)

For the upper 2/3 of the wall space, they went with a silver metallic cork wallpaper embellished with a classic damask pattern in white. This is a classy, traditional look jazzed up by a luscious shimmery sheen.

The husband was worried that the dark cork at the bottom of the walls would visually occlude the barn door. At first, I tended to agree with him. But once the cork went up, it was clear that the door still stood out as a dominant feature in the room. Furthermore, it was apparent that the dark band of brown cork was needed all around the room, to balance the visual heft of that massive sliding barn door and to bring continuity to the remaining three walls.

As for the upper 2/3 of the walls, there is no question that the barn door stands out against the silver and white damask cork wallpaper. In addition, the natural texture of the cork coordinates nicely with the stained wood of the door.

Cork wallpaper, especially the metallic colors, is pretty popular right now, and I’ve hung a fair amount of it. But this room was the most challenging. Cork is thick and stiff, and does not want to turn corners (In fact, the instructions say you should not attempt to turn outside corners, but should, instead, cover the corners with wooden molding.), nor is it easy to fit around intricate moldings, and it will give a lot of argument when you try to bend it into a small, tight spot. This room had many of those features!

There was one wall that had two trim-less windows that had reveals (and outside corners) to be covered with the cork material, plus four points of wainscoting trim to cut around, as well as two sections of drapery valances to manipulate the stiff material up and under and into. This wall alone took me 4 1/2 hours to paper!

The rest of the room was easier, but still had its challenges. The cork material is thick and stiff and won’t push tightly against moldings or into corners, which means you have to work extra hard and make several cuts before it will sit snugly against the molding or corner. When trimming around intricate moldings (like the edges of the chair rail), you can’t see or feel where the cuts should be made, so you have to inch your way along, taking a bit here and a sliver there. I estimate that each of the six chair rail edges took me at least 15 minutes – each.

The metallic sheen made it difficult to see the pattern, so it took longer than usual to plot and cut strips.

Cork wallcovering is pretty thick, and you have to expect that the seams will show, just as they do with other natural materials, such as grasscloth. Depending on where you stand in the room, the seams on this product are either invisible, or fairly noticeable. I think the seams could have been better – I have a feeling that the manufacturer’s trimming blade was set at a bit of an angle, making a beveled cut. A perfectly straight cut, or even a slightly reversed-bevel, would perhaps have been less noticeable. Still, this is part of the look of the natural material, and not considered a defect. To be honest, unless you’re looking at a particular seam from just a certain angle, you won’t even see a thing – except the beautiful pattern, color, and shimmer.

The dark brown cork is by Monarque, and the upper cork in the silvery damask pattern is by Thibaut. Both papers were bought at below retail price from 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.

Over the last few years, I have papered three other rooms for this family. Now that the wallpaper in the living room is up, they are on to other things – furniture, drapes – and then on to update / decorate other rooms. As I left tonight, the mom assured me that I would be back at some point, to paper another room.

Transforming a Stark Hallway

October 7, 2017

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This young couple in the Garden Oaks neighborhood of Houston has a beautifully updated and furnished 1940 ranch style home. But they wanted to up the volume, so to speak, and thought that this hallway, which slices through the center of the home, would make a fine focal point.

I’ve hung this classic damask pattern twice before, and was carrying around a sample of it when I visited them for an initial consultation. They liked it immediately, and, after considering several other patterns, decided on the damask.

To make the area really special, they added a chair rail and crown molding.

It’s hard to get a good shot of a long, narrow hallway. But you can see how the color and pattern adds warmth and dimension to the space, and the lightly pearlized shimmer of the paper definitely adds a touch of understated glamor.

Since the chair rail was a main feature of the room, I positioned the pattern so that the bottom of the damask motif landed just above the chair rail. Likewise, the top of the motif sits just below the crown molding. This looks a lot better than having part of the design chopped off in mid-motif.

This wallpaper is by Designer Wallpapers, and was delightful to work with. It was bought at below retail price from 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.

In fact, the couple is going to meet with Dorota tomorrow, to choose a complimentary paint color for the bottom portion of the walls.

Here is How I Protect Woodwork While I am Priming

June 14, 2017

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I do a lot of skim-floating to smooth textured walls, so the wallpaper will be bump-free and have a smooth surface to adhere to. The penetrating sealing primer I like for this is Gardz, because it soaks in, dries hard, and binds the surface together. The downside is, it’s thin like water, and splashes and runs like crazy. There are tricks, like using a micro fiber roller, rolling in an upward direction, using light pressure on the roller, and paying attention to what you’re doing.

Still, splatters and drips will happen. And they can happen with other primers, too, as well as with paint or any other product you are rolling or brushing on a wall.

Most painters use a dropcloth to cover the floor. But I can’t stand the tiny “speckles” that fly off a roller and land on the shoe mold, baseboard, chair rail, or backsplash. Many people wouldn’t even notice them, but I do, and I think the homeowner deserves better.

So I protect the homeowner’s floors and countertops as you see in the 2nd photo. I put dropcloths down on the floor or counter. Then I cover the baseboards or chair rail or backsplash with an additional dropcloth, this time a thin flexible plastic-backed paper material. I use push-pins to hold it tightly against the wall, to catch any and all splatters and drips.

It takes more time and it increases my material costs, but it sure is a better way to treat the client’s home.

Hospitality, Welcome, Friendship = Pineapple in a Dining Room

December 21, 2016
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I have to admit – at first, I didn’t like this wallpaper pattern. I thought the overall pattern of the pineapples and foliage formed too regimented of a trellis design, and the pattern would look austere and severe once it played out across the walls. But once on the walls, the pattern is perfect! I think that if the walls were floor-to-ceiling, yes, then the pattern would be too strong. But with the chair rail and wainscoting, the scale fills the upper portion of the walls nicely, and the bold black and green and gold are a good juxtaposition with the white paneling below.

Because the display cabinets on the built-in buffet are the center of attention in the room, I chose to center the pineapple pattern there. In the third photo, you see me using the laser level to get the first strip perfectly centered and plumb.

This room has a lot of decorative moldings, some of which you can see in the “before” photo, which take a lot of time to trim around. In addition, I wanted the pineapples to fall at a certain point below the crown molding and to hang at a certain point above the chair rail, and because I started on the wall with the granite countertop, which sat 4 1/2 inches higher than the chair rail, it took quite a bit of measuring and figuring and plotting to get the pattern where I wanted it … Let’s just say that that first buffet wall, plus two strips on either side, took me a full four hours.

I hung this in a dining room in Spring Branch (Houston). This wallpaper is by Hygge & West, an on-line company. The mothball-smelling inks used can cause the edges to curl, so I did fight with that to an extent during the day. Lightly sponging the surface before pasting, and striping the wall behind seams with a little paste both helped to keep the seams flat and tight to the wall.

Crooked House With An Unforgiving Geometric Pattern

September 10, 2016
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Geometric patterns are all the rage these days, and that’s fine, if all you are wallpapering is one short accent wall in a house where all the walls and floors are perfectly plumb and level.

But that is not what most home are like, and it’s not what I encountered today when I went to hang this swoopy trellis pattern by Farrow & Ball (a British company).

I chose to make the pattern look straight against the most visible element in the room – the door molding. But this meant that the pattern would start to slide up or down the wall at both the ceiling and the chair rail. The chair rail is not at eye-level, but it is very visible, so the discrepancy was very noticeable. For this post, I’ll skip the details about how I made the ceiling appear to be level, and focus on that chair rail.

Because I opted to hang the pattern parallel to the door frame, and because the door frame was off-plumb, and because the chair rail was plumb, when the pattern hit the chair rail, it was not perpendicular. With wild flowers, you would never notice it. But with this small-repeat geometric design, your eye would catch an element (like the “crowns”) moving up or down the wall by even a half an inch.

To disguise this discrepancy, as well as to put a nice focal point at the chair rail, I pulled a tromp l’oeil.” – fool the eye.

I cut a motif out of the wallpaper design – let’s call it a “crown” – and pasted it on top of the paper just above the chair rail. This gave a uniform appearance along the chair rail, and made the eye believe that the wallpaper was straight and level and plumb.

Cutting and appliquéing these crowns took a lot of patience and time, and I missed an event I was planning to attend that evening. But this one detail makes the room look so much better and finished, I knew I had to take the extra time and effort to do it.