DIY – Painting the Dining Room

Have you ever watched one of those HGTV shows where someone is buying a house and they walk into a place and it’s painted a hideous color, and they say, “Ugh, no.”  Those kinds of reactions piss me off.  Mainly because people are willing to let themselves think that painting is either difficult or expensive.  I’m here to tell you it’s not.  I am not perfect at painting by any means, but I can do it pretty well, and I am not afraid.  You should not be either.

So let’s travel back in time to last October when I was bit by the painting bug.  We’d been in our house for more than six months at that point, and I was starting to know how I wanted things to look and be.  It can take some time to figure that out.  I was also starting to get annoyed with the shoddy paint job the previous owners had left behind, and all the scratches and bumps that were especially visible in the dining room.  I started daydreaming about what I wanted the dining room to look like, and I came up with some ideas, ran them past my design consultant (my sister), and then told the Boy.  The Boy does not care too much what I do with decorating the house.  My sister then informed me that Sherwin-Williams was having a sale, and paint was 40% off.  I chose their Harmony line of paint because it’s a no-VOC formula (better for pets and kids in a house), and went with “Evening Shadow”, and light and neutral gray that is not nearly as blue as the S-W website makes it out to be.  I was looking for something elegant and crisp that would contrast nicely with all the white molding that lines the bottom of the walls.  I chose the eg-shel [sic] finish, because it would still look fairly matte on a quick glance, but would allow for better cleaning – something necessary in a room where food is present.

Here’s a closeup of the molding, and the previous color.  As you can see, there’s a LOT of molding, and while the color isn’t bad, I just wasn’t feeling it.  That shade of beige just felt sad and without personality.  The kind of color you paint on a wall in a room where you’re trying to make it feel more “colonial” when in reality the style of your home is “modern colonial” or even “transitional”.  I’m still working on figuring out the right combination of keywords that will bring me back images of houses on google that look like mine. #librarian #nerd

You can see in this picture that I’d initially taped off every single inch of the molding, but that it was a huge pain in the butt.  Look how narrow that inner piece is!  Look at how much of the molding there is!  Look at my terrible peeling manicure that I had yet to remove!  When I showed visitors, they’d say, just tape off the edges, and then use a small paintbrush to get the narrow bit in between.  And I thought – sure!  Let’s do that.  So as you can see in the picture from above, when I got to the green tape, I only taped the outside of the molding.  Which was so dumb.  Because it turns out that the brush I was planning on using in the space that I was to paint was so so narrow.  It was never going to work.  I had to start over and go back and re-tape all those fiddly little inside moldings, pinching the tape at the top, and covering every inch that might be exposed that I wanted to remain white.

And here’s what that looks like en masse.  It’s also our first progress shot!  You can really see what a difference it was in color.  Also, how light the gray looked when painted.  In fact, while I was painting (a solo job since the Boy isn’t as confident a painter as I am), the Boy walked in and went, “Huh – I didn’t realize you chose a white”.  I hadn’t.  The paint was just very fresh and not yet dried to its actual color.  This is something for you to remember too when you’re painting – things will dry darker.

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I painted all the edges of the room, and everything below the chair rail by hand with a brush.  I kind of wish I could show you pictures of what my hand looked like after all that, but I couldn’t un-crunch my fingers to snap a photo.  So instead you get to see the what all the “cutting in” and hand painting looked like afterwards.  This first coat took me a long time because I had to go back and re-tape everything first.  Also – painting by hand takes a while, especially if you’re trying to be careful like I was.  And going back now to do research on the proper “how to”, it seems that I should have done one section at a time so that I could roll paint onto the still wet edges.  Oh well.  You can do that.  I can do that on later paint jobs.

But oh guys – as soon as I pulled out the roller and put the first coat of gray on the big space in the walls, it was magical.  It just went so quickly (mainly because there weren’t a lot of big spots that required rolling), and it made such a huge difference.  This is the final, poorly lit results of one coat, and it already looks like a completely different room.  With the tape up it’s still a little dark feeling, but the color itself is better applied, and looks nicer in general – even though it was still drying (I know, you’re eyeing that patchy spot on the left and going, “Really?”  Nope – that dried nicely too.  It was at this point that I was exhausted, and so cleaned up the brushes while I let this coat dry overnight, changed out of my painting clothes, and collapsed on the sofa.  I sent the Boy out for food (Ethiopian, which was so good, but also so much!), and we watched two episodes of “The Grand Tour”.  And then I slept very, very soundly.

The next morning I got up before the boy and began work on coat two, which went by amazingly fast.  It’s terrific how much faster things go when you’re not hamstrung by having to go back and re-tape.  My only problem was remembering which spots I’d painted already and which I had not.  Because while there is a difference between the dried and wet colors of the paint (see above), it’s not that stark.  And so it was a very methodical morning.

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So here we are with me in my grubby painting clothes, showing you proper technique if you too want to paint a room (or two or four) in your home or apartment (note: most places will let you paint if you either paint it back to the original color before you leave or if you pay them to repaint it).  You’ll notice that I’m making what looks like a “V” with the paint, but it’s actually a “W” (click forward one picture).  Painting the wall in “W”s will make it so that your paint is spread out more evenly and doesn’t look patching and weird like you just rolled vertically in a line or square.  I had a short handled roller, but if you have taller ceilings, you can get rollers that can screw on to larger poles for getting up high.  It’s also important to note how much paint should be on your roller – the right amount is enough so that it doesn’t make a tacky/sticky noise when you are rolling on the wall, but not so much that you are dripping and have to re-roll over areas to cover up the drips.  This amount is fickle and occasionally difficult to maintain, but I can guarantee that it will look so much better to use the right amount of paint.

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Here’s a couple photos of the finished room with Winston as model to show how much of a bear it is to photograph color in there.  The windows provide a lot of light, but more in the morning, and our chandelier throws all kinds of shadows on the wall which can make the paint look uneven.  You’ll also notice that I left the tape on for a while after finishing the second coat.  This was a mistake.  It’s better to remove the tape as soon as possible after you finish so that the paint doesn’t have a chance to dry and stick to the paint which can cause peeling.  Fortunately I figured this all out within an hour so, which meant the paint didn’t have a chance to dry to the tape completely.

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And here are some final shots of the color with tape removed that show just how pretty it is in contrast to the white.  It’s so elegant and crispy and I LOVE it.  I’m going to have to do something about those bench cushions now sooner rather than later, as they look terrible in contrast to the gray.  And while there were definitely little bits that I could find that weren’t perfect with the beige showing through where the tape covered and should have, I was able to go back with a tiny tiny brush from a watercolor set and fix those little bits for my own personal benefit.  But as you can see here – even before the touch-up, no one will really notice unless they get super close to your walls.  And that just doesn’t happen.

So – how do you do this if you want to paint and aren’t experienced at all?  Read some tips – I’m always inspired by John and Sherry at Young House Love, and they’ve got lots of tips about how they’ve painted various stuff, but also a really good basic “How-To” on the painting process.  YouTube is also your friend for various tutorial videos.  I love our color, and I’ll probably go back to Sherwin-Williams the next time they have a great sale, which is fairly often – keep your eyes peeled!  But I’ve also had good experience with paint from Lowes and Home Depot in the past, so if you’re on more a budget, don’t think you can’t afford paint.  It can make a huge difference in how your room looks and feels.

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