What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Transforming a Room with Borders

The busy holiday season is over and we are well rested after our winter vacation so it is now it's time to spend a little time on the inside of the house before the weather turns nice and we want to be outdoors. We haven't been in this house for a full year yet so we are still trying to determine what we want. At the same time we have three large indoor projects planned involving the most expensive rooms of the house (kitchen and two baths). I have commented to my husband that this house unlike our previous houses is going to end up being more of "being at the right place at the right time" and "when we see it we will know" type of decorating. So it was on Friday when we stumbled upon a border that I thought would match perfectly for a wall I actually had been looking for a mural.

If you recall we used Behr 480E-1 Country Mist on the lower level family room that merges into the kitchen walls. We carried shades of this into the upper level. To make a long story short I still haven't found a mural but this border at Home Hardware just popped out at me. It had all the colours of the family room so I thought it would work on the upper accent wall. It was a total fluke finding a border that matched the way it did. When we arrived home one look was all it took to decide to use the border in the family room and kitchen as a finishing accent. The wainscotting and ceilings in both rooms are tongue and groove wood. The kitchen cabinets are matching wood.

I've used borders for decorating in every house we've owned. Borders are an inexpensive way to pack a lot of impact with very little effort. They are very easy to install and need only a few very simple tools. Borders are easy to remove if you decide you no longer like the look as well. There are a couple of things I don't like about borders. My biggest pet peeve is some tend to go overboard using borders forgetting that they are meant as accents not as main decorating elements. Trust me that is very apparent in our master bedroom that will soon be remedied! The second thing I don't like about borders is often they are sold in pre-packaged lengths so you would end up buying a 15 foot roll to get that extra foot you needed. However, Home Hardware has changed that. Border sold by the food it now available allowing you to buy just what you need.


The very pale bluish green does not photograph well. It takes on a pale off white colour. The colour works well with the wood walls, trim and ceiling. It also works nicely with the massive field stone fireplace. The wood fireplace has been converted to natural gas which is nice but we would like to put in a new gas fireplace to fit the opening better. Around the wood ceiling and all the beams is rope instead of corner round. My husband loves the look of the rope so we decided to leave it. A few spots need to be retacked after painting.

There are such massive and overpowering elements in the family room. The right hand photo shows the window in the family room. The left hand photo shows the same window well but going into the kitchen. Painting really brightened up both rooms but to me there was something missing. It was clean, crisp and matched while accenting both the stone work and wood but it was almost too plain. The new border brought a bit of whimsy and warm as well as adding a finished touch to both rooms.


Installing border requires few tools but it does require patience and as you read about my installation, a degree of pickiness. Measure the length of where you want to install the border. Add at least 4 feet extra if not a bit more to compensate for errors. You will need sharp scissors, a tape measure, sharp utility knife, ruler, a wallpaper tray or large bin to hold warm water, a dry cloth and a wet cloth. I couldn't find my wallpaper tray so used my huge stainless steel bowl. You will need a cleared space to roll out the border for cutting and a smaller cleared space that can get wet for booking.

The first step is to square the cut border edge. When bought by the foot this is necessary. Take your ruler, line it up so the narrow edge is on the long edge of the border leaving about 1/2 inch inside of the cut end. Now using the utility knife cut down creating a straight edge. You are now ready to start.

I am picky to the point of being anal when installing border but the end result is well worth it. There are no gaps and seams are invisible. Most important is the continuity of the pattern is maintained something that is a given when working around the entire perimeter of a room but also something that can easily be overlooked when dealing with a room such as ours with lots of breaks. There is the temptation to fit in a piece on a short wall section but trust me, do not do this. The savings will be minimal and it will never fool the eye! My rule of thumb is to start at one wall then work your way around the entire perimeter, cut end always following cut end so if you have a room with a lot of doors or windows the continuity is maintained.


Starting at one corner or end wall as in my case, measure the piece of border then add about 1/2 inch. I work left to right which becomes important for how I install the border. Roll the piece of border and place it into the warm water. Let sit briefly then carefully pull through to make sure the border is well wetted. Book the border. That is, fold over but do not crease the pasted sides so they are on top of each other with good side facing out. Fold over again without creasing. Let sit for about 5 minutes. This gives the glue a chance to activate resulting is better adherence. Once the border has been booked it is time to install.

Open the border then place the right cut side tightly to the right side of the wall. Position the border to eliminate gaps then smooth down with the dry cloth. Bend over the excess on the left cut side to form a crease. Carefully cut leaving a little extra that can be trimmed when the border is dry and smooth down with the dry cloth. Go over the strip a few times with the cloth to ensure all edges are secure. Now move to the next sectition. Because all of the walls I was working with were in short pieces I worked with left cut end flush and trimming the right to keep the continuity of the pattern except for corner walls.


Corners can be quite problematic because walls especially in older homes tend not to be quite level or even. For corners I worked left to right for the cutting but right to left for installing. The natural tendency when coming to a corner is to simply bend the border around. If the wall is out it will throw off the rest of your border. At the same time ending the border right at the corner with a cut end then starting on the next section to continue the pattern can leave a gap at the joint if the wall is off. So what I do is turn the right cut end just over the corner keeping the turn less than 1/4 inch. Once the piece is in place you can adjust slightly at the turned end and at worse overlap the adjoining piece slightly to get a perfect corner. I did not need to overlap or adjust much but if you have to overlap, do so then using a sharp utility knife and straight edge cut through both layers, remove the excess then wipe with a dry cloth to get a clean seam. The end result regardless of the method used should be an invisible seam to all but the closest scrutiny.


We were really surprised at what a difference the border added to the family room and kitchen. The border cost $25.96 for 44 feet giving a lot left over and it only took me a couple of hours of slowly nit picking my way through installing it. For some reason, I was extremely picky. One piece was trimmed a little too tight. Now mind you, I'm the only one who would have known but I pulled it off anyways. Well, my husband took that piece and cut it down to fit perfectly between the laundry and bathroom doors. It looked great until working left to right I got to the other side of the laundry room door (by couch, lower right). I stood back and immediately could see the continuity in pattern had been broken. It was only a slight difference but my eyes picked it up right away so off came the salvaged piece to be replaced with one that kept the continuity. Ok, so yes I admit to being very picky about the installation but there is a reason. The difference between professional finishing and the standard do-it-yourself (DIY) is metticulous attention to detail. The problem many run into when completing a DIY project is to not pay attention to detail. When it comes to DIY being nit picky is a good thing. Take your time and be very nit picky to get the professional look you want.

Honestly, the pictures do not show how nice this border looks. The top picture is the common wall between the two rooms and the only painted wall in the kitchen. Lower left is the main feature of the family room, the massive fireplace. This is one of the best pictures of the wood ceiling with beams that matches the wainscotting. Lower right is the couch under the pass through. I'm not really sure what the pass through was for originally as on the other side is the large laundry room. We leave the shutters open for air flow and light most of the time.

Garden Gnome
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