Your Partitions Don’t Should Be Boring

Your Walls Don’t Have to Be Boring

Standing in front of a blank wall can be daunting. Often times we instinctively fall back on the most popular option: "What color should I paint?" Or maybe, "Should I add a background image?"

But there is a world of possibilities beyond basic colors and wallpaper that can dramatically change a room: you can paint a blank wall with a mural, brush it with lime, put on paneling or put on decals.

"When you paint a wall flat, all you see is paint," said Genna Margolis, founder of Shapeside, an interior design firm in Los Angeles.

With other wall treatments you will see a little more: a graphic pattern, a texture, a sense of variety.

And while some eye-catching wall surfaces involve precious materials and tedious techniques that are better left to professionals, others are simple enough to make yourself. Designers and manufacturers recently discussed do-it-yourself alternatives to common paint and wallpaper.

The thought of painting a mural could be intimidating, conjuring up visions of elaborate natural scenes with flowers, trees, and animals stretching from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. But not every mural needs the finger of an experienced artist. And it doesn't have to be extensive.

"Sometimes it would be too much to paint an entire wall – it would overwhelm the space," said Phoebe Cornog, a founder of Pandr Design Co., which has designed and painted murals in sports stadiums, shopping centers, offices and homes. "Designing a section of a wall can add a little color, but not take it all over."

In Wonder Walls, a new book from Storey Publishing, Ms. Cornog and partner Roxy Prima provide step-by-step instructions for creating simple, compact murals, including one made up of five parallel lines of different colors; one of an overlapping arc, circle and rectangle; and one that is centered on a large triangle.

Credit…Robin Bigge / Byrd Photography

The key to these no-nonsense designs is using painter's tape to create sharp edges, Ms. Prima said. But she and Ms. Cornog also encourage people to try freehand designs that consist of repetitive elements – a wall of dotted brush stains, for example, or an area of ​​intersecting blobs.

"It shouldn't be intimidating," said Ms. Prima. "It can seem like a very permanent and large-scale thing, but if you screw something up, just wait for the paint to dry and then paint over it."

For those looking to try something a little more complicated, like a landscape scene, Ms. Cornog and Ms. Prima said that one device is key: a projector. You can project a design you want on the wall, trace it in pencil or chalk, and use these lines as a guide for the color.

And remember: no matter which wall style you choose, the result doesn't have to be perfect.

"Always stay back to look at your work," said Ms. Cornog, and don't sweat on the details. "People tend to get really caught up in the basics when they get a close look at the wall and forget that no one is going to stare at your mural that closely."

“Everyone wants a cast,” said Ms. Margolis, but it can be difficult to find the right application and is often best left to a professional, which can be costly. This is why lime paint, sometimes called lime paint, has become so popular. “You get the same look without the price,” she said.

First, prepare the wall by applying a special mineral-based primer, said Burju Garnier, founder of the San Francisco-based Color Atelier. After drying, apply the lime paint with a wide brush.

"It is usually applied in two layers," said Ms. Garnier. “Our preferred method is to apply it with a block brush with really random, multidirectional strokes. After drying, you get this gentle color variation with a matt, velvety finish that is aesthetically very appealing. "

Credit…Madeline Great

Off-white and light colors tend to show only a small amount of variation, she said, while darker colors can show a lot.

If you're nervous about whether your brushstrokes will get the look you want, try painting some sample boards before tackling the whole room, suggested Ms. Margolis, who has used Portola lime detergent in dining rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms.

For heavily frequented areas in which the surface should be wipeable, or in wet areas such as the kitchen or bathroom, Ms. Margolis and Ms. Garnier recommend applying a special seal over the lime wash to protect it.

From simple paneling to entire walls made of intricately carved wood, wood paneling was used for centuries to add decorative detail and protection to walls, long before drywall existed.

Today, the warm look of wood paneling is popular as people create distinctive walls with materials like bleached oak or weathered barn board. And there are products that make installation easier than ever.

The panels from companies like Stikwood, Timberchic, and Plank and Mill are made from real wood, but the boards are thinner than standard panels, making them easier to cut and manipulate, and they come with a peelable backing so no nailing is required.

Los Angeles-based interior designer and television personality Bobby Berk has used Stikwood in his own home and in the rooms of Queer Eye. “I just like the ease of use and the fact that it looks great,” he said. "With a small budget and a small saw, you can change a room dramatically."

In a guest room in his home, Mr. Berk used Stikwood to create a feature wall behind the bed. In other projects he has used it on walls and ceilings in living rooms, bathrooms and kitchens – “almost everywhere,” he said, “except on the floor”.

The adhesive backing is usually strong enough to hold the planks in place, he said, but in extremely humid environments he sometimes adds construction glue or a couple of nails for extra hold.

The finished result, he said, "looks just as real as large, expensive planks."

If you prefer something other than wood, consider self-adhesive sheets of cork from a company like Muratto or Filz from companies like FilzFelt or Felt Right.

Wallpaper isn't the only way to add graphic appeal to a wall. Wall decals create a similar effect, but are easier to apply, leave room for customization, and are easy to remove when you get tired of it.

In recent years, numerous companies including The Lovely Wall Co., Urbanwalls, and WallPops have expanded the range of designs available, from large-format flowers and door arches to subtle dots and lines that are reminiscent of brush strokes.

Rebecca Simon, the founder of Maison Ellie, an Ottawa interior design firm focused on nurseries, has designed feature walls with decals that look like confetti, leaves and cacti.

“You can make the wall appear papered”, says Ms. Simon when you apply the decals over the entire surface. But they're a lot easier to install, she added – just peel off and stick – and usually cost a lot less than wallpaper.

Credit…Courtesy The Lovely Wall Co.

Decals can be just as appealing in adult rooms. "When you choose the right design, it can look sophisticated and trendy, just like traditional wallpaper in living rooms, bathrooms and dining rooms," said Megan Close, founder of The Lovely Wall Co. Decals are durable enough to use in kitchens and laundry rooms can be used.

And because you determine the spacing between the decals when you attach them to the wall, the look can be as minimal or as maximal as you want it to be.

"It doesn't take much," said Ms. Close, "to have a big impact."

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