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Painting Walls: Creative Paint Ideas and Techniques for Faux Wainscoting


Painting your walls is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve the look of your home. I'm always looking for frugal and creative ways to decorate and so far a little paint has offered me the biggest bang for my buck. We are now in our third home and I'm nearly finished painting just about every possible surface. I learned quite a bit by trial and error with my first two houses, so this last project has been a lot smoother. I've also become a lot more confident in my ability to be a little creative and it's definitely paid off. Hopefully you can reap the benefits of my many painting hours and find some great ideas for painting walls here.

Tools You Will Need

I've found there's a strong correlation between the quality of the tools you use and a successful project. Don't get me wrong, there are some ways to cut corners and remain frugal, but investing in a few quality painting tools will go a long way. In other words, there are some things you just don't want to skimp on.

Painting tools worth spending a little more on:

  • A good, quality paintbrush. I am a Purdy girl, they make fantastic brushes that will stand the test of time. I loathe buying the cheap little paint brushes since on more than one occasion they've shed their bristles onto my freshly painted wall!
  • A quality paint roller. Make sure to pay attention to its nap! Smooth surfaces only require short naps, but rough and textured surfaces will need long naps. High nap rollers will be surprisingly furry feeling, but so necessary if you have a highly textured ceiling, like we do.
  • 3M Scotch Blue Painter's tape. Don't get caught without it! Paint doesn't leak under it and it's very easy to remove when you're done. I've yet to find a brand that works better.
  • Quality paint! Buying cheapo paint just isn't worth it in the long run. You will find you have to paint multiple coats and use way more than if you'd just invested in a nice Behr, Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams, for example. If you're painting over a dark color, I highly recommend investing in a paint and primer in one product.

Wall Painting Ideas: Faux Wainscoting

If you have a plain wall that you want to jazz up, consider painting it two colors: one for the top and another for the bottom. If you choose this option, you can either divide the wall in half horizontally, start the bottom color chair rail height or make the division where you find it most aesthetically pleasing. Starting the top color a bit lower can give the illusion of higher walls. If you opt for chair rail height, the norm is about 1/3 of the way up from the floor (or 32" to 36" for an eight foot ceiling).

One of my favorite ideas for painting walls is making a faux wainscoting effect. If you check out the picture on the right, you will see what I did with our combination living room/dining room walls. If I do say so myself, they look great! The white you see is just paint, but it adds dimension and depth to this otherwise barren and large wall. It was all one color before and no matter what it just looked plain. I began the white at chair rail height, which was 36" for this room.

I chose to first put up some decorative chair rail trim to make it a bit fancier, but you don't have to. I also purchased some pre-made rectangular decorative panels from Lowe's. I used Ever True Paint Grade plastic panels, by the way. They come in a few different sizes, so you'll need to figure out which size best suits your room. If you're handy, you can certainly make these yourself.

This faux wainscoting effect fools the eye and makes the room seem bigger and longer, as an added bonus.

Color Blocking Walls

Color blocking is a very simple way to add interest and an artistic effect to your walls. It's an excellent way to highlight a focal point or even to define a space. It's perfect for those who love a particularly bold color, but don't want to drench their walls in it.

If you don't know what it is, it's pretty much what is sounds like. It just means placing blocks of color (often bold colors) in various shapes and sizes around a room. You can use as many or few blocks as you wish. You can have random floating blocks or intentional blocks used to anchor a piece of artwork, for example. The skies the limit here!

I used color blocking in my son's room and it looks fantastic. He really likes red and green, so we used green color blocks on the red walls. We put one directly over his bed to serve as a way to anchor the bed and give the illusion of a headboard.

Color blocking works beautifully with built-in shelving. Painting the walls behind the shelves a different color creates a focal point and adds an artistic touch.

Creating Texture on Walls

Martha Stewart has a line of specialty finishes that create interesting faux effects/textures on your walls. I used the Terra Cotta finish on an accent wall in my front entrance. Home Depot sells the full line of her specialty finishes along with all the tools necessary to complete the faux finish.

For the Terra Cotta finish I just used a combination of a sea sponge and a paint brush for application. The finish is fairly thick, so it's easy to apply with minimal dripping and running. It's still a good idea to protect the floor beneath, however.

Martha Stewart's collection offers the following specialty finishes: Terra Cotta, Glitter, Crackle and Textured Metallic. Similarly, Sherwin Williams has a line of glazes called Faux Impressions.


Paint a Mural on Your Wall

If you're artistic, you can always free-hand a mural on your wall. If you need some help, consider using a projector to cast the image on the wall. All you need to do is trace the image with a pencil first, then fill it in with acrylic paint.

There are some paint by numbers kits that allow you to make a very impressive painting on your wall. They make use of transfer paper for easy tracing. You can easily do these in an afternoon!


Elsie Nelson (author) from Pacific Northwest, USA on September 17, 2011:

I totally agree, Dolores. Our house really needed a facelift and I was pleased by how much better it looks with just fresh paint and decorative trim. I love trees, too. I have a wall that's screaming for one, so I'm going to bite the bullet and borrow a projector from a neighbor. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thanks for the visit and comment!

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on September 17, 2011:

Nothing like paint to give a room a new personality. I used to be a real faux painting nut and think I got a bit carried away. I love the tree and have been wanting to paint one in my bedroom. I even have a picture that I want to copy from but keep putting it off. Great ideas!

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