Yanic Simard, Houzz
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It’s a rule that’s rarely stated but often implied: When you paint a wall, you should paint the whole thing, top to bottom. But this rule begs to be broken. Painting a “half” wall (which can actually be more or less than half, or any amount you choose) can revitalize the look of an entire space, and often with as little as 1 to 2 pints of paint. That makes this easily an under-$100 makeover that you can achieve in a single day. If you’ve been scared to pick up a paintbrush, here are some ideas that may change your mind.
When painting a half wall, you can paint to halfway up the wall or to any height you wish. Stopping the paint a bit above the eye line will let the color stand out more, while stopping it below will leave more of the white or neutral hue to create a more open and airy effect.
In this example, the room is painted about halfway up. If you want to use a vibrant color all over, this gives a good balance of a rich hue below and a neutral visual break above. If you want to see more or less color in your result, simply go higher or lower. Remember, though, that if you want to add more color later, it’s fairly easy to retape and add a bit more of the accent hue. It’s certainly easier than trying to subtract if you’ve gone too far.
A fun, contemporary way to paint a half wall is to ignore architectural features altogether and paint straight across the wall. Painting right over this door and trim plays with the traditional forms and gives them a modern edge, especially when done in a matte finish.
For whatever reason, our brains perceive diagonal lines as being more dynamic and energetic than horizontal and vertical lines. This makes diagonal lines feel more fun and playful.
If you want your paint effect to feel extra youthful and fresh, try painting from corner to corner in a room or using the accent hue in an even smaller dose to dress just one partial corner. You can also use this effect on multiple walls to add small splashes of several colors to an eclectic scheme.
Tall spaces and staircases
In very high spaces, especially stairwells, a half wall helps ground the area without filling it floor to ceiling with an overwhelming amount of color. This dark wall follows the lines of the staircase, defining the area while still allowing the high ceiling to seem far away.
Notice how the lower edge of the gray diagonal area aligns to an element of the window (the bottom of the middle panes) for a little extra architectural crispness.
Don’t have a headboard? Let a rectangle of paint define the bed. Match it to a side table, and top it with a shelf to enhance the effect. Even without anything else colorful in the room, the space will feel lively enough to inspire you in the morning.
Chalkboard paint has more uses than you’d think. Sometimes the only way to keep children from writing on the walls is to give in and let them write on the chalkboard walls. A chalkboard-paint half wall creates a space for a little artistic exploration in a way that still fits a grown-up look.
This fun but sophisticated bathroom uses a block of charcoal-gray paint to continue the lines of the tile across the room. This gives the room a cohesive look that feels high end while saving money (compared with continuing the tile around the whole space).
This bathroom creates a similar look to the previous space but without any tile on the walls at all. Painting the walls to just a few inches above a vanity or a laundry sink creates the effect of a backsplash but without the tilework. Be sure to use a washable finish in a quality paint that will endure a few splashes.
Notice how the baseboards in this room are the same brilliant emerald as the walls. Painting baseboards in a color instead of leaving them white or wood makes a more modern and seamless statement. If you prefer a more classic look, leave the baseboards untouched.
In the same home as the previous photo, the emerald color continues into the kitchen area to add interest behind open shelving without taking the drama all the way to the top. Greens and blues are natural hues that are popular but not trendy — you won’t burn out on them as soon as you would a hot hue like orange.
One of the biggest upsides to doing a partial wall treatment is that you can choose a vivid hue, or several together, without much commitment.
If you decide to change the color palette later, you won’t have to paint over too large of an area, so there’s little risk in trying a fun shade like a mysterious purple or an outrageous orange.
Tip: For a professional edge line, paint over the applied masking tape with the white (or other base color) four to six hours before painting the final accent color. This will “seal” the line and prevent bleed. Take the tape off immediately after doing the final coat of the accent, before the layers have fully cured, to avoid the tape pulling off paint with it.
Tone on tone
Prefer a more subdued look? Although a half wall using a bold hue usually creates a lot of contrast, a subtle shade like pale gray gives a restful tone-on-tone appeal instead — perfect for a serene bedroom.
A half wall doesn’t have to start at the floor or ceiling at all. Painting a frame around a framed photo or painting makes the piece look larger and more noticeable. Use this technique to take a medium-size piece and visually fill an entire wall by making the painted “frame” more than half the width of the wall itself — roughly 60 percent wider than the art (although let your eye guide you, and don’t worry too much about the math).
You may not be an expert painter, but you too can create a modernist mountain-scape with just some tape and basic paint supplies. By painting in layers and taping off zigzagging lines, you can give the subtle impression of a mountain vista and mix in different nature-inspired shades for the effect of a dramatic mural without the intricate brushwork.
Maybe you want a more painterly look or you just don’t want to bother taping. Simply let the roller end where it will and create a brushy end to the line. This effect works especially well in a stripped-down, minimalist space with lots of clean lines to break up the monotony (without the whole room looking too haphazard).
Debating between painting brick and leaving it untouched? Why not compromise with a bit of both? For those who can’t decide, it really gives the best of both worlds.
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