Tips, Tricks and Gutsy Moves with Paint

Tips, Tricks and Gutsy Moves with Paint

Today I’m talking all things paint–everything from some of my favorite painting tips to the gutsiest things I’ve done with a paint brush. Let’s play eye spy with photos from Juliette’s 8th birthday tea party last year. Can you guess from these pictures what the gutsiest thing I’ve painted is? Read on to find out!

First, a tip. While I’ve heard it’s easier to match a paint color to your decor rather than try to track down decor to match the random swatch you already applied to your walls, that has not been my approach. I think it’s much more pleasant and practical to choose a wall color that is neutral and lends itself to grow with your evolving style than to repaint the walls every time you decide you want to shake things up. I like to think of it a bit like choosing a makeup foundation. Everyone’s skin tone is a little different, but it’s neutral and allows you to throw a variety of shades of lipstick, blush and eyeshadow on depending on your mood, the season, or party you’re attending. Obviously, keep in mind the furniture/accents you already own and want to work with when choosing a paint color, but it’s important that the paint on your walls be flexible. If you’re anything like me, it needs to stay put for awhile because, although relatively easy and inexpensive to apply, painting is rarely convenient. We have really high ceilings, so we decided to hire professional painters to help us with the hard-to-reach places, and it’s definitely not something we want to do again anytime soon! What ultimately sold me on the color we chose (Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter lightened by 50%) was that it works well with both warm and cool tones. I gravitate toward cool tones, but on the off-chance I want to go warm, no big deal! 

Next, a trick. One of my favorite go-to hacks is to wrap my paint-filled brushes in a layer of Saran wrap and foil and put them in the refrigerator between coats. Not only is washing paint down the drain hard on your septic, it’s also no fun to clean paint brushes after a long day of work, only to start all over the next day. The Saran wrap–combined with the cool temperature of the fridge– keeps the paint on your brush from drying and saves you on clean up time. Be careful not to completely forget about your paint brushes in the fridge, though. That has been the death of a few brushes of mine! Also invest in a good paintbrush. I really like the Purdy brand. You definitely get what you pay for in the paintbrush department. 

Another tip. My go-to brand is Benjamin Moore and I love their Advance line for refinishing projects. The paint goes on like silk and has a leveling agent which eventually settles any brush stroke lines, making it look as though an oil based paint was applied with a paint sprayer (aka professional!), when in fact it was just a paintbrush (or roller) used to apply it. I will say, however, that the Advance paint isn’t the most durable in high traffic areas, so a little paint touch up is required now and then, but nothing lasts forever, right?

Final piece of advice. Did you know you can take paint swatches from the Benjamin Moore store (or anywhere) to Lowe’s or Home Depot and they can match any color? That can be a nice option if you’re trying to save money. I also had them lighten the Benjamin Moore Revere Pewter color we used on our walls by 50%. Sometimes I wish I’d had them lighten it even more, so keep that in mind as an option. My three other go-to Benjamin Moore paint colors are Chantilly Lace for a bright and clean white, which we used on our kitchen cabinets; Wrought Iron for a deep grey with blue undertones, which we used on the french doors and bathroom cabinets; and Black Ink, a nice soft black that we used on our front door.  Another quick tip is to keep a log of the paint colors, brand and sheen you’ve used on your projects so that when something needs touched up, you know exactly what you originally used. The Benjamin Moore stores also keep a detailed record in their database of what you’ve purchased from them. You can have them add to their notes what project you used the paint for. 

Okay, last but not least: my gutsiest strokes with a paintbrush. Drumroll, please…

Well, aside from painting our massive river rock fireplace white,

I painted the cushions of our dining chairs!

I used watered down chalk paint because I bought them second hand and they were a dingy white color and dirty nonetheless (a set I’d found on Craigslist). Surprisingly, it was a rewarding and successful project! I no longer use these dining chairs because they turned out to be dangerously rickety to sit in, which was a massive bummer after all the effort I expended, but I’d totally do it again if it weren’t for that. And boy, were they beautiful and a way more affordable option for us at the time. These $250 round back chairs from World Market are similar to the look I was going for.

Since the cushions I painted were also sealed with wax, it made it so I could easily wipe them clean– a great scenario if you have young children like we do! And if ever there was an impossible stain, I could just repaint them and they’d be like new again! I know that some people have braved painting actual sofas and accent chairs. I don’t know that I’d recommend doing it to a chair or sofa you’d want to snuggle into, but in the dining/kitchen area, it felt quite appropriate. Now the question is, should I paint my outdoor dining cushions? I bought them just last year, but regret the color I chose. Thinking of ditching the watered down chalk paint this time, and just quickly firing at them with a can of white upholstery spray paint. Hmmm, just how gutsy am I? 

Dream House in Disguise

cottagepath1-1I certainly didn’t know my dream house existed when it fell into my lap. In fact, when I saw the listing that my mother-in-law sent me, I only had to see one picture on Zillow to know I wasn’t interested. And the following twenty pictures confirmed it 1,000 percent! To me, the house I saw in the pictures was ugly. But I love house hunting so much that I wanted to go peek in the windows anyway! 

When we pulled up I was surprised. Of course, it wasn’t the one, and even if it were, moving was about as much on our radar as flying to the moon, but it wasn’t as bad as I initially thought. It was obviously neglected and falling apart in many ways, but somebody had grand dreams for this house. I loved how the backyard was a hill that sloped down to a view of the lake. Out front was a wide-open field of wildflowers (aka weeds) with an enchanting little barn sitting just adjacent to it. I envisioned an orchard in bloom among those wildflowers. If I squinted, I was standing amidst great potential for an elegant European cottage makeover! And when I did peek in the windows, I loved how open and airy it seemed. But the fireplace was hideous, and I didn’t know what to make of the massive baseboards. From the outside looking in, they were comical in size.

Oddly enough, though, that night I couldn’t stop swiping through the hideous photos of this house. As I analyzed what I disliked, I realized that most of it was the color palette, which was just a matter of paint. I also knew that we weren’t in a place to buy our dream house wrapped up in a perfect bow. We needed to create something lovely out of an existing mess, which this just so happened to be– a foreclosure that had been sitting vacant for four years! My interest in going inside was piqued enough that we reached out to a friend, who happens to be a realtor, to see if she could take us inside. I mean, why not?

I was smitten the minute I stepped through the heavy, oversized front door (that was water damaged and peeling). Before me was a grand staircase straight out of the Sound of Music, and all I could see was my children and my future grandchildren singing Do Re Me Fa So La Ti Do! I also envisioned fairytale rounds of Hide and Go Seek in all its secret nooks. (I actually should have seen myself wanting to poke my eyes out because it’s every boy’s dream for a Nerf battleground.) 

As we toured the home, there were hidden treasures all along the way. A laundry chute! A walk-in hall closet! An actual pantry and laundry room! A cute little bonus room begging to be remodeled into a playhouse; two offices with built-in bookshelves. And when I was actually inside, the baseboards looked classy and to scale with the high ceilings. It had all the open light in the world, and I was in love.

“Where on earth did you find this place?” my realtor friend asked. “I’ve been looking for houses in this price range and have never come across this gem on the MLS.”

After a little detective work, we realized it had been listed incorrectly as a one-bathroom house when in reality it had three bathrooms. It wasn’t coming up in anyone’s searches, but it was feeling awfully meant to be, so we bought it!

And here we are with a long list of victorious transformations behind us–some more pleasant than others–and we’re still dreaming and designing away to bring to life this work of art we call home. I expect and hope that creating our home–whatever and wherever that might be– will be a lifelong endeavor because an artist is never finished. 

And now for some of the original Zillow pictures! It’s tough, but can you see the potential?