Posts Tagged ‘molding’

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 Zen to a Yoga Room

July 5, 2020


One of the homeowners from yesterday’s post has an in-home yoga studio, and, as I hung wallpaper in three other areas of the home, she began toying with the idea of wallpapering one accent wall in that room, too. When the serene rural-themed pattern went up across the hall in the dining room, she immediately knew it would be the perfect finish for her yoga room, too.

I did some futzing and calculating, and was able to come up with one extra 10′ panel. I hung this centered on the accent wall. The “villa” homestead is perfectly centered in the panel.

The homeowner ran to Home Depot and got some decorative molding, that will be used as a frame on either side (not the top or bottom). The molding will be painted, or stained, or maybe antiqued (it’s to be decided!), in color(s) that compliment the wallpaper.

The pastel colors and soothing pastoral feel make this the perfect backdrop for a Zen experience in a yoga room.

Adding Arches to the “Windows”

May 16, 2020


I positioned this pattern so the tops of the arches would align with the top of the wall.

But on the pictured wall, which was shorter than the main walls, the pattern got chopped off mid-motif.

I thought it would be cool to continue the arch theme. So I took some scrap paper and carefully cut along the design, to create some arch tops. See second photo.

Once appliquéd to the top of the wall, they give the effect that the trellis grids are now complete, instead of chopped in half.

This looks very much like what you would find in a leaded or decorative glass window, from a by-gone era.

This is fitting, because the homeowners chose this pattern partly because it coordinated with the molding detail in the windows in the front rooms of their 1895 home in the Houston Heights.

Lotsa Color, and a Nice Faux Silk

April 16, 2020


I have worked for this couple in their charming 1929 bungalow in West University (Houston) several times since the 1990’s. They definitely are not people to go with the all-white or all-grey or minimalist trends that are popular today. These folks like COLOR!

The dining room walls were originally upholstered in a botanical print on blue (which the homeowner did himself, and did a mighty find job of, too). So the room never was bland white. 🙂 But now, 20 years later, they were ready for an update.

Their contractor removed the fabric and then skim-floated the walls smooth. Usually I have to go back and re-smooth the walls … but this guy did a really good job, and I was able to simply prime, and then hang the paper.

This is a vinyl product named “Wild Silk,” and is by Thibaut. It’s much more stain-resistant and durable than real fabric. Unlike real silk and other natural materials like grasscloth, this product has a pattern match. This means that you are not going to see each separate panel or visible seams, like you do with real silk. So the walls have a much more homogeneous and pleasing look.

The challenge lay with the old house and its un-plumb walls and un-level ceiling and window/door moldings. Since the ceiling was not level, if I hung the wallpaper true to plumb, then it would start “tracking” off-kilter at the ceiling line, and appear to be running either uphill or downhill. This effect was further complicated by the way the pattern ran along the window and door frames.

I decided to keep the pattern parallel to the ceiling molding line. This meant letting it go crooked along the door and window frames, if that’s how it turned out. The ceiling line was more visible and more important.

Since the pattern was tracking off-kilter, I used a razor blade and a straightedge to trim off a wedge-shaped chunk from one side of the wallpaper. This forced the pattern to move up (or down). After a few strips, I had tweaked it enough that the design was moving straight across under the crown molding.

Even though the strips were not hanging plumb, it looked wonderful along the ceiling line. This “silk” pattern was very accommodating of that. If it had been a design with a prominent motif that the eye wanted to see marching straight across the ceiling AND straight down along a door frame, it would have been much more difficult to pull off – maybe impossible.

Going around the window (no pic) was even more complicated. Because I was tweaking the three strips above the window to follow the crown molding, and also the three strips below the window – and you can’t guarantee that these will all adjust at the same rate. So getting the strip to the left of the window (no pic) to match up with the strips above AND below the window would be pretty impossible.

So I was extremely pleased when the pattern on all these strips did match up, within about 1/16″.

This is a vinyl material and was somewhat difficult to push tightly into edges and corners, and to cut through. I was glad that I didn’t have intricate decorative moldings to cut around. I used orange chalk to color the edges of the material, to keep the white substrate from showing at the seams.

I love the way the salmon color coordinates with the painted trim. Who paints door moldings orange??! THESE people do – and I highly applaud it! No boring all-white rooms in this house!

The look is bold, but surprisingly warm. The orange moldings against white walls would have been jolting. But with the salmon colored wallpaper, the whole effect is unified, inviting, and invigorating!

Unpainted Baseboards – Not Ready for Wallpaper

January 2, 2020


This room is supposedly ‘ready for wallpaper.’ Yet the baseboards have not been painted.

If the painters come to paint the baseboards, I already anticipate what will happen.

I have skim-floated the walls, and will sand them when I come to finish the job later. So some of my smoothing compound has slopped onto the baseboard. No big deal. When I put up the paper and trim at the bottom I will need to wipe paste off the woodwork – and at that time, I will wipe off any residual smoothing compound.

But if the painters come and slap paint on now, I know they will not inspect the baseboards before they paint, and will put their paint right on top of the globs of smoothing compound. Thereverafter, there will be small but unsightly blobs and bumps embedded in the paint.

They will also let their brush run beyond the molding, and onto my smoothing compound. This will make it impossible for me to sand the compound. It will also create a glossy surface that the wallpaper paste will not stick to.

If they use painter’s tape to ‘protect’ the wallpaper, when they remove the tape, they will either take the inked layer along with it, or they will pull the paper itself completely away from the wall.

Again I rant: Have ALL the other work done before the wallpaper goes up.

After 30 Years, It’s Time for an Update

December 19, 2018


These homeowners were updating their 30-year old home in Sugarland. To the dining room and hallway, they added crown molding at the top and wainscoting with block-and-panel molding at the bottom. Fine moldings add a real touch of elegance.

But the wife has a bit of a renegade spirit, and really likes the new “industrial modern” decorating style. So it was time for the ’90’s era faux-finish wallpaper to go – along with the border which you can just see a tidbit of it peeking out from under the new crown molding.

The new wallcovering choice is a small “flame” textured vinyl in a steely grey/taupe/gold color. It perfectly pulls together the industrial modern light fixture and the classic paneling.

The cut edges of the textured vinyl, along with the sheen of the material, really reflect light and bounce it around the room.

Like most solid-colored wallcoverings with no pattern, with or without a texture, this selection was subject to some color differences between strips. The dining area with 5′ high walls went up with a very homogenous look. Ditto one wall of the 8′ high hallway to the right. But another wall in that same hallway showed some differences between strips.

To minimize these differences, I tried various things.

First, I made sure to hang each strip sequentially, as they came off the bolt. That would reduce color variations, if the ink had gotten lighter or darker as the printing process went on at the factory.

I colored the edges of the vinyl with chalk of a matching hue, so that if a “high” area of the textured vinyl butted up against a “low” area of the next strip, the white edges would be covered with a matching color.

Next I tried reversing every other strip. This means you hang one strip right-side-up, and the next one upside-down. This ensures that one edge of the paper is being hung against itself, so, if there is a color difference, it is gradual instead of abrupt. Difficult to explain, but it makes sense if your mind’s eye can follow it through.

Interestingly enough, reversing every other strip worked quite nicely on the dining room walls, as you see in the photo. But in the full-height walls to the right, reversing the strips resulted in paneling. So there I hung all the strips right-side-up – and it looked great.

But on the far wall, no matter if I hung right-side-up or reversed, you could see differences between the strips (last photo). I replaced one strip once, and another I replaced twice – but never really loved the way it turned out. On some of the other seams, even though I had colored the edges with chalk, the white vinyl still showed. At some point, you just have to say, “This is how the product is.”

This is also why you discuss this with the homeowner before starting the project – and hopefully before she makes her decision to purchase this product. In this case, the homeowner was originally looking at grasscloth – and that product would most likely have had much more noticeable color differences.

Lighting has a lot to do with it, too. Strong light, filtered light, incandescent or LED, light straight-on or light from an angle, all put their thumbprint on how the wallpaper looks.

This wallpaper pattern is by York (one of the homeowners is originally from York, Pensylvania!), 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.

It’s Hard to Conceive That This Painter Went Home Feeling Proud of His Work

November 4, 2018


Every bit of molding in this house had bizarre globs of paint like you see in the top two photos (and much worse). In addition, there were plenty of splatters of paint on the homeowners’ brand new dark hardwood floors.

Innovative Kill Point – Between Moldings

August 4, 2017

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The kill point is where the last strip you hang meets up with the first strip you hung. This virtually always ends up in a mis-match of the pattern’s design. This is usually in a corner, and the paperhanger will try to place it in an inconspicuous location (such as behind a door).

But not all corners are hidden behind a door. In such cases, and depending on the design, the pattern mis-match will be noticeable, even eye-jarring.

Sometimes it’s possible to get creative and hide that kill point where it will be less visible. That’s what I was able to do today.

The first photo shows you the Chinoiserie pattern, so you get an idea of what it looks like. In this room, because all four corners were very visible, I wanted to keep the pattern intact in the corners. So I needed somewhere else to hide the kill point.

The room had a spot where the molding around the door came very close (6″) to the wall-hung linen cabinet. This was a good option to place the kill point, because it would be only 6″ wide, vs. my other option, which was a corner that was 5′ high. I’ll take a 6″ mis-match over a 5′ mis-match any day!

By manipulating the wallpaper pattern a little, it was easy to disguise the kill point and the mis-matched pattern. It’s there, in the second photo – but I’ll bet you will have a hard time spotting it.

The Blow Fish Again – Second Time in One Week / Better Results!

February 1, 2017
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Last week, I wrestled with this same wallpaper (different color) and didn’t finish the job until 11:00 p.m. (Bless the homeowners who tolerated me working late, to get their powder room finished on schedule.) Today I had an easier powder room (shorter drops, fewer cuts, no pedestal sink to cut around, very little decorative molding), but I also tried a different installation technique. Instead of following the manufacturer’s instructions, which were to paste-the-wall, instead, I pasted the back of the paper. This made all the difference!

The paper relaxed and became much more malleable. The paper absorbed moisture from the paste and expanded and contracted on my table, not on the wall, so I had beautiful seams with no ‘gaps and overlaps.’ The second- and third-to-last photos are shots of the seams, showing that you can barely see them.

I hung this in a very nicely updated home of a young family in the Woodlands (north of Houston). This wallpaper pattern is by Cole & Son, a British import, and is called “Acquario.” 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.

A Pet Peeve – Paint On The Bottom Of Crown Molding

July 15, 2016
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See the beautiful white crown molding at the top of the photo? See the tan wallpaper at the bottom of the photo? Now see the ridiculous mauve line of paint along the bottom edge of the crown molding? That’s not a shadow. It’s paint. Unnecessary and marring paint.

Before the wallpaper went up, the walls were painted a reddish mauve color. Some painter was either too lazy or too unskilled to “cut a neat line” between the wall and the bottom edge of the crown molding. Instead, he let his brush run paint up onto the bottom edge of the crown molding, eliminating the crisp line between the wooden molding and the wall.

I think that beautiful trim work is one of the defining features of a home. One of my pet peeves is when a painter compromises that by blurring the line of definition between molding and wall. I’ve even seen them paint the edges of door and window moldings, because it’s easier than taping and takes less skill than cutting a sharp line with a proper trim brush.