Painting All the Things (Even Our Grasscloth Wallpaper)

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

With the 50-year-old carpet out the door and pretty wood floors staring up at us in our 1960s house, the next step was painting EVERYTHING. Here are the colors we chose and what happened when we painted our old grasscloth wallpaper.

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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 in 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, instantly brightening up the house.


Now the Fun Part: Walls!

I went to the paint store a few times a week to stare at paint samples.

During the house-hunting process, I saw a bunch of mid-century modern homes with each room painted a different bold color: a kitchen that was lime green and aqua, or 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 we stuck with a neutral, unregretted palette for most of the house, because we’re going for a modern lodge look.

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

Read More: Mid-century modern paint color palette inspiration

Painting the dining room wall

We used Shadow Beige in the living room and dining room, with Timid White on the southern wall connecting them. My Uncle Ricky was a huge help in 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

Our house has grasscloth running down the hall, through the living room and around the dining room. It’s a lot. We gave it a light washing with a damp sponge to brighten 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 wallpaper. A lot of people said no, that’s just lazy; tear it down, sand the wall and paint it right. But they didn’t know about the cool texture that I wanted to keep.

So I just went for it in spite of the advice, and I painted right onto the textured wallpaper. Here is my grasscloth painted in Fallen Timber on the left wall.

Modern neutral paint colors in dining room

Read More: Best mid-century modern wallpaper for the whole house

See? I do more than stock liquor cabinets.

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

To complement the dark brown wall, I painted the grasscloth around the liquor cabinet in Timid White (see the middle section behind the light in the photo below). That was enough to rejuvenate my grasscloth without having to paint the rest of it in the living room and hallway.

Modern use of neutral paint colors

Read More: Favorite neutral paint colors picked by home bloggers

The last caveat is just that it took three coats of thick paint, and the coats had to be very 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. Paint can completely revitalize old textured wallpaper.

Now time for a drink from the cabinet?


6 thoughts on “Painting All the Things (Even Our Grasscloth Wallpaper)”

  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
    • Hi! I am researching how to paint grass cloth and have walls of the flat textured grasscloth plus walls of the sisal frayed-type you mentioned. Can you tell me how your sisal-type turned out? We have a long span of it and I’m afraid to start! 🤣

      Reply
      • Hi Lauren,
        It was quite a rollercoaster, let me tell ya. I was working on a commercial renovation project so I was really cautious about proceeding without doing test runs first. Here’s how it went:
        Our sisal was like a medium brown color. We wanted to brighten up the space so I had selected a white paint. Luckily, we had another room with the same sisal that we could practice on bc that room was going to have the sisal removed altogether. I had the contractor test paint using a single coat, double, and triple. We were using a spray gun, not a roller. The single coat was very uneven and a lot of the darker sisal color underneath was making it look blotchy. The triple coat was too heavy and just looked really bad. We went with the double coat as it still allowed the natural sisal texture to come through.
        Prior to painting, we used a torch gun to sear off loose frayed pieces. It didn’t eliminate all the short thread pieces that were still sticking out, just the longer more messy areas.
        Once the whole room was spray painted we had another problem to resolve. All the seams in between the sisal rolls became more emphasized once painted. I feared this would happen so our backup plan was to use a couple other darker colors to coat the whole material with a splatter-type pattern in order to distract the eye. Think similar to how an epoxy garage floor would look when they add speckles to it. We had some black and taupe speckles in there. This came out wonderful! It added more dimension to the walls, disguising any blotchiness, and just elevating the look. I wish I could attach a photo of a before and after to help you visualize it.
        Painting the sisal was NOT ideal. I personally wanted it ripped out, but for the size of our project it was cheaper to paint. Personally I wouldn’t choose this option again, but this wasn’t my money being spent so we had to work with what budget allowed. Ideally, I would’ve liked to see a brand new fabric installed on the walls for a more polished and professional result.

        Reply
  2. The original 1955 grasscloth wallpaper in my bedroom was badly stained – so instead of taking it down, I decided to paint it. Unfortunately, the moisture from the paint loosened the glue, and the wallpaper literally fell off. Guess it all depends on how old it is and the type of glue.

    Reply
    • Aww, that is sad. Thanks for letting us know. That is good info to keep in mind for anyone wanting to paint old grasscloth. I was lucky my grasscloth was installed in the late ’60s so maybe the glue was different.

      Reply

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