Archive for Sunday, April 7, 2002

Use paint wash to create a stone wall effect

April 7, 2002


One of the first things that usually changes when Shari and I do a room makeover is the color of the walls. Paint works magic and is not that expensive when you think about the overall cost of redecorating a room.

But why stop with just painting a fresh coat of paint? Try a painting technique to give the room a new twist. One simple technique is paint washing, which uses masking tape and an old sock to create a brick or stone block look.

If you can stick tape to the wall, you can certainly do this faux-stone technique. Give it a try: I guarantee that once you try it you'll be stuck.


Latex satin paint for base coat

Latex satin paint for top coat

An old white sock

Four to five rolls of painter's blue masking tape



Step 1: Start with a fresh base coat

When you select your colors for the masking technique, usually the base-coat color is the brightest of the two. This extra strength allows it to be seen through the top masking coat. For the base-coat finish I recommend a satin paint, because it is smooth and the sheen makes it easier to apply the top-coat paint. Let the base coat dry at least 24 hours before starting the next step.

Step 2: Start bricklaying

Decide how large you would like your bricks to be. You can do them small, like ordinary red bricks, or large, like cement blocks. Keep in mind how large your room is  if 12-inch-wide blocks with 1-1/2-inch grout leaves a 2-inch-wide brick at the top, you may want to readjust your sizes. If you are doing regular brick-sized blocks, use a smaller-width masking tape  perhaps only a 1/2-inch size. Larger blocks can use larger "grout," so you can go up to the 1-inch- or 1-1/2-inch-wide tapes.

Designing the brick layout and taping it off is the hardest part of this project, so be sure to think it all through before you begin. And be sure you have enough tape. Depending on the size of your project, you will probably go through at least four rolls.

Start by using your level and tape measure and tick off the placement of your grout lines. Be careful; you don't want your brick wall to slope. Start at one edge and, moving down, measure the width of one brick and make a mark. Measure the width of the grout and make a mark, then measure the brick. Continue for the whole wall. Go back and place your tape, being sure to press down on the edges really well (you don't want paint seeping under).

Step 3: Wash day

Once the tape is in place and pressed down well, you can begin the washing technique. Tape off baseboards, door and window trim to keep from "washing" everything in sight. You may even want to tape off the ceiling and adjoining walls. Then, simply dampen your white sock, bunch it up, dip it into the top-coat paint and go directly to the wall. Using a swirling motion, apply the top coat as lightly or heavily as you please. It's a good idea to work from top to bottom and left to right as you move across a wall. Don't stop once you've started on a wall, because as the paint dries, it can create overlap marks that you may not want.

Step 4: Stop and admire

Every once in awhile, step back to make sure that you are being consistent with the size of your swirls. I've seen beautiful little swirls get out of hand and become tornadoes. Once a complete wall is washed, pull off the tape before moving on to the next wall.

Now it's time to step back and admire your masterpiece. Remember: It really is a one-of-a-kind piece of art.

 Matt Fox writes this column with Shari Hiller. They also co-host the Home and Garden Television show "Room by Room." For more information, visit

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