Posts Tagged ‘engineering’

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.

A Kaleidoscope of Mid-Century Modern, Frank Lloyd Wright – Wild

July 7, 2018

What a fun pattern from Bradbury & Bradbury, in their newish line of “Atomic Age,” Mid Century Modern, in the theme of architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright!

The young couple that bought this mint-condition, Mid-Century home in the Medical Center / Reliant Stadium neighborhood of Houston is way crazy about the modern look, and wanted an accent wall in the kitchen breakfast nook to both play up that theme, as well as bring color into the room.

There are four bright orange molded plastic “mod” chairs that will ring around that round table.

The pattern is called Kaleidoscope. The wallpaper is custom made, but is not outrageously expensive. It comes with a selvedge edge that has to be trimmed off by hand. (Do a search here for pics and more info on this process.) The paper is normally hung vertically, but the homeowners liked the design better run horizontally (called railroading in wallpaper terms).

It took a lot of trimming, plotting, planning, and engineering, plus plenty of time with the laser level (see second photo), to get the pattern matched correctly and then laid out on the wall so everything lined up perfectly. I also took steps to keep as much paste off the woodwork and shutters as possible. Yeah, it wipes off relatively easily. But always best to keep it off in the first place.

Two Bolts, Two Runs, Four Walls – Engineering to the Rescue

June 21, 2018


Re my previous post … The area to be papered was small, but the whole job was complicated because the grasscloth arrived in two different runs. Run refers to paper that was all dyed / printed at the same time, with the same batch of ink. Different runs will be slightly different colors. The second photo exaggerates that color difference a bit, but still, it was pretty noticeable. That’s why you need to be sure that all your wallpaper is from the same run.

Somehow, Quality Control fell through on several levels, and I ended up with four walls to cover, a scant two bolts of paper, and two different color shades.

If two strips of wallpaper from two different runs are places side-by-side, you will see a big difference in color, which is what we call paneling (do a Search here for more pics and info). But your eye won’t notice a slight color difference if the two runs are kept on separate walls.

So my challenge today was to figure out how many strips I needed of what lengths, to cover which walls, without mixing either of the runs on the same wall, all the while bearing in mind the length of each bolt of paper and how many strips I could get out of each.

It took a bit of measuring, plotting, pre-planning, and engineering – which, to be honest, I actually enjoy – a lot. 🙂 In the end, I was able to cover all four walls without either of the two runs touching one another on the same wall. Once the room was done, you would never have known the paper had come in two different shades. The overall look was very homogeneous.

“I Thought I Wanted an All-White House – But It Was Bland and Lifeless”

June 9, 2017

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I love it when homeowner say this! Because I have been crusading against all-white houses for years. While the all-white concept looks good in magazines, in real life, with real families in real homes, the look can be coldly stark and anonymous. See Photo 1. This client realized she craved more warmth and personality. Her choice was grasscloth.

In Photo 2, see how just a light, neutral color defines the room, and makes the beautiful woodwork stand out. (In the ‘before’ photo, you could not even see the woodwork.) Further, the nubby texture of the grasscloth adds warmth, while it ‘snugs up’ this large master bedroom. See a close-up of the texture in Photo 3.

Photo 3 also shows a seam. It’s important to understand that grasscloth has no pattern to be matched, and that all the seams will show as a ‘mismatch.’ There can also be color differences between strips. Happily, this product had very little of the shading and paneling and color variations that can occur with grasscloth.

Because all the seams will show, the room looks better when the walls are ‘balanced.’ This means trimming all the strips so they are equally wide for each wall they will sit on. See an example of this in Photo 4. This is called ‘engineering,’ and it takes a lot of time, math, calculating, measuring, and trimming. But the balanced, more sophisticated finished look is worth it. This homeowner noticed the even widths of the panels right away, and was appreciative of the effort I had taken.

This grasscloth product is by Thibaut Designs, pattern #5060. The Run # is 92 – which is pretty high, and it tells you that a whole lot of people have loved this particular color and material.

This wallpaper pattern 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.