How to Layer a Crazy Mix of Stencils on a Wall

In February 2018, I went on a three-week painting binge … in India!

Yes. I painted stencils all over three walls, canvasses, carved wood, backplates for sconces. It was the best three weeks ever. Despite having a bad cold, and terrible hacking-coughing 10 feet up on a ladder. But hey, I stenciled to the tippy-top of those 10 foot walls!

Crazy Mix of Stencils on a Wall

India Apartment Guest Room

This was one wall I painted. Imagine this as the background of … SOME DAY … a four-poster daybed of carved wood with fantastical India motifs. Painted light gray. Draped with sheer sarees cascading down the posts. And slathered with kantha quilts and pillows in bright pinks, oranges and blues with just a touch of that mustard color.

Some day this will be a fully-complete guest room. For now, it’s my husband’s office when he’s in Chennai, India. And this wall probably isn’t what he was expecting! But he still has a more professional plain white wall for his GoToMeeting and Skype calls from the desk in the corner.

How to Layer Stencils On a Wall

So … here’s a step by step of how to “build” a stenciled wall like this. I will warn, there’s some measuring to do. A yardstick or measuring tape does the math for you.

First, decide which stencils you want to put where. Which stencils do you want on the bottom, in the middle, on the top? Here was my mock-up. I had an idea in mind, and wanted to see if I still liked it on the wall:

Stencil Layout and Measurements of Backgrounds

Which stencils do you choose? Here was my rule of thumb – I tried to go for contrast in different ways:

  • The stencil at the bottom is “denser” and will be filled with a lot more paint than the “lighter” trellis pattern on the top. So I balanced a denser/heavier pattern with a lighter pattern.
  • The paisley and trellis patterns have curvy lines, so I chose a blockier geographic type stencil for the border in the middle.

So those are some ways you can get contrast. You can also pair big stencil patterns with small patterns. Mix florals with straight-edge geometrics.

Now, decide if you want different color backgrounds behind your stencils. You don’t have to do backgrounds. Different backgrounds add extra dimension, but they also add extra time and difficulty. If you want, you could just paint the stencils, with the wall the same color behind all stencils. But if you want different background colors, measuring is important.

As you see above, I started taping the wall to mark where background colors would be painted. I measured the bottom section first, then I measured for the border in the middle. I drew pencil lines on the wall. You can see these lines just barely in the photo above near the middle border area. You will have to keep moving the blue lines from one side of the pencil lines to the other, and tape over areas you just painted, so be careful. Paint should have enough time to dry so you don’t pull it off with the tape.

How to Choose Colors

Look at other things in the room. This is in India, and eventually this guest bedroom will have a bed covered with bright colors, and walls with bright art:

Guest Bedroom Colors

Guest Bedroom Colors

I decided to play up the pink, and bring the grays and silvers to the top of the wall to give the eye a rest from the color crazy that will eventually fill much of the room. And for contrast to the feminine pinks and curves, I chose the mustardy-turmeric-curry color for the border.

Here’s a view of the rug in the room which also has these colors:

India Guest Bedroom Rug

Here’s the wall taped off and ready for painting the background colors:

Taped for Background Color Painting

Painting Background Colors

I can’t just run to the store for paint in India like I can at home by Chicago. Well, I CAN – there is an Asian Paints within walking distance of our apartment. Asian Paints is like the Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams of India. But, I already had many sample sizes of Asian Paints. Some of them were older. Pro painters would probably groan at what I did. I wanted a light warm pink background on the bottom but I didn’t have pink. So I chose the creamier/ivory Asian Paints latex colors and dumped them all in a container. Then I added drops of Emperor’s Silk Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan until the pink was where I wanted it:

Mixing a Pink Paint

Mixing a Pink Paint

Starting with warm creamy ivories and adding red made a warm dusty pink. I was channeling the Pink City of Jaipur.

I had limited supplies, so I mixed this in a Frog Tape container!

Frog Tape

Asian Paints paint sticks to everything, plus I don’t know where the water drains from our India apartment or the effects of paint going down our drains. So I didn’t clean the container, I just threw it out. There’s a few guys who live near the community garbage bins who make money from pulling garbage and recycling it. They watch for us. They LOVE our garbage!

I wanted an uneven, plaster-y look on the wall. So I spread light amounts of paint on a trowel – honestly, a cheap and BROKEN plastic trowel, the only thing I had available in India – and troweled the latex paint on the wall.

Troweling Latex Paint

The broken trowel got annoying. I had to be careful to not make sharp scratches with it. But, it worked okay. I eventually had to break off the broken part.

Broken Plastic Trowel

I moved the trowel every which way like drunken hashmarks, for an uneven application. It went very fast. I let some splotches of the original white paint show through. Because the trowel applied a light layer, the paint dried fast.

Soon, I was choosing colors for the next step, stenciling:

Which Metallic to Paint

Hmmm, which to choose?

Though it’s hard to tell from the pictures because it looks pink, I chose the orange in the middle. I forget which paint it was now. It’s a metallic that has orange & pink. The stencil is the Rani Paisley Stencil from Royal Design Studio in furniture stencil size. You can also get it bigger in wall stencil size.

Painting Paisley Stencil on Wall

You can see I finished one entire section – background + stencil – before moving up to the next section.

Painting a Border

Unfortunately I did not photograph every step of the border section. It got dark out. This room is lit with two lousy lightbulbs. I could barely see with my eyes wide open.

There was some fancy moving of the tape several times. Remember you have to move the tape or you will have an unpainted area behind the tape! I had to remove some tape and put it over the pink area, then paint the border background. The background is the mustardy-curry color. Then I used a metallic copper color to paint stencils over the curry color. Here’s a close-up:

Stencil Border Detail

Honestly I think I was doing all this at 2 a.m. Because jetlag. And, you can see I did crazy stuff with a skinny border line for extra credit or something, even though there’s no teacher to impress, it’s just myself.

I don’t even know how to explain how to measure to get the curry color background behind the big geometric shapes, and the pink background behind those skinny lines. That really needed to be a video to show you. Just … measure twice, then measure again, and measure again. Test a small area first before painting the whole thing. Test in an area that’s usually behind a door, curtain or cabinet, somewhere not seen so well. You can always paint over it and start over if you measured wrong.

Or sometimes a better idea is to not drive yourself crazy with all this measuring in the first place. Why didn’t I think of that.

At some point it was light out again. And it must have been hot, because the ceiling fan is running.

Now it’s time to paint the top. And climb up the ladder and try not to get hit by the ceiling fan!

Stenciling in India

You can see here, the pink on the bottom relates to the pink in the floor tile, and the dark copper in the border relates to the copper in the ceiling fan. Also on the other end of the room, there are dark copper wall sconces and some curry/tamarind color on the wall. So these colors get repeated around the room.

Mixing More Colors

Now, I wanted a silvery gray background on the top. I stared at the wall for awhile and wondered if I should go bold, really BOLD, and paint bright color on the top too. But honestly, all this color is pushing it for me personally. And it’s feeling more feminine than what I’m comfortable with. So I decided to tame things down just a little bit by painting tones of silvery gray on the top.

I pulled white latex paints with cool undertones from Asian Paints from my stash of sample paints. Then, mixed Aged Nickel Stencil Creme from Royal Design Studio into the Asian Paint whites. The Aged Nickel has shimmer and sheen so it added a metallic glimmer to the latex paint.

Mixing Silvery Gray Paint

I was also hoping I wasn’t compromising the Asian Paints with this mixing, but as I write this, the paint has been on the wall for a year, my husband has visited the apartment recently, and the walls are fine. The colors I added are a very small % of the paint.

Mixing Silvery Gray Paint

Like I did with the pink background, I troweled the silvery gray paint on with the broken plastic trowel. It’s a light layer:

Troweling on Silvery Gray Paint

Then, I stenciled the trellis stencil with straight up Aged Nickel Stencil Creme for a tone on tone look. The stencil is the Raj Indian Trellis Stencil from Royal Design Studio.

Raj Trellis Stencil

Things are getting shadowy again, so another day has gone by.

On the Third Day, She Styles!

Finally finished! We don’t have furniture for this room yet, so I pulled in sofa cushions from the living room and styled them up like a Moroccan floor seating situation. Just pretend there’s chai tea or mint tea.

Styled Up

Even a tassel I found in Marrakech has the colors of this room:

Indian-Moroccan Style

Guest Room in India Apartment

As the sun sets again, the colors deepen and get mysterious. Time to relax and enjoy!

Colors of the Guest Room

See another stenciled wall in this same apartment in India – it’s a “headboard” behind the master bedroom bed. It’s a very different look! Visit the post that shows how I painted this with stencils and metallic paints:

Painted Headboard Wall Finished





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DIY Painted Wall Headboard

If you want a unique, one-of-a-kind and affordable headboard, how about painting a headboard on the wall? If you like to change decor often, you can easily paint over it to make a new look. You can customize it to the color and design you want. That’s what I did to make a unique headboard in our apartment in India.

The first time I shared the inspiration photo for this project was way back in October 2010:

Inspiration Photo

That was only 3 days after I launched this blog! In February 2018, I spent three weeks in India, working in the apartment. I finally painted this:

Painted Headboard Wall Finished

I’m happy to see this idea come true!

Why did it take so long to get things done? Two reasons:  1) There was a lot of trial and error with architects and contractors from half a planet away, and we got so frustrated that we stopped working on the apartment for a while, and 2) My husband and I both worked full-time so there was limited time to go to India.

How to make a painted headboard wall

As you’ll see below, I used stencils for my headboard wall. But you don’t have to use stencils. You can paint whatever you want. I mostly hope to inspire you to see a different way to do things than the usual way, which is to buy a wood headboard or upholstered headboard. You don’t even have to paint all the way up to the ceiling. You can paint a square, rectangle, arched or rounded shape on the wall in the area where you usually see headboards.

The original inspiration photo was published in an Australian décor magazine, Vogue Living. It is a mother-of-pearl door from India. To make the diamond shapes like you see in the door, I used stencils from Royal Design Studio — the large Star Diamonds Wall Stencil and the smaller Star Diamonds Furniture Stencil:

Star Diamond Stencils

Mother-of-pearl has a metallic quality to it, so I painted with shimmery paints. I used Royal Design Studio Stencil Cremes in Bronze Age, Smoked Oyster and Aged Nickel. And I made a custom copper.

Stencil Creme

There’s a copper color Stencil Creme (Copper Kettle) but I didn’t have enough. So I mixed these colors together to make a yummy rich glowing copper:

Custom Copper Color

First, I painted a base coat with a taupe color, Asian Paints Silk Route, back in 2015!

Asian Paints Silk Route

I thought this base coat would make it easier to build rich color than stenciling directly on a white wall.

Now, 3 years later, I dabbed and swirled one of the shimmery Stencil Cremes over the Silk Route paint. I think this was Aged Nickel? Or it could have been Bronze Age. I’m sorry I didn’t keep notes.

Metallic Base Coat

Here you can see the mottled metallic look made by the shimmery paint:

Shimmery Base Coat

It’s a little blotchy but that gets covered up a lot by the stenciled pattern.

So many of these photos will be bad, I admit it! I painted most of this at night with bad lighting. The lighting was even worse than usual because one of the wall sconces stopped working.

Here you see I painted the big diamonds along the edges first. Then I filled in the middle with the small diamonds:

In Progress

This is 10 feet tall! It’s hard to tell by the photos how tall it is. It took many hours to fill in the whole pattern. I had two of these small diamond stencils, so I could work in two areas at the same time while paint dried.

Almost done!! After painting all night until about 4 a.m.

Almost Done

I remember being really sick and coughing so hard it hurt while painting this. Why keep painting? There was limited time before I had to go home to Chicago. And I’d already waited more than 7 years to paint this! So I didn’t care how sick I was. I decided not to climb to the top of the ladder and finish that top row at 4 a.m. when I was so tired and sick. I left it for the next day.

Once this was done, it seemed like it needed something more. It just didn’t “feel finished.” So I painted some more. I added dark borders and scrolly stencil patterns on the edges:

Adding Borders

The scrolly pattern is a custom stencil cut with my Cricut Explore, with a vector illustration purchased from Shutterstock.

Ahhhh! This feels better! It feels done!

Finished Painted Wall Headboard

Are there enough diamond shapes here?!

Also, I “pounced” or dabbed bronze and silver colors over the patterns with a brush to make an antique and “slightly dirty” look:

Close Up of Pattern

The day after, I was so tired from painting till 4 a.m., I crashed with the phone next to me, probably in the middle of Instagramming. When I opened my eyes, I saw this. The rich, multi-patterned look I worked so hard to make:

Scene in Master Bedroom Pattern Layers

It’s a little thing, but this view made it all worth it!

This boho chic patchwork pillow is another DIY project shared here on the blog:

DIY Stenciled Patterned Pillow

Here are shots of the room:

Tassel

Block Print Bedding and Curtain

Master Bedroom Simple Furnishings

Chinese Chest Nightstand

Simple Master Bedroom

It’s furnished simply. We spend only a few weeks a year here so we don’t need much stuff. And everything gets very dusty in India, even indoors, so the less stuff we have, the less stuff we have to clean.

Some walls still need more art. But the “headboard wall” is complete. Finally.

DIY Painted Headboard Wall

For a very different look, visit a post where I show how to use different stencils like the wall shown below. This wall is also in our apartment in India, in the guest bedroom. It’s a softer more feminine look:

Crazy Mix of Stencils on a Wall





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Furniture Makeover: From Danish Modern to “Antique”

Several times, I’ve transformed furniture from a plain “Danish modern” style into something far more interesting (to me, at least!). Did you know you can makeover furniture from plain Danish modern into a global style — Chinese antique and Indian antique?

Here’s a few pieces I’ve made over …

I did a makeover on this cabinet to make it look like a Chinese antique:

DIY Cabinet Makeover

Click here for a full tutorial. I used a small poster of a Chinese scene that I ordered from the V&A Museum, olive green milk paint, a few pieces of basswood, and Chinese style hardware found on eBay. That’s it! It now fits much better with our global decor, with Moroccan lanterns and a gong found in Cambodia.

I added raised stencils and Chalk Paint to this armoire to make it look like an Indian antique:

DIY Armoire Makeover

Click here for a full tutorial. I used a Moroccan stencil from Royal Design Studio and created a raised effect, and several colors of Chalk Paint and Clear Wax from Annie Sloan to totally transform this armoire. Oh, and new pulls that look old, from Anthropologie.

Cabinet Makeover Indian Antique

I’m itching to do another piece. I wanted a shelf or cabinet in our living room to hold a bunch of books. While surfing the Ikea website, I found the BESTA cabinet with DJUPVIKEN doors:

IKEA BESTA DJUPVIKEN Doors

That’s what that cabinet looks like now. But when I look at it, I see its future!

I see adding paint to make it look old, metal studs, and old metal hardware from India, to make it look like an antique damachiya (wedding chest) from northern India. Here’s a few examples of what this cabinet could become …

This damachiya was sold by Hammer & Hand Imports at Etsy. I loooove it, the chippy turquoise paint:

Antique Turquoise Blue Indian Wedding Chest Global Warm Industrial Storage Trunk Sideboard Console Media Console

Incidentally, the carved chippy painted wood piece that we used for the base of a bathroom counter in our “second home” apartment in India was found at the Hammer & Hand Etsy shop — check out what we did with it!

Here’s a damachiya that shows the metal stud idea, from De-Cor in Pasadena, California:

Damachiya from de-cor

I think it’s the raised square-ish shapes on the IKEA cabinet that made me see it as a damachiya similar to these old chests. With chalk paint or milk paint and the right metal accents, I could make the IKEA look old, like we found it in a desert hideaway in Rajasthan and shipped it to Chicago!

You can tell I’m not a huge fan of the currently popular mid-century modern style. Because any furniture we own that’s similar to that style, I keep turning into global antique style!

Maybe you will see a “DIY damachiya” in my living room in a future post.





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DIY Indigo Pillow with Dye Kit & Moroccan Stencil

In the last post, I shared a DIY Indigo Textile Dye Kit. The kit gives you everything you need to dye fabrics with an indigo blue color:

DIY Indigo Textile Dye Kit

See the previous post for more information about this indigo dye kit and where to get it. Today I will show you what I made with the kit.

DIY Indigo Pillow

I went on a few creative detours while making this indigo pillow. Long story short, I’m used to paint, which I can control better. The dye did what it wanted to do. It wasn’t in my control. Maybe that’s because I’m new with dye, and I didn’t know how to manipulate it to get the look I wanted. Sometimes with creative materials, you need to give in and let the process unfold into something you didn’t expect. But in the end, I couldn’t give up the control! I learned, I have control issues! I ultimately painted over the dye to make the clean pattern I wanted.

So here’s what I did. The DIY Indigo Textile Dye Kit comes with a large 27″ x 27″ piece of cotton fabric. It’s white, and I wanted a beige background. So I dipped the fabric in water colored with a neutral Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. This colored the cotton fabric, from white to beige:

Dye White Fabric Beige

I let the fabric air dry and ironed it.

I wanted to make a Moroccan stencil pattern with the indigo dye, using the Mamounia Moroccan Trellis Furniture Stencil from Royal Design Studio. My first idea was to create a resist, where the fabric would resist the blue dye, leaving the original beige fabric color. To do this, fabric I “painted” the fabric with Clear Soft Wax from Annie Sloan. I used a large brush and brushed the soft wax onto the fabric through the stencil, just like stenciling with paint:

Stencil and Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax

Stenciling with Annie Sloan Clear Soft Wax

Oh my goodness — it’s winter, I live in cold weather near Chicago, thus very dry hands!!

Next I mixed indigo dye with water, almost like a watercolor.

Watered Down Indigo Dye

I brushed the watered-down blue dye over the fabric. See here how the pattern emerged around the wax resist as I painted:

Painting with Indigo Dye

Lots of dye went through the fabric onto the foam core board behind. Here’s the foam core board!

Foam Core Board Mess

TIP: Protect your surface!

If you do this, protect your surface! I placed white foam core board under the fabric. Lots of dye went through the fabric and soaked into the foam core board. So definitely don’t play with this dye without protecting your surface first.

Unexpected, Uncontrollable Things

Something unexpected happened. The watered-down blue dye ran underneath the fabric. It dyed the fabric blue from underneath the wax. This made a dark blue/light blue pattern, which was different than the blue/beige I originally wanted. I liked the deep blue pattern you see in the video and the picture above with the paint brush.

But as the dye dried, the fabric changed. It got really blurry, fuzzy and messy looking, and in some areas it was really hard to see the stencil pattern. It’s like the pattern was disappearing before my eyes! I was not happy. I rinsed the fabric before the dye dried, in the stainless steel kitchen sink, washing much of the dye out. This made the pattern show again, but overall it looked messy to me.

Indigo Dye Pillow Fabric

I had a picture in my head of the end result I wanted to make, and the dye wasn’t doing it. This is where I could have given up control and let the dye do its natural thing. But I just couldn’t give up the original idea!

I let the fabric dry, ironed it to set the dye, and let the fabric sit for awhile as I decided the next step.

PaintING Expectations

I decided to lay the stencil over the fabric again, and paint with neutral color fabric paints. I knew this would make the indigo blue/neutral pattern contrast that I originally wanted.

I found some light and dark beige fabric paints in the craft store in our basement. That is not a joke. There’s so many DIY supplies down there, I do have a craft store in my house! As I painted, I blended colors through the stencil for a mottled effect.

Stencil Over Indigo Dye

Fabric Paints

Stenciling Fabric Paint Over Indigo Dye

Finally, happy!

Indigo Dye and Fabric Paints

This is the look I was trying to get! This is an example of “don’t give up.” Don’t wad up the fabric and throw it in the trash. (I did think about that.) If something isn’t working, set it aside for awhile. The answer will come to you.

I had a pillow form from Crate & Barrel, also in the craft store in our basement. I cut the indigo Moroccan fabric to fit the pillow form. I found a blue herringbone fabric in my fabric stash for the back side of the pillow. I liked the contrast of the two fabrics — one bohemian and patterned, one conservative and all lined up perfectly. I had two navy tassels bought in the souks of the Marrakech medina. I sewed these all together into a pillow.

Indigo Dyed and Painted Fabric

Moroccan and Herringbone

Marrakech Tassels

Here it is, a boho blue indigo pillow, on my mom and dad’s family room couch:

Indigo Pillow

I gifted the indigo pillow to my mom for Christmas. I knew it would look great with her blue and neutral decor, and it would add Moroccan pattern to her other pillows.

DIY Indigo Pillow





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