How to Bring Color to Boring Walls

Color is my middle name. I am a woman of color – many colors. No white walls for me, thank you. Bring on the excitement of waking up everyday and walking around a beautifully colored home. Without it, I just feel…well, blah.

And just recently, my family and I experienced the blahs of white, and had to do something about it. We moved into a 2500 square foot home (that’s a lot of walls) that looked like a hard boiled egg. We all walked around in a house that looked too big and sparse because there was no color to make it feel like home. Well, I just had to change that, didn’t I?

Let me preface my color experiences of the past – this isn’t my first rodeo. In every home I have lived, I experimented with color -terra cotta, apple green, sunflower yellow graced the walls of my last home. The home prior to that was my novice painting canvas. I added stripes (which I later removed…what was I thinking?) borders (ladies, it’s a hassle, and never looks just the way you want it to) and chair rails (the chair rails work, but be careful where you place it) to the stark little home. My first go around gave me painting confidence and I started developing my painting and trimming perfection tips.

Before your walls can scream attitude and personality – you must have painting confidence. You cannot meekly spread paint, you have to be the artist and the wall is your canvas. You have to tape, trim and touch up. You have to caulk, connect and care about each and every wall you touch. While you may not be a Michael Angelo, your mantra still must be “wall color is my art”. No, really.

Before your wall can change, you must decide on what colors are right for your home. I always march down to the local paint store and grab as many color swatches as I see in the hues I like. Then, you take it to the house and think real hard.

When in the thinking process, you not only have to decide on a color, but you have to make sure that the color for the dining room will actually connect to the living room. No, no, no – they don’t have to be the same color, but they have to blend. Make it appealing to the eye.

My favorite trick for this is to pretend I am a stranger walking into the house for the first time. If you choose red for the dining room (which I have, and girls, it is gorgeous!), and you can see the breakfast nook (which is butter yellow with Venetian plaster) you must determine if it is too much of a shock, or just the right touch. In my case, I get an A+.

Once you determine what colors will connect your home, then reconsider your colors. I don’t call this second guessing ladies – this is the time that you decide to take a risk, not stay in the safe zone.

If you chose a light color (or boring, whatever you want to call it) for each wall, you aren’t making art. Nope, you are playing it safe. Take a chance – remember we only live once. Make at least one room, or even one wall, a darker shade of the color you chose just for some punch. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this on your own, paint stores have books and pamphlets with different colors that blend well. It shows you how to have an accent wall or room while still maintaining a clean, fresh look.

Once you finally take the plunge, you need to buy your supplies. I use the following:

• A drop cloth to protect the floor
• Painters tape to protect molding and the floor
• Two trim brushes – one about 2 inches wide, one about 1 ¼ inches wide
• A package of rollers – there are several out there so choose which one suits your paint
• A roller
• A paint tray
• A putty knife
• Spackle for the existing holes in the walls
• Primer if your walls are something other than white or beige
• Paint

Before I move on, let me tell you about paint. You have a few finishes to choose from, and believe me- you will want to choose carefully.

Flat paint has no sheen to it. It looks classic and clean when you paint the molding in a satin or high-gloss finish. If you choose flat, you should be aware that it is very hard to clean. If the room sees a lot of people, especially children, in one day, this may not be the choice for you. A benefit of flat paint is it doesn’t reflect light, so wall imperfections are barely noticed. I like to paint my dining room and foyer in flat paint because my boys don’t touch the walls as much in those rooms.

Eggshell, satin or low-luster paint fall in between flat paint and hi-gloss paint. They add a little more luster on the walls, and are a bit easier to clean. I haven’t used the low-luster paints because I either go for no sheen or sheen all the way.

Semi-gloss paint is less reflective than high gloss paint and adds more sheen than the low-luster paints. They are very easy to clean and offer great stain resistance. I have used semi-gloss paint in bathrooms and it works very well.

High-gloss paints are the Mack daddy of luster. They bring richness to the walls; reflect all light and dirt and grime can be wiped away very easily. The only downside is if you have wall perfections, they will be noticed. My children’s bedrooms and my laundry room are decked out in hi-gloss.

So, once you’ve picked your colors and your paint type, you are ready to roll, literally. This is where it gets exciting. Once I make it home with my paint, I just want to jump up and down and begin the process, but I have to remind myself to prep the room.

Before you paint a room, you need to wipe down trim work and doors. Make sure you get rid of any spider webs or other gunk that has collected close to the ceiling. Then tape your molding and other areas like windows and door frames. After you are done with that, throw down your drop cloth and grab the spackle.

With your putty knife, apply spackle to the nail holes and imperfections in the walls. Read your spackle instructions carefully – they may suggest you wait a few hours before painting or for you to sand the spackle. I always buy a fast drying, no sanding spackle just because I am too impatient to wait. It seems to work for me, but choose the brand right for you.

After the spackle is dry, time to caulk. I caulk in the corners of the walls, around the windows and around the molding. This is a great idea if you live in an older built house – caulk wears off after a while.

Once you are done caulking, you are ready to paint. Fill up your paint tray with primer or paint and dip the roller in the paint a few good times. Make sure you have no drippage, and then hit the wall.

There is a method to the madness of wall painting. Fortunately for my walls, I have the touch. My mom said that I got this “touch” from my father – an avid carpenter and excellent wall painter. Funny, I didn’t paint my first wall until after 20, but watching him sure must have helped.

Either make a “w” or “x” on the wall every time you hit the wall with your roller. Then fill in the areas surrounding it, blending the paint evenly. I usually start doing the top of the wall in a “w” pattern and then work my way down to the bottom of the wall.

After you use this method for every wall, it is time to trim out the ceiling and around the doors and windows. This is where your trim brushes play a big role.

Since you have taped the around the ceiling and other areas, trimming will be no big sweat. Get your trim brush soaked a bit with the paint and follow around the edges. I have painted so much that I don’t need tape (who am I kidding, I am just too impatient to put the tape up), so a great brush and steady hand trims out my areas with no problem.

Guess what. That is it. You may need another coat or two depending on the color you chose, but it is that easy. And look around you – it has changed your whole outlook on your room, your house, even your life!

So the next time you are by the paint section in a store, get creative and pick up a few paint swatches. Imagine your house full of color and life. The excitement it brings, the oohs and ahs from friends and the pat on the back from a skeptical husband – it is all worth it.

Bottom line, vividly colored walls are like a great dress or nice pair of shoes – when you look at it, you smile and just know it dresses you up to a “T”.

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