Stencil Tunnel Syndrome

Posted on May 2, 2012. Filed under: Home |

Oh Lordy! Somebody save me! Stenciling is pure agony. Don’t ever believe anyone that tells you it’s a piece of cake. They’re LYING!

But rewind to August. Yes, August. That’s when I painted the whole living room all by my lonesome. Adam was doing yard work or working or something. I don’t remember. And he hates painting. Sometimes it’s just better to split things up and tackle them alone, especially if one person loathes it. See, I’m learning how marriage works! This blog isn’t called the Newlywed Narrative for nothing!

If you’ll recall, the living room was a baby blue when we moved in:


It was pretty, but not what I wanted.

So I painted it cream. I got Lowe’s to color-match Valspar to Behr’s Parchment Paper in Eggshell. It took two coats and I finished it in spurts because I needed a lot of natural light to see. This room doesn’t have an overhead light fixture. Thank goodness this was back in August. The sun was setting around 8:30 then.

We thought long and hard about wallpapering one wall for the look we wanted. I even ordered samples and perused websites for hours. You know they don’t really have wallpaper stores anymore? I guess the 1980s and 1990s really are over. We couldn’t find any wallpaper we liked in our price range. Imagine that. Us? Expensive taste? Noooo…. We were both leaning toward subtle tone on tone all-over patterns in damasks, Moroccan geometrics, and even some floral designs. So after much research and wallpaper sample acquisition, I decided it would be more economical to get the look we wanted with an allover wall stencil. More economical yes, but also more painful. The things we do to save money. Now I know why people fork over $200 a roll for that wallpaper. But more on that…

We purchased a $50 stencil at Royal Design Studio. While I was getting the cream paint for the living room walls, I had them mix one quart of interior semi-gloss that is 50% lighter than the main wall color for a nice tone on tone effect. (And I have to put it out there that Adam and I came up with this idea back in August before the Petersiks posted their stencil project. We must be channeling each other and probably a lot of other people that have done the same thing. Google tone-on-tone wall stencil. It’s not a novel idea. But I am ever greatful to those Petersiks. At least I knew what I was getting into when I read about Sherry’s experience.) Adam and I wanted the finished look to be subtle, but contrasting. We decided that pairing the cream eggshell paint with a slightly lighter paint color in a different sheen would give us the effect we wanted.

In the first week of October, things had calmed down enough I’d built up my courage enough to try my hand at this stenciling thang. I should add that I picked up some stencil adhesive spray and stencil sponge brushes at Michael’s before I started. I sprayed the back of the stencil with adhesive and stuck it to the wall at the very top and in the center of the wall. We have crown molding in here so it definitely took some finagling to get it in place without bowing up. A lot of tweaking, actually. The first one is the hardest. I also used painters tape on the sides to secure it even more. The rest is straightforward. I dipped my sponge brush into my paint and made sure to dab a lot of the paint off before filling in the stencil at a 90-degree angle. Once I was done with one square, I peeled the stencil off the wall moved it down and lined it up with the stencil above it. I also made sure it was level.

4 hours later… I had one stripe going from ceiling to floor. I’m a slow learner. And stenciling is the most tedious home improvement project I’ve done so far. It’s worse than ripping out all the Old English Ivy we have in the backyard. That’s bad, folks.

So there was one little stripe in here for oh, about a month. And then two little stripes for a few more weeks er months…

We did yard work. I made throw pillows. I made a table runner and a wreath. We went on an anniversary trip. I switched clothes out of closets. I painted a masterpiece. I went to Nashville with my girls and played a part in helping my big bro propose to his girlfriend. I went to Birmingham to see my pregnant girlfriend. That sounds weird. My friend that is (and now was) pregnant. I made kitchen curtains. We hosted a dinner party. We raked and raked and raked leaves. We decorated for Christmas. We celebrated Christmas and New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s. I was busy, but I was also procrastinating.

Adam asked me if I’d consider stenciling the whole room. I almost started crying.

So after 2 more long sessions and about 20 total hours of pain, agony, paint-caked fingers, back aches, gray hairs, getting stuck to the drop cloth because of spray adhesive build-up (read: DIY problems), here you have it, people: a stenciled accent wall (that doesn’t photograph very well).

It looks really good in person. It was exactly what we wanted. Thank God. What a travesty it would be if I spent all that time, risked the health of my median nerve, and it turned out all bad. You can really see it with daylight. At night it becomes much more subtle. We like it.

This room needs the most TLC of all the rooms in the house, mainly because it was empty when we started. We’re slowly starting to acquire furniture. I’ll keep you updated on its progress.

Speaking of progress, the chair and ottomon I ordered in February was finally delivered. It’s very comfortable. The coloring in this picture is off though. It’s cream-colored. It is not as dark as the picture portrays. I’ve already spent hours reading in this chair. I’ve taken some naps in this chair. And one of us usually sits in it “on call” while the other one is cooking in the kitchen around the corner.

All in all, our living room is slowly becoming more livable. All right.


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