Posts Tagged ‘walls’

Updating from Decorative Paint to Beautiful Wallpaper

November 18, 2020

The walls in this small entry in a pretty original condition 1935 home in the Montrose / Upper Kirby neighborhood of Houston had been painted by an artist with a wide stripe pattern in deep orange and gold, with a darker wash over the surface. It was probably done in the ’90’s, and was a good look then.

But the new homeowner never loved it. As for me, I think the look is too modern to suit the era and style of the home, and also the colors have a sort of dirty cast to them. After living there several years and focusing on career and raising kids, the homeowners were finally ready to bring a new concept to the entry.

The first photo shows the existing wall finish. The white stuff is my smoothing compound, which I have started to apply over the lightly-but-irregularly textured walls.

The next photo shows the walls sanded smooth, vacuumed and then wiped free of dust, primed with a wallpaper primer, and ready for wallpaper.

In the “after” photos, note that the dark or blotchy areas are simply wet with paste or water, and will disappear as the paper dries.

This is a particularly pretty pattern that suits the room well. There is a slight Chinoiserie / Asian feel to the design. And the grey is a good colorway for this home’s décor. I love the arched moldings that frame the passageways to both the living room and the dining room. Typical adorable 1930’s architecture!

The wallpaper is by Anderson Prints. It was pretty nice to work with, but did tend to dry out even before the booking time was up, so presented a bit of a challenge in that respect.

In the distant shot, you can make out a sort of hourglass figure in the branches and vines. I plotted the placement so a full “swoop” would display over the doors.

And also so the “hourglass” would play out down the center of the main wall, as shown in the photo. This will look nice as the vines and flowers gently surround the chest of drawers and oval mirror when they are placed back into the room.

Smoothing Suburban Heavily Textured Walls

November 1, 2020


In the tract homes in new subdivision developments all around Houston, it’s very common that the builder will use a heavy wall texture like this. You can’t hang wallpaper on this, because the bumps and dips will look horrible under the paper, and also they will impede good adhesion.

So the walls will need to be smoothed. This is accomplished by “skim-floating” or “skim-coating” the walls with joint compound. I do my own prep. And, as I like to say, I’m better at it than any “guy” you can hire. 🙂

The third photo shows the wall with half in original condition, and half with the smoothing compound applied over it.

Some people use a wide taping knife to spread the “mud,” as we call it. But I prefer the trowel shown in the fourth photo, because I am closer to it and can see everything that I am doing, and also I feel the position of the handle gives me better manual control.

Sometimes, using fans and playing with the A/C or heat systems, the compound will dry in a couple of hours. But with texture this heavy, the material must be left to dry overnight.

Tomorrow morning, I will sand the walls smooth, vacuum up the dust, wipe residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, and then roll on a primer. Once that dries (again, call in the fans!), the wallpaper can go up. The second-to-last photo shows it finished and ready for wallpaper.

The last photo shows the brand I prefer, USG’s Sheetrock brand “Plus 3,” which you can find at most big box stores and most paint stores. It sands a lot more easily than the standard joint compound in the red, white, and green box.

Cute As Can Be Pineapples In Clear Lake Powder Room

August 21, 2020


Originally, this powder room in a brand new home in the Clear Lake area south of Houston was painted a taupe-y grey, and the walls were heavily textured. This bright and crisp Pineapple pattern in navy on white really opened up and brightened the room, and made it fitting for a family with two toddlers.

It took a day and a half to smooth the textured walls, and a full day to hang the paper. The extremely un-plumb walls and un-level ceiling and floor and sink, and other features were all obstacles. The homeowner and I decided that it would be better to have the pattern match in the corners, and then let it run crooked along the ceiling and floor lines. Too complicated to get into here. But in the end, the finished room looks great!

I usually love Serena & Lily papers, but this time I encountered several printing defects. There was a slight pattern mis-match at the seams. There was a faint smudge on one motif at the point of every pattern repeat. And one bolt had a line of dark blue ink along the right edge that ran for several feet. AND … this bolt came with no label. I assumed it was a return, and was of a different run, and thus was unusable in this powder room Luckily, I usually have the homeowners order enough paper to accommodate issues like this.

Coincidentally enough, my Wallcovering Installers Association colleagues on our private Facebook page had just been discussing Serena & Lily papers, and a rash of printing defects and other issues that many installers had been experiencing lately.

Other than the printing defects and wonky walls, the paper went up nicely.

Serena & Lily papers (and other home good merchandise) can be bought on-line, or through their paper catalog – which they just mailed out recently.

Angled Geometric Accent Wall

June 23, 2020


This small first-floor room will serve two purposes … One: The homeowner is a massage therapist, and treats clients in this room. Two: The room will serve as a reception / living room area for guests when the couple entertains.

There will be a kidney bean-shaped, bright orange sofa placed in front of this accent wall, and a dynamic round coffee table with a black & white geometric pattern will sit in front of that.

An invigorating room for sure!

There were a few minor printing defects, as noted in the close-up shots. I had the same thing when I hung this wallpaper pattern before. The homeowners were not bothered by these slight issues – but I have a plan to disguise them (using appliqués) if they wish to do so later.

The townhome is brand new, in a new gated development in the Timbergrove neighborhood of Houston. The walls are textured, and I spent yesterday skim-floating, sanding, and then priming the walls (two different rooms). This morning, the walls were smooth, dry, and ready for wallpaper.

This wallpaper pattern is by York, in their SureStrip line – one of my favorite brands. It is pre-pasted and goes up on the wall easily. It is designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece, when it’s time to redecorate.

The paper 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.

Paint Problem

May 30, 2020


Hard to see, but the paint on this wall is crackling. This is most likely because there are unstable and incompatible layers of paint underneath.

In an old house like this (1940’s), there will have been many treatments to the walls over the years. Original oil-based paint, covered by latex paint, gloss paint, dust, more colors and layers of paint. And virtually never does the workman prep the walls properly.

Latex doesn’t like to stick to oil, and most paints don’t like to stick to gloss, plus other factors. So what happens is that all these disparate layers rebel, and sometimes you end up with flaking or peeling.

If wallpaper is applied on top of these unstable walls, when it dries and pulls taught and puts tension on the wall surface, there is the potential for these layers to give way, and you can end up with a curled seam, under which are layers of delaminated wall.

Teal and Peach for 5-Year Old Girl’s Room

May 18, 2020

For a 5-year old girl, you can’t beat the color combination in this room! .. .. Peach walls, a floral wallpaper in teal and peach on an accent wall, and other accents not pictured, like twin teal shelves and chest of drawers, and a turquoise scrolled-metal headboard.

She can live with this pattern and these colors well into her teen years.

In the first photo, I have skim-floated to smooth over the textured walls. My three fans (plus the ceiling fan and the home’s A/C system) are working hard to dry the smoothing compound. I also engaged the services of my heat gun, to speed drying along.

This wallpaper is by Eijffinger, a Scandinavian company. It is a non-woven material, with a high fiberglass content, and won’t expand when wet with paste. Also, it is designed to strip off the wall easily and cleanly when it’s time to redecorate.

These qualities mean that it was possible to hang it using the paste-the-wall method. That made me happy, because I did not have to lug in my heavy and cumbersome trimming / pasting table.

The home is a newish townhome in the Montrose neighborhood of central Houston.

Sticky Dots

May 7, 2020


This grasscloth wallpaper by Thibaut is called Union Square. It has not just the texture from the natural reeds of grass sewn onto the backing, but also 3-D square “dots” of thick plastic or resin or vinyl … Doesn’t matter what the material is … There are raised, textured “dots” marching across this paper in a neat, orderly fashion.

But plastic can be sticky. On all of the bolts, the paper labels stuck to the plastic dots. Unrolling the grasscloth caused the labels to tear off strips, which remained stuck to the plastic dots. These scraps of paper could not be removed, so I had to cut off and discard the top 16″ or so of each bolt.

The really sad thing about this is that the wall height was such that I could have gotten three strips out of each double roll. But with having to discard paper from the start of each bolt, we were left with only enough remaining paper on the bolt for two strips.

Even worse on a few other bolts, the plastic dots stuck to not just the paper label, but to the paper backing of the grasscloth itself. This left strips of paper stuck to the dots, and also peeled bits of paper off of the back of the wallpaper – leaving the possibility of paste leaking through and staining the surface.

This sticky defect went through the entirety of each bolt, so there were three bolts that were unusable.

This meant that I could not finish wallpapering the remaining walls. And that we’ll have to send back the defective paper, and the homeowner will have to wait for the company to find non-defective paper, and ship it, and for me to have an opening on my schedule to finish the job.

The Thibaut Customer Service rep has told me that the company is aware of and has worked on this problem. (Thibaut is one company that actually LISTENS to us installers, and makes changes as needed.) Their solution is to place thin plastic wrap inside the bolts, to prevent the dots from coming into contact with any other material, like the paper backing.

I hope the replacement paper comes with this new innovation.

Lotsa Color, and a Nice Faux Silk

April 16, 2020


I have worked for this couple in their charming 1929 bungalow in West University (Houston) several times since the 1990’s. They definitely are not people to go with the all-white or all-grey or minimalist trends that are popular today. These folks like COLOR!

The dining room walls were originally upholstered in a botanical print on blue (which the homeowner did himself, and did a mighty find job of, too). So the room never was bland white. 🙂 But now, 20 years later, they were ready for an update.

Their contractor removed the fabric and then skim-floated the walls smooth. Usually I have to go back and re-smooth the walls … but this guy did a really good job, and I was able to simply prime, and then hang the paper.

This is a vinyl product named “Wild Silk,” and is by Thibaut. It’s much more stain-resistant and durable than real fabric. Unlike real silk and other natural materials like grasscloth, this product has a pattern match. This means that you are not going to see each separate panel or visible seams, like you do with real silk. So the walls have a much more homogeneous and pleasing look.

The challenge lay with the old house and its un-plumb walls and un-level ceiling and window/door moldings. Since the ceiling was not level, if I hung the wallpaper true to plumb, then it would start “tracking” off-kilter at the ceiling line, and appear to be running either uphill or downhill. This effect was further complicated by the way the pattern ran along the window and door frames.

I decided to keep the pattern parallel to the ceiling molding line. This meant letting it go crooked along the door and window frames, if that’s how it turned out. The ceiling line was more visible and more important.

Since the pattern was tracking off-kilter, I used a razor blade and a straightedge to trim off a wedge-shaped chunk from one side of the wallpaper. This forced the pattern to move up (or down). After a few strips, I had tweaked it enough that the design was moving straight across under the crown molding.

Even though the strips were not hanging plumb, it looked wonderful along the ceiling line. This “silk” pattern was very accommodating of that. If it had been a design with a prominent motif that the eye wanted to see marching straight across the ceiling AND straight down along a door frame, it would have been much more difficult to pull off – maybe impossible.

Going around the window (no pic) was even more complicated. Because I was tweaking the three strips above the window to follow the crown molding, and also the three strips below the window – and you can’t guarantee that these will all adjust at the same rate. So getting the strip to the left of the window (no pic) to match up with the strips above AND below the window would be pretty impossible.

So I was extremely pleased when the pattern on all these strips did match up, within about 1/16″.

This is a vinyl material and was somewhat difficult to push tightly into edges and corners, and to cut through. I was glad that I didn’t have intricate decorative moldings to cut around. I used orange chalk to color the edges of the material, to keep the white substrate from showing at the seams.

I love the way the salmon color coordinates with the painted trim. Who paints door moldings orange??! THESE people do – and I highly applaud it! No boring all-white rooms in this house!

The look is bold, but surprisingly warm. The orange moldings against white walls would have been jolting. But with the salmon colored wallpaper, the whole effect is unified, inviting, and invigorating!

Bringing Color and Life to a Garden Oaks Dining Room

March 6, 2020


This family bought a new home in the Garden Oaks neighborhood of Houston, and then lived for a year with dull, lifeless walls in the dining room – all the while craving color and personality. Finally, the husband had a chance to tackle the textured walls (see previous post), and shortly thereafter, I came along.

This print is fun but not cutesy or trendy. And – while monochromatic, it adds a whole lot of color to the once-bland room.

Printed on a non-woven substrate, this product could be hung using the paste-the-wall method, or the paste-the-material method, which is what I did, for many reasons. It went up very nicely.

This wallpaper pattern is by A-Street Prints, 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 in Cypress Powder Room

February 18, 2020


The walls and ceiling in this large powder room in a newish home in the Bridgeland Creek neighborhood of Cypress (northwest Houston) were originally a dark gold. I like dark rooms, but this one felt oppressive. It needed to be a little lighter, and to have a bit more interest on the walls.

The walls had a heavy texture, typical of new homes in the suburbs of Houston. I skim-floated the walls, then let dry overnight. The next day, I sanded the walls smooth, wiped off the dust, primed – and then was ready to hang wallpaper.

The pictures don’t adequately show the color of the new grasscloth, but we have natural brown grass color overlaid onto a really deep blue paper backing. The designer had the ceiling painted a dark, sort of murky blue, which coordinates really nicely with the blue in the grasscloth.

Lighting is funny … While I was working in the room, I had two 100 watt light bulbs; one suspended from the ceiling and one attached to where the light fixture belongs. The grasscloth just looked “normal.”

But once the room’s decorative light fixture went back up, it cast light on the textured surface in such a way that the “nubs” and knots really showed up! (see photo) The homeowner loved it!

As a note … With grasscloth, there is no pattern match, and you can also plan on seeing color differences between strips. So it’s important to plot where your seams will fall.

The electrical box, the light fixture, and the faucet were all in different vertical positions on the wall. Because the mirror would take up most of the wall behind the faucet and block the seam, I chose to center the seam on the light fixture, because it would be visible above the mirror. Well – sort of visible … as you can see, light rays from the fixture are so strong that no one can see where the seam is, anyway. 😦

The room had a “floating” sink. One of the photos shows the area under the sink. This area is open to view, and, because there are so many obstacles, it is difficult and time-consuming to wrap the paper underneath and trim around all those pipes and brackets.

The grasscloth wallpaper is by York. I was pretty pleased with the consistency of the material. Although some of the strips did present “paneling” and “shading” – color variances between strips – even strips that came off the same bolt and that were reverse-hung. One strip even had a rather abrupt color change mid-way from top to bottom. (no photo)

But that’s par for the course with grasscloth, and it’s considered to be “the natural beauty of this natural material.”

The interior designer for this project is Neal LeBouef, of L Design Group.