This is a tale of how when you travel with a plan, and with your paints and stencils, to the other side of the planet … well, be open to going on an adventure with your painting plan! Why did I take a stencil project around the world? We have a second home apartment in India. It’s called the “India pied-à-terre” and on a recent trip to it, one wall became a beautiful floral Persian Garden with the help of Royal Design Studio stencils.
Even if your painting plan is closer to home, like maybe the room you’re in right now, sometimes you find you need to improvise. This story will share problem-solving tips that worked for me in a pinch.
- Large Persian Garden Damask Wall Stencil
- Taj Tile Border Indian Stencil
- Chalk Paint by Annie Sloan in Old White, Old Ochre, Country Grey and French Linen (Coco is in the supplies picture but I decided it was too dark for this project)
- Stencil Creme in Pearl Oyster
- Stencil Brushes
- Paper Towel
- Painters Tape
- Measuring Tape and Pencil
Sources: l) FabIndia Flickr 2) Sinha-Paye
One design inspiration for this look was bone inlay in Indian decorative boxes and furniture. For painting a wall, I was inspired by the wall decoration in mud huts in Gujarat, India. It is called “lippan kaam” and it is beige and white with embedded mirrors called “sisha.”
I had a moodboard for this space which shows a mix of neutrals, patterns, mirrors, and overall a combination of rustic and luxe materials. You can see the idea calls for a big damask pattern on the wall.
I chose a light, faded, cream and white look for our apartment. This color palette is soothing to me after stepping in from the heat and chaos of the city streets just outside. Before leaving Chicago for India, I painted a few Persian Garden samples on thick paper. Knowing there isn’t easy access to Chalk Paint in India, I planned in advance and took extra paints. This came in handy later!
After recovering from jetlag, and most importantly cranking up the air conditioning, with it being India in July, I got to work stenciling a wall in India!
For a damask pattern like the Persian Garden Stencil, it’s best to start in the middle of the wall. First measure the wall vertically and horizontally, and find the center. Mark the spot with a pencil. Then center the stencil over the pencil mark, ensure it is straight, and tape it in place.
TIP: If you don’t have a level, you can use a smartphone app. I used a free iPhone app.
TIP: When paint jar lids are stuck, a rubber can opener can make it a lot easier to open them. You can also run paint cans under hot water.
Once I got started, some unexpected things happened. After pulling the stencil off, I could barely see the paint! And some pattern was missing. I had missed stenciling some of the pattern! But, the samples had looked good. What happened?!
See the pattern near the floor? Yeah, I couldn’t see it either.
Turns out, the white paper for the sample was significantly lighter than the white paint on the walls. Old White Chalk Paint was okay on the paper, but too subtle on the wall. It was so subtle, while painting with my face two feet away from the wall, I couldn’t see where I had and hadn’t painted.
And also, while the walls had been primed and painted, the walls were so thirsty. Paint seemed to sink in to them, using more paint than usual for stenciling. There surely wasn’t enough of any single color Chalk Paint to stencil the whole wall. I could not wait for a shipment of Chalk Paint to arrive in India. So what to do?
To solve the problem of not enough paint, you can try mixing similar colors together. I poured all the light neutral color Chalk Paints (Old White, Old Ochre, Country Grey) into a container and mixed them together. I added a touch of French Linen to darken the color. I further extended the reach of the paint by adding water periodically. This worked! There was enough paint and the color was dark enough to see.
As the wall got covered with pattern, something else was revealed. The walls and ceiling were really crooked.
To avoid highlighting the crookedness, which would drive me crazy, I decided not to stencil the full Persian Garden pattern all the way to the ceiling and floor. That left blank spots to fill with something. I spent some of my vacation time staring at a wall, figuring out how to solve this!
The solution was to use parts of the Persian Garden stencil to make shapes to fill in the blank spots.
TIP: To use parts of stencils, just tape off areas to isolate the part of the stencil that you want to paint.
TIP: Stencil on sample paper first and tape it in place to be sure the new design fits.
What I learned is, be open to looking at the stencil in a different way. You can turn it upside down, paint with parts of it and make a new look!
To fill the blank bands at the top and bottom of the wall, I used a floral design from the Taj Tile Border Indian Stencil. The flower motifs eliminated the obvious blank band look, and didn’t highlight the crooked walls too much.
Next I used shimmery Royal Design Studio Stencil Creme in Pearl Oyster to create the Indian shisha mirror look. You could paint circles freehand. I used various sizes of circles on the Taj Tile Border Stencil to add shimmery circles in the middle of Persian Garden flowers. The smallest stencil brush from the Royal Design Studio Stencil Brush Set was the perfect size for this job.
The result? A wall that reminds me of different iconic designs from India. It could be bone inlay. It could be a painted version of “lippan kaam.” The stencil also looks like Indian block printed patterns. And as you walk around, the shimmery Stencil Creme circles catch and reflect light — sometimes you see them, sometimes you don’t. I love that effect!
The Arabian Nights lights, seen here hanging from the ceiling, was another stencil project shared here at Paint and Pattern. They were installed during a previous trip to India. So hmmmm … what do I do on the next trip to add another layer of pattern? I’m thinking a trip to Pondicherry to find a big antique carved wood bench, and stencil patterned cushions for it!
If you liked the design ideas and problem-solving tips here, save this to a Pinterest board so you can easily find this post when you need it.