DIY, Interiors

a painting primer

This weekend I gave my bathroom a little facelift. It was the only room in my apartment I hadn’t done anything with yet, and it was way overdue. Not only was it not pretty, but it wasn’t that functional. Things didn’t always have a place to be stored, towels ended up on the floor, et cetera. This is not to say that the rooms I had addressed aren’t messy, it’s just that the bathroom is so small that when it is disorganized and messy, it’s a lot more irritating, especially when I spend so much time starting my day there.
Before:

I snapped a couple quick after pics before I left for work this morning:

There are a lot of things to talk about here, like the Alana Bailey gig poster, the white metal cabinet I picked up for $25 at Long Beach, and how I installed a vintage doorknob on a modern door (instructions on that later). But what I want to address first is the paint job. Painting is really meditative for me because it requires so much focus, and the end result is so dramatic. I can also catch up on episodes of This American Life and radiolab. I love painting. I will paint any room in your house for a beer and a veggie burger. Anyway, I’ve painted a lot of rooms many times over, and over the last few years I’ve learned a few things that make the whole experience a lot more pleasant and successful.

painting tip #1: buying paint without looking at swatches in the room rarely delivers enviable results.

It’s kind of a pain in the ass to go to the paint store, find a few chips or sample pots you like, go home, look at them on your walls in different lights, go back to the store and order the paint. But it’s even more irritating to buy an entire gallon (or even a quart, for that matter) of something you think is going to be totally awesome that the next day makes you want to retch.

painting tip #2, in which I totally contradict myself: try the oops pile.

Sometimes you have to just go for it, but only when the paint is cheap. I do not condone buying cheap paint, just paying very little money for good-quality paint. This is accomplished by going to your local paint store and buying a gallon of accidental paint in an interesting but random color – who knows, you might score a brilliant find. Cheap paint, something that costs in the neighborhood of $20-30/gallon, probably will take more to cover and will leave a less desirable finish. Pay the extra $10 and at least get Benjamin Moore, my sort of entry-level good-quality paint. I always get the zero-VOC Natura line when I’m getting a custom color. Other great zero-VOC paints I’ve used include American Pride (a.k.a. Mythic) and YOLO colorhouse (be careful – this splatters but the finish is velvet lovely).

painting tip #3: tools matter.

Buy the best quality brushes you can afford and take care of them (Merit Pro, shown here, are relatively cheap and high quality). Rinse them out after use, and don’t soak them. Also, try a smaller roller, like this one. I love this smaller size because it’s easier to handle, can fit in tighter spaces (like behind the toilet), and uses less energy to wield.

painting tip #4: use a dropcloth.

Or this can happen, even to the most seasoned veterans:

painting tip #5: prime over a shiny finish, but don’t bother over flat.

Part of why I think a lot of people find painting to be a chore is all the preparation work you have to do, like priming and taping. I find these to be largely unnecessary in most circumstances. If you paint over an umprimed semi-gloss or other somewhat shiny finish without priming, your color will take, but it will flake off whenever you try to hang a picture or hit it barely touch it with something hard and you’ll be constantly touching it up. I also find taping to be largely unnecessary, and find it much more useful to use a high-quality brush and learn to paint straight lines:

Obviously in very small areas or in places where there’s no room for mistakes, like between window panes, tape is better. I just have found that I tend to be careless and sloppy when I tape and it ends up looking worse than if I had just painted a straight line.

painting tip #6: trim does not have to be white.

When I first wrote this in 2009, I think it was a lot more novel as a design trend than it is now. Monochromatic trim is pretty common at this point, either in a different shade – lighter or darker – than the wall, or the same shade. Black trim with white walls is also killer, although be prepared to lose your deposit if you do this, no matter how cool it looks. True story.

in April 30, 2012

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