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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Oh Boy, Charpoy

The entrance area of our apartment in Chennai, India — the India pied-à-terre — is mostly empty right now:

How to Stencil DIY Tutorial: Indian Design Floral Damask Wallpaper Wall Stencils

We got that cute low table with the little cushioned seats from an Indian online shopping site, Urban Ladder. It’s their Kivaha table. The table is supposed to be in the living room as a coffee table. But this entrance area was so woefully empty, and I needed to photograph this wall I painted, so I styled up the tiny bit of furniture available. The focus of this photo was mostly the wall, anyway! See how to paint a wall to look like this, visit my tutorial at Paint+Pattern. And click here to see how to make those hanging lanterns. Yes, these lanterns can be easily DIY’d!

I’m dreaming of our next trip to India, and doing more decorating and furnishing of the apartment. For this entrance area, we need seating for visitors. And I’m looking for a charpoy. What’s a charpoy? Check out a Pinterest Board full of ’em to see! It’s a wood and woven bench/daybed/cot. An iconic piece of Indian furniture. Here’s a charpoy you can get in the U.S. from Restoration Hardware:

Restoration Hardware Charpoy

My plan is to find a charpoy in India, vintage or new, on our next trip. Or I may have our carpenter build the wood frame and I would weave the seating myself. You can do that, you know:

Then, I would stencil patterns with white or light gray paint on cream color fabric, and sew a cushion cover and fill it with foam. It would look something like this, a cushion on a charpoy shown at HELLO Blogzine:

Charpoy Cushions and Pillows shown at HELLO Blogzine

And of course, I would paint stencil designs on more fabrics to make pillows. I’d look for white embroidered chikankari fabric to make pillows. Maybe cream or light gray or white sari fabric or cream color sari borders too, if I can find such a thing in colorful India.

You see, I’m keeping the apartment light, like Scandinavian white in India, as shared here in a post years ago.

I know for sure one of the pillows will have sheesha mirrors sewed on similar to the John Robshaw sheesha pillow:

John Robshaw Sheesha Mirror Pillows

I have packages of Darice mirrors found at Joann, and yeah this pillow will be another DIY. Maybe I’ll sew the mirrors in rows over painted stripes. We’ll see!

The end goal is a charpoy with a riot of patterns, with quieter colors.

And oh yeah, here’s the mirror that will hang above the charpoy:

Mirror for India Apartment

But this dang mirror! I bought it many years ago and since then it’s lived in our basement and a storage unit. It’s JUST a smidgen too big to pack for checked luggage on Etihad without incurring big extra fees. Ugh! And the mirror really can’t be disassembled without damaging it a lot. Believe me, I’ve thought of all ways to get this mirror to India. But I’ll figure out a way sometime, that’s for sure!

We’ve already hauled this rug to India to put in this space: It’s the Beaumont Adileh VII2 Talisman Rug from RugsUSA:

RugsUSA Beaumont Talisman Rug

I thought that rug would look great with the charpoy, cushion and pillows.

Here’s another shot of the entry area:

Nomadic Decorator India Apartment

Hopefully after our next trip, there will be a very pattern-full charpoy piled with cushions and pillows here!

And yes, you can paint on fabric to make your own designs. See links to a whole bunch of stenciled fabric projects I’ve done, in my post about how to be a fabric designer with paint and stencils.

And oh boy … in addition to looking for a charpoy, I have a lot of DIYs to do on our next trip, huh?





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DIY Saree Curtains and the Brightest Light Bulb in the World

Nothing like trying to sleep with a bright light bulb shining in your face. Imagine the bright bulb is not in your room, but it is in the NEIGHBOR’S house! And it’s shining into your bedroom through open windows. That’s what happened to us in India this summer.

If you’ve ever been to India, you know that flavors are stronger, sounds are louder, the heat is hotter, colors are brighter and … well, actually, light bulbs do not shine brighter in my experience. Except for that one light bulb the neighbors have shining 24/7, right outside our bedroom window. Of all places, why there?!?

This single light bulb had the power to render eyelids useless. And there are privacy issues of course. It’s hard to drift off to happy dreamland when you worry about someone peeping in the window only three feet away.

Light Bulb

The window was naked because curtain rods were not installed yet. So we draped a saree over an open ladder. Classy times. That blocked 60% of the window. It was enough for the weary to get rest.

The next day, a few guys hung curtain rods on all of our windows, and I turned that saree into actual curtains.

Sew a Saree Curtain

I know there are many readers here from India who wear sarees, and please forgive me. I do worry that what I’m about to suggest is like suggesting we turn my clothing into curtains. But it’s so tempting. Sarees can have 18 and more feet of fabric, about 3 feet wide. And many are so beautiful. I know people will drape them over four-poster beds, people will drape them down walls, so why not drape them over windows.

Here’s the saree I turned into curtains for the India pied-à-terre master bedroom:

Saree for Curtains

It’s a simple beige silk, with white, gray and gold block printing and copper metallic thread accents. I bought it at a Craftmark silk show in Chennai many years ago.

Silk Saree

First, I sewed white cotton into lining, We found the plain white cotton at Nalli saree store in Panagal Park, Chennai. Let me tell you, it is not easy to find plain unadorned non-textured white fabric in India. It’s quite the hunt. And you get interesting looks when you describe what you’re looking for. Like, why?!? Given the millions of colorful, patterned, textured choices in India … indeed, why, except curtain linings should be as plain as possible.

Sewing the lining is simple. You sew down the sides, sew the top, sew the bottom. I sewed on a vintage Singer machine stand we found in India (tailors have them on roadsides everywhere) and I brought my machine from the U.S. in a suitcase! We had to get an electrical transformer that weighs about as much as a rickshaw, to allow me to use the machine in India.

Sewing in India

The biggest problem is wrestling with such large lengths of fabric, and keeping lines straight over the long haul. Be vigilant to ensure straight lines don’t creep into becoming crooked lines. Measure with a ruler and pin all seams. Your eyes can fool you into thinking you’re folding straight lines over many yards of fabric. A ruler will keep you honest.

And also, boredom. This was about as much fun as sewing hospital bed sheets.

Pinning and Sewing

Thrilled to move on from this boring task, I didn’t want to spend any more time with it to iron it. So the lining is wrinkled, but they face the outside so this isn’t noticeable.

Curtain Lining

For the saree, sewing was simpler because the selvedges made the right and left sides. Seams were needed only at the top and bottom hem. The hardest part here was ensuring both pieces of fabric wound up the exact same length. Measure. Then measure again. Then measure again. Measure one more time.

You will probably have to measure yet again. This will happen when the first panel is sewn and the two panels are no longer the same length. They were before. But they’re not now. You may want to punch something. Don’t. Measure instead. Make it zen. Turn on 80s dance music. Whatever you gotta do to deal with it. Remove pins from the second panel, measure, pin again, then measure again. Then measure again. Measure one more time.

Measuring took more time than sewing!

This is what I did for a whole day of my vacation in India. Pinning, measuring, sewing. Great times.

But the final result was … no more brightest-lightbulb-in-the-world shining through our naked window, and fears of waking up at 3 a.m. to see a face peering in. One day of work, many nights of peaceful sleep. It’s a fair trade.

Saree Curtains

So to address the obvious issue here …

Saree Curtain

Leaving part of the pallu design on one side was necessary to get the right length. (The pallu is the part of the saree that hangs straight down when draped over a shoulder.) I thought it would be like an irreverent cast-all-rules-out-the-window kind of look. It says I’m willing to break the curtain molds that bind us. But it is bothering me now. I might replace the bottom of the left side with the blouse fabric. It won’t be the same design as the right side, but it will be a contrasting border, and it might help this situation feel more balanced.

Saree Curtain and Vintage Singer Sewing





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