Category: Painting

Paint Your Home the Colors of Downton Abbey

Followers of "Downton Abbey," which began its fourth season yesterday on PBS's "Masterpiece," are as captivated by the historic interiors depicted in the series as they are by the story lines of the characters.

Downton Abbey Paint Colors - Drawing Room

The drawing room from "Downton Abbey" inspired one of the colors in a new Kelly-Moore Paints line. Photo: WGBH

Inspired by Downton Abbey, a new collection from Kelly-Moore Paints will now enable fans to live among the dusty grays and muted pastels they have loved seeing in the hit series. “We were getting inquiries from people trying to locate particular paint colors they’d seen on Downton Abbey,” says Mary Lawlor, manager of color marketing for Kelly-Moore Paints. “That gave us the idea to develop colors inspired by the amazing settings portrayed on the show.”

With a great deal of historical research and some help from Downton devotees on the Kelly-Moore staff, the company has created 19 hues, each one capturing an element of the glamour and grandeur of the show’s backdrop, an enormous and opulent estate in the English countryside. Some colors take their cue from the drawing room, where the aqua-green walls are softened by details of rose, ivory, and gold. Meanwhile, other colors reference the masculine, sophisticated oxblood and carnelian reds of the library. Several of the characters’ bedrooms, not to mention the servants’ kitchen, sparked additional shades.

Related: 12 Must-See Home Improvement Flicks

Downton Abbey Paint Colors - Bedroom

Jitterbug (HLS4211) recalls the ethereal blue of Lady Grantham's bedroom. Photo: WGBH

In the eyes of today’s viewer, the colors in Downton Abbey evoke a bygone era. But in their time, these hues were in fact quite modern. “By the early 1900s, the dark, opulent look of the Victorian interior that had prevailed for decades was beginning to feel oppressive,” says Allison Kyle Leopold, a journalism professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and the author of numerous books on historic design. “The new century would be all about lightening up and simplifying, and a cleaner palette of bright colors and pale hues was a big part of that.”

For Mary Lawlor and others responsible for the Kelly-Moore Paints product line, it was no mean feat to develop new colors based on historical examples. The challenge was to come up with solutions that, even as they remained true to the Edwardian Era, also managed to fit seamlessly into 21st-century homes. Well, it may not have been easy, but Kelly-Moore did it.

Take, for instance, Jitterbug (HLS4211). This ethereal blue would look as welcoming in a contemporary bedroom as it does in Lady Grantham’s. Likewise, Rapier Silver (KMW65) calls to mind the utilitarian kitchen on the show, but it echoes the grays that are currently so popular in interior design. “Although these colors are rooted in the past,” Lawlor points out, “they are thoroughly usable in today’s homes.”

On January 5, the fourth season premiers on PBS’s “Masterpiece.” If you haven’t yet watched the show, consider this: The fans of Downton Abbey are so devoted that many are apparently seeking to re-create the look of its interiors in their own homes. So there must be something to this early-20th-century period drama, right?

For more, visit Kelly-Moore Paints, here.

Quick Tip: Low-VOC Paints

In the form of low-VOC paints, manufacturers provide a healthy and eco-friendly alternative to their traditional paint formulas.

Low-VOC paints are a safe and efficient option for your next project. Paints with low VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, have very low levels of toxicity and are odorless and non-flammable. They’re a great choice for indoor projects, especially where ventilation is limited. Best of all, they clean up easily with water.

For more on painting, consider:

Bob Vila Radio: Low-VOC Paints
Fresh Coat: 10 All-Natural House Paints
A New Line of No-VOC Paints for Nurseries

Quick Tip: Painting Masonry

Though brick, stone, and concrete require special considerations, even a beginning do-it-yourselfer can paint masonry with ease.

Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re painting masonry. Like any other surface, masonry needs to be prepared thoroughly before painting. Make sure any loose and flaking paint is removed, then coat with masonry conditioner. After 24 hours, a coat of primer is important before the finish coat to ensure even coverage and a beautiful end result.

For more on painting, consider:

How To: Paint Brick
Quick Tip: Cold Weather Painting
Bob Vila Radio: Painting Masonry

How To: Sponge Paint

Of all the many different faux finishes, easy-to-master sponge painting may offer the path of least resistance to a beautifully texturized wall.

A decorative paint finish is a good way to customize an interior in only a short time. Use a latex glaze mixed to the color of your choice. Dip a natural sponge into the paint mixture and apply firmly to the wall. Drag down the wall, creating the design you want. Always work top to bottom and in one direction. Latex paint will dry within an hour, and you can apply an over-glaze for a beautiful satin finish.

For more on painting, consider:

How To: Rag Paint
DIY Wall Stenciling
10 Reasons to Go Crazy for Chalkboard Paint

How To: Stain Wood Shingle Siding

Staining cedar shingles not only enhances their beauty but also fortifies them against threats posed by the elements.

Here is a helpful tip if you are thinking of staining some cedar shingles. To protect new shingles, apply a penetrating stain. Stain soaks in and protects the wood from the weather, and it won’t crack, peel, or chip. Brush liberally along the bottom edges of each course and then over the face of the shingles with a generous coat of stain. Start at the top courses and work your way down. For an authentic, weathered look, use a transparent stain.

For more on finishes, consider:

Paints and Finishes
How To: Stain Wood Furniture
8 Ways to Age, Distress, and Add Shine to Your Next Project

Quick Tip: Cold Weather Painting

Painting in cold weather no longer presents a problem, thanks to the common availability of more advanced paint formulas.

Colder weather doesn’t have to be an issue when doing exterior painting. While most conventional paints must be applied above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, cold weather paints are designed to resist moisture, frosting, and blistering in temperatures as low as 35 degrees. They’re safe for most any surface and can be applied with a roller or brush.

For more on painting, consider:

Is Stripping Paint Really Necessary?
How To: Avoid House Painting Problems
The Perfect Paintbrush—and How to Choose It

How To: Rag Paint

Add a texture with warm and lively visual interest to walls and surfaces, using the faux finishing technique known as rag painting.

Here’s a way you can get a designer look for your painted walls. With a roller, apply an oil paint glaze over an already dry base coat. For your glaze, mix two parts oil-based paint with six parts glazing liquid. Lift off the glaze with a rolled-up rag. You can repeat this process with different colors for a layered look.

For more on finishes, consider:

Bob Vila Radio: Faux Painting
10 Creative Uses for Chalkboard Paint
8 Ways to Age, Distress, and Add Shine to Your Next Project

How To: Paint Brick

Painting tired or out-of-place brick, whether inside or outside your home, is an inexpensive, fairly quick route to an updated—or just cleaner—look. Before you get started, however, expect to do some prep work.

How to Paint Brick


There are a host of reasons that homeowners choose to paint brick:

• If a brick fireplace is out of sync with the decor of a room, it’s less expensive to paint it than it is to replace the brick with another material.

• A coat of light-color paint can alleviate the feeling of heaviness that a brick wall can impart.

• If a home’s brick exterior needs a makeover, painting it can give the property a fresh look, boosting curb appeal and perhaps even resale value.

Although any DIYer can paint brick, there are certain precautions and procedures to follow to ensure color success.

Before painting brick, always clean it thoroughly so that your application of paint better adheres. Dirt and efflorescence should come off with soapy water and some diligent scrubbing with a stiff-bristled brush. Need something stronger? Try trisodium phosphate (TSP): A half-cup mixed into a gallon of water ought to do the trick. (If you happen to own, or are willing to rent, a pressure washer, consider using one, especially if you need to clean a relatively large expanse of brickwork.) Where you encounter mildew, apply a solution of one part bleach to three parts water; after letting it soak for half an hour, proceed to scrub the area with a wire brush. Never use acid cleaning solutions, any of which might compromise your paint job.

If the brick has been installed recently, allow it to dry and acclimate for at least a year before painting it. If the installation has already been in place for years, check the mortar for signs of damage. Repair small cracks with acrylic caulk. With more pronounced issues, repointing the brick may be necessary. Whether or not you make any repairs, remember that brick must be completely dry for the paint to adhere successfully. After cleaning, delay painting for a period of at least 24 hours.

Depending on the area of the surface you wish to paint, use a brush or roller—or a paint sprayer—to apply a coat of latex primer. Put additional coats on those sections that have been affected either by efflorescence or mildew. Whether you add one coat of primer or a few, let the primer dry completely before going any further.

How to Paint Brick - Multicolor Wall


When it comes to paint (as opposed to primer), many favor the use of elastodynamic paint for brick. It features (as the term implies) a high level of elasticity, which makes it excellent for filling cracks as well as preventing them. Plus, elastodynamic paint performs well in all weather—not only precipitation but also high humidity.

If you cannot find or don’t wish to use elastodynamic paint, don’t hesitate to opt instead for regular acrylic latex exterior paint. In fact, for exterior brickwork, acrylic latex may be the superior choice, because it’s designed to stand up against mildew and to quickly evaporate any moisture that it absorbs.

The easiest way to paint brick is with a paint sprayer, but if you are covering only a small area, such as a fireplace, brushes or rollers are sufficient; in fact, for those with no experience operating a sprayer, these low-tech painting tools are recommended. If you plan to use a roller, choose one with a thick nap to ensure best results on brick, which is riddled with nooks and crannies and surface irregularities.

For interior and exterior brick, many experts recommend semi-gloss or gloss paint; either type accentuates detail and, compared with other paints, is easier to clean as time goes by.

So long as the brick is in decent condition, you have another finishing option: stain. Quicker and easier than painting, staining highlights (rather than conceals) brick’s unique texture.

Preparing brick for staining is no different from preparing it for painting. In either case, clean the surface thoroughly, allowing it to dry completely before moving forward. If you do not intend to stain the mortar, then seal it off with painter’s tape. (You can also use this trick if you decide to paint after all.)

With the brush that comes in the staining kit, test the stain on an inconspicuous part of the brick installation. Darken or lighten the tone by adding pigment or water, respectively. Once you have a mixture that imparts a color you like, spread on the stain by moving the brush in a uniform direction. Alternatively, for a more even application, use a clean rag to wipe the stain onto the brick. Spread the stain as thinly possible, wait 24 hours, and then add a second coat. Along the way, remember to wear goggles and gloves.

How To: Stencil a Wall

Stencil a wall, whether at its borders or across the entire surface, for a personalized look in any room.

You can hand-paint your own stenciled border. Use painter’s tape to mark off straight edges; you’ll find the tape prevents under-bleeding. Cut your stencil out of contact paper, then blot it on your t-shirt or sweatshirt. Doing this makes it less sticky, so when you peel it off, you won’t damage the wall paint. Seal first with an acrylic matte medium, let dry, then dab on acrylic paint with a sponge brush. When dry, peel off for a perfect stencil every time.

For more on finishes, consider:

How To: Stencil a Floor
Stenciled Floors: The Best of Today’s Designs
8 Ways to Age, Distress, or Add Shine to Your Next Project

How To: Paint Plywood Floors

For projects where hardwood, tile, carpeting, or other flooring options just won't do, let a few simple coats of paint come to the rescue.

Painted Plywood Floors

Photo: JProvey

For our newly renovated attic, we’d wanted solid wood flooring, but that idea, it turned out, wasn’t practical: The attic floor is out of level—so much so that it’s actually wavy. Back to the drawing board we went. Laminates were out of the running, because we feared ending up with the spongy feel common to many floating floors. Other materials merited consideration, but wall-to-wall carpeting seemed like the answer.

It wasn’t long into our search before we realized that nice carpet costs a lot. In perusing hundreds of samples, we compared weights, studied density, thought about textures, scrutinized colors, examined backings, puzzled over padding, and became really confused by the sheer variety of fiber types out there. Plus, we found it nearly impossible to compare sellers accurately, because different companies have different pricing schemes.

Related: How To: Stencil a Floor

Finally, we opted for a “green” carpet, a product derived largely from recycled plastic bottles. The attic conversion had proved such a long and challenging process that we were comforted by the knowledge that installing the carpet would be quick and painless. But then we got the estimate: $2,000! That’s when we ditched the idea of wall-to-wall carpeting and headed over to the paint department of the home center.

We decided to prime and paint the plywood floor, strategically placing area rugs to cozy things up. The total cost? About $250—50¢ per square foot—and that includes paintbrushes and rollers, wood putty, and other small items. Note that our project started out with good-quality plywood, but if yours is in bad shape, add a new layer of 3/8-inch A-C plywood. For a space likely to witness a lot of wear, choose hardwood plywood.

- Palm sander and 120-grit disks
- Wet/dry vac
- Putty knife and patching compound
- 12-inch roller frame and at least two roller covers
- Extension pole
- 3-inch paintbrush
- Primer
- Porch and floor enamel


Painted Plywood Floors - Patching

Photo: JProvey

First, make sure the plywood flooring is firmly attached to the joists below. Then fill all the nail holes and joints in the surface with patching compound. At this point, it’s smart to ensure that the space in which you are working has adequate ventilation (in other words, set up a fan in the window).


Painted Plywood Floors - Sanding

Photo: JProvey

Sand the plywood to whatever smoothness you want. For a larger area, we might have gone through the trouble of renting a floor sander, but here it took about as much time and was cheaper to use a random-orbit sander, fitted with 120-grit disks. Complement the palm sander with a wet/dry vac in order to minimize dust. For a low-mess job, run the vacuum intermittently as you finish sanding sections of the floor surface.


Painted Plywood Floors - Priming

Photo: JProvey

With a paint roller attached to an extension pole, apply two coats of primer to the plywood floor. Everyone has his own favorite primer; mine is pigmented shellac, because it dries quickly and provides a good base for the top coat. Depending on the size or layout of the room in which you are working, it may be more convenient—or in some cases, strictly necessary—to prime the floor one section at a time.


Painted Plywood Floors - Save Cleaning Time

Photo: JProvey

We coated our plywood floor in enamel paint, which comes only in a satin finish. If you want a semi-gloss or glossy look, you can use that type of paint, but you must protect it with a layer of water-based polyurethane. When it comes to applying your coats, a 12-inch roller speeds the job, while a 3-inch brush is good for cutting in at corners. If you pause during the process, wrap your painting tools in plastic to save on cleaning time.


Painted Plywood Floors - Completed

Photo: JProvey

Apply the paint as evenly as possible, as if you were doing a wall, allowing each coat to dry completely before continuing. Finish off sections with smoothing strokes, rolled in the same direction, before the paint dries (the roller should be moist but not loaded with paint). Allow the paint to cure for several days before moving in furniture, but in most climates you can walk on your new floor, in socks, within a few hours.