Facing a blank wall can be intimidating. Often, we instinctively fall back on the more familiar option: “What color should I paint it?” Or maybe, “Should I add wallpaper? “
But there is a world of possibilities beyond basic paint and wallpaper that can make a drastic change to a room: you can paint a wall white with a mural, coat it with limewash, install panels or add decals.
âWhen you paint a wall with matte paint, you only see color,â said Genna Margolis, founder of Form side, an interior design firm in Los Angeles.
With other wall treatments you see something more: a graphic pattern, a texture, a sense of variation.
And while some impressive wall finishes involve precious materials and laborious techniques best left to the professionals, others are fairly easy to do on your own. Designers and manufacturers recently shared tips on DIY alternatives to regular paint and wallpaper.
Painting a mural
The idea of ââpainting a mural can be intimidating, conjuring up visions of elaborate nature scenes filled with flowers, trees, and animals that stretch from floor to ceiling and wall to wall. But not all murals need the touch of a skilled artist. And it doesn’t have to be expansive.
âSometimes painting an entire wall would be too much – it would take over the space completely,â said Phoebe Cornog, Founder of Pandr Design Co., who designed and painted murals in sports stadiums, shopping malls, offices and homes. “Making a section of a wall can add a bit of color, but not completely take over.”
In “Walls of Wonders, A new book from Storey Publishing, Ms. Cornog and her partner, Roxy Prima, feature step-by-step instructions for creating simple, compact murals, including one made up of five parallel lines in different colors; one consisting of an overlapping arc, circle, and rectangle; and one centered on a large scale triangle.
The key to these straight-lined designs is using painter’s tape to create crisp edges, Ms. Prima said. But she and Ms Cornog also encourage trying freehand designs made from repeating elements – a wall of dotted brush stains, for example, or an expanse of intersecting stains.
âIt shouldn’t be intimidating,â Ms. Prima said. “It might seem like a very permanent, large-scale thing, but if you’re wrong you just wait for the paint to dry and then paint on it.”
For those who want to try something more complex, like a landscape scene, Ms Cornog and Ms Prima said that one piece of equipment is essential: a projector. You can project a desired pattern onto the wall, trace it in pencil or chalk, and use these lines as a guide for painting.
And don’t forget: whatever style of mural you choose, the result doesn’t have to be perfect.
âAlways take a step back to look at your work,â Ms. Cornog said, and don’t worry about the details. âPeople tend to get really wrapped up in the real deal, staring at the wall up close and forgetting that no one is going to be watching your mural so closely. “
âEveryone wants plaster,â Ms. Margolis said, but it can be difficult to make the right application and it is often best to leave it to a professional which can be expensive. This is why limewash, sometimes referred to as lime paint, has become so popular. âYou get the same look without the price,â she said.
Prepare the wall first by applying a special mineral-based primer, said Burju Garnier, founder of San Francisco-based Color Atelier. Once dry, apply the limewash with a wide brush.
âTypically, it’s applied in two coats,â Ms. Garnier said. âOur favorite method is to apply it with a block brush, using really random, multi-directional strokes. When it dries it gives you that soft color variation, with a matte and velvety finish that is very aesthetic.
Off-whites and light colors tend to show just a little variation, she said, while darker colors can show a lot.
If you’re not sure if your brushstrokes will create the look you want, try painting a few sample boards before tackling the whole room, suggested Ms Margolis, who used Portola’s lime wash in it. dining rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms.
For high traffic areas, where you want the finish to be wipeable, or in damp areas like a kitchen or bathroom, Ms. Margolis and Ms. Garnier recommended applying a specialty sealer to the limewash to protection.
From simple paneling to solid walls of intricately carved wood, wood panels have been used to add decorative detail and protection to walls for centuries, long before drywall existed.
Today, the warm look of wood panels remains popular, as people create walls with materials like bleached oak or weathered barn panel. And there are products that make installation easier than ever.
Paneling of companies like Stikwood, Timberchic and Board and Mill is made from real wood, but the boards are thinner than standard boards making them easier to cut and handle, and they come with a peel and stick backing, so no nailing is necessary.
Bobby Yuck, the Los Angeles-based interior designer and television personality, has used Stikwood in his own home, as well as in pieces featured on “Queer Eye.” âI just like the ease of use and the fact that it looks great,â he said. âYou can radically change a space with a small budget and a small saw. “
In a spare bedroom in his house, Mr. Berk used Stikwood to create a characteristic wall behind the bed. In other projects, he used it on the walls and ceilings of living rooms, bathrooms and kitchens – “pretty much 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 it sometimes adds construction adhesive or a few nails for extra support.
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 if you get bored.
In recent years, many companies, including The Lovely Wall Co., Urban walls and WallPops, have expanded the range of designs available, from large-scale flowers and door-sized arches to subtle dots and lines that resemble brush strokes.
Rebecca Simon, the founder of Ellie House, an interior design firm in Ottawa that focuses on children’s rooms, created walls with decals that look like confetti, leaves and cacti.
âYou can make the wall look like it’s papered,â Ms. Simon said, if you apply the decals all over the area. But they’re a lot easier to install, she added – just peel and stick them on – and typically cost a lot less than wallpaper.
Decals can be equally eye-catching in adult bedrooms. âIf you choose the right design, it can look sophisticated and trendy just like traditional wallpaper in living rooms, bathrooms and dining rooms,â said Megan Close, founder of The Lovely Wall. Co. The decals are durable enough, she noted, to be used even in kitchens and laundry rooms.
And because you decide the spacing between the decals when you stick them to the wall, the look can be as minimal or as maximum as you want.
âYou don’t need a lot,â Ms. Close said, âto have a big impact.â