You can’t paint wood paneling, right? Sure you can. What’s more, paneling is an open invitation to get really creative without a lot of work. A client of mine once complained about her dreary wood paneled living room and asked if I knew anyone who would tear it out. I asked her what she wanted most for the walls. “I really want stripes, “ she said, “happy, bouncy stripes.” Happy and bouncy; I kid you not. Well, tearing out paneling because you really want stripes is a little like skipping the circus because you really want clowns. So here’s what you do.
The hardest thing about painting stripes is getting them nice and vertical. There’s measuring and plumb lines, levels and spacers, tape and more tape; it is more than many of us have time for. Paneling however was made for stripes. It is the best thing about the stuff if you ask me. The vertical is there already. Just pick good colors and you are good to go.
Well, not so fast. Some paneling is diabolically hard to get paint to stick to. Somewhere in its history maybe it was waxed, or oiled or god knows what. It’s been there since Welcome Back Kotter. Clean the paneling with a wax stripper, then sand it a bit with 120 grit sand paper and prime it with oil based primer. There will be nail holes to set and fill and seams to caulk but after that it’s a breeze.
Elegant tone on tones are really nice, or the more sassy plumb and maroon…happy and bouncy turned out to be pale yellow and white with indigo curtains and dust ruffles. Whatever you fancy is there for the doing. Email me if you have a question.
Properly hung wallpaper is a lot like a well tied knot. It stays put for as long as you need it and then releases without a fuss when it is untied. Picture a bowline that joins the clew of a sail to its sheet lines. If you never needed to change sails you could cross an ocean without ever changing that knot. It will never, ever let go-until you want it to. Then with a flip of the wrist and a tug it is gone.
Wallpaper should be like that; and it can be if the walls are prepared correctly. If they are not then removing that paper is like removing a can of tuna from a grizzly bear. I recently did battle with four walls of heinously ugly paper that would not let go. If you ever run into this try to stay patient and just remember all the stop signs you’ve rolled through in your life. It’s like a little payback.
Mix some Diff wallpaper stripper and hot water into a garden sprayer. Slip a putty knife into one of the seams and start peeling the front of the wallpaper off the wall. This is the part that has the pattern on it. You will be left with a grocery bag- colored backing that is still on the wall. This backing is what you will do battle with. Spray it with the Diff/water solution and wait a few minutes. Then spray it again. And again. Most of the horror stories that I hear about stripping paper occur because someone didn’t use enough water, or wait long enough. For reasons too vast to go into it can take 5 minutes or 10 or 30 or 50 or more minutes of steady soaking. Keep wetting it until it “falls off the bone” so to speak. Then paint the walls some wonderous and vivacious color so that you never have to strip paper again.
Have Fun Painting
Here’s a quiz. What is ‘surfactant bleeding’?
Possibility #1: Is it what happens to your arteries when you jump onto a hand grenade?
Possibility #2: Is it what happens to your brain during a divorce?
Possibility #3: Is it a discoloration of latex paint caused by moisture?
Since this is a painting tips column the answer is obvious, although if I didn’t know better I would have chosen either #1 or #2. They just seem to fit better.
A surfactant is a substance that is in paint that helps with color and package stability. Under very wet circumstances these surfactants will leech out of a latex paint film and form brown drips. The “very wet” conditions that I’ll refer to here is a bathroom that I recently painted for a client.
They have two teenagers who shower in the morning and the bathroom has no vent. Those conditions qualify as “product testers”. I would have loved to use latex paint to hold down the fumes. Since the paint industry is trying mightily to phase out oil based paints latexes are getting really really good, but…the oils are bullet proof when it comes to sealing out moisture. And, they are still easier to keep clean.
There are pros and cons on both sides of the latex vs oil debate but for a steamy, equatorially drenched bathroom I’d remember the teenager test and go with oil.
There is a very fine and nearly invisible line that separates asking for advice about what color to paint a room in your house and falling into a wretched pit of unsatisfiable despair. Before even starting, you have to ask yourself, who am I painting this room for? Are you painting your kids playroom so that they will like it or do you want to make a statement to the surrounding cul-de-sacs that you are an as-yet unheralded designer with the most avant garde of sensibilities? There is no right or wrong answer. Either one is fine. It is like packing for a vacation. Nothing wrong with packing a surf board unless you are travelling to Bolivia.
If you ask a friend what color goes with another color they will always tell you. It is the law of the jungle: men always think they know best how to build a camp fire and your neighbors always believe that they know which shade of pomegranate goes with your couch. Asking advice is hazardous country to navigate. If you take the advice you may hate it and be miserable but if you don’t your neighbor may hold a grudge and make you both miserable.
One solution is to hire a decorator who you can blame if your friends hate the room. Another is to ask everyone with that haughty air of someone who really isn’t listening to anyone’s counsel but secretly writes it all down. The bottom line is that you can not and will not ever satisfy all your friends. I saw a bumper sticker that said “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.” What could be more brilliant? When your friends start that sentence…you know the one. It begins with, “ Well I wouldn’t have…” just remember that Luciano Pavarotti, Paul McCartney and Ghandi all have had people who did not agree with them. It is your house. Be sassy. Be bold and have fun.