Stealing a Design Idea from Fashion

On the subject of design inspiration, Picasso had this to say: “Good artists borrow; great artists steal.”  While I can’t claim a place in either artistic category, my penchant for design larceny is indisputable.  I’ve been on the hunt for great black+white textured paint technique ideas for a while and when I happened upon this bit of loveliness, I thought about Picasso for a minute, and promptly decided I just had to steal it!

plaid print slacks design inspiration for paint technique

Plaid pants: $56 at Trash & Vaudeville, NYC, 212-982-3590

Once I committed to the out-and-out theft of the plaid, the sample-making dilemma ensued.  Should I bother to make a sample or just get right to it on the wall?  I am firmly positioned in the “hate it” camp when it comes to making painted samples.  That’s not to say I would discourage or forgo testing before I commit to painting it onto a wall.  I just don’t like making samples, and that’s just about all there is to it. :)  I loved these kooky plaid pants so much, I was convinced a similar look would be wonderful below the dado at the staircase.  The color makes quite a statement there already but maybe the stolen plaid would be better?

prep for painting staircase

I use oak tag for my sample making, because it’s cheap, easy to find and can be easily taped onto a wall.  Small sheetrock cuts or cardboard are even better options, because you can skip the need for primer before applying a painted base coat, but they don’t store or hang as easily.  Once you paint a base coat on your sample board, the fun begins, or in my case, never ends.  Hoping to replicate the wildly textured plaid pants, I fooled around with a graining comb, squeegee, notched cardboard and a wallpaper brush, working to figure out which tool would give me the best result.  This is the why of sample making; each try with the paint and the tool can be manipulated and worked over until you figure out exactly the best way to get the look you’re after.  It’s always better to keep repainting an oak tag sample board than it is to repaint a wall. My samples are never beautiful, they are informative, that’s all!

sample board for painting technique

For any brushed plaid technique, the relationship of the layered colors has as much to do with the result as the tools you use.  For my technique, I worked a haphazardly or “open” horizontal Silver Satin 856 tooled stripe, over a base coat of Stone Cutter 2135-20.  Since I couldn’t possibly make it from the top of the staricase to the bottom without stopping, I worked a taped vertical line into the design and simply blended each together as I went along.  I practiced and tested both the color relationship and how to join the lines during my sample escapades so I had a good idea of how much blending and fussing I’d need to do to keep the finish looking even.

staircase wall plaid finish technique first step

I love the texture of this plaid which is almost naive and most definitely random.  To me, the result appears as modern and edgy on the wall as it looks on the pants!  Once the horizontal layer of white is dry, the plaid appears after the vertical layer of glaze is applied on top.  For this layer, I made a mixture of Stone Cutter 2135-20 and latex glazing liquid, which I thinned by half with water.  I applied this watery glaze over the crazy white stripe, and repeatedly dragged a four-inch brush straight down through the glaze to make the vertical lines.  This glaze is very transparent, so it doesn’t take much to leave it looking linear and textured.  It’s amazing how you can’t figure out which layer came first after the technique is dry.

staircase wall plaid finish technique second step

If you also set out to steal (or borrow) this plaid, keep in mind that the high contrast color combination adds a lot of interest to the finish.  A bold red base coat, under a warm creamy beige stripe, followed with a thin red glaze is another alternative that would be equally fabulous.  (As would a rich cobalt blue+white combination).  Were the color combination more closely related, the plaid would look more understated and restrained, as is the case with the strie I have in my entry foyer.

latex glaze over strie painting technique

A fresh coat of latex glaze adds durability and shine

My foyer strie is what is generally considered a tone on tone technique, which is to say there is little contrast, between the base color and the technique color on top.  Were I of a mind to add an additional horizontal layer of creamy beige over my now vertical strie, I’d have made another kind of brushed plaid, but not nearly as interesting nor as busy, as the high contrast black+white plaid.  So you have a good example here of how one single technique, rendered in a different choice of color and tool and layering, makes for an entirely different look in the end.  Amazing what can be done with one brush, a graining comb, a quart of glazing liquid and a little paint, yes?

finished staircase wall with painted plaid texture

If for no other reason than extending the longevity of a painted wall in a super high traffic area, glazing a wall in any technique is well worth the effort.  You can experiment with tools of all kinds; combs, brushes, rags, plastic, cheesecloth, cardboard or my personal favorite, a notched squeegee, which I’ll have more to say about in a few weeks when I get to the guest bedroom.  In the meantime, why not have some sample making fun?  You can choose any base color and, once its dry, apply Benjamin Moore latex glazing liquid tinted with any latex paint color you care to try on top.  You’ll soon discover that the possibilities are truly endless.  Be sure to make a note of your color and tool choices right on the sample boards, because sometimes even I can’t quite figure out what I did to create a particular finish.  Love it or hate it, you’ll know your a sample making whiz when you begin to hate making them too, because there simply are never enough walls to fancy up with all our fantastic wall glazing creations.

Hard to say how my black+white inspirations will continue to play out around my house. Meet me in the kitchen next time!

Stay colorful,
Lu

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3 thoughts on “Stealing a Design Idea from Fashion

  1. Thanks Elisa. The finish is so fun to live with! Maybe with a few more trips up and down the stairs I’ll be wearing the matching pants. :)

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