Posts Tagged ‘hand trim’

Arts & Crafts Authenticity in a 1908 Heights Home

July 16, 2020


This home in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston dates back to the very early 20th Century, back when the Arts & Crafts movement was in full force. The style emphasized nature, earthy colors, blocky features, and stylized designs.

I like this look a lot, so it was really fun to work with the wallpaper and help bring their living room to their vision. They have the period furniture to go with it.

The wallpaper is by Bradbury & Bradbury, a California company that makes wallpaper in vintage and antique designs – Victorian, William Morris, Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, Oriental, Atomic Age, ’20’s, and more.

Their paper is a little tricky to work with. First, there is an unprinted selvedge edge that has to be trimmed off with a 6′ straightedge and razor blade (search here for other posts showing that process).

The manufacturer calls for clay-based paste, which I hate, for various reasons. But to comply with their specs, I bought a $50, 50lb, 5-gallon bucket of it – and used only about 1/2 gallon. Clay is a low-moisture paste, which helps with this material.

When wet with paste, the heavy inks on this paper absorb moisture differently from the paper backing, and the result is “waffling” or “quilting” – which is when you get wrinkles inside the unprinted areas (do a search here for more posts on this issue). To prevent this, it helps to lightly dampen the surface of the paper with a sponge and clean water. This helps even out the moisture ratio. I found that this pattern also fared better with a little water sponged lightly onto the back, as well.

To handle the 20′ long horizontal strips, after pasting, I folded the strips accordion-style. I also added blue plastic tape to the bottom edge, to prevent paste from getting onto the painted woodwork, which would eliminate the need to wipe it off during installation. Then all went into a plastic trash bag to “book” for a few minutes.

I set up two ladders, so I could step between them as I unfolded the accordion pleats, and I also used push pins to hold the booked strip up while I got down and moved the ladders.

The paper adhered nicely to the wall without curling at the edges. There were a few wrinkles in the inked areas, but these disappeared as the paper dried.

A wide decorative border like this, especially dating to this era, is called a “frieze.”

What’s really cool is that the homeowner (a former contractor), added the block wood molding because he wanted to unite the heights of the door molding with that of the windows (both just barely visible in the photos). That was way before they thought of adding a wallpaper border. Once they discovered Bradbury and started hunting for a wallpaper, turns out that the height of the space between the two moldings was exactly the height of the wallpaper frieze.

Even more amazing is that the paint colors were chosen before they went searching for wallpaper – but are magically perfectly harmonious with the colors in the frieze.

This wallpaper pattern is called “Birchwood Frieze,” by Bradbury & Bradbury. They have lots more gorgeous stuff on their website.

Bringing India to Houston

July 4, 2020


One of the homeowners has familial ties to India, and he wanted their new home to reflect that feel. Presenting “Peacock Garden,” which perfectly conveys the feel of rural parts of that country, while complimenting the colors of their dining room.

This wallpaper is 54″ wide – which is about as wide as I am tall! Since I don’t have scaffolding, I used two ladders, set close together (not pictured), so I could walk back and forth between them to augment my wingspan.

The paper was untrimmed – had a selvedge edge that had to be roughly trimmed off by hand. Next, a perfect pattern match was achieved by overlapping the seams on the wall and double cutting – an industry term for splicing. The process requires special tools, and takes a good bit of additional time. Do a Search here to find related posts.

The material is a durable non-woven, which meant that I could install via the paste-the-wall method. Eliminating paste from the back of the paper made each 54″ x 10′ strip much lighter and easier to get to the wall.

The contemporary home is a new build in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston.

This wallpaper pattern is by Zoffany, 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.

Poorly Trimmed Paper

February 27, 2020


This is “Bankun Raffia” by Thibaut, a textured vinyl product – one of my favorite alternatives to real grasscloth (do a Search here to read my comments about grasscloth).

As you can see, the factory didn’t do a very good job of trimming the right edge. It is a good thing that I spotted this before I pasted or tried to hang it. I had to hand-trim the edges of my strips.

Luckily, it appears to be in just this one double roll bolt.

Clever Wine Crate Pattern for Outside a Wine Room

July 24, 2019


In the top picture, out of sight to the right is a walk-in wine room. The homeowner has loved this pattern for years, and finally found a place to put it – right adjacent to the wine room!

The wine case pattern is by Brunschwig and Fils. Unlike the other papers by B&F that I have hung, this one is a vinyl, with a slightly embossed surface (the lines between the boxes are slightly indented). It has a selvedge edge that had to be trimmed off by hand. Unlike most hand-trimmed papers, this one had no trim guide marks, so I had to wing it on where to place my straightedge.

The paper backing soaked up paste quickly, and each strip was nearly dried out by the end of the booking time, so I ended up rolling a little paste on the wall where the seams would fall, to augment. Once it was on the wall, the paper adhered nicely.

The floor was unlevel, and so the paper ran crooked along top of it, making it look like the bottom row of boxes was running downhill. To level out this bottom line, I used my straightedge and a razor blade to cut off the bottom “boards” along the black line. I trimmed the strip to 1/2″ high. See 4th photo. I used a piece of artist’s chalk to color the cut edge, so white would not show along the top.

Then I appliqu├ęd the strip over the bottom of the paper on the wall, butting it up against the baseboard. Wallpaper paste won’t stick to vinyl (it’s too slick), so I used special adhesive on the area of the overlap.

In the bottom photo, you can see how nice and even the bottom line looks.

The interior designer for this job is Stacie Cokinos, of Cokinos Design. The home is in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston.

Brunschwig & Fils’s Bibliotheque 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.

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.

Badly Curling Edges on Quadrille’s “Sigourney” Wallpaper

July 18, 2018

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This “high end, designer wallpaper” by Quadrille (called Sigourney) has heavy inks that smell like moth balls. As is common with these papers, when wet with paste, the ink absorbs moisture and expands more than the paper backing, which is what causes the curing of the edges and the wrinkles (called “waffling”) which you see in the first photo.

Once the paper is on the wall, those edges can continue to curl backwards, resulting in gapped or open seams, or seams that are tight but just don’t look good. And the interior of the strip will continue to hold a few wrinkles and bubbles.

This paper had a selvedge edge that had to be trimmed off by hand with a long straight edge and a razor blade, before the strips of paper could be pasted and hung on the wall. I found that my carefully hand-trimmed edges did not butt together nicely, nor did they adhere tightly to the wall, and they left little gaps and curled seams.

My solution was to overlap the subsequent strips of wallpaper and splice them together. This gives pretty much perfect seams.

However, it is time-intensive and somewhat complicated, involving many steps and some special equipment. No photos, but in a nutshell, you trim the selvedge edges of the wallpaper in a way that allows you to match the pattern on one side, and then leaves a little more than that on the opposite side. You first pad the wall under where one seam will go with a thin strip of heavy plastic that is 3″ wide (we WIA members call it a Boggess strip, after the WIA member who invented it), to protect the wall. Then you hang one strip, allowing one edge of it to land on top of that plastic strip.

The next strip is pasted and hung, positioned so that it overlaps the previous strip along the outer edge, while making sure that the pattern matches. Next you take a straightedge (I use a wonderful one (not pictured), invented and manufactured by another WIA member), and a sharp, new razor blade, and cut through the two layers of wallpaper, paying heed to press hard enough to cut through the two layers of paper, but not so hard as to damage the plastics strip, and definitely not hard enough to score the wall. A cut into the wall could result in delamination of the layers of the wall, and irreparable curling at the seams.

Once the cutting has been done, the excess layers of wallpaper need to be pealed away, then the Boggess strip removed, and then the two sides of the wallpaper strips should be eased together and smoothed down tight, with the edges of the strips wiped clean of any residual paste.

Next, the rest of the strip of wallpaper should brushed into place on the wall. This Quadrille paper may look wrinkled and waffled on the wall, but any little wrinkles or bubbles that may remain on the wall will dry and flatten out in very little time – just a few hours.

The whole plot, cut, trim, paste, book, position, place Boggess strip, trim paper at crown molding, trim at chair rail, trim at overlapped seam, smooth seam shut, wipe seam clean of paste residue, scenario resulted in very nice seams, but took a whole lot of time and materials and focus. I probably spent 40 minutes on installation alone (not including measuring or trimming) for EACH strip. And there were many strips around the room.

The family was out of town, and I’m glad – because I was working on their dining room until about 1:30 a.m. in the morning!

While this wallpaper’s challenges could be met, and the finished room looked fantastic, I would much prefer to hang a good quality mid-price-range wallpaper, with seams trimmed at the factory, and made with regular ink printed on traditional stock, that performs nicely and with minimal time spent.

Dark Paper Bringing Brightness to a Harvey Hurricane Flooded Home

June 28, 2018


This home in the Bellaire subdivision of Houston was flooded during Hurricane Harvey in August of 2017. Everything below the 4′ high water mark had to be cut out and thrown out. The homeowners loved the Mid-Century Modern vibe of their 1952 home, so, as the structure was put back together, they re-created everything as accurately as they could – baseboards, doors, cabinets, flooring – they even found a funky green refrigerator designed in the style of what I can only describe as an old Studebaker sedan.

When it came to wallpaper, they wanted something to reflect the vintage vibe. After much research, they agreed on two papers from the Bradbury & Bradbury Vintage ’20’s collection. This colorful bird-flowers-and-foliage-on-black pattern went in their sun room, which can also be called the piano room.

The ’20’s Vintage wallpaper collection is pretty new from Bradbury and Bradbury, which is out in California. This company produces historic-styled patterns from eras such as Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Victorian, Asian, and more, right on through into the new offerings based on designs from the “Modern Age.”

Like many higher-end or specialty and / or “boutique” wallpaper brands, this paper came with a selvedge edge that had to be trimmed off by hand (by me!). The manufacturer’s trim guidelines were spot-on, and so the edges were nice and straight, and the pattern design matched from strip to strip perfectly.

This pattern is digitally-printed on a paper substrate with a somewhat shiny surface. I found that it accepted the paste (clay paste is recommended, to mesh with the paper which is printed on a clay-coated substrate) with no protests, and, after appropriate booking time, the paper handled nicely and the seams laid down nice and flat. That slightly shiny surface also allowed me to wipe any stray spots of paste off the surface.

Because the paper was black, I did take the extra step of using a piece of black chalk to color the edges of the strips, to keep the white substrate from peeking out at the seams.

This room holds a grand piano, and is in the back of the house, where it looks out onto the patio and backyard. It gets a lot of sunlight in the daytime, and the colors in the wallpaper will really stand out, and will bring a lot of light into this very deserving home.

Hand Trimming A Patterned Grasscloth

June 7, 2018

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Most wallpapers come with their edges pre-trimmed by the manufacturer. But some – usually the higher-end products – come with the selvedge edge intact, which means the installer has to hand-trim the material to remove this unprinted edge.

This is done with a straightedge (not shown in the photo), a single-edge razor blade (lots of them!), an appropriate surface to cut into, and a steady hand.

The manufacturer will print marks (trim guides) on the wallpaper, so you know where to trim. But these are not always accurate, so often you have to go by an element in the design (1/4″ away from the tip of the red dog’s nose).

You also have to use a tape measure to make certain that the width of the strip is the same along it’s entire length. If it’s not, you will end up with a trapezoid, or a strip with one or both edges that are shaped like a boomerang – and no strip of wallpaper will butt up against a boomerang!

Hand-trimming is tedious and time-consuming and precise. It’s important to have the right equipment, to pay attention, to take your time, and to have a steady hand.

Fun Rainbow Fan Pattern in a Hall Bathroom

June 22, 2017

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Another all-white bathroom goes from dull to lively and fun, thanks to wallpaper!

This pattern is called Chou Chou, and is by Sister Parish Design. The substrate was paper, and it was a hand-trim product. It was positively lovely to work with.

The pattern, however, was NOT. Those rainbows look alike, but they are not. It was the Devil trying to tell one blue dot from another. Add to that extremely off-plumb walls, bowed walls, and an unlevel ceiling, plus the selvedge edge obscuring the pattern motif at the edges of the paper. I spent more time trying to match up dots than I did hanging paper.

The room had some tricky elements to it, too, so this install took way longer than I had anticipated or planned for. Let’s just say, the homeowners gave me a key, told me how to let myself out and lock up, and went to bed.

So it was a loooong work day (night). Still, it turned out looking fantastic.

This home is in the Galleria area of Houston. The interior designer for the job is Layne Ogden.