Posts Tagged ‘substrate’

Farrow & Ball – Disappointing Quality

October 10, 2019


First three photos – Burnish marks from smoothing paint-coated paper to wall. Read below.

Last two photos – Fat seams caused by poor trimming and thick paper and paint. You man need to enlarge the photo to see clearly. Read below.

I’m disappointed in the quality of the Farrow & Ball paper I hung recently. (See my post from September 1st.) For a high-end brand, their quality-control is definitely lacking.

The seams are thick and dark, and many areas had to be repasted because they didn’t hold to the wall. As one of my highly-skilled, decades-long installer buddies put it: “This is a common problem caused by …… incompetence of factory trimming and poor choice of substrate. This substrate is thick and the trimming from F&B often gives us a “rounded” edge, for want of a better word.” Another installer described the seam edges as “scalloped.” You can never get a good, tight seam with thick paper and paint, and improper factory trimming.

Another disappointment was a sheen on the paper. F&B is proud of their paint, and, instead of using ink (like other successful manufacturers do), they coat their wallpaper with their paint. To get wallpaper stuck to the wall, to eliminate bubbles, and to set seams, you need to use tools, notably a smoothing brush (“sweep”) and/or a plastic smoothing tool.

No matter how gently I swiped with the brush, the paint burnished (left a sheen). Using the plastic smoother to try to coax the cantankerous seams to stay down left worse sheen along the length of each seam. I tried covering the smoother with soft T-shirt cloth, but that didn’t help. This sheen is caused by sensitivity of the paints. I hung three different F&B patterns, and had the same problem with each.
I worked as cleanly as possible, because trying to wipe even a small speck of paste off the surface left another shiny spot. The sheen was more noticeable when the paper was viewed from the side, with light hitting it at an angle.

If other manufacturers use inks that are designed to bond to paper, and that will withstand the light brushing and occasional wiping during the installation process, why does Farrow & Ball persist in using paint on their wallpaper??! Matt-finish paint is designed to be looked at, not rubbed or wiped or washed. And why use a thick, poor-performing substrate, when so many other companies have found wonderful papers to print on??

One solution for the sheen might be to coat the paper with a matt-finish varnish or other product that will even hide the shininess. As for the fat, noticeable seams, there is no solution. For now, we’re leaving everything as it is, because the client doesn’t see what I see, and she is delighted with her new wallpaper.

William Morris Pattern in Bellaire Powder Room

July 27, 2019


The owner of this powder room in the Bellaire neighborhood of Houston lived for several years in England, and fell in love with the British aesthetic for the Arts & Crafts period of the early 1900’s. William Morris was a popular designer of that era – and still loved today.

Most of the patterns are intricate, while rhythmic and repetitive, with nature being a popular theme.

The wall sconces, mirror, and sink faucet were all off-center from one another. Figuring that the mirror was the most noticeable feature on that wall, I decided to center the pattern on the mirror, rather than the sconces or faucet. (Sorry, no pic of the mirror.)

This particular pattern had enough swoopy flowery foliage that the background trellis design was pretty obscured. In addition, I plotted the layout so that the dark green trellis would not fall close to the faucet (where it would be obvious that it was off-center). And the large flower to the right of the faucet helps obscure the off-center trellis, too.

Once the mirror went up, it became the eye-catcher. The room is a true beauty.

This wallpaper is by William Morris, a British manufacturer, and this paper was the traditional pulp material, rather than the newer non-woven substrate.

Brunschwig & Fils’s Biblioteque in a Heights Library

July 14, 2019


Another installer hung the paper in the first photo. For some unknown reason, two half-walls were left unpapered. I was called in to finish those two areas.

Brunschwig & Fils is a French manufacturer, with a long history. Like many higher-end brands, this product came with a selvedge edge that I had to trim off by hand (see last photo), using a razor blade and a 6′ long straight edge (not shown).

And, like many higher-end brand papers that are printed with ink that smells like mothballs, once paste is applied to the back of the paper, the inked surface absorbs moisture from the paste differently from the back side. When the top inked layer expands at a different rate from the substrate, you get waffling, or quilting. Sorry, no photo, but you can do a Search here to see previous blogs on this topic. Essentially, it’s a wrinkly mess.

One way to deal with this is to even out the moisture differential by lightly sponging water onto the face (inked side) of the wallpaper. The front can then absorb moisture from the sponging at the same time that the substrate is absorbing moisture from the paste.

As I worked with the paper, I discovered that it wanted to dry out quickly. So it helped a lot to also use a sponge to get a little moisture onto the back side of the wallpaper strip, before pasting.

Other tricks to slow drying out are to 1.) Book the paper (fold pasted side to pasted side and then roll up loosely like a newspaper) and then dunk the ends into a bucket of clean water. 2.) Place the booked strip into a black trash bag, which will prevent evaporation during the time the paper books. 3.) When the wait time is up, gently unbook the paper and lightly spritz the back with clean water from a spray bottle. Alternately, you could sponge the surface once again. The idea is to introduce a little more moisture, to loosen up the paste and to make the paper more malleable.

I had been told that this paper was difficult to work with, and that the seams wanted to curl. I had the opposite experience – I thought it was lovely to work with. The seams laid nice and flat, and the paper was easy to manipulate, and it clung tightly to the wall. Applying moisture to the surface and back got rid of the waffling, and any that did remain (there were small puckers in the white horizontal “shelf board” areas) disappeared as the wallpaper dried.

This home is in the Houston Heights neighborhood, and the interior designer is Stacie Cokinos, of Cokinos Design.

Dark Surface / White Substrate

August 21, 2018


Re yesterday’s post, because it was a dark pattern printed on a white substrate, I worried that some of the white backing might show at the seams. This is especially pertinent with thick papers and with papers that may shrink as they dry.

To help prevent any white from peeking out at the seams, I used a mud-hued artists’ pastel chalk to color the edges of the paper. In the top photo, you can just barely make out the line of muddy grey chalk along the right edge of the wallpaper.

This trick worked great. The seams pretty much melted together and disappeared. However, as you see in the second photo, there were a few sections where seams shrank and opened up just a tad – a half a tad. If the paper had a white background, you would never notice. But with a strongly-colored choice such as this one, you have to be prepared to see minute gaps in between the seams.

Dark Paper Bringing Brightness to a Harvey Hurricane Flooded Home

June 28, 2018


This home in the Bellaire subdivision of Houston was flooded during Hurricane Harvey in August of 2017. Everything below the 4′ high water mark had to be cut out and thrown out. The homeowners loved the Mid-Century Modern vibe of their 1952 home, so, as the structure was put back together, they re-created everything as accurately as they could – baseboards, doors, cabinets, flooring – they even found a funky green refrigerator designed in the style of what I can only describe as an old Studebaker sedan.

When it came to wallpaper, they wanted something to reflect the vintage vibe. After much research, they agreed on two papers from the Bradbury & Bradbury Vintage ’20’s collection. This colorful bird-flowers-and-foliage-on-black pattern went in their sun room, which can also be called the piano room.

The ’20’s Vintage wallpaper collection is pretty new from Bradbury and Bradbury, which is out in California. This company produces historic-styled patterns from eras such as Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Victorian, Asian, and more, right on through into the new offerings based on designs from the “Modern Age.”

Like many higher-end or specialty and / or “boutique” wallpaper brands, this paper came with a selvedge edge that had to be trimmed off by hand (by me!). The manufacturer’s trim guidelines were spot-on, and so the edges were nice and straight, and the pattern design matched from strip to strip perfectly.

This pattern is digitally-printed on a paper substrate with a somewhat shiny surface. I found that it accepted the paste (clay paste is recommended, to mesh with the paper which is printed on a clay-coated substrate) with no protests, and, after appropriate booking time, the paper handled nicely and the seams laid down nice and flat. That slightly shiny surface also allowed me to wipe any stray spots of paste off the surface.

Because the paper was black, I did take the extra step of using a piece of black chalk to color the edges of the strips, to keep the white substrate from peeking out at the seams.

This room holds a grand piano, and is in the back of the house, where it looks out onto the patio and backyard. It gets a lot of sunlight in the daytime, and the colors in the wallpaper will really stand out, and will bring a lot of light into this very deserving home.

Hygge & West Wallpaper – Curling at the Seams

June 4, 2018
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Hygge & West, an on-line company, makes some darling wallpaper patterns. But I don’t enjoy hanging their papers. Because they use ink that fight the substrate it’s printed on, which causes curling paper and “pouched” seams.

Some inks smell like moth balls, and those tend to cause the curling problems. What happens is, the inked areas absorb moisture from the paste differently from the paper backing (substrate). The substrate expands, and that causes the paper to curl backwards. The second photo shows an extreme example of that.

Usually, once the paste dries, the paper shrinks back and the seams lie flat. But you can never count on that – the first photo shows a seam that has been on the wall for an hour or so, and the green ink is still curling away from the wall. The tendency is to keep pushing the seams flat – and that can cause overworking of the seams, stretching, burnishing, or other damage.

It helps to lightly sponge the face of the paper with water before pasting the back. This helps equalize the absorption of water, and evens out the expansion rate of the wallpaper. Make sure there is paste all the way to the edges of the paper – but not past the edge or onto the surface, which could cause staining. And use a little less paste on the edges, so it will dry faster and grab onto the wall. It also helps to stripe the wall behind the seam with a roller of paste – not much, but enough to put a layer of paste onto the wall, which can be drying and tacking up, ready to grab onto the edges of the strip of wallpaper.

Jungle Book / Beverly Hills Hotel / Tropical Foliage

December 20, 2017

I hung wallpaper in this bathroom about 15 years ago. The girl has grown up and gone off to college – and it’s time for her room to get an update.

This banana leaf design is by Nobilis. Tropical greenery is a popular concept, and there are lots of manufacturers making similar patterns; you can find something beautiful at any price range.

This Nobilis product is printed on a non-woven substrate. It is meant to be a paste-the-wall installation, but I preferred the flexible handle-ability I got by pasting the paper instead. In addition, because the manufacturer printed the dark paper on a white substrate, it was highly likely that the seams would show up by hair-bredth gaps.

I used a black chalk pastel to color the edges (where the dark blue crossed the seams), to prevent the white backing from showing – and they disappeared. I didn’t have a green chalk stick, so left the green leaf areas untreated … so the seams did show a bit more. But visible seams are pretty expected with dark papers, and with thick non-woven materials.

Rounded Flame Stitch in a Heights Dining Room

July 10, 2016
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This dining room in a new home in the Houston Heights has traditional block paneling that reaches up 5′ high. In the first photo, you see the painted paneling, and the new Sheetrock above it. I primed the Sheetrock with a pigmented wallpaper primer (Ultra Prime Pro 977 by Roman’s), and then every surface in that room was – WHITE!

And it was – BORING! 🙂

In the next photos, you can see how wallpaper transformed the room. The pattern is small an tight and contains only two similar colors on a white background, so it is not busy or overwhelming at all.

But just look at how that little bit of pattern and color brings life to the room! And look at how the paneling and woodwork suddenly becomes noticeable and beautiful, once it is contrasted against the darker wallpaper.

The interior designer who helped bring life to this home is Stacie Cokinos. The wallpaper is in the Echo line, and is by Baker, a British company. It is on a non-woven substrate, and is a paste-the-wall product.

Unhappy – Visible Seams Today – But a Solution

December 9, 2015
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I don’t often work in offices or businesses or commercial spaces, but today I did take on a job in an office park (photo 1) off Westpark & Chimney Rock in southwest Houston. It was a pipeline company that was spiffing up their offices, and everyone who worked there was positively delightful.

The wallpaper, however, was not quite so agreeable.

In the second photo, you see the painted wall before I got started. I rolled on a coat of Gardz, a clear primer. Then started hanging this small herringbone pattern by Schumacher. Although I followed the manufacture’s instructions to reverse-hang the goods (a trick to minimize color variances by hanging every other strip upside down, so you are placing the same sides of the wallpaper next to each other – it’s easier to understand if you are actually doing it, rather than typing it. 🙂 )

Anyway, as you can see in the next photo, there is a visible vertical 1/4″ wide line down each seam, between each strip of wallpaper.

I didn’t think it looked good, and the other guys working on the jobsite noticed it, too, so I called the interior designer, who called the clients. Bottom line: Although we all acknowledged that it didn’t look great, it wasn’t horrible, and besides, there would be furniture and a large painting on that wall, which would pretty much cover the white lines, as well as distract your attention to more interesting things (the oil painting).

So, they gave the go-ahead to continue hanging the paper. Still, I thought it could look better.

I was unable to remove the four existing strips, due to surface failure when attempting to pull those off the wall – Meaning, when the wallpaper, which is on a non-woven substrate, which is designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece with no damage to the wall, when I pulled it off the wall, some of the paint came away from the wall, too, leaving an uneven surface on the wall, which would leave dips and bumps under the new wallpaper. I had Gardz’ed the wall, so I thought the surface was stable. But if the paint beneath my primer is not sticking to the drywall, or if there are many layers of paint and they are not all compatible, or dust, or crumbling paint, or who knows what, you can have layers delaminating (coming apart), which is what I had today.

Long story short, I thought the white vertical lines looked better than crumbling walls and bumps under the paper. So I left those strips up on the wall, and focused on the remaining five strips.

Since it was a pattern that allowed it, what I did was, instead of using Schumacher’s factory cut edge, I used my 6′ straightedge and razor blades to trim off 1″ or so from either edge of each 9′ strip of wallpaper, making sure to continue the reverse-hang rhythm, while also making sure the “up” or “down” angle of the herringbone pattern lined up correctly with the pattern on the strips on either side.

This was tedious, but it proved to be the right solution. If you really looked at the wall, you could still see some of the seams, and there was still a bit of white discoloration. But the overall effect was MUCH more pleasing, and definitely worth the extra effort. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of the finished wall with the hand-trimmed wallpaper.

Interestingly, if you look closely at the “before” photo (#2), you can see a faint vertical white line on the painted wall, before any wallpaper even went up.  This supports the designer’s theory that the strong fluorescent light is at least partly to blame for those white lines.

The interior designer for this job is Janet Dowlearn.

Another Reason I’m Not Thrilled With Non-Woven Papers

August 30, 2015
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Wallpapers printed on non-woven substrates are becoming more and more popular with manufacturers. They are aimed at the DIY crowd, I think, because they are supposed to strip off the wall easily when you want to redecorate. (Although that is only quasi-true.) And they are often installed by pasting the wall, rather than the back of the paper, which is supposed to be simpler. (Whoever pushed that theory never put wallpaper behind a toilet or around detailed moldings.)

There are various types of non-woven substrates. I like the thinner ones OK. This particular one is thick and spongy. It’s hard to push into detailed areas or corners, making trimming difficult and imprecise. And the littlest movement or force can cause it to crease or become mashed. The crease in the photo happened when I simply picked up a strip of paper and the top half flopped forward. It’s likely that this crease will not be noticeable once the paper is up on the wall and dry. But, still, it might show.

Many of the thick, stiff non-wovens have visible seams. This one was thick, but it was soft, and I was really pleased with the seams – positively invisible.