Posts Tagged ‘level’

Making a Geometric Wallpaper Pattern LOOK Straight in a Room with Crooked Walls

April 8, 2020

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image


Geometric wallpaper patterns are popular right now, but they are rigid and inflexible, and the eye sees any imperfection, so they are demanding to hang, especially in rooms where walls are not plumb and floors and ceilings are not level. This powder room in Fleetwood (far west Houston) really put me to the test.

Visually, it’s more important to keep the pattern intact, than to keep it running straight along the ceiling and floor lines. On the various walls and elevations in this room, I called a lot of tricks into play to keep the pattern looking straight – but here we’ll focus on this one corner.

In the top photo, the corner looks straight, but if you could see the full height of the wall, you would see that the wallpaper pattern moves to the left as it drops down the corner. I’m happy that all of the “lanterns” are intact. But as more strips are hung to the right of this corner, the lantern motif will start to travel up the wall and be cut off at the ceiling line.

To keep this from happening, I had to pull the pattern back into plumb. The second photo shows what the design should look like, and it’s my goal to keep the pattern intact, and all the lanterns looking like this.

In the third photo, I am hanging the first strip to the right of the corner. Because the corner is off-plumb, this strip of wallpaper would hang off-plumb, too. To keep that from happening, I hung the left side of the strip off-plumb, but then hung the right side of the strip plumb, lining it up against my laser level, a you see in the photo.

How did I do that? I took a sharp scissors, a good pair of close-up eyeglasses, a whole lot of patience, and even more time, and carefully cut around the left edge of the lantern motifs from floor to ceiling. You can pretty well see this loose edge in the third photo.

Then I pulled the right edge of the wallpaper to line up against the red line from my laser level, making it nice and plumb. This created an overlap of the left edge of the lantern motifs onto the right edge of left side of the wallpaper strip that had been cut in half. Got that? 🙂

This one corner took me about 45 minutes.

It was worth it. Once I smoothed the overlapped pieces into place, you really don’t notice that the lanterns are a little closer together at that one section than they should be. See third photo. This area is near the floor, across from the toilet, and not any place anyone is going to be studying the width of wallpaper motifs. 🙂 And it looks a whole lot better than chopped-off lanterns at the ceiling.

In this whole 10 single-roll powder room, I’d say that I spent a full two hours just on tweaking the pattern to keep it looking straight. That’s in addition to five hours regular labor to hang the paper. Plus the entire day before to prep the walls.

It was well worth it. The homeowners had originally tackled this wallpaper job themselves, but became overwhelmed. They had invested the better part of a year in getting the room into shape. In the end, the room looks great, it is MUCH brighter than when they started out (original paper was a dark teal faux finish), and it suits the wife’s love of all things geometric.

This wallpaper pattern is by Brewster, in their A-Street Prints line, 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.

Bibliotheque Install Details – Pt IV – Plumbing Up Coming Out of a Corner

March 18, 2020


Walls are never straight, and corners are never plumb. This can wreak havoc with wallpaper and wallpaper patterns. But there are ways to deal with that. For instance …

Coming around an inside corner, you want to split your strip of wallpaper vertically, so that it wraps just a tiny bit (1/16″ – 1/8″) around the corner. Then you take the remaining portion of that split strip and overlap it on top of that 1/16″ – 1/8″.

At this point, you have the opportunity to make adjustments for walls that are out of plumb or that have bows or other defects.

In the photo, you see me using my laser level to plumb-up the right edge of the wallpaper strip. This may mean mis-matching the pattern a bit in the corner – a convenient place to hide slight discrepancies.

Keeping the Pattern Match While Coming Around a Bank of Windows

February 14, 2020


Hanging wallpaper around windows is tough, because getting the pattern to match above the windows, and then down the side and then match up with the pattern under the window is really tricky.

ESPECIALLY in a room where the walls are out of plumb, and the ceiling is not level, and also considering that wallpaper naturally stretches and warps when it is wetted with paste, plus various other factors.

I was lucky that this was a non-woven material, which is “dimensionally stable” – meaning it (supposedly) won’t expand, nor twist or warp when it absorbs paste. So, theoretically, after papering over and then under the window, the final full-height strip along the right side should butt up with the strip above the window, and then the strip below the window. That, actually, did work out perfectly.

But I still had to deal with the potential for the pattern to track off kilter, due to all those un-plumb and un-level factors. If it got off a little, I could tweak it a bit by pulling the last strip either higher or lower – the pattern is forgiving, and you would not notice a small pattern mis-match – especially 11′ up and behind drapes.

But I wanted to minimize a potential pattern mis-match as much as possible.

I figured that if the pattern stayed straight across the top of the windows, and also stayed straight across the area below the windows, it would have to match up with the final 11′ strip to the right of the windows.

To keep the pattern straight and at the right height on the wall, I used a level and pencil to draw a horizontal line that corresponded to the top of a leaf motif in the pattern. I did this both above and below the window.

Then, while hanging the paper, I made sure to keep that particular leaf at the same height of the line I had drawn on the wall.

It was a bit trickier than that, because it was a drop match, which means that that leaf only showed up on every other strip. But it all worked out.

One trick is to keep the strip “open,” which means that you put it into position, but don’t trim at top or bottom until you get the following strip into place. That way, you have the option of moving the previous strip either up or down to match the pattern, or, in the event that it won’t match perfectly, you can split the difference and spread the pattern mis-match between the two strips.

But I didn’t have to do much splittin’. By keeping the leaf at the height of my pencil line, by the time that last strip fell into place, the design matched up perfectly both above and below the window.

Faces in Unexpected Places

January 26, 2020

How’s this for something no one else is gonna have?! The homeowner of this Galleria-area home in Houston is a big-personality gal, recently divorced, and she wants her new home to reflect who she is. Everything in the house that could have glitter, shimmer, mirror, or glitz does – including the dog bed and the kitchen backsplash.

This wallpaper in the adjoining powder room (with a huge crystal chandelier!) fits right in with that new life.

This is a sort of mural, composed of rectangular panels about 3′ wide x 2′ high. It was bought on-line, and came with no information or installation instructions.

It was a paper substrate, and was meant to be butted at the seams, as opposed to overlapped, as many mural panels are. After experimenting, I found that a powdered wheat or cellulose paste hydrated the paper best, and that a little of my traditional wallpaper paste added to the mix helped hold the paper tightly to the wall and minimize shrinkage as the panels dried.

The paper curled badly when it was wet with the paste (see third photo), which made it difficult to paste it, book it, and then get it to the wall.

It also expanded a lot when it got wet – almost an inch in each direction. Uneven expansion meant that it developed large wrinkles and warps that were difficult to remove.

In addition, the walls were bowed and uneven in the corners, the walls were not plumb, the ceiling was not level, the crown molding was at different heights on different walls, and we didn’t have a lot of paper to play with.

It took a lot of work to keep the pattern matched as well as possible in the corners, to keep the pattern running at the right point below the crown molding, to eliminate the aforementioned wrinkles, to butt the panels, to minimize white showing at the seams due to the panels drying and shrinking, the paper getting saturated and tearing or dragging when I tried to trim it, and lots more challenges.

All this could have been easier if the manufacturer had chosen a better substrate to print on. But – well, hey, we’ve got a digital printer, so let’s just dig up some paper stock, print cool designs on it, and market it as wallpaper.

Actually, this material worked out pretty well in this small powder room. But I would not want to paper a large, wide wall with it.

Most companies who make murals like this, on this type of thin paper substrate, allow for the edges to be overlapped about 3/8″ at each seam. This allows the installer to make adjustments for wonky walls and ceilings, and it eliminates the gapping at seams as paper dries and shrinks. It does, however, leave a ridge along each seam where the edges are overlapped.

Overall, though, I was not unhappy with this product in this room. And working out all the challenges was mighty fun. I was glad to have a nice, quiet, empty house to do all this in. All in all, this medium-sized powder room that I had prepped the weekend before, took me nine hours to hang.

Have the Paperhanger Measure BEFORE You Order

January 12, 2020

Re the mural in my previous post, which was custom-sized to fit this wall … Folks, you canNOT have a mural sized to fit your wall EXACTLY.

Walls are never a perfect triangle. And they are never perfectly plumb, nor are the ceiling and floor exactly-dactly level.

This means that you have to allow for the pattern to track off-kilter, both horizontally and vertically. And for trimming at the ceiling, floor, and side walls. And don’t forget that the wall may be a different height at the left side of the wall compared to the right side.

The way to accommodate for this is to have a little extra paper on each side. This means ADDING AN EXTRA TWO INCHES ON EACH SIDE of the mural – a total of 4″ to the height and 4″ to the width.

In this case, the company suggested adding 1″ to each dimension. As you see in the photo, by the time I split that 1″ between the top and the bottom of the wall, I was not left with much to play with when trimming at the ceiling.

If this wall had been wider, and if the pattern started tracking downward, I might have ended up with white selvedge showing at the top of the wall, instead of the grey sky of the design.

This project worked out just fine. But, again, it would have been a safer purchase if I had visited and measured this space before the homeowners ordered their mural.

Notice Anything? – Wonky Wallpaper

January 9, 2020


When I first looked at this picture in Better Homes & Gardens magazine’s December 2019 issue, I wondered why the installer had not positioned the circle motifs so they landed at the top of the wall.

Then I looked closer, and realized that he probably had – at a starting point in another part of the room. If you look at the crown molding line, you notice that the pattern is moving up the wall from left to right.

Often this is because of unplumb walls and/or unlevel ceiliing lines. But I looked closer and saw that the pattern is also crooked as it runs down the side of the window. Again, this could be because the whole house – walls, ceiling, doors, and windows – has shifted out of plumb (foundation issues – if you live in Houston, you know all about that!).

If the installer hung his paper true to plumb, it will always look crooked in house that is not plumb.

Sometimes, there are tricks you can do to make a pattern look straight, even if the house is wonky. Almost always, they involve pattern mis-matches in corners or at seams.

So it’s a toss-up as to which is the lesser of the two evils – pattern getting chopped off as it travels along the ceiling and moldings, or pattern mis-matches at the seams.

What I probably would have done in this case would be to position a half-circle at the top of the wall. This way, if the pattern starts tracking up or down, you don’t readily notice if the half-circle is a little taller or shorter, as compared to the top of a circle getting sliced off.

Crazy Off-Level Ceiling Line

January 8, 2020


The bubble is supposed to be in the middle of the two black lines. That indicates that the horizontal surface (ceiling, in this photo) you have placed the level against is, indeed, level.

Well, this one ain’t even CLOSE to being level.

That means that it will be impossible to keep a specific wallpaper design motif at the top of the wall all the way around the room. Not a big deal on this particular pattern, because it’s wild enough that no one is going to notice. Whew!

First Strip = Plumb and Level

December 28, 2019


Here I am, using my laser level to make sure the center of this wallpaper design hits smack in the middle of the wall, and that the strip is hanging nice and plumb.

Using the Laser Level

December 11, 2019


Here I am using my laser level to line up my first wallpaper strip, making sure it’s nice and straight and plumb, while also centering it on the spot where the headboard will sit against the wall.

Old Houses = Crooked Walls

October 6, 2019


This wall is off-plumb by more than a full inch – a lot, considering that it’s falling just 7 1/2 feet from the ceiling to the floor.

The grasscloth-like pattern of the wallpaper is good at disguising the walls’ irregularities. What it’s not good at is making a wonky ceiling line look level. You might be able to notice the pattern tracking downward in the second photo.