by Kit Davey
If you are tired of your neutral walls and feel the urge to experiment, you can create subtle-to-dramatic effects with a little paint and some imagination.
Simple paint tricks. The creative use of paint can be a cost-effective and fun way to enhance the beauty of any room. Try one of these simple tricks:
* Pick a predominant color in your color scheme and paint one wall in the room that color (or a tint or tone of the color) and the rest in a warm neutral. The wall you pick should not have too many windows, doors or other cut out areas, or the effect of the color will be lessened. If the room is long and narrow, pick one of the short walls to paint in a different color to decrease the apparent length of the room. To draw attention to the room's focal point (such as a beautiful view or the fireplace), paint that wall in an intense color to draw the eye to it. Counterbalance a wall with heavy furniture against it by painting the opposite wall in a different color.
* Paint all four walls in a different color and the ceiling white. To create a feeling of power and dynamism, use paints in highly saturated colors. For a subtle and soothing contrast use pastels.
* Leave the walls white but paint the door a different color. You might even paint the door frame in another color. Try a red door in a primary-colored child's room or a peach-colored door in a guest room done in country style.
* If your walls are white, and you feel the room needs more animation, try creating a striped wallpaper-like effect. Paint alternating vertical stripes in a compatible neutral, or a color in your scheme, 6 to 10 inches wide, from floor to ceiling.
* Create a chair-rail effect by painting the wall, from the floor to about 3 or 4 feet high, in a color from your scheme, and white or another color above. Homes in Colonial Mexican cities like Merida and Oaxaca are known for the brightly colored exteriors painted in just such a fashion. This technique is also used in many American restaurants to hide soil and would work well for the same reason in a child's room.
Random patterns. I don't care for wallpaper, but I love the effect created by random patterns in paint. You can pick any motif and place it willy-nilly all over your walls.
* Choose an image in your bedspread, from a piece of artwork, or from an architectural detail in the room, for example, a flowerpot, a section from an antique quilt, fire engines, lightning bolts, teacups, maple leaves, stars, an outline of your dog's paw print, etc. You can also look in magazines and art books for ideas. Draw an outline of the image on a piece of cardboard, cut it out using an X-Acto knife and use it as a tracing template. Trace the image in pencil onto your walls in whatever random or regular pattern appeals to you. Erase and re-trace as necessary. Use acrylic paints to fill in the motif.
* Leave the walls neutral, but create a border just below the ceiling and/or above the baseboards using the technique described above.
* Use a paintbrush and paint freeform images or squiggles directly onto the walls: spirals, petroglyphs, fish, clusters of polka dots, etc.
* Do something we wanted to do as kids: Use your hand, or one of your kid's hands, as a stamp, and make handprints in one or more colors all over the walls.
* Visit www.Instructables.com, or check out a book from the library and learn how to make and paint your own stencil pattern.
For skilled painters. If you're up for an even artier effect, you can create your own mural or trompe d'oeil. A few simple ideas: Paint blue sky and clouds on your ceiling, a shuttered window and landscape beyond in a windowless room, bookshelves filled with interesting objects along a long hall, a jacket and hat hanging from a coat hook by your back door or scenes from nursery rhymes in your infant's bedroom.