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Wisconsin Parent

Paint Your Way to a Stylish Home

Jun 02, 2013 02:48PM ● By Stacy Snook
Are you looking for ways to improve the look, feel, and style of your home on a budget? You might think I'm simplifying things with this statement, but you can literally paint your way to a stylish home.

One of the most cost effective ways to transform your home is through paint. Studies show that color has a significant impact on our mood, motivation, and stress level.  Color can create a sense of calm and relaxation; it can also inspire, motivate, and energize.  Creating a space that reflects your personal style while encouraging a mood that works for your family goes a long way in making a house a home.

The act of painting in itself can be very therapeutic, not to mention when you move beyond walls to painting cabinets and furniture you can truly create a one of a kind space that is uniquely yours. Painting can be an activity you share with the entire family, allowing each member of the family to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment with each painting project you tackle together.

I'll give you some helpful painting tips later in this post, but first here are some fun examples of how paint can update the look and feel of even the smallest space. Here's my super tiny entry way. Before painting it was just a boxy little space with beige walls and no character. Adding a graphic feature wall really gave the space some style and a sense that the entry is grander than it really is. The addition of a small console table and mirror improved the overall function. You can see the before photos and read a full play by play of the process here.


Although I have a true love and appreciation for beautiful wood, there's really nothing I love about builder grade honey oak cabinets. To me, they're orangey and dated. There's no amount of decorating around them that disguises them or makes them look like anything but what they are. No disrespect to those of you who love your honey oak cabinets. It's entirely a matter of personal preference, and these cabinets didn't evoke the clean, fresh, modern look I had hoped for. Because my kitchen space is quite small, I really needed a space that was brighter and created a sense of openness. You can read more about the kitchen cabinet painting process in more detail here.  If you're getting antsy for those painting tips, feel free to scroll to the bottom of this post, otherwise hang tight for some more paint inspiration.


Don't be afraid to think beyond walls and furniture when it comes to paint. Here's a cool retro lamp I picked up at Goodwill for $6.  A modern makeover was achieved with a little bit of primer and a crisp white paint. More details can be found here.

This once beat up $10 thrift store find was give a shabby chic update with bargain paints. You can see the complete transformation here.

And another one here.  Way more personality than your standard dresser.

And my favorite makeover to date is this gorgeous old wide grain oak dresser.  Notice how I've used it as a console? I love how it ads style and storage to my living room. More here.

Or you could take some outdated chairs and turn them into fun and functional outdoor furniture. More here.

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Are you excited to paint yet?  As you can see there are so many ways to add charm and personality to your space with paint. But before you head out to your local home improvement store, here are some helpful tips that will ensure a better painting experience,  and save you both time and money.


Primer is your best friend when it comes to painting. The only thing I don't prime before painting is walls that have been previously painted with water based paint. However, if you're painting over walls that are dark or bright with a lighter color, it's a good idea to use primer. If you skip the priming step, you're more than likely going to have to go over the walls with several coats of paint. Primer will save you time and money; requiring less product and labor.  In older homes, when you're unsure of the paint type that is on walls, it's wise to prime the walls before painting. Painting over oil base paint with a water base paint is a nightmare. If you're unsure of the type of paint, or in a situation where the walls are stained, written on, decorated with crayon or you're otherwise unsure of what's on the walls; always prime first! My personal favorite is Zinsser 123 Primer, which is readily available at most home improvement stores.


TSP Substitude is an important product when it come to painting furniture, cabinets or woodwork. There are plenty of options available; I'd suggest one that comes in a spray bottle. The TSP Substitudes that are a cleaner and deglosser will save you the step of ruffing up the surface of your product with sandpaper. If you use a TSP Substitute that isn't a deglosser, you'll need to have a 220 grit sand paper to lightly scuff up the surface of whatever it is you're painting to improve the adhesion of the primer and paint. Skimping on these steps will cause you problems. I've learned this the hard way. It's a waste of time and materials if you don't thoroughly prepare whatever it is you're painting.

Image source: The Home Depot

Using the right supplies makes such a difference in the outcome of your paint project. When it comes to painters tape, you'll definitely do best staying away from the cheapest options. I'm a fan of Scotch Blue with Edgelock. You can find this pretty much anywhere, but is a great place to price compare and read reviews.

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I find for walls that a roller that is in the middle of the pricing spectrum works well. The cheapest options sometimes leave fibers in your fresh paint. When painting furniture, a fine finish foam roller and foam brushes work the best. When using a brush to paint woodwork or furniture I'd recommend sticking with a Purdy brush. I've tried almost every other brush known to man, and there's nothing like a Purdy brush when it comes to quality and the finished result it creates. It'll cost a bit more, but if you take care of it, it'll last forever.

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Using an old sheet or broken down cardboard to protect your flooring surface works well. You can also purchase plastic or painter drop clothes, but a few old sheets usually do the trick. If you don't have any old sheets to spare, Goodwill sells sheets for $1.99 each, which is still cheaper than any option you'll find at your home improvement store.  I've also used old gift wrap and file folders to help protect areas that you don't want to accidentally get paint on.

You'll also need a paint tray if you're using any kind of paint roller.  A tray liner or a garbage bag over your paint tray makes for easier clean up. If you're using a brush, I generally have a pack of plastic cups that are an appropriate size for the brush and easy to hold on to. Sometimes those larger paint pals are uncomfortable to hold on to once they're filled with some paint. A screw driver to remove hardware on cabinets or funiture or switch plate covers on walls. A few old damp rags.

Here are my top ten tips to painting your way to a stylish home.

  1. Make sure whatever you're painting is clean and dry. Using a TSP Substitute will ensure the best prepared surface.
  2. With the exception of walls and plastic, lightly rough up anything you are painting with 220 grit sand paper to give the surface some tooth. This makes for better adhesion.
  3. Apply primer in two thin coats allowing dry time between coats. Read the manufacturers recommendations on dry time as they vary from product to product.
  4. Using a fine grit sand paper to sand in between layers of primer and paint to remove any nubs or imperfections and ensure a smooth result, then  remove sanding dust with a lightly damp rag or tack cloth.
  5. Apply paint in light even coats allowing recommended dry time between coats. It's hard to wait when you want to get a project done, but your finished results depends on being patient.
  6. Don't overload your brush. When using a paintbrush only dip the first inch or so of your brush into the paint, and rid the excess by gently scraping the brush against the top edge of your container.  Never let the brush sit submerged in paint or you'll have a drippy mess.
  7. Don't overwork your paint. Once you've applied the paint do not go over it again. The paint will dry quickly, so going back over an area that has already started to dry will leave you with a streaky/gloppy finish.
  8. Use a fine finish roller or  foam brush for furniture or cabinets. A Purdy brush can be used to cut in where there is detail in the furniture, but the flat areas get a smoother finish with a foam roller.
  9. When removing painters tape, use a box cutter or razor blade to cut the tape where it meets the painted surface to avoid lifting paint when you remove the tape.
  10. Search your home improvement stores bargain paint area for excellent deals on interior and exterior paints and stains. These are often paints that customers have had mixed and decided not to buy. If you check regularly you can find some wonderful colors for a fraction of the price you'd otherwise pay.
Bonus tip: Keep some  white and dark grey paint on hand so if a color is too bold you can lighten with white and/or add some grey to make it a more muted variation. Adding grey to a color that is too intense often gives it a more subtle sophisticated feel. Experiment with this a little bit before you tone large amounts of paint.

I hope this post gives you some confidence and useful information to create a space that is uniquely you.