I’ve had a photo mural kicking around for about 10 years. It’s Golden Buddha (#405) by a German company (Bild Wande) and cost $99 at the time. I bought it with the idea that it would make a dramatic focal point in our condo renovation. I never got the courage up to install it there. When we were clearing out the condo to sell it, the 6’x8′ wall mural re-surfaced, and I brought it home.
We started decorating our “boho” guest room a year ago, with the installation of the ceiling, starlit with the constellations of the northern hemisphere.
But, I had more plans. Over-the-top plans for our boho guest room. Plans that involved ethnic textiles, colour, gilt accessories, found objects, re-usable castaways, stuff that I’d never be caught dead using in our own spare zen-like master bedroom.
So, when D left after the holidays to go to work in the city, Cathy and Angela volunteered to come over to help me audition some of the decor items I had found, purchased second hand, or painted/sewn for this bit of exotica.
What I ended up with is a far cry from what I thought I was going to do with the room, thanks to their help.
I was planning to install the attention-seeking golden Buddha on a side wall that you don’t even see as you enter the room, and then install re-cycled sari silk curtains over the wall mural
to hide it for a bit of mystery.
I have a confession to make. I often (silently) criticize the over-use of Buddha sculptures and images in modern decor – it’s a cliche, a fad. But, here I was, installing a great big Buddha mural.
It’s like an itch I had to scratch. We (our guests, really) will live with it for a while, and if we end up hating it for its over-the-topness, then I’ll strip it off and maybe return to a boring white room. In the meantime, here’s what I did (and I ask for your forgiveness, D):
The mural comes in four panels, each 36″x 50″. I marked the centre of the wall, with a level and pencil, and then decided to allow a 4″ border of wall colour on the top to match the side borders, so marked the horizontal centre of the mural accordingly. I researched how-to on the internet, and of course, it looked so easy. It’s not.
I bought some wallpaper paste, after making my own from cornstarch and water. I had a fit of doubt over my DIY paste, because I just didn’t want anything to go wrong. I’m sorry to report that using a commercial paste was not enough insurance to prevent problems.
I climbed the step ladder and, with a paint roller loaded with paste, applied it over the first (top left) quarter of the wall. Very carefully started laying and smoothing the paper panel from the centre line and the bottom line marked on the wall. The panel immediately developed bubbles, which I tried to smooth with a painting pad. The panel kept peeling itself off from the top. I pressed the upper corners, to no avail. My paint tray was on the ground, and if I removed my hands to reload the roller or a brush, the whole panel would come off. I kept pressing, even as the rest of the panel was developing more bubbles, until it seemed it would stay in place for a minute.
Panic was starting to rise in me. I climbed down the ladder to load a brush, climbed up to reapply paste along the edges. The YouTube video demonstrated peeling off the panel to realign it, so I tried that, only to find that some of the paper ripped off the back and distorted the image with tears (both the kind on paper and the kind in my eyes.)
I gave up trying to realign, and concentrated on smoothing the panel as best I could. Actual wrinkles were developing, and, in truth, it looked hopeless. But, what could I do with 3/4 of a Buddha, so I started the next panel, laying it exactly along the edge of the first, and smoothing it from the centre out. Bubbles and wrinkles like before, but this time I used a plastic trowel to smooth, and it went somewhat better.
It looks so much better in the picture than it was. The third panel proved to be the hardest, even though I didn’t have to climb a ladder to do it. That’s when I finally realized that the bubbles were caused by the paper stretching when it was wet (not by the absence of paste), and the panel was 1/4″ smaller when dry. Basically, I had to stretch it to fit, with my hands and the plastic trowel. Damage was done, especially at the edges.
This group of photos shows some of the types of damage. The centre circle shows the damage, and the right circle shows the repair of that damage (I couldn’t get the colours to match, sorry.) I repaired it with felt pens, watercolour paint, and crayons.The last panel was more of the same. I was sweating bullets by this time, trying to stretch the paper to match the image of the other panels. But, I observed that the first panel had settled more-or-less flat, except where I flattened the wrinkle permanently into the image. There were distortions still, but considering that the Buddha is made of stone, it looks intentional, I told myself.
I carried on until all four panels were adhered, smoothed as well as I could, and then went upstairs to have dinner. When I inspected it after dinner, it was seriously improved. I wouldn’t have to pull it all off after all! It took me about two hours. Not bad. I don’t think another pair of hands would have helped – except maybe to load the brush – we would have got in each other’s way. I did a few more additions to the room. The silk sari curtains replaced the blue curtains on the patio doors, after I sewed a black sheer onto the back. I used a sheer gold panel I had on hand over the window, but will probably change that. I’m fiddling around with other furniture and accessories, and will post again when I make those decisions.
Oh, and I found two low pre-owned navy blue tub chairs at the trading post today, for when our guests want to do some relaxin’ tea drinkin’ and readin’. I had started to make a chaise lounge of upholstery scraps, but as the room slowly started to come together, I realized that it did not fit in – these low chairs seem better, somehow, for the vibe that’s growing here.
I made a bed skirt and pillowcases from four yards of Indian block-printed cotton that will forever remind me of a fibre artist who left her supplies for our group of artists when she passed away. Still looking for the right (Moroccan?) lamp for the corner to the right of the patio doors, a couple of cushions for the chairs, some navy blue candles, an area rug, better window covering, navy blue or burgundy towels, and a couple of poufs/footstools made from a gorgeous wool melton coat I found at the thrift store. I’m having cheesy fun playing with this room.
Anyway, thank you to Angela and Cathy for your invaluable help, and all three of my readers for giving me a shoulder to cry on (re: pasting the mural.) You’re the best!
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