If you could draw your perfect home into existence, you wouldn’t need to deal with all the dust and confusion of remodeling and interior decorating. With the stroke of a pencil you’d have a new fireplace, or a tray ceiling or Tuscan kitchen cabinets. Actually, the principal of creating painted illusions has long since been part of interior decorating. In Ancient Rome, murals graced the walls of the wealthy with images of sun-kissed landscapes. In Renaissance Italy, frescos immortalized scenes of heaven and hell on cathedral ceilings. Today’s interior decorating with painted illusions tricks the eye in much the same way, creating the appearance of depth, contours and textures where there are none. It’s a magnificent way to make your decorating dreams come true without spending a fortune or tearing your home apart. Here’s my favorite interior decorating projects that change rooms completely by use of paint alone.
Low ceilings may save money on heating bills but they make a room feel oppressive and closed. To counter this effect without tearing off the roof, create two simple painted illusions, the first to make your walls seem higher, the second to give your ceiling the illusion of contour. It’s an elegant yet cheap interior decorating solution. Simply draw two frames all around your ceiling, the first at a 2 to 4 foot distance from the walls, the second at the same distance from the first frame. Once you paint in the first frame to match your walls, you will create the illusion that your walls are higher. Once you paint the second frame in a dark color, you will create the illusion of a shadow. Then, by painting the remaining center of the ceiling to match your walls again, you will create the illusion that the shadow belongs to a tray ceiling pattern. Decorating my home, I’ve created ceiling illusions in all my bedrooms. Here’s my faux finish tray ceiling illusion. And here’s my rural tray ceiling illusion.
When I bought my old house, I learned firsthand what years of wood-burning can do to a fireplace. There was soot everywhere, the brick face was a dingy brown, and the mantle was an ugly eyesore. I scoured interior decorating magazines for cheap solutions, and suddenly I came across my inspiration in a Pottery Barn ad. I decided to refurbish my fireplace by decorating it with a modern color scheme that will brighten the whole room. Using a sea-sponge (found in home improvement stores), I dabbed three earth-tone paints onto the bricks to give them a fresh, terra-cotta finish. I painted the mantle with semi-gloss white latex paint to match the floor molding in the room. Finally, I used a piece of plywood to coat the dirty wood trim that extended above the fireplace and painted it to match my walls. Any fireplace can be refurbished with the same painted illusions. Here’s the before-and-after pictures of my fireplace decorating illusion.
Kitchen Cabinet Illusions
I’ve seen a lot of fantastic kitchen decorating projects that revolved simply around painting the cabinets and changing the kitchen’s color scheme. My own faux finish technique was inspired by custom Tuscan cabinets I saw in a catalogue but just couldn’t afford, and not that I’m biased in anyway, but I’ve never seen painted cabinets that look as good as mine. I began by priming the cabinets with a water-based primer instead of sanding them down. Then I used a sea-sponge to dab on two shades of flat latex interior paint. Finally, with a paint brush I created thin strokes of a contrast color, which I dabbed and smeared into the overall faux finish with the sponge. There’s no right or wrong way with this decorating technique, and you can play around with the patterns until you like what you see. You can also create the illusion that your old cabinet hardware is new by painting it as well using hammered metallic spray paints from Rust Oleum.
Brick Floor Illusions
In my last home I painted my cement backyard porch with a pavement illusion that was so realistic, my neighbors walked over to see why the builder included bricklaying with my new home, which they didn’t get with theirs. I used garage floor paint in black, brick red and brown and a large rectangle sponge equal to the size of a brick. After priming the surface with cement floor primer, I dabbed my sponge onto my palette which had paint blobs of each color. I mainly smeared the sponge in the brick red and brown paint, but I also dabbed a little black into it. After making sure the paint was well blended on the sponge, I pressed it over the corner of the floor to lay my first brick illusion. I continued pressing fake bricks onto the cement until I finished the first line. I started the second line with half a brick, then continued with full bricks as before, which created the pattern characteristic of bricklaying. When the floor was finished, I sealed it to protect against the elements. I’m still kicking myself for never having taken a picture before I sold the house a year later, but I have found wonderful examples of brick illusions here.