Posts Tagged ‘seams’

Grasscloth in a West Houston Study

November 17, 2017

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This couple wanted the textural look of grasscloth for their study, in a newish home near Cross Creek Ranch and Cinco Ranch, a bit southwest of Houston. The pattern they chose is a medium-fine grass in a pretty uniform color. With fine grass, you don’t notice as much the mis-match of the fibers at every seam.

The grass fibers have been sewn onto the front of the wallpaper. But the black backing is less homogenous, and exhibits variations in its color. These are the horizontal differences in color that you see in the pictures.

Some of these color variations spill onto the surface of the material, too. These can be especially evident as swathes of darker colored dye on the outer edges of the wallpaper. (See photo)

Overall, this product looks very good. People who like grasscloth love the texture of the natural material. And they like the “organic look” of visible seams, mis-matched pattern (there is no pattern to match!), and the color variations at the edges and within the strips.

I believe the manufacturer of this grasscloth is York.

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Metallic Cork Married With Earthy Cork Breathes New Life Into A ’70’s Living Room

October 13, 2017

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This 1967 home in a unique neighborhood in Pasadena (Houston) is like a time capsule. It’s a little larger and nicer than the typical ranch-style houses of that era. And just about everything in it was original when my clients bought it … terrazzo floors, dental crown molding, upholstered wall panels in the dining room, diamond paned windows, French Provincial painted iron stairway railing, heavy pleated drapes, and much more.

The homeowners love the look and want to preserve as much as possible. But they also want the home to live a little more modern, and they want it to work with the lifestyle of their young – and very busy – family. They’ve already done a fabulous redo of the kitchen that still respects the era and feel of the home’s bones.

Now it’s time to update the living room. Enter – wallpaper! They used the same grey-brown, wood-look floor tile that they put in the kitchen. They kept the chair rail molding that runs around the room. A sliding barn-style door was custom made to divide the living room from the dining room, and it immediately became the focal point of the room.

Wallpaper was the next element … The couple wanted something earthy, yet elegant, and it had to meld with the vintage theme of the house.

They fell in love with a dark brown cork wallcovering enhanced with metallic accents called Enchanted Woods, by Phillip Jeffries. Whoops! – that brand is crazy expensive! My source (below) found them something nearly identical, but at a much more reasonable price. This dark brown material was used on the bottom 1/3 of the walls, below the chair rail. I was able to railroad this product (run it horizontally, instead of vertically), which eliminated seams. (Sorry, I did not get any photos of this.)

For the upper 2/3 of the wall space, they went with a silver metallic cork wallpaper embellished with a classic damask pattern in white. This is a classy, traditional look jazzed up by a luscious shimmery sheen.

The husband was worried that the dark cork at the bottom of the walls would visually occlude the barn door. At first, I tended to agree with him. But once the cork went up, it was clear that the door still stood out as a dominant feature in the room. Furthermore, it was apparent that the dark band of brown cork was needed all around the room, to balance the visual heft of that massive sliding barn door and to bring continuity to the remaining three walls.

As for the upper 2/3 of the walls, there is no question that the barn door stands out against the silver and white damask cork wallpaper. In addition, the natural texture of the cork coordinates nicely with the stained wood of the door.

Cork wallpaper, especially the metallic colors, is pretty popular right now, and I’ve hung a fair amount of it. But this room was the most challenging. Cork is thick and stiff, and does not want to turn corners (In fact, the instructions say you should not attempt to turn outside corners, but should, instead, cover the corners with wooden molding.), nor is it easy to fit around intricate moldings, and it will give a lot of argument when you try to bend it into a small, tight spot. This room had many of those features!

There was one wall that had two trim-less windows that had reveals (and outside corners) to be covered with the cork material, plus four points of wainscoting trim to cut around, as well as two sections of drapery valances to manipulate the stiff material up and under and into. This wall alone took me 4 1/2 hours to paper!

The rest of the room was easier, but still had its challenges. The cork material is thick and stiff and won’t push tightly against moldings or into corners, which means you have to work extra hard and make several cuts before it will sit snugly against the molding or corner. When trimming around intricate moldings (like the edges of the chair rail), you can’t see or feel where the cuts should be made, so you have to inch your way along, taking a bit here and a sliver there. I estimate that each of the six chair rail edges took me at least 15 minutes – each.

The metallic sheen made it difficult to see the pattern, so it took longer than usual to plot and cut strips.

Cork wallcovering is pretty thick, and you have to expect that the seams will show, just as they do with other natural materials, such as grasscloth. Depending on where you stand in the room, the seams on this product are either invisible, or fairly noticeable. I think the seams could have been better – I have a feeling that the manufacturer’s trimming blade was set at a bit of an angle, making a beveled cut. A perfectly straight cut, or even a slightly reversed-bevel, would perhaps have been less noticeable. Still, this is part of the look of the natural material, and not considered a defect. To be honest, unless you’re looking at a particular seam from just a certain angle, you won’t even see a thing – except the beautiful pattern, color, and shimmer.

The dark brown cork is by Monarque, and the upper cork in the silvery damask pattern is by Thibaut. Both papers 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.

Over the last few years, I have papered three other rooms for this family. Now that the wallpaper in the living room is up, they are on to other things – furniture, drapes – and then on to update / decorate other rooms. As I left tonight, the mom assured me that I would be back at some point, to paper another room.

Old Wallpaper Could Not Be Stripped Off

July 12, 2017

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The homeowner is ready for a new look, so the red wallpaper with the “broken coral” pattern has to go. I am pretty darned good at removing wallpaper, but this stuff was not agreeable with the idea.

Normally, you peel off the top, inked layer, and then soak the remaining backing layer with water until the paste loosens, and then you can either lift the paper from the wall, or gently scrape it off.

But this top inked layer came off in tiny pieces – 1/2″ square. Which meant it would take a year and a day to get the whole room stripped off. Then, on my test area, when I tried soaking the paper backing to loosen the paste, it would have non of it.

The backing would not come away from the wall. And in the tiny 1/2″ square area where I finally did get the paper off the wall, there were more problems underneath. Meaning, a gummy, rubbery substance that would not come off the wall, and that left a residue behind that was unsuitable for hanging new wallpaper on top of – it would have necessitated a whole lot of additional skim-floating, sanding, sealing, priming, etc.

I believe that the previous installer either primed the walls with RX-35, or hung the paper with VOV ( Vinyl Over Vinyl), both of which are inappropriate for this type of paper, and both of which are nearly impossible to remove, and both of which leave the gummy, rubbery residue that is so difficult to negate.

I found it preferable to leave the existing paper on the wall. I removed any loose areas (virtually none), and then skim-floated over the seams with joint compound, to remove any vertical lines that could show under the new paper. That’s the white stuff you see in the 2nd photo.

When dry, I sanded that smooth, wiped off the residual dust with a damp sponge, and then primed with Gardz, a penetrating sealing primer. This will yield a smooth, stable surface for the new wallpaper to grab onto.

Water Stains on Wallpaper

March 21, 2017

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This wallpaper has been up for 10, and possibly as long as 20 years.

It is an uncoated paper wallpaper, probably the type that we call a British pulp. It is in a bathroom, and, over time, water splashing onto the backsplash (or possibly the housekeeper’s cleaning solution) has been wicked up by the paper, and caused the water stains you see here.

A paper with a thin vinyl coating, like most American papers have, might have held up a little better. Also, a thin bead of clear caulk along the top of the backsplash might have prevented water from getting into the cut edge of the paper and discoloring it.

There are good things to be seen here, too. Thin papers like this one (as opposed to paper-backed solid vinyl wallpapers), stay nice and tight to the wall, even in humid rooms like bathrooms, and even when water is splashed on them. Over all the years this wallpaper has been up, all of the seams are perfectly intact. And even though there is staining where water has gotten into the paper, the paper has stayed nice and tight against the wall and the backsplash. A paper-backed solid vinyl would have curled away from the wall, and would have looked much worse, and been impossible to repair.

Another reason to buy paper, and stay away from paper-backed solid vinyl.

Fun Wallpaper Pattern for a Not-Too-Serious Master Bath

March 17, 2017

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This fun and somewhat ethnic looking wallpaper pattern went into the master bathroom of a newly remodeled 1939 brick bungalow in Montrose (Houston).

The homeowner kept saying, “It changes it SO MUCH! Before, it was just all white. Boring white. This has personality, and the room feels larger, too.”

The wallpaper is by Hygge & West, an on-line company, and is called “Diamante.”  Unlike most of their papers, which waffle, and curl at the seams (see yesterday’s post), this one was a positive delight to work with. I am guessing that that’s because there is not as much ink on this pattern.

Water Color-y Mural In a Baby Girl’s Nursery – Accent Wall

February 17, 2017
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Here’s a delightful, softly colorful wall treatment for a soon-to-be-born baby girl. I love the way the flowers look fluid, as if they were brush strokes of water color. It is a mural, made up of six panels, rather than a typical wallpaper with a repeating design motif.

I hung this on one accent wall for behind the crib in a nursery of a newish home in Pearland. The wallpaper was bought on-line, and it came with no label, no instructions, no nothing. The homeowner told me name of the website, but – dang it! – I forgot the site and the brand name. 😦 I suspect that this may be a knock-off of a very similar pattern. Read on.

I have hung this pattern before, with pleasing results:

https://wallpaperlady.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/water-color-ful-wall-for-a-baby-girl/

and with slightly lesser-than-happy results:

https://wallpaperlady.wordpress.com/2016/08/25/water-color-flowers-for-a-little-girls-room/

Anyway, back to hanging the mural. First I smoothed the new suburban home typically heavyish textured wall, and primed with Gardz. (No photos, but similar to the previous two posts.)

In the 4th photo, I have laid out each strip, to be sure of which way is up, of the sequence to be placed on the wall, and to get exact measurements so I can compare them to the wall.

As for getting the paper onto the wall, I followed the protocol for pre-pasted papers, which is to run each strip through a water tray. I added a light coat of supplemental paste to the wall and at the edges (ceiling, baseboard, corners).

Similar to my last experience with this paper, I had what we call “overlaps and gaps” at the seams. See photos 5 and 6. In the 7th picture, you can clearly see that the paper has not been cut straight. Look closely just below the pink flower petal, and you will see that the seam butts perfectly, then jogs to the left in an overlap, then comes back to the right in a perfect butt.

When the manufacturer provides crooked seams, it’s impossible to make them butt together perfectly.

In addition, every seam had pattern mis-matches. In fact, none of the pattern matched perfectly across the 9′ height of the mural. The photo with the dark green leaf shows an example of this. You might think, “Just pull one strip up a little.” But then other elements of the design at other points along the seam would not match up. (Not pictured.)

The paper is simply poorly trimmed and poorly printed.

From a distance, you don’t notice any of this at all, and even close up, most homeowners don’t see it. But this mother-to-be was envisioning a perfect room for her first baby, and she paid a lot of money for the mural and installation – and she spotted the irregularities immediately.

With some of the overlapped seams, I was able to carefully trim off the lower layer, so they butted together better. And as the paper dried, I was able to push some of the seams together, as well as pull apart some of the overlaps. And I used my trusty No. 2 graphite pencil to fill in some of the mis-matched design at the seams.

In the end, the homeowner was happy with the room.

The crib and other baby’s furniture are white, and will look sweet and peaceful against this accent wall.

Why do I have no photos of the finished room? All this furniture is in the garage, still in boxes, waiting to be assembled.

Hmmm… Guess how this young couple is going to spend the weekend? 🙂

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.

Don’t Buy Paper-Backed Vinyl Wallpapers – Bad Seams

February 4, 2017

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Today’s wallpaper was a pre-pasted solid-vinyl material with a somewhat gritty manila paper type backing. These papers are usually in the lower price spectrum. These papers are also my least favorite type of wallcovering.

In the upper right of the photo is a seam that is what I call pooched. Puckered just a little. Other parts of the seam gapped a little. There were many areas that curled and would not lie down flat against the wall. I tried three pasting methods with the paper, but none of them left really good looking seams.

Did I mention that I hate paper-backed, solid vinyl wallpapers? The problem is that the paper backing absorbs moisture from the wet paste and expands. That expansion pushes the vinyl surface backwards and creates the little bit of curl at the seams. Often, this will lie back down once the paper is good and dry (which can take a while, because it’s plastic and there is nowhere for the moisture to go because it can’t pass through the plastic). But not always.

Now, if the seams curl when they are wet with wallpaper paste, how do you think they will perform when your teenager takes 40-minute showers and steams up the room, or on those days when you turn off the A/C and open the windows to enjoy the fresh air – a.k.a. Houston Humidity?

Did I mention that I hate paper-backed, solid vinyl wallpapers?

This paper is by Exclusive Wallcoverings and was made in England.

Better options would be a vinyl coated paper (similar terminology, but a big difference in material content), or one of the newer non-woven substrates, preferably the thinner ones (like the Sure Strip line), rather than the thick, spongy, or stiff ones.

Wonderful Zen-Like Faux Grasscloth

January 14, 2017
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This powder room had been wallpapered with a floral pattern, probably back in the early ’90’s. Then someone painted over the wallpaper with a faux finish pattern on the top 2/3 of the wall, left the bottom 1/3 a coordinating solid color, and rounded it out with a border around the middle. It all looked pretty good, but it was outdated, and the new homeowner wanted something fresher.

Originally, she was considering grasscloth. I quickly discouraged her from using that material, because of the very visible seams and the horrible color variations that can appear between strips, and even within strips. I was happy when she chose this instead.

The new paper is from one of my favorite books, Grass Effects, in the EcoChic line by WallQuest. Because it’s a stringcloth, it has the texture that people are loving right now. But because it is a man-made product, rather than a natural material, it does not have the shading and paneling and color variations and visible seams that make real grasscloth so disappointing.

To the far left of the second photo, there is a seam, but you cannot detect it. The third photo shows the same seam from a different angle, and it is more visible, but that’s the camera talking – in real life, this seam was barely visible. The close-up shots show the texture of the material. This company makes other versions that have a more horizontal pattern, and that look even more like real grasscloth.

I really like this paper, and I hope more people will choose it, instead of real grasscloth. It is more water and stain resistant, too.

The location of this job was Sugarland, in far southwest Houston. This wallpaper was bought at a 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.

Hospitality, Welcome, Friendship = Pineapple in a Dining Room

December 21, 2016
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I have to admit – at first, I didn’t like this wallpaper pattern. I thought the overall pattern of the pineapples and foliage formed too regimented of a trellis design, and the pattern would look austere and severe once it played out across the walls. But once on the walls, the pattern is perfect! I think that if the walls were floor-to-ceiling, yes, then the pattern would be too strong. But with the chair rail and wainscoting, the scale fills the upper portion of the walls nicely, and the bold black and green and gold are a good juxtaposition with the white paneling below.

Because the display cabinets on the built-in buffet are the center of attention in the room, I chose to center the pineapple pattern there. In the third photo, you see me using the laser level to get the first strip perfectly centered and plumb.

This room has a lot of decorative moldings, some of which you can see in the “before” photo, which take a lot of time to trim around. In addition, I wanted the pineapples to fall at a certain point below the crown molding and to hang at a certain point above the chair rail, and because I started on the wall with the granite countertop, which sat 4 1/2 inches higher than the chair rail, it took quite a bit of measuring and figuring and plotting to get the pattern where I wanted it … Let’s just say that that first buffet wall, plus two strips on either side, took me a full four hours.

I hung this in a dining room in Spring Branch (Houston). This wallpaper is by Hygge & West, an on-line company. The mothball-smelling inks used can cause the edges to curl, so I did fight with that to an extent during the day. Lightly sponging the surface before pasting, and striping the wall behind seams with a little paste both helped to keep the seams flat and tight to the wall.