JUST IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, my ancient entrance hall is getting a makeover. That is, we’re about to apply reproduction 19th-century paper on the room’s (19th-century) walls. A look at the paper, and how the walls are being prepared for this decorative treatment:
Greg Van Alstyne, an expert in old-house-paper-hanging, is handling the job for us. But I’m paying close attention to his work. For I hope to learn this useful skill myself. Then I can paper some of the other rooms in this house without any hired help. Which rooms? Well, the upstairs bath, the bedroom, the guestroom and the library all come to mind. The old kitchen-wing could use papering, too.
And I’ll manage these jobs, too. Just you wait.
And incidentally, I spent a year looking at period paper before settling on this one. The design is dark enough to add the architectural interest I want, while the background is pale enough to reflect light.
Clearing the Decks & Protecting Floors. The first step to paper-prepping our hall was to remove the artwork, the chairs, and the antique games tables. And to protect the heart pine floors, canvas drop-cloths were laid at the base of each wall.
Repairing the Walls. Although the walls looked fairly smooth to me, Greg’s practiced eyes noticed hills and valleys which would negatively affect his ability to line up the seams of the paper properly. One such hill surrounded the light-switch next the front door. Greg used a beveled, “5-in-one” putty knife to chisel out the bumps. And he chiseled all the way down to the lathe.
And by the way, that lathe has been here since 1826.
And you thought hair blowers were merely for drying…hair.
Sanding. Once the cracks and crevices were filled, the next step was to sand the surfaces smooth. To his credit, Greg managed to hoist a shop-vac onto the narrow ledge of his ladder in order to suck up the resulting dust.
Oil Based Primer. Before applying paper, it is absolutely essential to paint the walls with an oil-based primer. Why oil-based? Because latex primer contains water. And if any moisture should come in contact with the paper, it will break down the latex, and cause the paper to buckle or bubble. Oil is impervious to water.
Well, this is what Greg told me. And it seems to make perfect sense.
Of course, once the walls had been smoothed and primed, we noticed the chair-rails, wainscoting, and baseboards looked mighty shabby. Consequently these surfaces, too, will receive a fresh coat of paint.
Anyway, I’ll show you the finished project next week. So stay tuned, okay?
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Wanna see more pictures of the entrance hall, as well as certain other rooms in this in this 187-year-old, Federal/Victorian house? Here’s a virtual tour:
House Tour Part One: The Music Room
House Tour Part Two: The Entrance Hall & Staircase
House Tour Part Three: The Parlor
House Tour Part Four: The Dining Room
House Tour Part Five: The Kitchen