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Whitewashing Interior Trim

Though wainscotting, trim, and wooden detailing often give a house character, some woodwork— specifically dark-stained softwoods—can look dated and overbearing, stealing the light and spunk from a room.

If your home has dark interior trim, what can you do to lighten the tone yet maintain the wood’s character? An excellent solution is similar to whitewashing. It involves stripping the wood, applying a special light-toned stain, and protecting with a clear finish.

The charm of this look is that it is at once both vintage and contemporary, offering the friendly driftwood warmth of Shaker furniture yet reflecting a metallic silver sheen. It is mixed from an oil-based “limed oak” stain, titanium dioxide—a white pigment—and powdered aluminum. The limed-oak stain is available at paint stores; the other two ingredients are sold at artist’s supply stores.[GARD align=”left”]

As with most staining or painting jobs, preparation is key. For the stain to take, all varnish or paint must be stripped and sanded from the wood. If your trim has years of built-up varnish, the stripping and sanding will be by far the most tedious part of the job.

To refinish an area about the size of the corner shown in the photograph at right (from floor to ceiling), the stripping and sanding took about two hours, the stain application about 15 minutes.

For the stripping, you can use either paint remover or furniture refinisher, depending upon the existing finish. Paint remover will strip paint of multiple layers of varnish. Furniture refinisher is less caustic and can handle stripping one or two coats of varnish effectively (just apply it with steel wool and wipe the surfaces with a rag).

No matter which stripper you choose, work from a metal bucket and wear rubber gloves to protect your hands. Don’t forget to protect the floor with a dropcloth before you begin and plan to repaint wall areas around the trim.

After cleaning the stripped wood with a rag, sand all surfaces until you reach lighter wood beneath the surface. Begin with a 60-grit paper and finish with 100-grit or finer. Choose “open-coat” silica sandpaper; it will last longer than lesser quality abrasives.

You can sand by hand or, for a large area, use a power vibrating sander (a “palm sander” is the easiest to handle for this type of work). if sanding doesn’t lighten the wood satisfactorily, you can apply an easy-to-use, two-part wood bleach, available at paint stores.[GARD align=”left”]

To mix the stain, pour about 2 inches of limed oak oil-based stain into a plastic bucket. Add about 2 tablespoons of white titanium dixoide and mix well. Then stir in about 1 tablespoon of aluminum powder.

Test the stain in an inconspicuous place and modify ingredient amounts if necessary. Then tackle the actual application, working in areas that you can complete in about 15 minutes—the period the stain should set before you wipe it off. Use clean rags to wipe off all excess stain, rubbing in line with the wood’s grain.

Allow the stain to dry thoroughly—at least a day—and then complete the job with a non-yellowing clear finish such as an acrylic.

Venetian Plaster Paint Effects

Plaster effects used to be something you’d leave to the professionals because the original materials, marble dust and lime putty, were difficult to handle. However, with the newer acrylic plasters, you can create a wide variety of beautiful wall textures yourself.

Overlapping colors of Venetian plaster may seem complex, but it’s more forgiving than trying to cover a wall in just one color. You can use colors with high contrast or cover your walls in variations of the same color. Keep in mind that mixing colors on the opposite end of the color spectrum will create a muddy gray, so the higher the contrast between your colors, the less you should blend them.

Use a light touch, and be sure to step back once in a while so you can get an idea of the effect you’re creating.[GARD align=”right”]


Materials and tools you’ll need:

* Acrylic Venetian plaster in three colors
* Steel spatula or 6-inch drywall knife with corners that have been sanded round
* Cotton rags
* Disposable rubber gloves

Step-by-Step Venetian Plaster Paint Techniques

1Prepare the wall you’re painting as directed by the manufacturer of the Venetian plaster.

2Spread one plaster color over random areas of the wall using the spatula or drywall knife.



3Apply the second color the same way.



4Cover the remaining bare areas with the third color.




5Using the drywall knife or spatula, blend the colors together a little at the edges. Flatten thick areas so they won’t crack as they dry, but don’t smooth out the surface completely.



6Pull excess material across corners to the adjacent wall.




7Smooth plaster into the corner with a finger of a gloved hand.




8Repeat for the remaining walls.

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Frottage Painting

Pressing film, fabric, or any other thin material into glaze and then peeling it off produces a finish known as frottage, which is the French word for “rub.” The technique results in a richly varied texture far different from what you can do with a brush or roller.

Materials used to create the texture are limited only by your imagination. Thin plastic, such as dry-cleaner bags or plastic food wrap, works well, as do inexpensive dropcloths.You can also experiment with highly textured fabrics such as burlap or lace.

In the project shown here, glossy newspaper pages were used. The transference of some of their ink to the glaze adds to the mysterious, mottled look.

To achieve this effect, use pages from the Sunday magazine or from advertising iserts. The ink transfer is subtle, so you don’t have to worry about finding whole words or identifiable images appearing in reverse your wall.

Materials and tools you’ll need:

* Base paint (eggshell sheen)[GARD align=”right”]

* Painter’s tape

* Glaze

* Paints or pigments to tint the glaze

* Rollers with covers (one per glaze color)

* Paint trays (one per color)

* Glossy newspaper pages

* Clear finish, such as acrylic or shellac

* Brush or roller for clear sealer

* Disposable gloves


How to Do Frottage Painting

1 Over a properly prepared surface, apply two coats of base paint. Allow each coat to dry as the label recommends.

2Apply painter’s tape to the top and bottom of the wall. You don’t need to tape corners if you will use this technique on adjoining walls.

3Crumple sheets of newspaper and then open them up. Let the wrinkles set while you prepare several colors of opaque glaze. Using separate rollers, apply the glazes in randomly sized blocks over an area about 3 by 3 feet. The blocks should meet each other.

4Working quickly, press the wrinkled sheets into the glaze.


As soon as you have pressed paper
into all of the glaze in a section, lift a corner of the first sheet to check that the ink color has transferred. If it hasn’t, leave the paper in place a little longer, but don’t wait so long that the glaze dries. The room’s temperature and the proportion of paint to glaze will affect the amount of time the process takes.


6If small parts of newspaper stick
to the glaze, leave them to add to the look, but brush or roll on a clear finish to seal the surface and keep the bits of paper from falling off. As with all techniques created with glaze, you should also apply sealer if you will need to clean the wall on a regular basis.

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Tissue Paper Paint Effects

Texturing with tissue paper can add depth and nuance to any wall. This simple technique, along with the right paints and glazes, can give a wall a range of different looks.

For a simple textured finish, you can use just paint or cover it with a glaze that’s two shades darker. To create a leather-like texture, use a reddish, brown, or tan paint and finish with a darker glaze. To mimic gold leaf, use gold paint and then rub in a red-tinted glaze.


Materials and tools you’ll need:

• Wallpaper paste[GARD align=”right”]

• Primer

• Tissue paper, to cover plus about 5% more

• Paint, with an eggshell sheen finish

• Glaze, if needed for the effect you have chosen

• Rollers and brushes, including chip brushes

• Cotton T-shirt rags

• Disposable rubber gloves


Step-by-Step Tissue Paper Painting

1Prime the wall if it is a much darker shade than the color you have chosen.


2Rip the edges off enough sheets of tissue paper to cover the wall you’re texturing, plus a few extra.




3Gently crumple each tissue and then open the sheets and lay them flat.






4Using a roller or brush, spread wallpaper paste evenly and smoothly over the wall.




5Press a sheet of tissue paper into the pasted wall. Try to get it as flat as you can, but don’t worry about small wrinkles.




6Even out some of the wrinkles with a chip brush, press the other wrinkles into folds, and then crease down the folds to make sure they firmly adhere to the wall.




7Use the same technique to apply succeeding sheets to the wall, overlapping the edges of the sheets. Again, use the chip brush to smooth the tissue or press it into folds. Tear off any overlapping pieces.




8When you have finished the wall, inspect it for any bare spots and cover them with small pieces of tissue. Dab on more wallpaper paste if necessary.




9Once the paste is completely dry, brush or roll on the primer. Smooth any drips (which tend to collect where the tissue is creased) with a chip brush while the primer is still wet.






10Wait for the primer to dry thoroughly and then brush or roll on the paint. Smooth drips with a chip brush.




11If you have chosen an effect that requires glaze, wait for the paint to dry and then apply it with a chip brush. Use rags to gently (don’t rip the tissue) work the glaze in to create your desired effect.

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Mottled Decorative Paint Finishes

Mottling is a faux-finishing technique that aims to mimic the appearance of leather or parchment. The basic idea is to first apply a base coat and then dab or swirl incomplete and irregular layers of colored glaze over it. A mottled finish is easier than most faux finishes and so may be a good choice for a beginner. mottled decorative finish

If you mix light colors with dark, or choose paint colors that are very different from each other, the result will be lively and attention-grabbing. Mixing slightly different hues of the same basic color will have a more subtle effect, giving walls a sense of depth and providing interesting shading.

Experiment on scrap pieces of drywall or plywood until you achieve the color combination and application technique that most pleases you. This is an important step; otherwise, you may be disappointed once you finish painting the entire room.[GARD align=”left”]

Once you have applied the base coat, you can apply the glaze(s) in a decorative way. Or, you can apply an even coat of glaze and then use a tool to partially pull it off to create texture. You may work by dabbing with a sponge, swirling with a standard brush or a special faux- finish brush, dragging or rolling a glaze-soaked rag across the surface, or even tapping with a feather duster.

Aim for a consistent look throughout the room. Glaze dries slower than paint, but you don’t have a great deal of time, so get your technique down before you start. Work in irregularly shaped sections about 4 feet square. And work on succeeding sections before the preceding section has dried as applying new glaze to dried glaze will create an obvious overlap. Also, step back and examine the wall from time to time.

Mottling with a Two-Part Roller

With a special roller and paint tray, you can apply two colors of paint at the same time. The effect is jarring at first, but if you roll back and forth in random directions, the colors blend and create a mottled look.

Because you use only paint, the finish lacks the translucent quality that glaze offers. The trade-off, though, is speed, as you don’t need separate base and glaze coats.

Materials and tools you’ll need:

* Two-part roller with tray
* Wall paint in two colors (any sheen)
* Painter’s tape
* Newspaper
* Chip brush
* Cotton T-shirt rags

Step-by-Step Mottled Painting

1Apply painter’s tape along the top, bottom, and side edges of the wall.


2Pour the two colors of paint into separate sections of the tray. Load the roller by moving it back and forth into the paint and across the raised section of the tray.


3Roll back and forth in different directions on several sheets of newspaper until the paint colors blend on the roller. This will help ensure that subsequent sections will look similar to the first.



4 Reload the roller and roll it back and forth in random directions.

5Use the chip brush to move paint into corners the roller doesn’t reach. Dab to blend the colors so the look resembles the rest of the wall. Remove the painter’s tape when you’re finished.


6With a damp rag, clean off any smears on the ceiling or baseboard. You don’t have to worry about smears on adjoining walls if you will be painting them.

The final effect shows how the colors blend. Wait for one wall to dry before you paint the next. Tightly cover the roller and tray with plastic while you wait.

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Painting by Rag Rolling

Rag rolling produces a mottled look with distinct lines. There are two ways to do it—with gloved hands and a twisted rag, or with a specialized roller. Rollers don’t reach into corners or narrow sections near doorways or windows, so you will probably need to do parts by hand even if you opt for a roller for the large expanse of a wall.

Materials and tools you’ll need:

* Base paint (eggshell sheen)[GARD align=”right”]
* Glaze
* Paint or universal colorant to tint glaze
* Painter’s tape
* Cotton T-shirt rags
* Disposable gloves

Step-by-Step Rag Rolling

1Apply two coats of base paint. When the final coat is dry, mask off all surfaces you do not want to paint. Also tape along adjoining walls because rag rolling deposits far more glaze into corners than other mottling methods do.

2Prepare an opaque or medium glaze. Wearing gloves, dunk a dry rag into the glaze and twist the cloth so that it resembles a thick, short rope.


3Roll the rag across the wall in random directions. When the marks become faint, reload the cloth with more glaze and continue rolling. Do not allow the rag to become too saturated or it will slip on the surface and smear the glaze. Also avoid using a freshly loaded rag along a corner because excess glaze may drip into the crease. Instead, gently push a fairly dry cloth into the corner.


4The final result shows a random pattern in the glaze.



To create this look with a roller, use a specialized tool that consists of a cylinder with a cloth cover and end caps.

The cloth cover is twisted to create a series of folds that leave their imprint in the glaze. With the roller, you can produce a network of diagonal lines.[GARD align=”right”]

But if you’re working in a small area where the roller won’t fit, you’ll need to glaze these sections by hand. In this case, roll in random directions so the two areas blend.

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