living & dining rooms, part 4: painting

01.03 - 02.03 purple & green go together. yes they do. yes. they. do.

click to see the full photo galleryRight after Christmas 2002, I felt like I was going to lose my mind if I had to look at white walls any longer.

Call it January blahs or after-Christmas blues or winter doldrums, but I went on a rampage one Saturday morning and dragged Sal with me to the paint store. We already knew what colors we wanted in the living and dining rooms. We'd settled on a dark plum treatment with an accent wall in the living room of sage green. I know, it sounds horrible but it isn't, I swear.

We wanted to do a treatment to the walls where you paint a base color and then you go over the top with a different shade of the same color, stick plastic wrap to it, and peel it off. It gives the surface a cool two-toned texture with some depth. We'd actually done it to a bookcase and our bed frame and entertainment center so we had a lot of practice with it. However, doing the treatment to furniture is so not the same as doing it to a wall, let alone two entire rooms.

The problem isn't so much that it takes a lot of plastic (it doesn't) and doing the second top color doesn't take a whole lot of paint since it gets diluted with water, but since you can only do a one-foot square section at a time, it takes for-ever. Plus, we have ten-foot ceilings so we had that much extra wall space to cover...go up the ladder, balance a small container of paint mixed with water, hold a paint brush in your teeth, tuck a roll of plastic wrap under your arm, quickly paint a section, balance the container and paint brush while trying to quickly pull out a length of plastic wrap, stick the plastic to the wet paint, smooth it to get some good wrinkles in it (that's what makes the effect), carefully peel the plastic off, try to throw it in a garbage can under the ladder, move down a section, and start all over again. Do as much as you can from the top of the ladder, climb down, move the ladder (all while balancing your tools), do the rest of the bottom section, climb the ladder to a new section of wall, and repeat the process.

With all the woodwork in both rooms, we spent a fair bit of time masking off everything. Unfortunately, the previous owner hadn't been quite so diligent when she'd painted the two rooms white, so the edges of all the trim -- especially the molding along the ceiling -- have white paint on them. We spent a lot of time trying to gently remove this but after two days of working on it in the living room, you could hardly tell we'd done anything. We didn't even bother doing it in the dining room because of that. At some point, we're going to have to refinish the woodwork anyway so we'll worry about it then. (The woodwork is in good shape, but there are places where moisture has made the stain bubble and of course, nicks and such from daily living.)

Sal painted both rooms and the ceilings with the roller and then I followed doing the plastic wrap treatment. When it came to the accent wall, the wall we'd chosen joined with a purple wall in one corner, which required a little extra care doing both walls. For one thing, the treatment itself is messy so trying to make a nice, neat line without getting purple on the green wall or green on the purple wall required luck, several do-overs, and not a little cussing. Secondly, the corner where they met just happened to be the most out-of-plumb wall in the entire house. So of course, that would be the one we would choose to have the separate colors meet up and call attention to it.

We fixed the problem by snapping a chalk line down one wall and making that the "corner" where the two colors met. That way, the real, whacked-out corner got painted dark purple and now gives the illusion that it's just part of the wall. Pretty ingenious, aye?

So anyway, it all turned out. It was definitely the biggest project we'd tackled to that point and we were both beat up by the end of it but the results.... Wow. Not to brag or anything but both rooms turned out even better than expected. (NOTE: The flash on the camera makes the two colors seem reality both the purple and green are a little duskier. Also, the rooms appear a lot darker than they actually are. With the dark wood and dark purple, it probably sounds like the rooms would be caves but they're not.)

click to see full photo gallery

UPDATE: Recent pictures added, taken December 2006; redecorating done January 2007.