Preventing grasscloth, wallpaper and hardwood floor “tan lines”?

grasscloth fadingSeveral years ago, I had grasscloth installed in my living room and adjacent dining room. As you can sort of see here, we have colonial-style trim on the bottom of the wall, going all the way around the open concept 45′ x 15′ space — yes, it’s big. We wanted to add a bit more mid mod vibe, but keep it subtle considering the broad expanse, so we landed on the grasscloth. Several years have passed… and this weekend, I was hanging some recently acquired art on this wall. The bullfighter painting needed to be raised up a few inches to accommodate the new arrangement and — peek a boo — your tan lines are showing!

I have the same fading issue with my area rugs on the wood floors in this space and even on the cork floors in the bedrooms. The space under the rugs, which have been in place for a decade, are lighter than the space around. Yes, they are *sort of* like tan lines — caused by the sun. I am thinking these are the famous UV, or ultraviolet, rays that are known to cause fading on upholstery and to sun-rot draperies.

I am not sure exactly how to solve the issue. My grasscloth was not especially expensive. I bought it from Seabrook. Because I have fading on floors (in the dark bedrooms, too), I’m gonna *suggest* that the quality of the grasscloth is not an issue. Do they put UV coatings on wallpaper and grasscloth?? I do not know.

Meanwhile, I could get some kind of clear liner for the glass on my windows, I guess? That sounds icky. Or, I could get solar shades that you can see out of but stop the rays? That sounds expensive — my windows are huge. I am not going to close the drapes — we really want the sunlight, badly enough to wreck the grasscloth, I think. Sheers? Would they block UV? Maybe the “soft filtered” light they provide would be acceptable.

Does anybody have experience and/or expert advice on this?

Be forewarned: Position your artwork carefully, you’re going to get tan lines!


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  1. Just another Pam says

    I can only speak for the floors as I have experience with that. I left the carpet down in my last bedroom for a couple of years and the pine planks that weren’t covered were
    quite a bit darker. Keeping the carpet up it more or less evened out in about 5 years.

    All wood darkens over time, unstained cherry does beautifully, my harvest table did, it’s part of it’s ‘charm’.

    I believe I read a few years ago it isn’t just sun, that’s usually fading, but oxidization from everything in the house, cooking and some grime that makes the area around art darker so I’m not sure your solutions would work unless it was fading you were trying to stop.

    Good luck!

  2. Alice says

    Pam, I do know a few historical home owners and they have had the solar film installed on their windows to protect the historical furnishings, wallpaper etc. The film is imperceivable to the eye.

  3. Nikki S. says

    We associate with an historical home here in Roswell, Ga, and they put in these frames — inside the windows – that have UV blocking, clear plastic in them. Solar film, as above- not ON the windows but in these frames that fit within the window. I think I only know it’s there because I’ve been told, and if it’s not affixed to the windows, it’s less of a commitment? I think our site coordinator chose the interior frames because the windows themselves are original to the house.

        • says

          Hey Nikki, Daniel, and Stacey, I’m just north of you in Woodstock/Hickory Flat. I have the coolest 1963 butterfly roof house. And a barn for my 4 horses I designed as a riff off the house You are welcome to visit!
          Oh, and I put grasscloth in my den three years ago. Had it in the Deck House my Dad built in the early 70’s. Love it! And my cork kitchen floor.

  4. Trouble says

    I have an extreme case of it back in June during a yard sale. We set out our yellow cracked ice dinette for sale, and had things displayed on it too. By the end of the day – man it looked like it was cooked too long! It was light where things sat, and almost DARK BROWN everywhere else!
    I put it in the dark to see what would happen and nada – JUNK. I set it out for free. And this was a BAD*** table, not your bland rectangualr jobs. AAHHH!!!

  5. Kevin says

    It may not be UV. It may be discoloration/staining from sources inside your home, such as cooking grease or dust deposited from heating/cooling airflow. Grasscloth can’t usually be washed without deteriorating. If it were me, first I’d vacuum the wall with the upholstery attachment. Then I’d mix up a weak solution of Oxy-Clean in a spray bottle and mist an inconspicuous area to see if that lightens it back up. If that worked, I suppose you could spray the entire wall or use a paint roller dipped in the solution. I think a brush would be too hard on the fibers. Your other options are to paint the grasscloth or replace it. I’m no expert, it’s just the approach I’d take.

  6. Tut says

    Sorry, no answer, just lusting after your 3-cone light. We had that exact light when I was little and I’ve been hoping to find one.

  7. says

    Sorry, no solutions here. We have experienced the fading you mentioned on our cork checkerboard floor: Now there’s barely a difference between the dark and light squares over by the south-facing slider. But I can’t bring myself to shut out the sun either, except for heat reduction in high summer.

    • pam kueber says

      I really think my fading — of the grasscloth, at least — is caused by sun, not ambient dirt and grease. That’s because: The artwork on the opposite walls (the walls where the windows are) are NOT leaving tan lines nearly as distinct. I’m getting much more severe tan lines where the sun hits… I just think I will never ever move the artwork.

      • says

        Works for me! Anyway, I always expect to hang art that can weather (no pun intended) a few years of enjoyment. If I ever get tired of a given piece, it might be time to re-wallpaper or repaint anyway.

      • Just another Pam says

        It’s also an excellent excuse to buy something new and bigger….not always a bad thing.

        You do have what looks like a vent, cold or hot, above where the art was, air circulation can discolor paper and paint too.

        As I now have some black walls in my house I’ve fairly quickly learned how much dust accumulates on walls and I have filters over my vents but am a slave to open windows whenever possible so maybe I have more dust than most people.

        You can gently paint your paper, smooth roller, with a very light wash that should even your out your color and not completely eliminate any variations in the shading and maintain the maximum texture. I don’t know how porous it is or if it’s gazed but if it’s like the stuff I saw in the late ’60’ and early ’70’ milk paint might work as it absorbs into the fibres but it wouldn’t be water or hand mark proof. You’d need oil or wax for that all of which is fine for furniture but walls, wow, I’m not sure I’d have taken that on back when it was what I did for a living.

        That big art idea looks better all the time ;o)

  8. Katie says

    Its more of a preventative thing, but I’ve heard that ‘tan lines’ can be prevented, or at least reduced, by changing the position of furniture and artwork regularly, so that the fading will be even.

  9. Tut says

    I think newer window glass can be ordered with some amount of UV filtering. I think that’s what we got when we replaced some old leaky windows.

    How long did it take for your grasscloth to tan to that level? Could you live with some discolored areas for a few months if you keep rearranging them to expose small areas of the untanned spots every once in a while?

    I built a cherry coffee table a while back, and during its first dusting (not all that often in our house:) noticed obvious areas were books and other things had been sitting. Like JAP said, cherry will darken with exposure. So we just moved the things around every week or so and after a while it all aged to the same darkness.

  10. nancy says

    Ah, the beauty and heartbreak of natural surfaces! I was a rep for manufacturers of commercial finishes including wallcoverings (grasscloths, cottons, silks, etc) and never knew of any topical UV treatment. Teflon, yes. UV, no. I retired from the industry a couple years ago and doubt that has changed.

    In my own home, I installed a clear solar film from Home Depot on french doors to protect adjacent upholstery fabric….easy and effective though I don’t know how I’d feel about doing a lot of windows. I guess I’d call in the pros.

  11. Mimi says

    People used to “draw the drapes” during the day to avoid this. Apart from special coating on the windows, that’s really all that can be done! Or get fade resistant materials.

  12. Stephen C. says

    I lived in a steel and glass house for more than 15 years and can attest to the powerful damage those UV rays do. Other than my Sunbrella fabrics, the sun faded everything. My Eames aluminum group lounger went from red to pink to barely any color at all. There was even fade on the laminate. There was UV film on the skylights and while this seemed to help, it did not eliminate the fade. Silk bedspreads faded noticeably in less than a year. The film did cut down on heat, but was reflective, which gave an annoying mirror quality to the glass. In addition, the film failed over time, and began to separate from the glass. It was a bit of work for the film guys to remove and put new film on. Perhaps that is why there were bubbles the second time. One last issue to note about the UV film is that sheets come very large but if you have big picture windows, they may still have to cut two pieces together, which will leave a big seam.

    I can’t speak to the new glass which has sandwiched layer of UV film inside–my glass guy loves it but it was not workable in my house. The only real solution is to move those pictures around.

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