A few hours and basic tools, plus this how to stencil an accent wall tutorial, are all you need to create a fabulous focal point for any room.
Have you ever thought about stenciling an accent wall? Since I have a major aversion to wall paper after having spent
hours days weeks of my life removing hideous papers from various houses, I will never (and you can quote me on that) apply it to any wall anywhere. But a subtle pattern on a wall is kind of nice sometimes and can make a room look “decorated” right away. That’s where stencils come in. They are:
- non-commital (you can easily paint over it when you’re tired of it – and more importantly, when someone 10-20 years down the road buys your home…).
- easier to use than hanging wall paper
- less expensive
- time-savers, taking less time to finish (in my experience – hat tip to any quick paper-hangers out there)
I have wanted to create some type of trellis pattern as an accent wall in our bedroom for years. I toyed with the idea of a duct tape wall like The Nester, but the math involved scared me (truth) and I even thought about just painting free hand. But that scared me more.
So when I was approached about being a part of a week-long stenciling series with Porch (a “Pinterest meets Linkedin” home network where you can connect with professionals, find millions of projects, and get advice for all things home and DIY) and Royal Design Studios (home of many cool stencil designs, for both walls and furniture), a light bulb went off (stencil? duh!) and I said yes in a heartbeat.
Guess what? I LOVE how it turned out and I found out that:
- I didn’t need to use any math (major sigh of relief)
- It takes very little paint (I just used a bit of white paint we already had)
- It’s super easy with a roller
- It only takes a few hours, start to finish (less than 2 hours, actually for my half-wall)
How to Stencil an Accent Wall
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1. Gather your supplies: large wall stencil (I used this one), small foam paint roller, paint tray, paint brush (used only for wiping paint can after pouring into tray), paper plate, paper towels, paint (I used our eggshell latex wall paint that matched our wainscoting) and painter’s tape. (affiliate links used for examples)
2. Tape off the edges of your wall with painter’s tape. I always think I don’t need to do this, since I don’t tape when painting anymore, but with stencils just do it. Really. You’ll be squishing the roller to the edges and it’s bliss to just peel off the painted tape at the end, leaving a clean edge.
3. Determine a starting point and use pieces of painters tape to secure your first stencil to the wall. The stencil I chose didn’t come with ceiling or corner smaller pieces and I didn’t want the design to have an even ‘frame’ all around the wall, so I started in one corner, but far enough in that I could come back and blend the edges when I finished the main wall. I also curved the stencil at the ceiling line (see the lower left photo above) and wainscoting edge to help it blend into the top and bottom.
4. Paint stencil with foam roller. The key, as with any stenciling, is to not load the roller (or brush) with too much paint or it will seep under the edges of the design. This was simple to do with a roller by having a paper plate lined with a few paper towels next to the paint tray: roll the foam roller in some paint like painting a regular wall, then roll it a couple times on the paper-lined plate. Then it’s ready to paint and I found that if more paint was needed before finishing the stencil section, rolling it just on the paper plate provided enough paint to finish. I didn’t have any bleed-through using this method in the regular sections (the corners were a different story…).
5. Use your stencil’s guide marks to set the next piece to match and continue rolling on paint. This is what surprised me most: the paint is so thin that it dries almost immediately (using straight latex with no glazes), so you can just move the stencil and tape where you need with no worries. Not having to wait for drying makes this part go pretty quickly:
- place stencil, pushing tape to secure to wall (I used the same painters tape pieces for the whole wall – they stayed sticky through all the reapplications).
- roll on the paint (depending on the look you want, you can go lighter or heavier with the paint by rolling back-and-forth, but most stenciling looks best with variations in the application, both light areas and heavier)
- pull the stencil off the wall, match markings to the next section and press tape pieces to secure
- roll on paint…and keep repeating until you’ve finished the wall.
6. Match and bend the stencil to finish the corners. Ah, the corners. Not gonna lie- this was the not-so-fun part. I wanted the stencil to look like it went all the way to the edges and the stencil has a 1-inch border around it, plus starts with the points of the diamond shapes, which I thought would’ve looked weird. That’s why I started in from the sides, completed the entire center wall and then finished the corners. There’s really no easy way I found to do this – the stencil is a bit stiff, so I’d match it up to the stenciled part of the wall and then just bend the sides/bottom as needed as I rolled over.
Believe it or not, I didn’t get any white paint on the plain wall – just on the tape. See? Take the time to tape.
7. Pull the tape up and admire your sharp edges and finished wall.
Even though I like the dark-light variations in stenciling, I did go through with a small artist brush and touched up any rectangles of my pattern that were too light. My roller application was probably not perfect (whaaaat? I know you are shocked) and we have some wall texturing, making some so light they almost disappeared at a distance. I think I filled 10-20 in the main part of the wall by just adding a brush stroke of paint (I’d dab the brush on the paper plate, too, just so I didn’t get globs). Obviously, this is optional (for any other type-A’s, though, maybe not).
It’s not perfect, but our DIY mantra has always been “it’s the cottage look” because no one notices these things but us and imperfection just means it’s more like a real home (one of the reasons it’s in our tagline, too). I’m only type-A to a certain point, I guess. To me, worn, chippy, vintage and imperfect DIY’s all show love for a home that’s well used and lived in.
And don’t let the corners intimidate you. Once you set everything back in place against your cool new backdrop, that’s all it becomes – a backdrop.
The before-and-after also shows some other updates I made: I finally just decided to go with clear lamp bases after painting the thrifted ceramic lamps three different colors (first silver, then the cream, and I tried oil-rubbed bronze before giving up). Best decision ever. I’ve really wanted this style for years and bit the bullet and just bought a pair instead of trying to find them second-hand (which obviously wasn’t working).
I’m moving on from the thrifted plates and coral from the One Room Challenge a couple years ago. I’m drawn back to the calming two-color scheme I’ve always had in our bedroom. It just works for me. And the white ironstone against the green-and-white trellis pattern? That is perfection to me right now.
(Oh, and I really, really don’t like our lopsided, light-dark nightstand situation! It’s glaringly apparent in these pictures that it just doesn’t work. But I’m stuck with Brian’s dresser in that spot and I love using his great grandma’s treadle sewing machine for my side table. Hmm, may be time to rethink that!)
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