Posts Tagged ‘plumb’

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.

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.

You Can’t Make the Pattern Match if the Corners are Wonky!

September 8, 2019

Here I am holding my 2′ level against a wall, trying to determine if the walls are plumb and if the corners are square.

See the air bubble in the vial? It’s supposed to be smack in the middle of those two black lines. As you can see, it is nowhere near there!

That means that the walls and corners are way out of plumb – and the floor and ceiling were, too.

And that means that there is no way you can keep a wallpaper pattern straight along the ceiling or floor line, and no way you can match the pattern perfectly in the corners – and if you do, the pattern will track off-kilter along the ceiling and floor.

In this case, the homeowner is well aware of the movement in the walls and foundation of this house – there are lots of areas where cracks have formed and been repaired – over and over again.

She’s understanding, and is OK with a little imperfection in the pattern match, and even anticipates that the walls will eventually crack (and take the wallpaper along with them).

Light-Hued Geometric Updates a Hollywood Bath in West U

June 8, 2019



The kids are grown and gone, so it’s time for an update to this bathroom. The original black & white floral wasn’t bad, but perhaps a bit outdated. And most of the seams had succumbed the curling and pouching that happens when you use the lower-end pre-pasted paper-backed solid vinyl wallpapers in humid rooms – like two teenaged girls showering. 🙂 Besides all that, Mom wanted a fresh new look for her empty nest.

I stripped the paper and prepped the walls – both of which took a lot more work than expected, and way more detail than you want to read here. The install also took a long time … Let’s just say it was way after dark when I finished and went home.

The room had its share of complicated elements. But also working with a geometric print requires a lot of extra steps, to keep the design elements plumb and aligned with the ceiling and woodwork (which are not necessarily plumb), and to keep the pattern matched up as it turns corners – most of which are wonky.

Also, it took a certain amount of plotting and measuring to have the pattern look uninterrupted as it played out above and then below the chair rail.

This paper is in the SureStrip line by York, and is one of my favorites to work with. It is a thin non-woven material, and is designed to strip off the wall easily and with minimal damage to the walls when it’s time to redecorate. It’s pre-pasted, which means that there is a thin layer of dry adhesive on the back, that is activated by water – you can use several methods to do this. SureStrip is always a nice, cooperative paper to hang, and on the wall, it performs well over time.

Ethnic-Looking Pattern in River Oaks Master Bedroom

May 19, 2019


First picture: Boring white walls

Second picture: Using the laser level to get the first strip nice and plumb, and with the pattern centered in the middle of the wall.

Third picture: Finished accent wall.

Fourth picture: Close up of the pattern. To me, it has a strong ethnic feel.

Fifth picture: This paper is by Cole & Son, a British company. It has a pearlized sheen to the surface. The backing is a non-woven material, so it can be hung by pasting the wall or pasting the material. (I prefer pasting the material.) It is designed to strip off the wall easily and with minimal damage to the wall when it’s time to redecorate.

This wallpaper pattern 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.

Three-Dimensional Square “Dots” on Pale Neutral Grasscloth

April 2, 2019


Thibaut’s “Union Square” wallpaper pattern is a response to the popular Phillip Jeffries’s “Rivets.” Thibaut’s looser design and pattern placement make it much easier to align with the walls and woodwork – including rooms that are out of square and out of plumb. Which is just about every house in every neighborhood in every state.

The 3-D squares are made of some kind of plastic stuff, and are virtually impossible to cut through with a razor blade or a scissors (such as when trimming at the ceiling door or window moldings). I was able to engineer the room so that I did not have to cut through any of those rivets! Because the PJ pattern is much tighter, this would have been virtually impossible.

Also, I found that my soft short-bristled smoothing brush worked well enough to press the material against the wall while skimming over the 3/8″ high square bumps (sorry, for some reason, the photo did not turn out). But my beloved plastic trapezoidal squeegee smoother was just about useless, because it would not accommodate the 3-D “rivets.” So I had to adjust my install tactics a bit, and figure how to get along without the plastic smoother.

This wallcovering is made of grasscloth, which provides the subtle texture that homeowners are loving these days. But because grasscloth is made of natural fibers, there can be a lot of variations between bolts, and even between strips off the same bolt.

For that reason, Thibaut not only notes the run number of a bolt of wallpaper, but also the sequence in which the material was produced (see photo). The idea is that if you hang strips sequentially, you will see less shading or paneling (difference in color between two strips of wallcovering). Thibaut’s insert also includes a LOT of jargon about the color differences inherent to natural products, and the admonishment to use the bolts and strips sequentially.

I used three double rolls / bolts of grasscloth for this entry. Two of the bolts (the first two in the sequence) were pretty homogenous in color. The room was small and had low ceilings, and so I was able to keep the three strips needed for the longest wall all from the same bolt (#1).

I cut my other full-length strips from the second bolt (#2). That left the third bolt (#3) for the many short pieces needed to go over the four doorways in the room. As you can see from the last two photos, even though it was the same run number and printed at the same time, this third bolt was noticeably different in color from the previous two. The background color is the same, but there is a lot – a LOT – more dark brown fibrous material that got worked into the woven grass material.

Keeping these darker strips over the doors was a good way to minimize this color difference. The strips were only 9″ high. If these strips had been placed side-by-side on an 8′ high wall, the color difference would have been abruptly noticeable.

Color variations are to be expected with grasscloth, or any natural product. But helpful labeling by the manufacturer, and careful plotting by the installer, can minimize these differences.

This ’60’s-era ranch-style home in the Briargrove neighborhood of Houston is very much a “sea of tranquility,” as the whole house is entwined in off-whites, creams, and tans, with various textures like rough wood, sisal, and this grasscloth, used to pull in depth and warmth.

The interior designer on this project is Layne Ogden, of Layne Torsch Interiors.

A Totally CUUUUTE Wallpaper for a Home Bar

March 14, 2019


The husband wasn’t sure he wanted this paper in their home bar area. The wife and I decided that it was sooo cute and charming, it was going up, hubby’s approval or not! 🙂 (Don’t worry – he loves it!)

This playful pattern is by Marimekko, and is a non-woven material. I hung it by pasting the wall (instead of the paper), which was ideal for this one accent wall with no turns or intricate cuts.

An interesting feature is that the company engineered this so that the glasses and goblets did not cross any seams. Also, they were aligned so that whole figures could be placed at the top of the wall, with none being cut off as the paper was trimmed at the ceiling.

This allowed me to put the motifs I wanted smack at the top of the wall on every strip – even if the ceiling line was not level, or if the side walls were not plumb.

This makes for a much more pleasing view of the wallpaper.

The home is a mid-century modern gem in the Piney Point neighborhood of Houston.