Posts Tagged ‘rice university’

Faux Grasscloth – A Nice Alternative to Natural Fiber Grasscloth

October 4, 2019


I’m not a fan of real grasscloth (read the page to the right) because of the visible seams and the many color variations. So I’m always happy when a homeowner chooses a faux product.

Usually, these wallpapers have a pattern that can be matched, so there will be no sharply visible seams. And the color is much more consistent, eliminating paneling and shading (do a search here to read previous blog posts about that).

This pattern is a paper-backed vinyl material with an embossed (textured) surface. It is by Thibaut.

After saying all those good things, I have to admit that I was disappointed with this particular product. Some of the bolts had very obvious color differences. There were also extreme issues with a faulty pattern match. I will discuss this in a future post. The good news is that Thibaut has other similar designs that perform better.

I hung this in a newly-renovated master suite in a 2-story 1939 home near Rice University (Houston), for a family with young children.

This wallpaper pattern is by Thibaut Designs, 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.

Please Don’t Tell Me You’re Ready If You’re NOT

September 27, 2019


This young family in the Rice University neighborhood of Houston has been undergoing a weeks-long remodel of the master bed and bathroom suite in their 1939 home. They’re eager to get moved back in. I was scheduled for three days to smooth walls and hang paper.

I’d been told by both the homeowner and the contractor that the room is ready for wallpaper. So I showed up for work today to discover that it is not.

First photo – The painters are working in adjacent rooms and need to pass through my work area frequently. You can see piles of their equipment in my space. This is very disruptive to the thought process needed to hang wallpaper.

Second photo – There is no running water. I had to run down to the family’s kitchen to fill a gallon bucket so I could rinse tools and rags – which is not the same as keeping things squeaky clean with fresh, running water. And since there is no toilet, there is nowhere to dump the dirty water.

On the left, you notice an extension cord. Which leads to the third photo – there is no electricity. No lights. So I had to connect two extension cords and hang one measly 100 watt bulb from the ceiling fan, in hopes of having enough light to work.

The fourth photo shows where I am trying to spread smoothing compound onto the wall. The compound and the wall are virtually the same color, and, in the dim light, it’s next to impossible to see what I’m doing.

The contractor dug out a heavy-duty extension cord and borrowed the painter’s work light, which helped a bit. But later the painter (who was working in a room with no windows) came and took his light back.

There is also skimpy air conditioning in this room. It’s not about the temperature, folks – it’s about humidity. You need the A/C cranking to pull humidity out of the air. I won’t hang wallpaper when the HVAC systems are not running, because the resulting humidity is detrimental to wallpaper – adhesion, shrinking, yada. And smoothing compound won’t dry, primers won’t dry …

Fifth photo – the carpet has been ripped up, leaving nail strips along the walls, and leaving exposed nails here and there all over the floor.

I did what little prep I could and then left. I am not coming back tomorrow.

Unfortunately, because of mis/discommunication, this family’s wallpaper will have to wait until I have a client whom I can switch install dates with.

Also, due to this, I lost at least one day of work (self-employed people don’t get “vacation pay” 😦 ), and other clients of mine whom I could have helped that day didn’t get their paper up, either.

Swirling Dragons and Swooshing Garments

May 25, 2019


OK, that’s a really dumb title. 😦 But every time I look at this restless dragon surrounded by roiling foliage and water, I think about the clothing tumbling in endless summer-saults in the washing machine in this room. Yes, this fun and mystical wallpaper is enhancing a laundry room.

The home is in the Rice University / Medical Center neighborhood of Houston. The wallpaper has bright shades of green-blue on a silver metallic background. It’s a non-woven material, and could be hung by the paste the wall method. Since this room had a lot of obstacles and weird angles and obstructions like non-removable shelving, I opted to paste-the-paper instead. This also rendered the material a lot more flexible and malleable, which was much appreciated, since the room had a lot of features that made it quite difficult to hang.

Normally, I wouldn’t be too crazy about wallpaper in a humid room like a laundry – especially since the air circulation is pretty poor. Humidity can cause wallpaper seams to let loose and curl. But because these newish non-wovens are made of natural and synthetic materials (such as fiberglass), they are more breathable, and thus shouldn’t present issues of curling seams or delaminating. They are also designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece, when it’s time to redecorate.

This wallpaper is made by York, one of my favorite companies, in their Dwell Studio Line. 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.

Sophisticated Look With White-Washed Metallic Cork

May 24, 2019


I’ve hung lots of metallic cork wallpaper (do a search here), but this is the first time I’ve seen one with a white-wash over the surface, and that has a plaid / stripe sort of design worked in. It’s quite becoming!

The white paint tones down the sheen of the dark gold metallic inks, so you get a bit of glam, but are not overwhelmed. And the crosshatching effect brings a whole new dimension to the look, adding texture and warmth – sort of like a man’s suit fabric.

I was afraid the striped effect would be very evident, but it’s really very subtle and pleasing. And it did a good job of disguising the seams, so there is virtually no paneling or shading like you would have with most natural material wallcoverings.

Of course, this accent wall has only two full-height seams, and the product could look quite different if you had it spread across a larger wall or room. Still, I am very pleased with the way it turned out.

This is on one wall of a living room in a 1939 house in the Rice University / Medical Center area of Houston. It is by Brewster, 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.

Overlaying Modern and Traditional

July 20, 2018


The original red wallpaper in this tiny under-the-stairs powder room in a classically styled 1917 home in the Rice University area of Houston was fine enough. But it darkened the room, it didn’t suit the new homeowner’s taste, and it had become stained (see water splashes around the faucet handle on the right.)

The second photo shows the room after the old paper has been stripped off, little areas of the walls have been patched, and primer has been applied.

The new orange animal print on a white background greatly brightens the room. I love the gutsy way this homeowner has combined a modern pattern with old-world features, such as the elegant gilded mirror and the engraved gold tone towel ring and toilet paper holder (not shown).

She’s included contemporary elements, too – note the modern art hanging over the toilet. She also found a beautiful hand towel embroidered in bright orange with the family name’s initial. These little details are the crowning touch!

This homeowner is a friend of another gal I did wallpaper for a couple of times, who lives a few blocks away. I love it when people pass my name back and forth!

This wallpaper pattern is by Thibaut Designs, 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.

Fun Color and Lively Pattern for a Rice U. Area Powder Room

April 19, 2018

Wallpaper - Thibaut Wild Floral, Soffit


This powder room in a 1939 home near Rice University (Houston) also serves as the laundry. The previous owners had painted the room a grey semi-gloss. Serviceable, but lifeless. The new owners have a just-learning-to-walk little girl, and a more vibrant lifestyle. This wild and colorful floral pattern is just what was needed to wake up the room.

This pattern is reminiscent of the chintz designs that were popular in the 1990’s. But it’s updated by it’s overscale size, and the bright, edgy colors that are used.

I particularly like the way it works with the green vanity. In fact, parts of the room behind the appliances could not be papered (could not move the washer & dryer out of the way, one wall had too much weirdness going on – really bad surface, hoses and wires running through it, very large gaps) so the homeowners will paint that wall with a semi-gloss paint, which will be resistant to splashes from laundry day. They were thinking of white, but I suggested using the same green as on the vanity. It’s a lot more fun than plain old white, and it will tie the room together.

This room was difficult to paper, because of the wonky walls, unfortuitous placement of windows, doors, bump-outs, etc., none of which synced with the width of the wallpaper, hoses and pipes I had to trim around (sorry, no photo 😦 ), and lots more. Take a look at the soffit – easy to look at, but difficult to get paper on – luckily the pattern is wild enough that unavoidable mismatches are not noticeable.

This “Portofino” wallpaper pattern is by Thibaut Designs, and was very nice to work with. 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.

Jungle View With Vaulted Ceilings

February 11, 2017
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The ceiling of this home office on the third floor of a newish home in the Rice University / Museum District of Houston has some interesting angles and spaces. But there is no window in the room. The homeowner thought the space was stark and claustrophobic. So she came up with the idea to open up the space with a verdant foliage pattern.

The palm leaf paper went on the two large angled spaces over where the desk / computer will sit. Then a companion paper was chosen for the two smaller angled areas flanking the desk area.

I love using two coordinating papers in one space. And the green leaves really do open up the space, and bring a bit of the outdoors in.

Angled spaces like this eat up a lot of paper, so plan for a lot of waste.

Both these wallpaper patterns are by Designer Wallpapers, and were 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.

Silvery Pearlized Faux Bois in a Very Complicated Powder Room

February 10, 2017
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This under-the-stairs powder room has a LOT of challenges: angles, nooks, turns, and a pedestal sink, not to mention those odd “columns” running through the ceiling. The homeowner wanted all surfaces covered, so I suggested a non-directional pattern. This faux bois fills the bill, because it looks virtually the same right side up or upside down. She also likes the “faux bois” (fake wood) look, and really loves the shimmery, silvery, pearly sheen of the silver-on-white colors.

So the pattern suits the room, and the homeowner loves the color; unfortunately, the paper itself was a true test.

This wallpaper is one of the newer non-woven materials, and it is intended that the installer paste the wall, rather than paste the wallpaper. However, this paper is thick, stiff, unmalleable, and creases easily. All this works fine on a flat accent wall. But problems arise when you try to paste a thick, stiff, unmalleable, easily-creased paper onto the walls of a very complicated room.

What makes a room complicated? Corners, angles, steep angles, ceilings, light fixtures that cannot be removed, and weird “beams” that appear to serve no purpose other than to madden the paperhanger. Oh, and let’s not forget that pedestal sink. This 12 single roll powder room (6 bolts) took me 12 hours to hang.

This was a paste-the-wall material, but I found that pasting the paper instead made it more pliable and workable. Most strips required multiple relief cuts, so I could work the paper against fixtures and into corners without creasing it.

The first strip I attempted to hang was around the pedestal sink, and then moving into the corner to the right. The paper simply would not allow me to manipulate it into position, and the ensuing struggle resulted in creases, cuts, blemishes, gaps at the seams, and all sorts of unacceptable results.

So I ripped that strip off and started over.

To get around the sink with minimal relief cuts or stress on the paper, I trimmed the strips vertically, to cut them into two narrower, more manageable sections. All other handling was done slowly and carefully, to put as little stress on the paper as possible, and to minimize the potential of creasing. It was still difficult to fold the paper into corners and trim.

Matching the pattern was difficult, because the silvery sheen of the ink combined with sun coming in through the windows and harsh lighting in the powder room made it virtually impossible to see any part of the pattern, much less match one jagged bit of tree bark on the wall to it’s counterpart going onto the ceiling.

The “beams” built into the ceiling, and the recessed areas behind them, were very difficult, too. The stiff paper didn’t want to bend around or stick to the slightly un-straight edges. Wrapping certain areas with wallpaper meant that other adjoining areas could not be covered with the same strip, so they had to be patched in – difficult to explain, but trust me, it was tedious, time-consuming, and took a lot of plotting and planning before any approach could be begun. Oh, and wrestling with cantankerous bull-nosed edges around the door.

In the end, the room looks great. The few mismatched areas and other imperfections just blend in with the wild pattern and shiny ink, so you don’t even notice them.

Next time, though, I will encourage the homeowner to get not only non-directional pattern, but a paper that is thin and pliable.

I hung this in the powder room of a newish home in the Museum District / Rice University area of Houston. This wallpaper pattern is by Thibaut Designs, in the Anna French line, is called “Surrey Woods,” 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.

Shiny, Orange, Woven Grasscloth in an Entryway

February 9, 2017
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Here is a large art niche in an entry in a newish home in the Rice University / Museum District area of Houston. The homeowner was originally considering wallpaper for her powder room and office, but when I suggested papering this niche, she quickly agreed, seeing how it would bring color and life to the home’s entryway.

This woven grasscloth is a different take on the traditional grass product with horizontal reeds. It is also more uniform in color, with none of the shading and paneling and color variations between strips. And, because the backing appears to be a plastic material, instead of the typical paper, it has an appealing sheen.

The woven pattern hides the seams a little, but, as with all natural products like this, the pattern could not be matched at the seams, so all the seams show. After I did a little trimming and tweaking, the first seam looked pretty good. The second seam, however, looked good at the top of the wall, but started to show unpleasantly as it moved down toward the floor. This is because the grass fibers at the edge of the strip moved away from the edge, so there was a wider-than-the-eye-wants-to-see strip of orange at the edge. It showed up more in person, but you can kind of see it in one of the photos.

This is typical of grasscloth, and not considered a defect. However, since there were only two seams on this wall, the one seam that had wide spaces of orange was very obvious.

I needed three strips of paper for this 10′ high wall, and the two double rolls had already given me three. I had one 10′ strip left, which would be good to keep on hand in case of damage or repairs in the future. But I thought that a better looking seam would be more important than the possibility of replacing a strip years down the road. So I ripped off that third strip, and then I took the remaining paper and cut a new strip.

The reason the seam was visible was because too much orange was showing at the seam. It needed more of the vertical grass fiber. So I took my straightedge and trimmed the new strip of grasscloth to eliminate any orange, and to leave a vertical strip of the tan grass fiber along the entire edge. I worried that this strip of tan grass would be too wide when it butted up against the previous strip already on the wall, with its tan grass at its edge, by creating a double-width of tan grass fiber. But it ended up that the double width of tan grass was far less noticeable than the double width of orange, and the seam turned out nearly invisible. The last two photos show a distant and a close up shot.

All this fussing and futzing was called for because the wall had only three strips of grasscloth and only two seams, and because the first seam looked good, so the second seam had to look equally good. And because we had extra paper to get that extra strip out of.

But had this been a larger room with many seams, and without lots of extra paper to tear off the wall and replace with new, the homeowner would have had to live with very visible seams that showed extra widths of orange, or seams that showed double widths of tan grass fibers. If the whole room looked like this, the look would be uniform, and would not be offensive. It is what’s called, “The inherent beauty of the natural product.”

One other point about this particular product – There was a little bubbling as the paper dried. Since the material has the plasticized backing that gave the appealing sheen, that same plastic backing allows no where for air to dissipate to when the paper dries, so it “off gasses,” leaving bubbles under the paper. I was able to poke tiny holes to let the gas escape. But I prefer grasscloth that is sewn onto a traditional paper backing, because it “breathes” and allows moisture to pass through it, letting the material lie good and tight against the wall.

This wallpaper pattern is by Thibaut Designs, 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.

Silvery Grasscloth on Bookshelf Backs

December 18, 2016
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This homeowner has a wonderful knack for decorating, and her front sitting room in a newish home in the Rice University area of Houston is beautiful. But she wanted to add a little “oomph.”

This grasscloth did the trick. The natural material adds texture, and the silvery backing adds a little glamor without overpowering the rest of the room. And it’s a lovely background for the decorative items on the shelves.