Interview with Patrick Gallagher

Patrick Gallagher, of Paint Effect, is one of Melbourne's most experienced wallpaper installers. He has witnessed the demand for wallpaper change over the years, along with trends and technology developments. David Marks, Sales & Marketing Director of Radford, taps into Patrick’s knowledge about wall-coverings.  

David: Hi Patrick, how is it going? 

Patrick: It’s going along well, its going to look good. (Patrick was preparing the wall and wallpaper lengths for hanging a new Mr Perswall mural in the Radford meeting room).(Insert finished result image)   

D: I'm going to watch for a few minutes, see how it’s done. 

P: Ok I'll teach you thing or two. (He did   - see video here on how to humidify the paper to get the best joins) 

D:  How long have you been hanging wallpaper?

P: 33 years. 

D:  How has the demand for wallpapering changed over that time in Australia?

P: In the 70's and 80's traditional wallpaper was popular and then in the 90's there was nothing. Painting took over all four walls and the demand for wallpaper died. 

D: So what did you do?

P: I went to London. 

D: Really?

P. Yeah 90-99. I was hanging everything from cheap 'anagylpta' (embossed paper that is normally painted over)to hand painted papers from France. 

D: And then what happened?

P:  When I moved back to Australia in 2000, initially there wasn't much [work] but enough to keep me going. Things started to shift in 2004 when design magazines started to show feature walls in their styling and photography. That was the first thing I noticed, and then since then demand has being steadily going through the roof. 

D: Why do you think that is?

P: The baby boomers began realising they don't have to have their grandparents wallpaper any more (he laughs). There is so much more on offer now. The internet has played a big part in it as well. Plus shows like the Block. As you know I'm still hanging the trees [Cole and Son's Woods-] since it was used on the Block a few years ago. 

D: Are the wallpaper jobs just for feature walls?

P: I'd say domestically I'm still hanging 80% feature walls. 

D: That’s interesting. Are you saying in different markets people are papering all four walls?

P: At the higher end they are doing full silk and glasspaper. 

D: You mean In Australia?

P: I mean in Victoria. There are differences from state to state. In Brisbane for example the demand is nothing like it is down here in Victoria.

More recently there seems to be demand for papering ceilings. I hadn't done a ceiling in 3 years, but recently I must have done a dozen. I've just finished a project in Orrong Rd with the 'Clouds' design [referring to Fornasetti's Nuvole mural and another project in Malvern Rd I did kids ceilings - It’s a good idea for kids because they can't touch it (he laughs). 

D: When the specification is for all four walls, what sort of wallcoverings are being used?

P: Grass papers, silks or plain textured designs. You need to be careful, feature walls are dramatic and are designed to be but too much pattern on all four walls can close in the room, making it appear smaller. 

D: What do you think is the biggest change in the industry over the years?

P: Digital technology...without a doubt. Printing techniques and quality control have seen huge improvements.  It also seems a lot more people are using Interior Designers, Decorators or Colour Consultants. It’s not just the super wealthy households any more, like it was in the 70's and 80's. 

D: And is it the designers that are driving the specification of wallpaper?

P: Yes for me, I must have 30 designers that use me regularly, and that would be about 80% of the work I get. 

D: So if digital is the big trend now, what about in the future?

P: This is my Star Trek mind coming through, but I think in the future you will be able to have a feature wall that can be changed by a button depending on the mood you want to create in the moment. (haha) Maybe that's not coming for a while. 

D: Can you use wallpaper for wet areas?

P: Absolutely. It’s become more and more common over the last few years.

I use a water based varnish to stop the steam getting in.  It’s a clear finish that protects and waterproofs, and doesn't alter the look of the wallpaper. Using a varnish makes the wallpaper fully wipe-able, more so than a vinyl in some instances. 

D: Whats the varnish you use?

P: Its called 'Resene Multishield ' you can get from Port Melbourne Paint & Paper.

and it comes in matt (flat), satin or gloss. I use the matt more than anything else as it is invisible once dry. 

D: Is there any wallcoverings that you can't use it on?

P: Flock and Grass paper. Anything with an adhered finish, like beads for example. 

D: What about Metalics?

P:  I'd do an experiment, to see if you lose the shimmer of the wallpaper. Often the Satin version works ok for this. 

D: Do you see much difference in quality of the paper on the market?

P: Yes, there is a big difference in quality between a $60/roll and a $400/roll. 

D: So is the more expensive justified in terms of the quality?

P: From my point of you, yes, but both are just as likely to have faults. The cheaper versions can look almost as good from a distance. The more expensive ones are better at absorbing sound, last longer and normally have more intricate designs. 

D: Really? I hadn't thought about wallpaper being a sound absorber.

P: Yep, and flocked paper in particular is good for sound absorption.  Clubs and pubs love flock for that reason. 

D: Which wallpaper brand is your favourite to work with?

P: Hmmmm....It would be between Designers Guild and Coles & Son. 

D: Are you just saying that? I don't care if you say a competitor brand.

P: No I’m not, and on balance I would say Designers Guild are the best, because they have the best quality control. There are never any faults with their wallpaper.

Oh and I love working with all the digital stuff, [Mr Perswall] because I like to see the effect it creates, it is always very exciting. 

D: What challenges do you face as an installer? 

P: One grievance would be Interior designers or builders that measure up in square metres! It’s a waist of time. You need wall dimensions and length of roll, width of roll and pattern repeat. 

D: What are the common traps in wallpaper installation?

P: The main trap is getting caught not realising if the paper is non-woven where you would paste the wall and woven (or standard) paper where you need to paste the back of the paper. Its easy to wreck the wallpaper if you get mixed up.

If its standard or woven paper it’s about timing of the soaking. You've got to let the paper soak between 1-10min to allow it to stretch enough. 

D:  Are many wallpapers out there still woven?

P: Oh yeah absolutely, probably about half.

The other trap would be not matching the pattern properly. Especially the one metre or so at eye level which is seriously important in terms of pattern match. With 'wovens' every section and every length can stretch differently making the pattern match more challenging. I would start with the eye level section and then work outwards, and sometimes you need to accept a tiny bit of mismatch of pattern at the very top or bottom of the wall. 

D: What are some tips you would give to other installers?

P: Use a magic eraser (you can get them from Coles as in the supermarket) to remove any grubby marks. Also don't ever use powdered paste. Spend the money and get pre-mixed paste. 

D: Is there premixed you recommend.

P: 'Roman Pro', it’s American. It's a great all rounder. 

D: What about some tips for Interior Designers?

P: For interior designers I would say they need to be using Photoshop to show the paper design on the wall to show the client how it will look. If it’s a 'panel effect' they need to show the joins; I know Timeless Interiors, and Atticus and Milo for example provide their clients with this. Everyone should be doing it. It’s much clearer for the client and it makes it easier for me. 

D: Why can't people just install it themselves?

P: Well they can! And females are better at it because they have more patience. I wouldn't let too many blokes near it.

 If you're going to do it DIY, have the equipment, and read the instructions. 

D: But at the end of the day it’s a skill that surely you get much better at with experience?

P: Yeah the longer you do it the better you get. Sheena (Patricks colleague) has been doing it for 4 years and we're passing jobs on to her now. Someone who's only been doing it for a year I wouldn't trust. 

D: So the apprenticeship is like 3-4 years then?

P: Yeah exactly. 

D: What's your most important piece of equipment?

P: Wooden Seam Roller. Helps butt the seams together. 

D: Most unusual place you've hung wallpaper? 

P: Now with primers out there you can put it on veneer and or glass. It’s just got to be prepared properly. Also I'm currently testing wallpapering outdoors. 

D: In your Garden?

P: Yep, back garden fence where it’s fully exposed to the elements. So I've used a cement sheet for the sub straight over the fence wooden panel, that is primed and then I’ve applied a gloss varnish and then a 'beader silicon sealer' around edges.   

D: Cool! Let us know after the summer how it holds up. Do you like to do small residential projects or big commercial projects?

P: Residential - More fun. I like the feedback. The ladies get excited and the guys who were originally dubious come around. 

D: How long is the wait to get your services at the moment?

P: Until after Christmas at the moment. This time of year it’s about 2 months, but Jan-June it’s a couple of weeks. I can always fit in smaller projects. 

D: Got any tips for Oaks day’s races?

P: I have, Bounding, I think in race 7 [it was race 6] or Set Square in the last. 

Bounding came in 2nd and Set Square 1st with some pretty good odds. 

Patrick explains the important of pattern matching, and sometimes a tiny bit of imperfection is ok. 

Patrick pastes the wall. 

The Radford meeting room completed with Mr Perswall digital mural customised for the wall dimension. Very cool! 

Library- Colourful knowledge Art No P131504-W Collection Communication