GIMME SHELTER- Brush up: Let paint transform your space

Laura Lee Gulledge
Cobalt Designs


Q: We'd like to add something unusual to our home, like a mural, faux finish, or some other artistic touch, but we really don't have any idea what's possible. Can you give us some ideas about what we can do and what's involved? Also, are there some things that we could attempt ourselves?

A: Paint is the cheapest way to change the whole feel of a space, and it offers an overwhelming number of possibilities. I find that it's always important to decide first what you want the focal point of the room to be. If it's your colorful rug, then you should keep your walls simple. However, if you have a neutral living room set, then you can try something more interesting on your walls.

A faux finish is a good idea if you're looking to add a subtle texture that will enhance the space and add another layer of depth. It should never be distracting. Possibilities range from faux sandstone to subtle metallics. If you don't have any experience, you can take a class or enlist the help of a local faux finisher. Always try it on a sample board first and then live with it taped on your wall a few days, because a finish can look different at various times of the day. I've found that the faux supplies sold at chain hardware stores tend to be poor quality, so they can prove frustrating for the beginner. If you end up at your wits' end trying to figure out a specific technique, then it's best to call in an expert for the sake of your walls.

Murals are perfect if you're looking for a distinct artistic element. Think of them as simply site-specific artwork. Need ideas? Inspiration can come from anything that sparks your interest. It could be a favorite quote in calligraphy, a trompe l'oeil architectural element, a cluster of trees, a vintage advertisement, a pattern inspired by a textile, etc. You can also flip through interior design/decorative painting books at the bookstore to get ideas. Make sure the subject, style, and color scheme of the mural matches the room, and keep it simple. We've all seen examples of decorative painting gone bad.

I usually draw the mural out first on a large panel of paper and then trace it onto the wall using carbon paper. If you're copying a smaller image, use the grid method to enlarge it. To initially nail down the exact size and placement of the mural on your wall, "draw" out the shape of it with blue painter's tape. That can help you visualize it better in the space.