I will be honest, I get a bit frazzled in India. The action, heat, horns, lights, everything can be energizing, and it is also over-stimulating to me and wears me down after awhile. Because, it’s the flip opposite of the very quiet acre of land full of only nature and trees we’re used to living on outside of Chicago. So after a long day out and about in the middle of things in Chennai, the India pied-a-terre is an escape.
This might be why the India pied-a-terre is not full of the energizing colors you would expect me to use there, like hot pink!
It’s full of light and white. With actually, black as an accent color. I’m not sure what people think of using black as an accent color in India, but I like the edge it brings to a room. And, I use deep paprika orange and copper metallics. It’s hard to stay disciplined and stick only with these, so there are some touches of blue and one room does have hot pink paint stencils on a wall. But I keep the “hot” to a minimum!
Just inside the main door, we need a place to set keys, handbag, hat, wallet, shopping bags, phones, pieces of paper, etc.
Right now, all this stuff winds up carried further into the apartment, and it all gets piled up on the dining table of all places. When we want to eat, we have to clear all this stuff off. It’s like squeezing a toothpaste tube, though. All the stuff winds up thrown in a hurry on the sectional in the living room, then. It doesn’t belong there either! Living minimally leaves you with few surfaces for stuff. So, you have to be even more conscious of how you live, and what you need, and what annoys you, so the few things you do choose serve a good purpose for you.
We need a horizontal surface just inside the main door!
But not just ANY surface.
Here’s my “moodboard” for the space inside the main door:
I would love a white washed damchiya to go with this look. There’s a space to the right of the door where a damchiya could fit perfectly.
Though this is a white-on-white theme, it is not boring. The wood brings warmth. The pattern is visually interesting. I know the tribal look would contrast nicely with the more simple modern things in the room.
Here is one from Mugal Gallery that has shisha mirrors embedded on it.
You’ll notice in my inspiration moodboard above, there are pillows with shisha from John Robshaw in it.
I know people are excited about IKEA coming to India. There are a few things from IKEA USA in the apartment – things we could fit in our suitcases. But I don’t anticipate buying IKEA furniture for the apartment. I’d rather we find things with history and a story to tell, that we take care of for awhile before passing them on to others who will care just as much.
Sometimes I see an idea and it sticks and I have to do it.
I’ve followed Bisque on Instagram for years. They are in Byron Bay, Australia and they sell things mostly from India but also Africa and Indonesia with a distinctive look: many layers of natural textures in neutrals. Textures from carvings, weavings, nature’s etchings. They live with this look, they wear this look, they design the look for others.
Years ago I spotted a row of white painted jharokha in their pictures:
I intended to buy a collection of jharokha and hang them on a wall, copying the Bisque look with a little bit of shame. So far I only did one! I found the jharokha on Pepperfry.com and in the comfort of our home by Chicago, paid for it in rupees and had it shipped to the Chennai apartment. Gotta love online shopping. There it sat for maybe a year until my last trip to India.
It was dark brown. And you can see it was in rough shape.
Now, you gotta remember you can’t just go to Home Depot for last-minute supplies in India. So I usually pack things like wood glue and wood filler in our suitcase. You know, along with the toothpaste and antiperspirant! Normal traveling stuff. I appreciate having Amazon.in available, but it doesn’t sell everything in India.
The bottom shelf of this jharokha was loose so the wood glue came in handy. However, the wood filler was dried up.
What to do?
Well. I remembered back to my early adult apartment rental days. The time I moved out and had a bunch of holes in the wall from hanging stuff. I wanted my security deposit back. So you know what you do. Yep. Toothpaste. So, I filled all the gaps in the jharokha with toothpaste! It worked!
Then I painted it with neutral clay and chalk paints.
I first painted it with a darker neutral — Old Ochre from Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan. Then, I added a lighter layer of Vintage Linen from DIY Paint.
I applied the DIY Paint lightly with a damp paper towel so the darker color below still showed through without brush marks. A fabric cloth or a baby wipe would have held up better, but the paper towel was all I had handy.
Here you see on the right side how Vintage Linen lightened it up. I wanted it to look like dust in the crevices of white wood. But, not dust for real.
It’s still in rough rustic shape. I did not have sandpaper. Add it to the list of stuff to take on the next trip.
It will eventually be hung somewhere within view of this area, to give you an idea of how it fits in.
Time to find a few more jharokha to paint on the next trip! I’m glad I photographed the paint cans, so I remember what colors to pack next time.
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!
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:
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:
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:
Here’s the wall taped off and ready for painting the background colors:
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:
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!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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!
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.
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.
Like I did with the pink background, I troweled the silvery gray paint on with the broken plastic trowel. It’s a light layer:
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.
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.
Even a tassel I found in Marrakech has the colors of this room:
As the sun sets again, the colors deepen and get mysterious. Time to relax and enjoy!
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.
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:
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.
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.
Here you can see the mottled metallic look made by the shimmery paint:
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:
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.
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:
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!
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:
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:
It’s a little thing, but this view made it all worth it!
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.