BLACK GRASSCLOTH ACCENT WALL (and wallpaper primer talk)

Guess what I did this past week??? Master bedroom wallpaper! It was of the few things I was sure I wanted in our house BEFORE WE MOVED IN LIKE 5 YEARS AGO. Sometimes when you wait too long to actually implement the design decisions you’ve made, you don’t love it as much as when you first dreamed it up. But not the case here. The grasscloth has added the richness and texture the room has been missing. I’m learning just how important texture is to a room that leans minimal. It is the dividing line behind cold institutional, which our former black and white room sometimes felt, and warm inviting. Add some surface irregularities, and even broad areas of monotone color immediately reads as substance instead of absence.

(I talk priming for wallpaper and DIY wallpaper supplies at the end of this, so skip down if you are here for that!)This wallpaper is actually from York’s Magnolia Home line. I never thought Joanna Gaines and her shiplap empire would come near me or my house, but this black sisal wallpaper was a steal. Sisal falls in the broad “grasscloth” wallpaper category (sisal is a type of grass), though the fibers are generally smaller than traditional chunky grasscloth resulting in a tighter weave.

This wallpaper looks charcoal and highly “paneled” in some of these blown-out photos, but the color in real life is a beautiful true black and was very consistent throughout rolls. The only other black natural fiber wallpapers I could find were in the hundreds of dollars per roll price. I think I bought this for around $75/roll last spring, when I was hoping to get to this project. Looks like the price has increased during that time, but it’s still substantially cheaper than anything else I could find.

The great price comes with some downsides. It was not as thick or as sturdy as my previous grasscloth hanging experience in the dining room, which I think was a Brewster wallcovering, making this more difficult to work with. Even worse, the black dye rubbed off all over my fingers from just handling the paper dry. Add wet glue to that and it was a mess! The walls, my hands, my clothes, everything it touched was stained. Ugh. Not surprisingly, I got a few areas of blotchy dye bleed along the edges of the paper. It’s so dark that you can’t really see in person and it’s hard to photograph, but you can kind of see what I mean below on the far right seam. If you are a perfectionist, grasscloth in general isn’t for you and definitely not this one! But in my case, the cost savings was worth these imperfections and hassles. Thanks Joanna for nothing and everything, whatever.
WALLPAPER SUPPLIES

My previous post on hanging grasscloth gives a general overview of the process, but I want to mention a few things about primer and other supplies because I’ve gotten a lot of questions about it lately. Wallpaper has been out of fashion for long enough that most salespeople in stores have no idea about hanging wallpaper yourself.

The supplies you need are:

  • your wallpaper
  • wallpaper paste if your wallpaper is not pre-pasted (grasscloths never are because pre-pasted wallpaper is soaked in a tub of water to activate the glue and you can’t soak natural fibers like that)…I use a universal wallpaper adhesive from Roman like this one
  • a smoothing tool
  • many SHARP razor blades (I buy a 100 pack in a dispenser because you literally need a fresh razor for every cut)
  • a tape measure
  • a straight edge, or better yet, a carpenter’s L-square
  • PROPERLY PRIMED WALLS (see below)!

PRIMING WALLS FOR WALLPAPER:

Prepping your walls is half the work of hanging wallpaper. This include patching/filling all holes (tiny ones are OK to cover with grasscloth, other wallpapers are very unforgiving so patch it up) and priming the walls. You need to prime your wall for two reasons: 1. to give your wallpaper a strong surface to adhere to. Your wallpaper isn’t sticking to your wall, it’s sticking to the layer of whatever is directly below it. If that layer is latex paint, which most of our walls are covered in, the wallpaper paste will soften it, turning it into a mushy, weak layer that will likely fail once the weight of wallpaper is hanging on it. Which means your wallpaper might fall down. Whomp whomp. 2. Priming, supposedly – I’ve never had this luxury, makes wallpaper removal actually easy come the day you are ready for a change. If you’ve ever experienced the pain of removing old wallpaper via one million tiny tears (rips) and tears (wet stuff from your eyes), it is highly likely that the wall was not properly primed!

There are a few different one-step primer options for wallpaper. You need this primer to harden over and seal in every other layer below it so that none of them are reactivate by the paste you are about to slop on. You also ideally want it to match the color of your new wallpaper, minimizing any high contrast seam peek-a-boos. If your wallpaper is white/light, you will definitely want white primer underneath because colors and designs will show through! If your wallpaper is dark, you will likely want dark primer (or clear, see below) underneath to hide any peek-a-boo seams! If your wallpaper is red, you are gonna want that wall to be red, and so on.

One option is a regular “universal white pigmented” primer. This stuff is white, so it’s ideal for white/light wallpaper, or it can be tinted to match your wallpaper color. I believe most universal pigmented primers need 24 hours to dry before wallpapering. I’ve had great success with Zinsser’s Bullseye 123 in our dressing room.

The other option is what are referred to as “drywall repair clears”. These are a clear, hard primer meant to seal in messy drywall jobs. Because they are clear, they are an easy option when your wall is already painted the color of your new wallpaper…my situation! I went the DRC (drywall repair clears) route for the first time and used Zinsser Gardz on this wall. It is drippy, thin, and messy, but totally doable with a 3/8″ nap roller. It goes on a milky blue color but dries into a glossy, slightly toothy, clear. I made sure to cover nearby furniture and floors because it sprays off the roller a bit, but coverage was good and drying time quick, only 3 hours. I primed in the morning and was wallpapering by noon.

Photo below shows almost dry Gardz on the left, Gardz being applied in the middle, and unprimed latex paint on the right. The second photo show the primed wall ready for wallpaper:
Back to our room. I’m so into it. I need to re-hang our blinds and sconces, which I’ve been meaning to move outward anyway since upgrading to a king. But working up the courage to put holes in the new wallpaper will take a few days here. Hope your weekend is full of dream-fulfilling projects too :)

Thanks for reading friends! xoxo Jenny

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Wallpaper!

Mid Century Wallpaper DIY Norwall SH34552 gold white geometricI wallpapered our dressing room this week. I am so happy with the results but IT WAS THE WORST JOB EVER. Surprisingly, I can’t remember another home project, besides shoveling rocks, that I disliked so much. What I thought would take 2 hours, took ten. My back hurts. My brain hurts. Wallpaper hangers are now third on my list, after #1 roofers (<unsung heroes) and #2 landscapers, of jobs that I couldn’t do. Wallpapering is not the most physically demanding job, though more than I imagined, but one of the most mentally/emotionally taxing house projects I’ve ever undertaken. These walls beat me down and broke me.I previously had drawn bamboo all over the walls in here but was never happy with the wall I started with and never had the motivation to redo it. I thought wallpapering instead would be a fun opportunity to switch things up and take just as much effort as I’d use to repaint. HA. In hindsight, this room isn’t beginner wallpaper level and nothing is ever easier than paint. There isn’t a lot of wall square footage, so the work looked deceptively easy, but I neglected to account for the gazillion corners and cuts that were necessary and didn’t quite grasp the scope of matching and leveling geometric patterns.

My only other wallpapering experience is hanging grasscloth, which the internet says is not for beginners but was fairly easy for me, so it stood to reason that hanging beginner level pre-pasted wallpaper would be easier. Wrong. There are seams to hide! There are patterns to line up! There are crooked walls to make appear straight! Grasscloth, I’ve figured out, is easy to work with and covers a multitude of wall and installation sins. Oh, and it’s like twice as wide, so half the work. Don’t listen to the internet. I’m never hanging wallpaper again, except for grasscloth (…which is good because I just bought some black sisal for the black wall in our master bedroom!)The result is great, and if I didn’t have such lingering resentment at the job, I would say that I love it so much. Maybe in a few days or weeks? It was nice to wake up to a new room. Most of my bad feelings stem from the fact that I gave a strong effort and I still ended up with imperfections. I’m not a perfectionist and wasn’t looking for perfect, but I gave great effort here only to good results and I’m annoyed at the waste.

The biggest failure was believing I had way more than enough paper but running out and having to patch in my last run (can you spot it in the photo below?). I hid it well, but I know it’s there, mocking me. The paper, which I didn’t check before hanging like you are supposed to – my fault, had defects throughout roll number 3, opened late in the game. I decided to work around rather than wait weeks for an exchange, which would have been the right thing to do but at a high psychological cost that I couldn’t bear mid-install. Some minor defect, mostly dark spots, made it on the wall while the more major ones, black spots with tears (!?), had to be discarded. So annoying and defeating.My second biggest failure was not doing enough coats of primer. I don’t think anyone would notice without it being pointed out, but that bamboo drawing shows ever so slightly through in some spots. SO DUMB. And I almost primed with clear primer…what was I thinking?! At least I primed?

My third failure was measuring loosely or trimming too hastily and then coming up just short. Total amateur hour. I wasted a lot of time lining up sheets that ultimately weren’t big enough. Luckily, I was able to reuse most, but one that took a particularly long time and a lot of effort to get fitted ended up being 1/2″ too short at the baseboard…and it was end of the line where I knew paper was already running short. Baseboards replacement (with taller baseboards) is imminent so I left it, but I know it’s going to bug me until we get around to it. Otherwise, I have a few small bubbles and one tiny tear at a corner, but those were all to be expected, so they aren’t driving me crazy.The paper, by the way, is Norwall SH34552 and so adorable. Wallpaper is a big commitment, but I’m confident I’ll love this print for years. It is just what I wanted…geometric, a little glam, bold but in a subtle way. I love that is has a slightly mid century Polynesian/Hawaiiana feel too…it softens the goodbye to the bamboo print. The price can’t be beat, nor can the pattern, but the defects mentioned above left a bad taste in my mouth.

Sometimes extra hard jobs end up being the most satisfying ones and I hope my feelings towards this swing that way in the near future. One thing I know: no more! I’ve been toying with wallpapering our laundry room and maybe our hallway but that is a resounding HECK NO at this point. Over it.

Wondering if anybody has had similar (or exact opposite) experiences with DIY wallpapering jobs??? Was it the worst ever for you too? Will these dramatic feelings ever wear off?? Haha! xoxo

Hanging Grasscloth Wallpaper Yourself – DO IT!

How to hang wallpaper over wallpaper diy grass clothI’ve wanted grasscloth wallpaper for so long and I regret that I waited until now to hang it. The installation was much easier than I anticipated. It’s possible that my expectations were way off. By the time I was done I expected to: be crying, have my entire room ceilings to floors covered in wallpaper adhesive, be in the ER from an unfortunate razor slip, and have lopsided strips of wallpaper forever stuck on forever ugly walls. None of that happened! Instead, I had a mellow, pleasant morning that was low on stress and high on instant gratification. And, finally, the green 70’s floral wallpaper is purged from my dining room and house! It’s silly how long I lived with stuff I didn’t love. It feels good to be rid of the burden.Grasscloth Wallpaper mid century dining room accent wallI had ZERO wallpaper experience prior to this installation, so I spent a little time watching “how to” videos before I took on this project, which was extremely helpful and 100% recommended! This generic wallpaper video from This Old House was a great intro to wallpapering, though not all the techniques apply to grasscloth. And this was a great visual (though shaky) for the grasscloth process. I additionally found this and this article informative.Grasscloth Grass Cloth Wallpaper How to hang install DIY supplies adhesive paste

If you want to give this a go, here’s what I learned along the way:

PREP YOUR WALLS. Prime your walls with WALLPAPER PRIMER – not regular old paint primer. Read this post on primer for more info. Don’t hang wallpaper on painted walls or even just regular primed walls because the adhesive will make your water based paints and primers soggy, which means your sticking paper up on a very weak surface. Supposed bonus, wallpaper removal is “easy” when it is installed correctly over a correctly primed wall…I can’t speak from experience here, but that’s what they claim. Also, it will be helpful if this primer is tinted to a color that is similar to your wallpaper (or you can paint a tinted strip just where your seams will be). This significantly reduces seam contrast. Grasscloth, for sure, will have lovely visible seams, but a white wall peaking through those seams is probably not the look anyone is going for.

* I had an extenuating circumstance in this department so I hung my wallpaper directly over other wallpaper. This is almost never ever recommended so don’t do it, except with this set up: wallpaper previously applied directly to unprimed/unpainted plaster walls. Remember how confused I was by this discovery after spending days ripping off tiny pieces of wallpaper from my other dining room wall? Well, it turns out that pre early 1960’s, it was more common for homes to have bare plaster walls (not drywall!) and it was common to hang wallpaper directly on them with only a coating of sizing in-between the wall and the adhesive. Sizing made the thirsty plaster soak up less adhesive during wallpaper application. Apparently, it is almost unheard of to find bare, unpainted plaster wall these days since most newer homes are built with drywall and most older walls have been covered with layers of paint by now. But that’s what I’ve got under that last wall of wallpaper, so the general consensus (as far I could tell in internet research) is that wallpaper on bare plaster is incredibly bonded and nearly impossible to get off. It will cost countless hours and will likely damage your wall, so if your end goal is to apply more wallpaper, it’s possible to do that right on top of the old one. Otherwise, you are supposed to peel that old stuff off first (or prime over it) before you start. mid century dining room heywood wakefield wishbone table nelson saucer lamp light ikea woven chairs railing

PLAN IT OUT. Measure your wall width and your wallpaper width and find a good rhythm, whatever that may be. There will be prominent seams running down the wall so put them where you want them to be. Try to avoid an odd thin strip of paper at one end. Also, check if your walls and ceiling are level. Mine weren’t, so I decided to hang everything according to the crooked walls instead of level to avoid a tilted look. (Which you can always end up with anyways because the grass pieces aren’t always level on the paper!)wallpaper planning diagram

ALWAY MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE. This stuff ain’t cheap so don’t waste good paper on bad cuts! My baseboard-less walls are 97″ tall, so I cut each strip to about 96″ (for 1″ overhang at the ceiling and 1″ below the baseboard line). For the door, I roughly cut out the opening within a few inches. I cut with sharp scissors to avoid using blades on my dining room table. I cut as I went, but if inconsistencies in color variations will bother you (called paneling), consider “shading” your panels by cutting a few (or all), laying them out and organizing them in the least jarring way. You can see the strong difference between these 3 panels. It goes medium, light, dark – the middle is from a different roll. The instructions with my wallpaper said the colors will mellow out as it oxidizes. Depending on your room and aesthetic, it may make sense to plan this out to lessen the effect. Grasscloth Grass Cloth Wallpaper How to hang install DIY panels seams

APPLY ADHESIVE. I bought generic wallpaper glue at Home Depot, after going to 2 other places that didn’t carry any. I was expecting something starchy, runny and messy, but it was exactly the color, consistency and smell of Elmer’s glue. Very easy to work with. The trick is to apply not too much and not too little. Not enough to soak your reeds or to have glue oozing out of seams, but more than a light coat. I tried rolling it on with a small foam roller for my first panel and it wasn’t enough, so I switched to brushing on the adhesive with a 4″ brush and it was perfect. Two things: 1. Make sure you cover the entire surface with the glue, especially the edges. 2. Keep your workspace clean so that you don’t gum up the front of your paper. Watch videos of professionals doing this so you can see their technique. It’s helpful!grasscloth wallpaper paste glue adhesive application

BOOK THE PAPER. This just means gently fold the paper on itself (glue to glue) for a few minutes after you apply the adhesive but before you hang it. You can see the top portion below has been pasted and booked. I think the purpose is to loosen up the paper so it’s a bit more malleable and responsive and also to give the glue time to activate without drying it out, but I’m not 100% positive? I let mine sit for the amount of time it took to brush the entire strip, so only a few minutes. I had visions of me trying to carry a 8 foot sticky sheet of paper across the room to my wall by myself, but the “booking” solved that fear…you only unfold the top part while keeping the bottom folded to itself so that you can position the top corners without smearing 8 feet of glue down your wall.Grasscloth Grass Cloth Wallpaper How to hang install DIY booking adhesive

HANG THE PAPER. Again, this seemed like an impossible one shot deal, but the reality is that you can move the paper around until it’s perfect. It is very easy to scoot pieces around and to even line up seams nicely. Start at the top and work your way down, pushing air bubbles out as you go. Grasscloth is extremely forgiving and sturdy and rigid, like a big piece of cardboard. I taped my ceilings and door frames while hanging to reduce paste mess. The paste easily wipes away if you get to it in a timely manner, I was just being extra cautious.Grasscloth Grass Cloth Wallpaper How to hang DIY panels seams

CREASE THE PAPER IN THE CORNERS. I imagined I would have to measure and cut before hanging, but after watching a few videos, it was clear that only amateurs do this. The way to hang grasscloth is to trim in place after sticking it on the wall. I’m glad I had the guts to give it a try, because it saved so much time and gave the best finish. The technique here is to use a plastic putty knife thing (I don’t know what else to call it, but a large plastic straight edge) to force the wallpaper into corners with a tight fold without tearing it, in anticipation of cutting.Grasscloth Grass Cloth Wallpaper How to hang install DIY lightswitch

Grasscloth Grass Cloth Wallpaper How to hang install DIY

TRIM THE PAPER IN PLACE. Fresh blades are the secret to clean lines. Buy a bunch of razor blades! I went through about 7 with just this wall, but probably should have changed them out even more. Cut along a straight edge/putty knife always. The ceiling was a tough one for me, but mostly because my ceiling is not straight and cutting through the grass pieces at an angle is very challenging.Grasscloth Grass Cloth Wallpaper How to hang install DIY panels seams

MAKE THE SEAMS. I double-cut my first seam over the door (mainly because one of my edges was slightly damaged), which is fancy wallpaperer talk for overlapping two joining seams and then cutting through them both at the same time to get the tightest seam possible. That’s what the tape over the seam below is about. I think most professionals do this…here is a good video on double cutting if you are interested. It was a cool process, but it wasn’t necessary for my other seams. I got equally tight joints just by butting the edges together during hanging, which is how I seamed the last 3 panels.Grasscloth Grass Cloth Wallpaper How to hang install DIY panels seams

Grasscloth Grass Cloth Wallpaper How to hang install DIY panels seams double cutting

How to hang wallpaper over wallpaper diy grass cloth

The hardest part of this whole thing ended up being the paper decision! You may have rolled your eyes at my crazy wallpaper indecision. I rolled my eyes at me. After some wild ideas, I settled on a traditional textured brown grasscloth with pinkish undertones that matched the rock fireplace in the adjacent family room (below). It was a safe choice that I’m super happy with. I figured you can’t go wrong with a classic. Good quality, real grasscloth (NOT faux vinyl!!!) paper will always be beautiful. It’s pretty incredible how much better the whole space looks, even though the change in tone is so minimal. But I still wonder what a bright turquoise would look like, so maybe someone else could hang some and share pics?? Thanks.IMG_7969I’ll say it again: DO it! Thanks for reading!