I have been asked about how to do a half-painted wall so many times since revealing the show flat and as it’s a technique that is perfect for modern homes and those with low ceilings, as well as those who want to add some drama and dark paint without going all the way (as it were) I thought I would do a post on it today – with apologies to my lovely reader from the former Soviet Union who finds it distressing to see – look away now and come back in a day or two).
It is, if you like, the modern version of the feature wall. Now the thing about a feature wall is that it can look as if you couldn’t quite commit to the colour. As if you were unsure if it was the right decision to make. That is why in my former spare room (now taken over by the teenager) I painted the fire surround bright pink. Rather than paint the chimney breast in a contrasting colour – which you see so often – I kept that the same colour and did the fireplace instead. That way there was strong colour in the room but it looked like a decision had been taken, a commitment made.
A single feature wall can still work but it needs to be the right wall. If you have a wall that is mostly alcove, or a wall under the eaves, for example, that is architecturally different it can work really well in a different shade or wallpaper. I have painted the wall behind my bed a different colour to the rest of the room – it matches the bed and is also the front of the wardrobe. This can work even better if you don’t have a bedhead as the wall can then act as one and create a focal point in the room.
Right then, on to the point of the piece. As I mentioned above, a half-painted wall is a great idea if you have low ceilings. Painting up to the top of the wall will draw attention to the size of the room – you are outlining the ceiling – and, by default, the floor size – when you do that and highlighting the edges makes the room look smaller.
If you have a picture rail then go up to and including that and then let the white ceiling come down over the top of the walls, which will blur the edges of the room and make the ceiling look higher and the room look bigger.
But what if you don’t have a picture or a dado rail? No need to panic. With a little care and attention it’s perfectly possible get a straight line at the height of your choice.
So what is the height? Well I would say not halfway. I think you want to aim for shoulder height – doesn’t matter how tall you are – but that sort of area – basically a bit more than halfway. This works if you are using dark in the sitting room to hide the tv for example. It works behind the sofa if you want to hang pictures that fit over both shades – again aim for roughly a third and two-thirds split – see the image below.
If you are doing this in a kitchen it makes sense to line up with the bottom of the cupboards as in the image below – otherwise it might look messy as there will be too many lines and heights and the whole idea was to keep it as streamlined as possible to make the space look higher and bigger.
Right, so you’ve decided on the height and let’s assume at this stage we’re going for a straight dividing line and not trying anything fancy like the image below. I asked my old mate and keeper of the knowledge of all things DIY Karen Knox, co-founder of the Interior Design Collective and Making Spaces. She has written for these pages before and knows of what she speaks.
Now, pay attention, she said sternly, here comes the science bit:
1 – Usually you paint from top to bottom because you want to do the light colour first. If, unusually, you are doing it the other way round then start at the bottom.
2 – You will need frog tape to make the lines. Karen recommends the green for walls that have been painted for a long time and yellow for more recently painted or plastered – it’s slightly less tacky.
3 – Let your first – pale coat dry for at least 48 hours before you add masking tape and start the darker colour. If you aren’t changing the light colour but are just adding a dark one then start from this point.
4 – Measure the height you want from the top of the skirting board and mark with a pencil. Do this all the way round and then join your marks using a spirit level. But bear in mind that houses are never 100 per cent level or straight so you will need to go by eye as well. If the floor seems way out then measure down from the ceiling as the furniture will hide much of the bottom half so make sure it looks right from the top. You won’t notice if it’s out by 1cm or so once the furniture is in and as long as the finished line is clean.
5 – Now you should always remove the tape when the paint is still wet. So paint along the line first. Then roller, or paint the rest of the wall. Then do the line a second time. Then you can pull the tape off and finish the second coat on the rest of the wall. If you wait until the paint is dry it will form a seal with the wall and the tape so pulling it off is really difficult.
6 – When pulling the tape off don’t pull it out from the wall but along the wall. Slowly.
7 – There is nearly always a point where the paint might come away with the tape. This is most common on freshly-plastered walls where the new paint hasn’t properly adhered to the plaster underneath.
If you are painting on fresh walls then Karen recommends mist-coating first. This is sucked up by the plaster and provides a base for the new paint to sit on.
And that’s it. Easy when you know how! At least you know the right technique now and then you can experiment with stripes and triangles and other paint effects which you absolutely can do on one wall because it’s not a solid block of colour and, once again, looks like you made a considered decision.
Suddenly painting all four walls the same colour looks slightly pedestrian I fear. Let me know how you get on if any of you are tempted to try it.