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Decorating Magic with Paint

Got a few hours? These mini-makeovers with paint can add a lot of pow to your home or yard.

By Dorothy Foltz-Gray

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Greg Scheidemann
Steve Gray
Painted wicker chairs
Aimee Herring
Laurie Black
Jay Wilde
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Jazz Up a Wood Chair

Before you chuck that tired chair, paint it in a bright shade with high-gloss finish, says Courtney Cachet of Courtney Cachet Interior Design in New York City: "If you don't like it, you were going to toss it anyway."

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Coordinate Your Pots

Had enough of hodgepodge patio pots? Clean and paint them in off-white, says Natalie J. Green, an interior designer and mother of one in Robins, Georgia. "On terra-cotta pots, use painter's tape to mark off a circle or two around the circumference," she says. "Paint other color pots entirely. Light color means less heat absorption and cooler roots."

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Reinvent the Walls

With erasable chalkboard paint, that is. Malia Karlinsky, craft art blogger at Yesterday On Tuesday and mother of three in Seattle, loves vibrant chalkboard colors like raspberry, grape fizz, and her favorite, peapod. "Think of the hours of play that the kids can have in their bedrooms creating with chalk—and then erasing," she says. The paint could spruce up a mudroom or kitchen wall too.

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Paint a Light Fixture

"Vintage painted light fixtures are in style," says Michelle Lohr, an interior designer, artist, and mother of two in Austin. To paint over glass, buy opaque or transparent glass paint. The transparent choice lets light pass through, changing the cast of light in your room.

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Knock Out New Knobs

Spray-painting hardware is a cheap way to freshen your kitchen, says Cachet: "Tired old knobs and drawer pulls look instantly new. Even novices can ace this project." To easily paint the inside of drawer pulls, insert screws into their holders and stick into a piece of florist foam. Reposition the foam so that you can get at all parts of the pull or knob.

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Project a Pattern

NataLee Callahan, an HGTV Design Star finalist, interior designer, and mother of two (soon to be three) in Mesa, Arizona, used an opaque projector to project huge damask patterns (woven patterns that originated in the 14th century) on her wall. She then filled in the projected pattern with paint. "Damask wallpapers, which I love, are pricey. But this has a lot of impact for little money," Callahan says.

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Pep Up Weathered Wicker

Ashley Whittenberger, founder of My Interiority Complex and mother of one in Austin, spray-painted her wicker set with bright red-orange exterior/interior paint and added new cushions: "Now it looks like a brand-new set and really pops on the front porch," she says.

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Top a Table

Got a worn cocktail or dining room table? Paint the top only, suggests Efua Ramdeen, an interior decorator in Boca Raton, Florida, who blogs at The Frocktailer: "Put a piece of glass on top for a clean modern look."

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Paint Your Mantel

Reinvent your fireplace by painting the mantel with crackle paint that gives even a brand-new piece a nice aged appeal. "Using a two-layer crackle finish creates a look suited for shabby chic, Tuscan, eclectic, or French Country decor," says decorator Whittenberger.

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Refigure the Figurines

Still have a soft spot for your figurine collection? "Paint them all with your home's accent color to use as bookends and accents in a bookcase—a cohesive, high-style look," says designer Ramdeen.

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Furnish with Flea Finds

Overhaul your yard-sale treasure in two tones, says Whittenberger: "For instance, paint the back of shelves in an accent color and the rest of the piece the color of your walls. It creates a built-in custom look," a look Whittenberger gave a $40 resale cabinet. She later saw a similar piece for $1,200. Savvy savings and smart style.

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Let the Stars Shine

That's what Jeff Stewart, founder of Night Sky Murals in Salt Lake City, does by painting the night sky on ceilings in glow paint. "It's invisible in the light, but in the dark it glows just like a real night sky." You can find instructions and stencils online at a number of sites.

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Kick Up the Kids' Rooms

Make desk, bureau, or tabletops sparkle by mixing granite dust or ultrafine glitter into paint, says David Schneider, owner of Schneider Kennedy Design in Wildwood, Missouri: "Or use the same granite dust or glitter in a final, clear topcoat." Try the same thing on metal or glass—or the walls—by applying many clear topcoats so you can touch the surface without damaging the glitter.

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Dress Up Your Curtains

Transform ready-made drapery panels with colorful borders created with acrylic fabric paint and stencils, suggests Whittenberger. Do the same on a pillow for the bed and sofa and to pull the look together. It's a really cheap, easy way to customize, she says.

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Refurbish a Farm Door

Repaint or stain an old farm door to reuse as a single-bed headboard, says Beverly Kruskol, owner of a high-end painting company in Los Angeles: "It looks great in a little girl's room."

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Tin the Ceiling

Paint plastic ceiling tiles or coffered ceilings (ceilings with sunken panels) with metallic paint, and it looks like you've installed expensive ceiling tile, says Kruskol.

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Wow the Window Seat

If you've got a separate space or niche in a room like a window seat, paint it a color that contrasts with the rest of the room, says Michael Payne, a designer in Los Angeles and former host of HGTV's Designing for the Sexes: "This will create a 'wow' effect and enhance any items displayed in the niche."

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Crown a Bathroom Counter

"In its former life, our bathroom countertop was hideous, sparkly, marble replica tile," says Linda VanApeldoorn, owner of a pick-your-own-flower farm in Lansing, New York. She covered it with a high-adhesion primer, then painted a new design with acrylic craft paint. She let it dry for a week and sealed it with several coats of polyurethane. "No one ever guesses it's painted," she says.

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Chair-Rail a Room

Paint a two-inch-thick neutral-colored line around a room—a chair-rail wannabe—and paint separate but complementary colors below and above the line, suggests Michael Payne: "Pick the colors from an inspiration piece in the room." It could be a favorite vase, rug, or fabric that gives you your inspiration.

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Strip the Stool

Take a small piece, like a stool, paint it in stripes or a pattern, using high gloss for the pattern, low luster for the background, suggests Mary Lawler, manager of color marketing for Kelly-Moore Paints in San Carlos, California: "Just one small piece will enliven the room. And the different sheens create an interesting contrast."

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