Bring New Life to Your Walls With Paint
The house I live in is not my "dream house." The floor plan is just okay, and it sure would be nice to have one more bedroom. We're not moving any time soon, though, so I've been taking steps to transform my house into a place I really love. Instead of wishing I could move, I am striving towards contentment with the home I already have. I want to walk in the door and think "Wow, I love being here in this beautiful place."
I can't make structural changes without spending big bucks, so I use less-expensive decorating ideas to add personal touches to my home. Paint, in particular, is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to bring new life to your home. One weekend of painting can transform your house's boring walls into a charming new retreat.
Tips for Selecting Paint
Choosing a Color
If you're planning a makeover for your walls, go to a paint store and get some color samples. There are thousands of colors to choose from, so make sure to pick a range of samples. Colors may look different in the store's lighting, so grab fifty different shades of green if you have to. That's what the samples are for. They are free for the taking, and home improvement stores encourage customers to take as many as they need. When you get home, test the samples against your wall in varying lights. Colors look different during the day than they do at night. Throw out the color samples that are obvious rejects, and gradually narrow your choices down.
If you're having a difficult time making a final color decision, home improvement stores offer small sample cans of paint that cost about $4. Paper color samples may not be large enough to give you a true idea of what your walls would look like in a certain hue. In this case, buy sample cans of two or three colors that you like, and paint small sections of each color on your wall. You'll be able to see what each paint color really looks like on the selected wall in different levels of light.
Different colors can be used strategically to make rooms look larger or smaller. Typically, dark colors make rooms seem smaller, while light colors open up a room. If you're decorating a tiny bedroom, consider light colors to make it seem more spacious. If your canvas is a massive living area, use dark warm colors to make the room cozier and inviting. If you'd like a room to look taller, consider vertical stripes. To make a room look shorter, paint a darker color on the ceiling. Long hallways can be made to look shorter by painting the end wall a dark color. Ultimately, choose a color that makes you feel good. Design a room that makes you smile.
When I moved into my current home, all the walls were painted with flat paint. I really like the way flat paint looks, but I quickly realized that it is virtually impossible to clean. For example, if you swat a bug on a wall with flat paint, the bug guts stain the wall. The wall behind my son's high chair is splattered with all sorts of food stains that will not wipe off. In fact, trying to wipe splatters off makes them look worse, or it removes the paint all together. If you have kids or a dog, I don't recommend flat paint. As much as I love its non-reflective look, I won't ever use flat paint again.
Choosing a Sheen
Once you choose a color, you'll need to select a paint sheen. Paint comes in many different sheens, and each is good for different areas of the home. Here's a guide to choosing a sheen.
Flat paint has no shine to it at all. It is difficult to clean, so make sure to use on walls that are not likely to get dirty. It is not recommended for kitchens or bathrooms. On the upside, flat paint is great for ceilings, and it hides flaws in the walls very well.
Eggshell paint is slightly shinier than flat paint but is still not very easy to clean. It is most commonly used in living areas and on ceilings, not kitchens and bathrooms.
Satin paint is one step higher on the shiny scale than eggshell. Satin paint is much easier to clean than flat and eggshell. Satin paint is my top choice for high traffic and living areas because it isn't super shiny, but it is cleanable.
Semi-gloss paint is used most commonly in bathrooms and kitchens because it resists moisture well. Stains and splatters wipe off easily, so it is a great choice for families with kids and pets. Semi-gloss paint can be used anywhere in the home, but it is considerably shiny. Depending on personal preference, you may want to limit the shiny walls to the kitchen and bathrooms. Semi-gloss is also ideal for woodwork, such as baseboards, molding, doors, and cabinets.
How much paint will I need?
Use Behr's online paint calculator to decide how much paint you will need for your project. You can also ask the clerk at the paint counter in any home improvement store.
Here's a list of supplies that will help you get the job done:
- Roller handle
- Roller sponges
- Paint pan
- Paint brush
- Painter's tape
- Rags for cleaning up drips
- Drop cloths
Create an accent wall by painting a single wall in a room. This is a simple project that can be completed in no time. By painting only one wall, the color you choose really pops. This is a great way to use a bold color that would darken a room if painted on all four walls. Select an accent color that brings your existing décor to life or use a new color that you really love. In my home, I used my favorite shade of dark red to accent a wall that divided the kitchen from the formal dining room. Accenting this particular wall created a desired division between the two rooms, and I love the color it brings to both areas of my home.
Examples of Accent WallsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Divide the Wall With a Chair Rail
A chair rail adds vertical division to a room. You can paint the top and bottom sections the same color or select different colors for each section. You can also use wallpaper on one side and paint on the other if you so choose. Typically a chair rail is about three feet high. However, a dramatic effect can be achieved by raising the chair rail. Chair rails are easy to install and relatively inexpensive, especially if you already have the necessary tools.
I love the look of a chair rail, no matter the height. In my daughter's bedroom, I installed a chair rail 28 inches below the ceiling. I used wallpaper in the small top section and painted below the rail. I added wooden shaker pegs to the rail and embellished each one with paint and jewels. Her room turned out marvelously. We also have a chair rail in our office. This rail is standard height with a light tan paint on the bottom and chocolate brown on the top. The browns create a masculine look in a room that is used primarily by my husband.
Examples of Paint With Chair RailsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Divide the Wall With Wainscoting
When I see wainscoting, I have images of a quaint cottage in Cape Cod. I love that look. If you like the cottage style too, consider painting the upper portion of a wall and installing wainscoting on the lower portion. Like a chair rail, wainscoting is usually installed about three feet from the floor. Wainscoting is usually painted white or off white, but you can try something different by using richer colors. A semi-gloss sheen should be used to paint wainscoting. If you're fairly handy and have the appropriate tools, you can install wainscoting or beadboard on your own. If not, hire someone who is experienced with woodworking. Check out the "services" section on Craigslist if you don't know where else to start.
Examples of Walls With WainscotingClick thumbnail to view full-size
Stripes are a fun way to add excitement to a room. I prefer painting wide stripes over narrow stripes. I would also limit the stripes to only two or three colors. More than that can start to look psychedelic. Contrasting colors will look dramatic while slightly different shades of the same light color will look more subtle. Vertical stripes can trick the eye into thinking a room is taller.
Stripes are not hard to paint. In addition to the painting supplies listed above, you'll need a measuring tape, a level, a pencil, and painters tape to make a blueprint of your stripes prior to painting. I have found that it is easiest to paint the entire room with a base coat of the lightest color, let it dry, then tape off and paint the darker stripes on top of the first color.
Examples of Painted StripesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Murals are great, especially for kids' bedrooms. If you'd like to try to paint the mural yourself, an overhead projector can be very helpful. Use the projector to cast your image onto the wall you want to paint. Trace the image onto the wall and use your tracing as a guideline for painting. If you don't feel confident painting a mural yourself, hire someone to paint a mural on your child's wall or use a wallpaper mural instead. Choose a mural that can grow with your child so you won't have to change it two years down the road.
Examples of MuralsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Paint a Border Around Small Windows
Some homes have tiny windows that aren't worthy of blinds, shutters, or window treatments. If your home has some small windows, consider painting a solid colored border around the edge of each one. The painted border acts like a window treatment, adding color and giving the window a finished look.
Examples of Painted Window BordersClick thumbnail to view full-size
Faux is the French word for fake, and in this case, it is used to describe a paint finish that is designed to look like something else, such as stone, tile, brick, and more. There are so many types of faux finishes that I could never write about them all. Sponging, ragging, frottage, glazing, dragging, color washing, sand washing, plastering, and crackling are just some of the options for faux paint finishes. Many of these techniques can be used on furniture in addition to walls.
Examples of Faux FinishesClick thumbnail to view full-size
Faux Painting: Multi Color Sponging
Any of the painting techniques highlighted in this article can be combined for a unique look. Accent walls can be painted with stripes or faux finishes. Subtle stripes and faux finishes can also be painted above a chair rail or wainscoting. Combine two or more painting ideas to come up with something creative for your walls. Whatever paint project you decide to dive into, make sure to pick a color and painting technique that you're really fond of. Making decorative changes in my home makes me feel good inside. It's fun to complete a project that makes your home cozier and inviting than it was before. Have fun transforming your home into a space you really enjoy!
Please share any additional decorative painting ideas in the comments section.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2008 shawna.wilson