Posts Tagged ‘powdered’

The Big Easy On The Walls

March 5, 2022
West wall smoothed, primed, and ready for wallpaper.
The homeowner used to live in New Orleans, and she tells me that signs like this are very common in local convenience stores and neighborhood dives. Transplanted to Houston, these signs are very dear to her heart as a reminder of her roots – and the funky lifestyle in the Big Easy.
She wanted the signs recreated somehow to cover the walls in their newly-renovated powder room in the Houston Heights. I suggested she contact rebelwalls.com , who custom made the paper and sized it specifically to fit each wall in the room individually. I measured and made drawings, and a designer named Simon at RebelWalls laid it all out.
North wall before. This is the wall with the toilet and sink.
There were a couple of glitches, the first being that the strips were printed about 10″ longer than I requested. No biggie – I’d rather have too much paper than come up short.
But the main glitch being that I had asked for this “sign” to be centered over the toilet, which meant that the center of the sign (I used the middle fleur-de-lis) would land at 17.5″ from the wall to the left. But somehow it got printed to where the left edge of the pattern was 17.5″ from the wall … That left a whole lot of white space between the wall and the design, and also pushed the words too close to the mirror, which will hang over the sink to the right.
After careful measuring, calculating, and testing, I determined that if I used my straightedge and razor blade to take off a 12″ wide slice from the left side, the “sign” would move to the left such that its center would fall over the mid-point of the toilet.
Voilà! As you see in the photo, now the words are nicely balanced on this section of wall, and will not crowd the mirror which will be hung to the right.
The rest of the wallpaper moving to the right is unprinted, so as to leave a blank slate for the mirror to hang on. Here you see that wall, and also the wall to its right. This east wall has the same sign, but in a smaller scale, sized to fit the narrower wall. It’s also placed at a different height
Graphic designer Simon used my drawings and measurements to get the words nicely centered on this wall. The area above the door to the right (not visible) is left blank.
Here is the west wall (on the right) abutting the south / window wall.
The bull-nosed / rounded edges / corners such as you see around the window are really a pain with wallpaper, especially when they go both around the sides and the top, and can lead to some impossibilities. Too complicated to get into here. But I was pleased with the way this worked out. And the placement of the pleated shades toward the front of the opening helped a lot, too.
One interesting thing to note is that the thickness of this non-woven wallcovering (along with the joint compound I used to smooth the textured wall) is enough that it narrows the space inside the window just a tad,,, and that makes it a bit tight for the shades to fit back in,,, and that opens the potential for abrading the wallpaper as the shade is raised and lowered over time.
Another point … even though the widths of the wall spaces to be covered were different, we requested that the size of the font on the “sign” lettering be the same on the west wall and the north / mirror wall, and ditto for the window wall and the door wall.
I also made sure that the “signs” started at the same distance from the ceiling. This then ensured that each “sign” would land at the same distance from the tile below it.
Synchronizing the size of the fonts as well as the spacing between ceiling and tile helps immensely to lend a feeling of unity and order to this room.
I spent a full 2 1/2 hours plotting, measuring, testing mock-ups, and going back to the drawing board, before I ever cut any paper.
Prior to that, there were two visits to the home to get measurements and kick around options with the homeowner. In addition, she spent countless communications with the manufacturer and with our specific designer.
All this futzing is important, because, with murals, there is no second chance. There’s only one of each panel, and if one gets screwed up, there are no more to pull off the bolt, like you’d have with regular rolled goods.
RebelWalls is the manufacturer. I’ve had lots of great installs with this company.
What was inside our box, including Simon’s dimensions and lay-out.
Basic installation instructions. Ours was a bit – a whole lot – more complicated, because it covered not one but four walls. In our case, it worked best to have each wall be a separate mural, so to speak.
RebelWalls includes free wallpaper paste. I prefer to use my own pre-mixed vinyl adhesive, which is SureStik Dynomite 780. Recently bought by Roman, so the name has changed to just 780.
Certain pastes have been known to ” stain ” non-woven wallpapers (areas look wet but never dry out). I think that a high moisture content in the paste has a lot to do with this. So I’m hesitant to use a powdered paste that needs to be mixed with water.
I’ll squirrel away that RebelWalls powdered paste for another, better suited job. For this home’s install, I’m sticking with my tried and true 780.
A coupla more notes.
One, this project was a study in vision, desire, anticipation, and patience. The homeowner first contacted me in July 2021. It took nearly eight months to come to fruition. Granted, they had a whole kitchen remodel in the middle, which also included an update to this powder room. But just speaking for the wallpaper, there were several site visits, many emails, and then innumerable communications with the design team at RW.
In fact, since I’ve hung lots of RebelWalls and am familiar with their process, I thought I could lay out the design. But this project of separate “sign” motifs for each wall section was taxing my skill set. Finally I laid down my pencil and paper and said, “Stop doing what you yell at your clients for doing, which is trying to do something you don’t have expertise in! RebelWalls has designers who are trained to figure all this out. So let THEM do the math and placement and calculating and layout.” So we turned it over to them, and within a short time they had it all worked out perfectly (except for those few glitches I mentioned). Their customer service was amazing.
All this was crucial to ensuring that mural pieces fit the wall perfectly and that the final product looks stunning.
I also want to mention that the RebelWalls quality is excellent. It’s a non-woven material which has many advantages (too numerous to go into here, but you can Search). The seams melt together like butter and are invisible – even on areas with all that bare white space with no pattern. On a simple accent wall, you can paste-the-wall to hang it. In this (and most) cases, I pasted-the-material, which gives more flexibility and also ensures that paste gets into hard-to-reach areas – like behind a toilet.
In addition, the non-woven material is designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece when you redecorate.
The company offers scores of patterns, from cute to sophisticated, and, as we did this time around, can make custom creations.
Super customer service, too.

lottery , money order , checks cashed , household supplies

Rebel Walls Gives You Paste

February 24, 2022
I carry 5-gallon buckets of wallpaper paste in my van. But to make it easy for DIY’ers, rebelwalls.com includes a box of paste with every order. This is powdered paste that needs to be mixed with water. This may be lightweight and easy to ship, but I don’t like to use it when hanging a non-woven material like theirs.
Non-wovens are prone to staining and blushing (look like they’re wet but never dry out) . Most often this is caused by the paste – usually a paste that is too “wet” or, in other words, has a high moisture content. Roman 880 is notorious for this, as is Dynomite (now Roman) 234.
But a paste that you make by mixing powder into water seems even more risky for having a high water content, and causing staining. And so is the practice of dampening the back of the paper with a damp sponge, or a spritz of water from a squirt bottle. In my mind, too much water / moisture = risk of staining or blushing.
I say, skip the anxiety and use a low-moisture pre-mixed vinyl adhesive such as Roman 838 or Dynomite 780 (also now made by Roman). Clay pastes are also known for low water content – but I definitely do not recommend on a non-woven material, as I’ve seen the red clay bleed through far too many wallpaper surfaces.

Soft Jungle Mural for New Baby’s Accent Wall

November 19, 2021
The first installer was inexperienced, and left gaps at the seams, wrinkles, creases, mis-matched pattern, and even tears. The homeowners had their painter strip off the wallpaper, patch the torn areas of the wall, prime, … and then they had to purchase a whole new mural. Oh, and next they called me! 🙂 The painter was unschooled on wallpaper, too, so he just grabbed something off the shelf at Sherwin-Williams that had “wallpaper” on the label, and rolled it on. That particular primer, Pro 935, is meant to be used in different sorts of situations, and was too glossy and too tacky. I covered it with my preferred Pro 977 Ultra Prime by Roman.
Putting latex / water based paint over torn drywall will often cause the moisture from the paint to soak into the drywall paper and cause it to expand, which creates bubbles. These look bad under the new wallpaper. Here I have cut around one such bubble and removed the top layer. I will skim-float over this area, let it dry, sand it smooth, and then prime over it.
A whole wall’s worth of mural fun rolled up into one cylinder. They provided powdered paste – which I did not use, mostly because these tend to be too wet and can lead to staining on these non-woven materials. I did, however, take the paste home with me, because every now and then you run into a delicate wallpaper that requires this stuff – which can be hard to source.
I started hanging in the middle of the wall. Mostly because whoever measured forgot to add FOUR INCHES to both the height and the width. Instead, the manufacturer added only one scant inch at each side. This didn’t give much play at all, to accommodate trimming at the ceiling and floor, and walls / ceiling that went off plumb / level. This means that if the ceiling wasn’t level, it could start sloping either up or down, and that means the mural would start getting either cut off, or some white space might show at the top. By starting in the middle, I could split the difference between any irregularities, and, hopefully, over the 12′ width of the wall, now divided into two 6′ sections, any off-level sloping would be minimal enough that it wouldn’t visually impact the top or bottom of the design. I know that doesn’t make sense to a lot of you reading this, but I do have a number of paperhangers who follow my blog, and they do “get it” and hopefully will learn some new tricks.
monkey, giraffe, flamingo, cockatiel
Finished and ready for furniture – and a baby!
For this non-woven product, I used the recommended paste-the-wall installation method. I can see why the other guy had difficulty. This was a very thin, but stiff, material. I got wrinkles, too. It took some time and some finesse to urge them out of the paper. This is another reason why I started in the center of the wall. If wallpaper starts warping or wrinkling, it usually will cause the outer edge (the edge not butted up against the previous strip) to expand and twist. As each subsequent strip goes up, the twisting and distortion becomes magnified. You can’t butt a straight edge of a new strip up against a strip that is bowed out of shape on the wall. Thus, by starting in the middle, I can minimize the number of bowed edges. Instead of four, there will be only two. And the amount of distortion will be less per panel. I will note that this usually does not happen with non-woven materials.

A big chunk of mural was cut off by the door and lost to the trash pile. As the mural worked its way across the top of the door and down the right side, a different set of leaves, and a lot of blank area, was going to end up in that 6″ wide space between the door and the wall. I thought it would look cooler if the design of the foliage to the left of the door continued on to the right side of the door. So I saved the strip that got cut off by the door and then did some tweaking in various ways, and got that narrow strip placed to the right of the door. When you look at it, it appears that the leaves and fronds are passing from left to right uninterrupted through the doorway.

The home is in Bellaire, in Houston.

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.

Farrow & Ball Feather Grass

September 1, 2019


Farrow & Ball is a long-established British company. Here is their very unique design “Feather Grass” which I hung in a master bedroom in the country. I love the look of this pattern as you gaze out the windows to the pastureland beyond.

Farrow & Ball includes their own powdered paste, which you mix up with water. To get a smooth mix, I prefer a hand-held blender to the old-fashioned stirrer stick. Not shown is the 1-gallon bucket of cellulose pasted all ready to go.

The company sends a mock-up of what their design will look like. (The image above is from a different pattern I hung in this same home.)

Because their paper is coated with their paint, rather than ink, there can be variations in color as the printer moves through the batch of paint. So the company labels each bolt in the sequence that it came off the printer, and you are instructed to use the bolts and strips in sequence, to minimize any color variations.

This pattern is something like a mural, and comes in panels with one design per panel, rather than strips with multiple repeats of the pattern. In the photo above, I am rolling the paper out on the floor, to get an understanding of how it is laid out and how it is packaged.

Each bolt contained three panels, all rolled up together. The panels are made to fit a wall as high as 12′, so I had to cut each panel from the bolt, then trim it down to fit the 7 1/2′ high walls.

Yes, there is a lot of waste with Feather Grass. In fact, it takes a full strip to go above and below the windows and doors, even though you are throwing away the entire middle part. So, again, incredible amount of waste – I carted home a whole lot of unusable paper to toss into the recycling bin!

Before shot.

The “grass” pattern is meant to appear at about 4 1/2′ from the floor. Since you start hanging wallpaper from the ceiling, I needed to know where to place the tops of the sheaves of grass. So I drew a horizontal line around the room at the 4 1/2′ height. (enlarge photo to see the faint pencil line) This way, from up on the ladder at the ceiling, I was able to see where the tops of the grass stalks were landing on the wall. It took a few trips up and down the ladder on each strip, but I was able to get all the stalks lined up perfectly.

Finished photos. It’s a subtle colorway, so you may need to enlarge the photo to see it well.

Isn’t the overall effect lovely, with the soft misty color of the grass showing against the view of nature outside the window?!

I hung this in the country home (Chappell Hill) of a family for whom I have worked previously in their River Oaks area home in Houston.

Jungle Paneled Installation, Italian Product, for a Nursery

June 22, 2019


The top photo shows a sample panel of the wallpaper taped to the wall of the nursery. You can see the sharply sloping ceiling line to the right.

The mother-to-be fell in love with the jungle theme and the colors of this paper. She bought it on-line from an Italian company. Unlike most wallpapers that come in rolls, this product came in sets of panels, each of which was 27″ wide x 39″ long. In the second photo, you see the first three tiered along the left, and the next two strips positioned to the right. Other panels will be filled in above and below, and to the right.

Precious little information was available on how to install this product … and what there was came in Italienglish, which was little help. There was a brief on-line video, plus you could read the experiences of previous DIY clients in the customer reviews section. In such cases, you have to use the scant available information, along with your own experience, to decern an install method.

Turns out, this is similar to the old-school paper murals that come in panels and call for powdered paste. Except this company did not include paste (as most do), nor were the panels meant to be overlapped.

Luckily, I have sources for wheat, cellulose, potato starch, and other powdered wallpaper adhesives. These are mixed up on-site, are less aggressive as far as stickiness goes, and are more wet than the pre-mixed pastes used for most installations today.

More wetness, along with the particular type of paper these murals are printed on, means that the paper will absorb more moisture and can expand substantially. This is why most of these types of murals are designed to be overlapped at the seams. The seams of this product, however, were meant to be butted … which means that when that paper dries, it could shrink, and that could result in gaps at the seams.

Because the mural came in panels instead of continuous strips, the edges of the strips could not be lined up exactly perfectly, neither vertically nor horizontally. And this was exacerbated because each panel absorbed paste and expanded differently from the others, so there could be a difference in width or height between panels of as much as 1/8″.

This meant that there were some pattern mis-matches between strips. It also resulted in some seams overlapping. I left before the paper was completely dry, but I imagine there are areas where the some seams gap, too.

But I tend to overthink things, and fret about minute details that most people never see. The bottom line is, the accent wall looks fantastic, and will set a theme for the new baby’s room.

Note that this paper gets really wet when it’s pasted, and so you see a bit of blotchiness in the photos. This will disappear and the paper will be much lighter and brighter when it’s all good and dry.

The product is also not really technically a “mural.” But it comes in panels like many murals do, so I’m using that term for simplicity’s sake.

Besides the special paste, because this product was printed on a rather flimsy paper, I used a softer brush to apply the paste (as opposed to a roller), and I used a soft, long-bristled smoothing brush.
The video showed the guy using his hands to attempt to smooth the paper into place. If you looked closely, his finished wall had a lot of bubbles and wrinkles. My long soft smoothing brush was much more appropriate.

Mixing Powdered Paste

May 29, 2016

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Certain papers call for special adhesives. “Back in the day,” all wallpaper was hung with powdered paste. Today, some papers still do better with these types of paste. Some of the options are wheat, cellulose, or potato starch based. They are less tacky, more slippery, and less likely to stain delicate materials.

“Back in the day,” paperhangers used a wire whisk and a lot of elbow grease to mix these pastes with water into a smooth consistency. My modern day trick is to use an immersion blender. It’s much faster and really gets rid of the lumps!

After mixing, the paste must be allowed to sit for a period of time, to completely absorb the water, and then be stirred again, with more water or powder added as needed.

Eco-Fix is a potato starch based paste that can be bought from Bradbury & Bradbury (http://bradbury.com/). Wheat and cellulose powdered pastes can be purchased from Bob Kelly at paperhangings.com. I always try to keep some on hand, for the rare occasion when a job calls for this type of special paste.

New Wallpaper in the Wallpaper Lady’s Bathroom

May 3, 2016

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Last week, I stripped off a decade-old botanical and bird wallpaper pattern from my master bathroom, and replaced it with this “Raspberry Bramble,” by Bradbury & Bradbury (http://bradbury.com/), a California-based company that specializes in patterns true to the Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts and Victorian periods, along with some Mid-Century Modern and other designs.

This B&B wallpaper was a little tricky to work with. For starters, it has to be hand-trimmed (see photo) to remove the selvedge edge. My go-to pre-mixed adhesive is not a good choice for this material, so I chose a potato-starch paste available from Bradbury, that comes powdered and is mixed with water on-site.

This particular pattern has a lot of ink (smells like moth balls!) on the surface, and, when paste is applied to the back, the backing absorbs paste and swells at a different rate than the inked surface, resulting in wrinkles and bubbles and twists, plus the curled edges you see in the photo, which can prevent the seams from lying down properly. The moisture differential can cause the paper to continue to swell on the wall, causing wired (overlapped or puckered) seams.

I’ve hung a good amount of Bradbury & Bradbury papers, but had never encountered the degree of bubbling and curling as with this paper.

The solution to all this is to mist or damp-sponge the surface of the paper, which puts moisture on the front, and allows the front and back (wet by the paste) to absorb moisture more evenly. Then the paper is folded loosely (booked), and also rolled up like a newspaper. This helps push the curled edges back down. Then the strip of wallpaper is placed in a plastic trash bag to sit for 10-15 minutes, much longer than the booking time for most papers.

All of this took more time, but it resulted in smooth paper with flat seams.

My plan for this room is to achieve a 1700’s French chateau look, so I am also darkening and stenciling my vanity, which has a new “Noche” travertine countertop, will be hanging some frilly antique wall clocks, period artwork, a beautiful chandelier, and adding other features.