Posts Tagged ‘engineering’

Working Around Shading in Cork Wallpaper

February 16, 2021

The homeowners originally sought grasscloth for this accent wall in the home office. But I talked them out of it, due to the unpleasant shading and color variation issues (click on the page to the right to read more). I showed them a sample of this white-washed cork wallpaper, and they were immediately smitten.

The previous time I hung this, the material was very homogeneous in color.

But this time, it was immediately evident that there was a darker band running down the left half of the roll, and a lighter band along the right side. Note that this is not considered a defect (even though it is obviously a problem stemming from the factory). It is considered part of the “inherent beauty of these natural materials.” Meaning, you can’t return it and expect to get your money back.

Cutting strips as they come off the roll and hanging them next to each other will result in abrupt color differences between strips – as you see in the top photo. One way to minimize that is to hang every other strip upside down, so you are then putting the dark side next to it’s dark counterpart on the previously hung strip.

In this case, because the darker areas were so dark and wide, this would have resulted in the wall having a striped look. Not what the homeowners were shooting for.

The wall was exactly 12′ wide, and the material is 3′ wide, so we needed four strips to cover the width of the wall.

We had three double-roll bolts. Each 24′ long bolt will give you two 9′ strips. Thus we needed two double rolls to cover this wall. That left us with one bolt in excess.

That turned out to be a good thing – having extra paper. The color shading was bad in one bolt, noticeable in another bolt, and the third bolt was pretty homogeneous in color.

I rejected the bolt with the worst shading. Thank goodness the client ordered a little extra paper! The bolt with the second-worst shading, I discovered that if I rolled it backwards, the shading was less severe in the inner portion.

So I took two strips off this bolt from the inside-out.

So now that gave me two strips from the first roll that were pretty homogenous. Plus two strips from the second bolt that were passable.

How to keep the color as uniform a possible across the 12′ wide wall?

II knew I wanted to place the two strips from the first, “best” bolt in the center of the wall. If I hung one right-side-up, and the next one up-side-down, keeping the darker area toward the center, the color differences would be less noticeable.

But I still had to cover 3′ width on either side of those two center strips.

One strip equaled 3′ width. So one 3′ wide strip on either side of those two center strips.

One plan, I contemplated cutting each of those the two 3′ (36″) wide strips from the second bolt into 18″ widths. Hang one right-side-up and the other upside-down. That would break up any color variations into less noticeable panels.

Only problem was, then there would be two 36″ wide chunks of material in the middle, flanked by two 18″ wide chunks on either side. I thought that would be too inconsistant, visually.

It would look better to keep all the widths the same, at 36.”

The two strips I had taken off that second double roll bolt had some shading issues, with the left side being darker than the right side. I reasoned that it would be less noticeable if the darker, shaded area, was toward the outer corners – sort of as if sunlight or furniture or window shutters were casting shadows.

So I plotted to use a full 36″ wide strip on either side of the center strips. I would position them so that the lighter side of each strip was toward the center – toward those two originally-placed strips. This meant placing one right-side-up and the other one upside-down.

Thus the darker edge of the strips would be situated toward the corners of the wall – a logical place for shadows and light to play tricks on the eye.

That’s what I ended up doing. And the finished wall does really look very homogeneous!

Yes, I am quite guilty of over-thinking way more than I should. But I think the client deserves the best look possible. And, to be honest, all this plotting and engineering is a big part of the fun of hanging wallpaper!

Textured Faux Crocodile in Montrose Powder Room

October 1, 2020


From flat and white to textured and black, this powder room took a trip to the wild and exotic. The embossed vinyl wallpaper mimics the look of crocodile hide.

I centered the design on the sink wall, so the pattern would frame the mirror evenly. Then, since the toilet wall is the first thing you see when you enter the room, I thought it would look nice to have the pattern centered on that wall, too. Usually, you can only balance the pattern on one wall, and after that, the design has to fall sequentially as it works its way around the room. But I did some engineering, and figured a way to place the pattern in the center of the toilet wall, too.

The material is an unusually thin and flexible embossed vinyl on a thin non-woven substrate. It’s my second time in this year to hang this, and I like it a lot – much better than most non-wovens, which can be thick and stiff and can bruise easily.

Non-wovens have some fiberglass in their content and do not expand when they are wet with paste, nor do they shrink as they dry. They can be hung immediately after pasting – or you can use the paste-the-wall method. Non-wovens are designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece when it’s time to redecorate.

This is in the SuperFresco line by Graham & Brown, one of my preferred manufacturers. You don’t need a retailer, because this can be bought directly from the G&B website.

The home is new build, contemporary in style, in the Montrose area of central Houston.

Warping Wallpaper – Grasscloth

June 17, 2020

Well, this was a first for me. I can’t say that I remember having a grasscloth that stretched and warped out of shape this badly.

What’s odd is that, after I pasted and booked the wallpaper, it was perfectly lined up and flat. It was only after the paper had sat for the resting period, and then I unfolded it and took it to the wall, that it started warping out of shape.

My first strip laid against the wall nice and flat, but did not line up against my laser level’s red beam, moving to the left the farther down the wall the strip went. The subsequent strip to its right, naturally, would not butt up against the first strip. However, this second strip did line up against the laser plumb line, on both the right and left sides. So I left it on the wall.

But I had to tear off and discard that first strip.

I had problems with many of the strips. As you can see, there was major warping and wrinkling. I was unable to smooth out most of these warps.

Some of my colleagues have suggested that my trimmed edges were not straight. And I admit that I sense that my ($200!) straightedge is not true (perfectly straight). But a 1/8″ discrepancy over a 9′ drop should not result in wrinkles of this magnitude.

I think that the substrate that S&L is using is absorbing moisture from the paste unevenly, and thus creating the warps and twists.

The only way I could make this work was to do a double-cut (spliced seam). I smoothed the grasscloth onto the wall as best I could, even though both the right and left edges still presented wrinkles.

I carefully pulled away from the wall the left edge of the previous strip (having applied extra paste, to keep everything wet and “open”). Between that edge of the strip and the wall, I placed a “Boggess Strip,” (invented by a fellow WIA member) which is a thin strip of 2″ wide polyethelyne plastic, that will protect the wall from my razor blade.

Now hanging the next grasscloth strip, I then covered the underside of the right (wrinkled) edge with blue plastic tape (also invented by the same WIA genius member). This would keep paste off the surface of the strip I was overlapping it onto. Then I smoothed the paper onto the wall, allowing the right side of the strip to overlap on top of the previous strip, by 1.5″.

I worked out wrinkles as best as I could, but some insisted on remaining. I then took my EuniTool straightedge (invented by yet another WIA member), and used it as a guide, along with the red light line from my laser level, and a new, fresh razor blade, to cut a straight, plumb line between the edges of the two strips.

The grasscloth was thick, and I had to press really hard to cut through both layers. The Boggess strip prevented scoring into the wall. This is important, because an un-intact wall can delaminate under the stress of drying / shrinking wallpaper, and this can cause the seams to pop open.

Back to the double-cut. Once the cut was done, I removed the plastic Boggess strip from the wall, and the protective blue plastic tape from the edge of the grasscloth, as well as the two excess strips of paper that I had just cut off. (Do a Search here to see pics and read more about the double cut / splice process.)

I could then smooth the newly-cut edges of the two strips together.

All this takes a lot of time.

I still had more strips to hang – and each required the same procedure. You only have so much “open” time before a piece of wallpaper starts sticking to the wall and cannot be jacked around with anymore.

I had to jump to the left edge of the current strip I was working with, and add a Boggess strip behind it. And then I had to paste and book my next strip, and apply some blue tape to the area that would overlap the previous strip. Wait a few minutes for it to book and absorb the paste.

Then repeat the double cutting procedure used on the first strip.

All this caught me off guard, and it threw off my engineering of the wall and my planned width of the strips. It also took a lot more time … I spent 5 hours hanging just these 5 strips.

Bottom line – I got ‘er done … But I am definitely NOT going to recommend Serena & Lily grasscloth to future clients.

And I am VERY grateful to my WIA colleagues for inventing tools and gadgets that help with these tricky situations, which I’m glad I bought and had stashed in my van, and for sharing their knowledge and experiences so I knew what techniques I might try.

Classic Look in Historic Home in the Woodland Heights

April 23, 2020


This large 2-story home was built way back in 1985 – a whole 12 years before the Woodland Heights (Houston) neighborhood in which it sits was platted and developed. It just underwent a major renovation, but retains most of its original details, such as floor plan, windows, moldings, flooring, pocket doors, and much more. There are several large, regal live oak trees on the property.

The homeowner chose this classic damask pattern with a weathered look for all four walls of the dining room. It perfectly suits the room.

It took me about two hours of measuring, plotting, engineering, hanging, removing, re-hanging, yada, to get the design to perfectly flank either side of the window. All that work was worth it, to have the design fall symmetrically. But the real show-stopper is the view of those oak trees through the window!

This wallpaper is by Designer Wallpapers, and is lovely to work with. The interior designer for the job is Stacie Cokinos of Cokinos Design. She is the go-to designer in the Heights for whole-house remodels and new builds.

I threw in a photo of my work table, just for fun.

Tune in tomorrow, to see the finished room!

Powerful Storm Clouds – Cole & Son Nuvolette

March 14, 2020


“Nuvolette” by the British manufacturer Cole & Son is a very popular pattern – but not every room can handle such a strong design. This bedroom in a new townhome on the far west side of Houston is large enough to contain the storm clouds – which will cover all four walls. Talk about drama!

The dark floor and dark woodwork help ground the pattern. The homeowner has a background in interior design, and I can’t wait to see what furniture, bedding, window coverings, and accessories she outfits the room with.

The pattern match is very tricky, and you have to plot everything carefully and confidently before you cut anything. The product comes packaged as an A-B 2-bolt set. On the label it’s noted that one pattern match is straight across, while the next strip is a drop match.

So, essentially, this has a multiple-drop pattern match , played out across four strips of paper – but with even more complicating factors tossed in. It’s a real brain-banger to plot out! I’ve hung it twice, and both times was lucky enough to have a large open area where I could spread out the A and B bolts, and then plenty of time and a distraction-free environment to get my head around the pattern match.

In the picture, you just see a nicely fit-together set of panels. But getting them to that point did take a good bit of engineering! (Especially since “someone” opened the shipping box and removed several of the bolts from their original packaging, so there was no way to tell the A bolts from the B bolts.)

Like most of Cole & Son’s wallpaper, this was a non-woven material. This stuff has a high-fiberglass content, and thus does not expand when it gets wet with paste. This allows you to get accurate measurements that won’t change when the paper is pasted. It also allows you to paste a strip and hang it immediately (no booking time), and takes the pressure off of having a booked strip over-expanding while you fiddle with hanging a difficult strip.

It went up pretty nicely. Tomorrow I will hang the remaining two walls.

The pattern is in the Fornasetti line by Cole & Son, and 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.

Feathery Stripe in Memorial Area Entry Hall

February 1, 2020


I admit … When the homeowner first emailed her selection to me, I wasn’t crazy about the design. But once it started covering the first walls of the home’s entry – boy did I start to see her vision. It is stunning. And it’s one of those patterns that looks even better in person.

It’s a sort of a wide, scratchy stripe. The homeowner says it reminds her of feathers.

I spent a lot of time with math and engineering, and in the end was able to balance / center this pattern not just on the first wall with the front door (2nd photo), but on two other walls with doors, as well as this widest wall (1st photo). And I eliminated a noticeable kill point (no photo).

This wallpaper pattern “Plume” is by Cole & Son, and is on a non-woven backing. This means that it does not expand when wet with paste, plus there is no booking time, so you can paste it and hang right away – or you can paste the wall. I’m glad I pasted the material, because walls in this room were pretty wonky, and softening the paper by pasting it made it easier to manipulate it to match up with the crooked walls.

Non-wovens are also designed to strip off the wall easily, cleanly and in one piece when it’s time to redecorate.

I did encounter a few minor printing defects. But we had enough extra paper to work around them.

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.