Thursday, June 3, 2010

Repairing Vintage Wallpaper with Inkjet Canvas

This is how I repaired/replaced some vintage wallpaper in our tiny bathroom.
While having new windows installed, we discovered termite and wood rot damage to the bathroom window frame & wall. The damage extended along the upper part of the wall so we needed to knock it out to replace the studs & frame. But this meant removing the lovely art nouveau wallpaper that was my favorite part of the bathroom. I shopped around and online, looking for vintage patterns or anything black & white that might match, but couldn’t find anything appropriate. It was the wall directly across from the doorway so it would have looked odd without wallpaper. Tile extends 2/3 up the wall & the section of wall was only about 4’ wide, so it wasn’t a large section. It was vinyl wallpaper, so I attempted carefully to scrape it off and save it. Of course that didn’t go as well as expected and I ended up with many tiny fragments.
The wallpaper had an open weave cloth backing. I began to tape together the fragments of wallpaper on the front side and then glued cheesecloth to the back to hold them together. I only had one section about 20”x30” that was too broken up to reuse.
I was shopping for photo paper for my husband when I came across canvas made for inkjet printers. I came up with the idea of printing the design on it (I had seen pages from an old Sears Catalog used as wallpaper) so I figured the canvas would paste up well and the texture matched the existing wallpaper very well. I began placing the better sections on the scanner and scanning into jpg format. I had to edit parts of the image to fill in the damaged areas. I was then able to print out 8 ½”x11” sections. Luckily the design of overlapping illustrations gave me lots of places to form seam between the small prints. Somehow the new window & frame ended up narrower than the original, so I also needed to create two small strips to border each side of the window. In one of my many art books I found an Aubrey Beardsley design that went nicely. I scanned & printed those out too.
Then I thought about it going up in a moist and steamy room and that the ink might not hold up. I tried painting some polyurethane on one of the scrap portions but the ink bled. I then started researching to see if there was a product made for sealing injet prints. There was, but at $20 dollars per can & only available online, I didn’t want to wait. So I ended up buying clear coat spray with UV protection. I tested it out on another scrap, let it dry and glued it to a scrap of drywall. Looked great. But when I pasted up the real pieces ink bled. I think I used too much glue and got it too wet from the under side, which I hadn’t sprayed. I wasn’t going to remove it and try again, not that big a section anyway. So if you try it, clear coat both sides before gluing & use the glue sparingly.

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