Paint All the Things (and Yes, Painting Wallpaper Can Look Good)

Paint is magical. It can take a room from drab and uninspiring to bright and fun. Or relaxing. Or sexy.

With most of the carpet out the door and pretty wood floors staring up at us in the main part of the house (except the living room and dining room), the next step was paint.

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Paint the Ceilings First (Boring but Important)

Most people don’t walk into a room and notice the ceiling, so it was tough to put off the instant makeover of painting walls in favor of getting the ceilings done first. But it makes a big difference on these older houses and it’s a step you don’t want to skip.

We had some dingy ceilings that we painted with Benjamin Moore White Diamond ceiling paint. Now they are all clean and white, brightening up the house.

OK Now the Fun Part: Walls!

I went to the paint store a couple times a week to stare at paint samples, bring them home and stare at them some more. During the house-hunting process, I saw a bunch of mid-century modern homes with each room painted a different fun color. A kitchen that was lime green, aqua and white. A bedroom in bright yellow next to another in blue. It seemed to work in those houses. I later tried to emulate the look with a mint green craft room (worked great!) and a blue guest room (not great!).

Luckily, for most of my house I stuck with a neutral, unregretted palette because I’m going for a modern lodge kind of look. Here’s what I used.

Mid-century modern paint colors

Neutrals:

  • Benjamin Moore Fallen Timber
  • Benjamin Moore Waynesboro Taupe
  • Pratt & Lambert Shadow Beige (This taupe color is always the right choice. Everywhere I put it, it makes me happy.)
  • Benjamin Moore Timid White

Colors:

  • Benjamin Moore Robin’s Nest
  • Pratt & Lambert Bee’s Knees
  • Pratt & Lambert Flushed Cheeks
  • Pratt & Lambert Mint Glamour
Painting the dining room wall

I used Shadow Beige on the east and west sides of my living room and dining room area, with Timid White on the southern window wall connecting them. My Uncle Ricky was a huge help getting the house painted in a hurry.

Meanwhile, I stocked my first liquor cabinet in the dining room.

Stocked liquor cabinet
Now I’m ready to paint some wallpaper.

So Here’s What Happens When You Paint Grasscloth Wallpaper

On the northern end of the dining room, the lengthy stretch of grasscloth wallpaper in my house comes to an end. I like grasscloth, but you should know that we’re talking about something like 70 linear feet of it. We gave it a light washing with a damp sponge to freshen it up, but it still needed to be scaled back a little.

I wanted to keep the texture but refresh the color, at least in the dining room section. This left me searching Google to see if I could paint my wallpaper. I saw a lot of people saying no, that’s just lazy, tear it down, sand the wall and paint it right. They didn’t know about the cool texture that I wanted to keep, though.

So I just went for it in spite of the advice, and I painted right onto the textured wallpaper. Here it is with the grasscloth on the left in Fallen Timber, wall on the right in Shadow Beige and ceiling in White Diamond.

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Modern neutral paint colors in dining room
See? I do more than stock liquor cabinets.

I love how it turned out, with some caveats. The texture creates shadows that make the color look darker. Fallen Timber is a kind of chocolatey medium brown, but with the texture it looks darker on the wall. I had originally planned to paint all of my grasscloth Fallen Timber to lean into the lodge look, but after this experiment I decided one wall was just right.

Luckily I started on this end and not around the corner where the grasscloth spans the length of my house. I would have been stuck painting it all had I started there. I finished off the little section of the dining room grasscloth around the liquor cabinet in Timid White and left the living room grasscloth unpainted.

The last caveat is just that it took three coats of thick paint, and the coats had to be really even. That texture sucks up a lot of paint, and it was obvious when one section had less paint than another. The end result is worth it, but I probably wouldn’t want to paint a lot of real estate with this method.

If your wallpaper’s more of a shiny vinyl, then I wouldn’t recommend painting it. But you can paint your wallpaper if it has a nice rough texture that you want to keep, and you’re prepared to give it multiple coats. A nice coat (or three) of paint can completely refresh an old textured wallpaper. Now time for a drink from the cabinet?

Painting Grasscloth Wallpaper

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2 thoughts on “Paint All the Things (and Yes, Painting Wallpaper Can Look Good)”

  1. Hi, thanks for sharing your experience. I’m looking into doing something similar, but the current wall covering I’m working with is a rough, jute-like texture. It appears to be sisal actually. I can’t tell from your photo how much texture your grass cloth had/has. Are there lots of nooks and crannies? Did you have any loose fibers/frayed pieces? Because that’s the state of my walls… wondering if painting will help the loose fibers/threads to flatten out and stick to the wall…

    Reply
    • Hi Allie, my grasscloth is very textured but not so frayed. The paint helped smooth it out a bit, but it’s hard to say how that would work for very loose sisal fibers. I wonder if you could test paint a small area first to check if paint smooths the fibers or makes them stick out. Or possibly trim some of the fibers back before painting.

      Reply

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