5 colorful DIY projects you can tackle with one gallon of paint – The Washington Post
When Racheal Jackson bought her 1978 fixer-upper in Vancouver, Wash., she considered the wood-accented house a blank canvas waiting to be made over with color. The designer and artist took it one room at a time: painting a mural here, creating a piece of art there. Before she knew it, her house was an amalgamation of smaller projects, most of them accomplished with paint.
Her motto, “It’s just paint,” also has colored the work she’s done on clients’ homes. “Does your room feel uninspired? Paint it,” advises the founder of Banyan Bridges, a mural and interior-design service. (Jackson also co-hosts the series “Artfully Designed” on Discovery Plus.) “We live bolder lives when we surround ourselves with bold design, so … just try it on. Paint your wall fuchsia!”
Maggie McGaugh, a home-renovation Instagrammer and self-proclaimed “dumpster diver,” agrees with Jackson’s “go bold” approach. For the past few years, the Texas creative has shared her adventures rehabbing discarded furniture with more than 500,000 followers. Sometimes the slightest changes can make the largest impact, McGaugh says.
Want to give your own DIY project a go? Jackson, McGaugh and other design experts share some of their favorite home-refresh ideas, all requiring nothing more than a gallon of paint.
Jackson’s whimsical, color-blocked murals are her signature, and also happen to be an ideal paint project for newbies.
Using different brush sizes and painter’s tape, Jackson has created these vivid murals in homes across the country. For simple designs, she says DIYers can use their phones to take a photo of the wall and use the editing function to sketch the design to determine placement and scale.
For a more complicated mural, you could use an app such as Procreate to sketch out your idea first, then project it onto the wall and trace over it with pencil or chalk. Often, you’ll need a few coats of paint on each block to achieve full coverage. If you’re using several colors, buy sample sizes or quarts for each section, rather than a whole gallon. Jackson recommends paint with a matte finish.
To prevent the sections from bleeding into each other, tape off the design (pressing along the tape with a credit card or something similar to make sure it’s tight against the wall), then paint your base color over the whole area, including over the tape. Once the base color dries, apply your next color over it. When you remove the tape, your design should be crisp.
Colson Horton, an interior and prop stylist, says that if you aren’t ready to paint an entire wall, tackling a more manageable project such as a grouping of picture frames can give a space personality with minimal effort.
“If you want to spruce up a room, why not paint your wooden frames a half shade darker or lighter than your wall color to create a clean, monochromatic look?” she says.
To achieve such a look, sand each frame, then prime before painting. Using a sprayer will give the cleanest finish, Horton says. “Make sure not to be too close to the frame to avoid drips, and allow the paint to dry fully between layers. I have rushed this process before and I always regret it, so take your time!”
For added dimension, she suggests using a different sheen of paint on your frames than what is on your wall, or adding contrasting mats “for a little extra punch of playfulness.”
The application and semi-permanence of wallpaper is daunting to many homeowners. If that includes you, interior designer Isabel Ladd suggests emulating the look and feel of patterned paper with paint instead.
“What looks like wallpaper [can] actually be done with a gallon of paint and stencils,” says the founder of Isabel Ladd Interiors in Lexington, Ky. In rooms with odd dimensions, the method can work much better than traditional paper. “This was especially necessary in a bathroom [I designed] with quirky sized walls where everything was crooked,” Ladd says. “We had better command of the design using paint and a stencil than we would have papering the walls.”
You can find handmade stencils on Etsy or buy a set at your local craft store. Or, find a pattern that you love, print it out and cut your own stencil from blank stencil sheets. Use blue painter’s tape to hold the stencil in place, Ladd says, and start in the middle of the wall, then work your way out on either side to ensure symmetry and even spacing. Ladd also recommends investing in a stencil brush, “as they are flat and great for this application.”
To prevent the paint from bleeding beyond the stencil borders, don’t oversaturate your paint brush. “If you need more coverage, wait until the first layer of paint is dry, then use the guidelines on the stencil to line up the design again, and proceed with your next layer,” she advises. “Use a fine painter’s brush to clean up any spots or errors.”
Keeping an old piece of furniture out of a landfill can be as easy as slicking on a fresh coat of paint, McGaugh says. The results are almost always rewarding and, if you find discarded items on sidewalks and in dumpsters as she does, the project is practically free.
“Last year, I found a dresser on the side of the road that was missing [some] drawers,” she recalls, “so I cut off [the parts for] the missing drawers, painted it black and turned it into a mid-century modern entryway bench.”
If it’s your first time working with furniture, McGaugh recommends starting small — and with something you already own. “Don’t overwhelm yourself,” she says. A beginner project could be as simple as spray painting a set of patio furniture, she adds, but always prep your piece first. “Sanding is the best way to ensure the paint will stick, regardless of the type. … Sealing also helps protect it.”
Original artwork can immediately transform a space. Even if you don’t fancy yourself an artist, creating your own piece is well within reach, says Jackson. All you need is a canvas, a brush and some acrylic paint from your local art supply store, or try sourcing materials from a thrift store, she says.
“Buy art at thrift stores and paint over it,” she explains. “It’s often the cheapest way to get a canvas, and if it comes in a funky frame, paint that, too. The more, the better.”
When reusing a thrift-sourced canvas, Jackson recommends priming, then applying a base coat in your preferred color before adding your design. Don’t know what to paint? Browse Instagram or Pinterest for inspiration and practice emulating the styles you like. Or go the geometric route and use Jackson’s mural techniques for color-blocking sections of a canvas with a ruler and painter’s tape.
Kristin Luna is a writer in Nashville who covers home design, art, travel and food.
The Home You Own is here to help you make sense of the home you live in.
DIYs you can actually do yourself: Don’t be intimidated by those home projects. Consider which renovations add the most value to your home (including the kitchen and bathroom), what you can actually get done in a weekend, and everything in between.
Your home + climate change: Whether you’re trying to prepare your home for an electric vehicle or want to start composting, we’re here to help you live more sustainably.
Plants and pets: Your furry friends and greenery add more life to your spaces. For your green thumb, find tips for saving money on houseplants and how to keep your plants alive longer. Pets can make a house a home, but stopping your cats from scratching the furniture isn’t always easy.
Keeping your home clean and organized: We breakdown the essential cleaning supplies you need, and point out the 11 germy spots that are often overlooked. Plus, hear hacks from professional organizers on maximizing counter space,
Maintaining your home: Necessary home maintenance can save your thousands in the long run. From gutter cleaning and preparing your fireplace for winter, to what to do if your basement floods.
Contact us: Looking to buy your first home? Do you have questions about home improvement or homeownership? We’re here to help with your next home project.