Posts Tagged ‘wallcovering’

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.

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Man-Tailored Linen/Stringcloth/Grasscloth in a Former Boys’ Room

February 23, 2019


This large 2nd floor room in a 1934 home in the West University neighborhood of Houston was home to two boys, who took it on a 20+ year ride through crayons, toy cars, sports, school projects, first dates, college entrance forms, and professional careers. Now that the sons are grown and gone, Mom is calling the room her own. She got rid of the dorm look and is going for something calming and sophisticated, with a farm-house twist.

On the ceiling, I hung wallpaper that looks like ship-lapped wood… Joanna Gaines “Magnolia” book by York, in their SureStrip line.

To augment that, the homeowner chose another York pattern, this soft brown / charcoal linen weave stringcloth. It’s a textured material that resembles the fabric of a man’s tailored suit.

It’s beautiful with the wood plank look on the ceiling, and creates a snug, cozy feel in the large room.

I wasn’t happy with the quality of the product. See my previous post about the mismatches at the seams.

In addition, the material was thick and difficult to trim, and difficult to turn around corners. But worse, whatever backing the manufacturer used sucked up paste like the dickens. I pasted the back and booked according to directions. Yet when I went to hang a strip, it didn’t want to stick to the wall. There was virtually no paste on the back … it had all been sucked up into the backing, leaving little on the surface to hold the strip onto the wall. The strips also had a lot of memory, and wanted to keep curling up.

Although the instructions said the substrate was paper, I believe it was a non-woven material. That means it was dimensionally-stable and didn’t need to book or sit for any period after pasting. I tried various installation techniques and finally settled on lightly misting the back of each strip with water , rolling it up and letting it sit for a few minutes while I rolled paste onto the wall (not the back of the paper). Then I applied the paper to the wall.

The misting relaxed the paper and stopped the curling, and also made the material more pliable. Pasting the wall made sure that paste was there to hold the paper to the wall, instead of letting the thirsty substrate soak it all up.

Even so, this has been a difficult install. The paper is thick and hard to trim, and there are issues with the seams that do not make me happy (see yesterday’s post). I worked an 8-hour today and only got two walls done. So I have to go back tomorrow, and the job will take a day longer than I had planned for.

The wallcovering is made by York. I usually like their products, but, like I said, I am a bit displeased with this stuff. The homeowner, however, loves it.

From Fussy Victorian to Serene Home Office

February 10, 2019


Originally, this front bedroom in a 1925 bungalow in the Houston Heights was wallpapered in a dark green and red floral. It was lovely, and went beautifully with the home’s vintage vibe.

But the new homeowners (who have lived here many years, but are just now getting around to decorating this room) want to use this room as a home office, and they wanted something lighter and more modern. In the top photo, you see me stripping off this floral paper.

They were considering grasscloth, but, after reading my warnings about that product (see the page link to the right), they decided to avoid the color variations, staining, and fragility of that material, and instead went with a sort of faux grasscloth – this textured vinyl in a silvery grey color.

The color of the new paper goes perfectly with the gray paint on the woodwork. The paper has vertical lines in a striped pattern, as well as subtle horizontal shading that mimic real grasscloth, but in a more controlled and pleasing way. The commercial-grage vinyl is thick and durable, and will withstand bumps, splashes, and stains way better than most other types of wallcoverings.

On my end, though, the vinyl material was very difficult to work with. It is thick and stiff, and it is on an Osnaburg woven fabric backing, which is much like canvas. It takes a really sharp razor blade and a lot of strength to cut through it.

And because it is so thick, it’s very difficult to get it pressed up tightly against woodwork – so when you trim against the ceiling, doors, or baseboard, it’s very likely to get a gap that lets the wall behind it show. I have a special trim guide that makes a “fat cut,” which helps eliminate that gap.

Because the wallcovering is made of vinyl, it traps moisture behind it, so when the paste behind it dries, there is nowhere for the moisture to go, so you get off gassing – which is a nice way of saying that the paper “burps” and creates bubbles. I had to continually go back and chase bubbles out of the drying paper.

The design has a textured raised vertical stripe pattern. I had cut my first several strips with the intention to start hanging. Then I started measuring the wall, plotting the layout, and counting stripes. They were not laying out properly across the wall. After studying the paper’s pattern for a while, I realized that the stripes on the ends of the paper would not be spaced correctly – unless paper was trimmed off the edges of the wallpaper strips.

By removing 2.5″ from the edge, the stripes would be spaced correctly. I could trim this 2.5″ off, using my work table, a ruler, and my 6′ straightedge.

But the manufacturer’s trimming roller had left a slight beveled edge where it cut the paper. Since my hand-cut edge would be straight up, you would see an odd junction where my straight cut met against the manufacturer’s beveled cut at each seam.

So the only option for a very smooth seam was for me to trim some off both edges of the wallpaper. This worked out to 1.5″ off one side and 1″ off the other. Which was complicated further by the fact that some of the bolts of wallpaper were 1/4″ – 1/2″ narrower than others. So much for quality control at the factory!

But what this meant to me was that I had to carefully measure the width of each bolt of paper, compare that to the rhythm of the stripes crossing the paper horizontally, and determine how much to trim off each edge, in order to have the stripes be spaced correctly across the room.

In real life, most people are not going to notice a spacing difference of 1/2,” or even 1.” Especially in a room with very dim lighting and tons of shadows, and a pattern that is difficult to see in the first place.

But since I had to trim the paper’s edges anyway, it just made sense to trim it so that the spacing of the stripes fell as perfectly spaced as possible.

Try as hard as you may, hand-trimming wallpaper, especially thick, heavy, fabric-backed vinyl, is not as accurate as what they do at the factory. Thus there is always the potential for slight gaps or overlaps at the seams. With a thin paper, it’s possible to stretch and manipulate the material to make a good seam. But with this thick vinyl, I expected to see these gaps and overlaps. However, I was amazed that the vinyl was more malleable than expected – every single seam melted together perfectly.

Although the specs said that the trimmed paper would be 25″ – 26″ wide, by the time both edges were trimmed off and the stripes spaced as they should be, the paper was actually only 24″ wide (give or take an extra 1/4″ or so). Lose 2″ on each of eight strips going across a wide wall … and that can screw up your engineering of the wall and your plans of the number of strips needed and how many bolts of paper will be required.

All of this fiddlin’ and futzin’ took a lot of time, and I was only able to trim and hang paper on two walls each day. So, with prepping the walls and hanging the paper in this … it was something like a 16 single roll room… it took me a full three days. Which is what I had planned on, so we stayed right on schedule.

There was no brand name, so I don’t know the manufacturer, but the label said “JL 8008.” This commercial-grade paper is available in the 27″ width (which is what I can work with) or the wider 54″ (which is more for commercial settings). 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.

After 30 Years, It’s Time for an Update

December 19, 2018


These homeowners were updating their 30-year old home in Sugarland. To the dining room and hallway, they added crown molding at the top and wainscoting with block-and-panel molding at the bottom. Fine moldings add a real touch of elegance.

But the wife has a bit of a renegade spirit, and really likes the new “industrial modern” decorating style. So it was time for the ’90’s era faux-finish wallpaper to go – along with the border which you can just see a tidbit of it peeking out from under the new crown molding.

The new wallcovering choice is a small “flame” textured vinyl in a steely grey/taupe/gold color. It perfectly pulls together the industrial modern light fixture and the classic paneling.

The cut edges of the textured vinyl, along with the sheen of the material, really reflect light and bounce it around the room.

Like most solid-colored wallcoverings with no pattern, with or without a texture, this selection was subject to some color differences between strips. The dining area with 5′ high walls went up with a very homogenous look. Ditto one wall of the 8′ high hallway to the right. But another wall in that same hallway showed some differences between strips.

To minimize these differences, I tried various things.

First, I made sure to hang each strip sequentially, as they came off the bolt. That would reduce color variations, if the ink had gotten lighter or darker as the printing process went on at the factory.

I colored the edges of the vinyl with chalk of a matching hue, so that if a “high” area of the textured vinyl butted up against a “low” area of the next strip, the white edges would be covered with a matching color.

Next I tried reversing every other strip. This means you hang one strip right-side-up, and the next one upside-down. This ensures that one edge of the paper is being hung against itself, so, if there is a color difference, it is gradual instead of abrupt. Difficult to explain, but it makes sense if your mind’s eye can follow it through.

Interestingly enough, reversing every other strip worked quite nicely on the dining room walls, as you see in the photo. But in the full-height walls to the right, reversing the strips resulted in paneling. So there I hung all the strips right-side-up – and it looked great.

But on the far wall, no matter if I hung right-side-up or reversed, you could see differences between the strips (last photo). I replaced one strip once, and another I replaced twice – but never really loved the way it turned out. On some of the other seams, even though I had colored the edges with chalk, the white vinyl still showed. At some point, you just have to say, “This is how the product is.”

This is also why you discuss this with the homeowner before starting the project – and hopefully before she makes her decision to purchase this product. In this case, the homeowner was originally looking at grasscloth – and that product would most likely have had much more noticeable color differences.

Lighting has a lot to do with it, too. Strong light, filtered light, incandescent or LED, light straight-on or light from an angle, all put their thumbprint on how the wallpaper looks.

This wallpaper pattern is by York (one of the homeowners is originally from York, Pensylvania!), 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.

Grasscloth the Color of Milk Chocolate in a Kingwood Master Bedroom

December 1, 2018


This couple got married, blended their families, built a house, then got flooded by 3′ of water during Hurricane Harvey – all within less than a year…. Talk about stress!

Well, now that the home is back together, this soothing master bedroom will give them a calm and quiet sanctuary. The wallpaper went on one feature wall, behind the headboard.

This is a grasscloth wallpaper the color of milk chocolate. Although there were some minor shading issues, I was very pleased that the color of the strips was pretty consistent from strip to strip. The bottom photo shows a discrepancy in the weaving – this is not considered a defect, but “part of the inherent beauty of this natural product.”  Luckily, it was in a location that would be hidden behind the bed.  There was one more similar spot, but it was much smaller and not anything to complain about.

The name on the label was something generic like “Quality Wallcoverings.”

The material 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.

Mildew on Wall Indicates Moisture Problem – Somewhere

October 9, 2018


I have just stripped off a solid vinyl wallcovering that had been up for at least 10 years, possibly twice that. The entire wall was covered with mildew. The mildew was present just on the exterior wall; not any of the walls that connected to interior areas of the home.

Mildew breeds when there is moisture. This indicates that there may be a leak in the home’s siding, or a leak in a window on an upper floor allowing water to get inside the wall and into the drywall. Another possibility is that plumbing inside the wall could have sprung a leak, and also caused the drywall to become wet.

Because the wallcovering was solid vinyl, it trapped the moisture between the wall and the wallpaper, and that allowed mildew to grow between the two surfaces. I’m rather surprised that the mildew didn’t penetrate through the wallpaper and show on the surface. The drywall didn’t appear to be soggy or rotted or compromised.

Another reason why I don’t like solid vinyl wallpapers.

Wild Wallpaper In Frames That Will Be Hung On The Wall

July 31, 2018



Here’s some really cool, custom-made wallpaper that, expectedly, costs a ton. The homeowners wanted to accentuate two rooms (dining room, master bedroom) with these patterns, but, considering the investment, wanted to be able to take it with them, should they move.

After much deliberation and investigation of backings, weight, sturdiness, etc., it was decided to mount each mural on plywood, wrap each of those with a wooden frame, and then mount them on the walls with brackets that attach invisibly to the back.

The largest one, which already has its frame attached, and which you see in the top photo, measures about 7′ x 7′, and weights 80 pounds. Imagine getting that thing up two flights of stairs!

The top photo shows the large mural finished. It consists of two panels spliced in the middle. It was trimmed in place to fit inside the good frame you see around it.

The second photo shows the smaller mural being laid out. It will be applied to the board you seeing lying on the floor in the third photo. The plywood board has been sealed with KILZ, to prevent knotholes from bleeding through, sanded smooth, and then primed with a wallpaper-specific primer. I used Roman’s Pro 977 Ultra Prime.

These wallpaper panels are custom-made to fit the project’s dimensions, and have a few extra inches “bleed” area on each side to allow for trimming and adjusting for wonky walls. The bordering silver area will be trimmed off, as will an inch or so of the printed area on each side of the mural.

On the smaller, dark mural, someone forgot to add an extra inch for the top and bottom, so the mural was centered as perfectly as possible, but a little bit of the white plywood peeked out on both the top and bottom. Don’t worry – a black frame will be constructed to cover the edges of the plywood, and it will have a lip (rabbet) that will cover this teeny gap.

The last photo shows one page of the instruction sheets, which includes drawings from the manufacturer detailing the layout and dimensions of each mural. The large mural came in two panels, which had to be overlapped in the center, carefully matching the pattern, and then double cut, or spliced.

Double cutting involves overlapping the edges of the two strips of wallpaper, while carefully matching the pattern. Then you take a straight edge and a brand new, very sharp razor blade and cut through both layers of paper. This paper was very thick, so I had to press really hard to get through both layers in one sweep. You want to avoid making multiple cuts if possible.

To keep from scoring into the plywood below (and it’s even more important if you are cutting on a wall made of drywall and / or many layers of paint and primer), I put a strip of polystyrene plastic on the plywood surface to keep the razor blade from cutting into the bottom surface. Once the double cut is made, the excess wallpaper, as well as the polystyrene strip, are removed, and the two edges of wallpaper smoothed into place. This makes for a very perfect seam.

All this takes a lot of time. It would be really cumbersome in a larger or more complicated room. But protecting the subsurface is important, because, once the wallpaper starts drying, it shrinks a little and pulls taught, and if the surface below is not intact (due to a cut from a razor blade, or from something else like dust on the surface or layers of incompatible materials such as old oil based paint covered with latex paint), these layers can come apart (delaminate), and the wallpaper seams will pull apart. This is not the paper “coming loose,” and it cannot be “glued back.” It is actually layers of the wall delaminating.

Anyway, back to today’s project, and, sorry, a little out of sequential order, but all important information. These panels were to be hung on the walls, but had not been hung yet. This allowed me to do them flat on the floor, which I think was easier. The instructions said to paste the paper, but that was extremely difficult because they were much wider than my work table. I didn’t want to crease or damage the material. Most non-woven products can be hung by pasting the wall, so that’s what I opted to do. Except, in this instance, they were laid out on the floor. 🙂

The material was a thick non-woven on a mylar plastic, and was very thick and somewhat difficult to work with. In addition, the panels were much wider than normal wallpaper, and hard for me to manipulate. I was glad that the interior designer was hanging around and was game for helping me position these pieces.

As I said, the material was thick and stiff, and no matter how hard I pushed or what extreme tool I used (metal plate), it would not press tightly into the corners of the gold frame enough for me to get a satisfactory cut – meaning that there was a slight (1/16″ – 1/8″ gap between the material and the frame. No matter… The interior designer was easy going, and said she will add a small piece of molding to the inside of the gold frame, to cover any gap, as well as to prevent the thick material from curling up. On the smaller, dark mural, the black frame to be constructed will include a lip (rabbet) that will cover the open edge and help hold it down, as well as cover the outside edge of the plywood panel.

This gutsy wallpaper is made by Calico, a husband-and-wife team out of New York City that is just a few years old – not many people have this stuff – and even fewer have the balls to put it on their walls!

The interior designer for the project is Elizabeth Maciel, and the location is a newish home in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston.

Real Cork in a Pewter for a “Disco” Bedroom

July 29, 2018


More cork wallcovering today, on an accent wall in the first floor guest bedroom of the same home in Montrose (Houston) where I worked yesterday. The homeowners were going for a “retro disco” look. In the adjoining bathroom, there’s a disco ball chandelier (trust me – you can find anything on the internet!), and 1920’s speakeasy-era artwork and statuary in the bedroom.

This glamourous, smolderingly moody metallic wallpaper with its sparkles of gold round out the look with a very loud bang!

As you might expect, this wallpaper is in the line by the Queen of Glam – Candice Olson, and is made by York. The interior designer who pulled this room together is Elizabeth Maciel.

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.

A Cat Sat on the Grass

July 12, 2018


This cat hated and hissed at me for the first two days I worked in his home. But by the end of the third day, he was my buddy – my curious buddy. Here he is, laying claim to my work table – and making himself quite comfy on his owners’ new grasscloth wallcovering.

Let’s hope that his interest stays on flat surfaces, and that he (and his claws) do not discover the nice, textured, brand new, grasscloth walls in the adjoining living room.

Sunroom With a Wonderful Faux Grasscloth –

May 18, 2018



This den in a 1948 ranch style home in the Oak Forest neighborhood of Houston has two full walls of glass that look out onto a beautiful, green yard. The room was originally papered in really dark green vinyl faux grasscloth – I think the idea was to coordinate the room color with the verdant foliage outside. It wasn’t working. “We’ve lived with this for 20 years,” said the husband, “and have been trying all that time to figure out what would make it look better.” Indeed, I first looked at this room in 2015. Well, three years later, the homeowners finally found something way better.

The new wallpaper is also a faux grasscloth in a textured vinyl material. I like this product much better than real grasscloth, because it is free of the visible seams, shading, paneling, and color variations that are such a disappointment with the real stuff (do a Search here for more posts / info). It is one of the few wallcoverings that are actually water-resistant and stain-resistant, and it will stand up to being banged into now and then – it’s the same commercial-grade material used in hotels and hospitals.

In addition, the scrim (woven fabric) backing, along with the vinyl surface, will provide some “give” – which is good, because this room had stress cracks in the drywall over doors and windows, and showed signs of the house shifting on its foundation, thanks to our contrary Houston gumbo soil.

The mottled color of the paper, along with the woven texture, give the feel of real grasscloth. The tan is a natural color, and it goes nicely with the view outside the window, but doesn’t compete with the scenery like the dark green paper did. The dark furniture in the room is no longer swallowed up by the dark wallpaper, and all of a sudden, the whole space is much brighter.

After 20 years, it’s a big change for the homeowners, but already, they are loving it!

This wallpaper pattern is called Bankun Raffia, and is by Thibaut Designs. 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.