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When you want style, stat, a fresh coat of paint is the obvious choice. It’s a quick, inexpensive way to transform any room. But if you’re only putting color on the walls, you’re missing a golden opportunity. Done right, painted floors create a stylish, easy-to-care-for foundation that will last for years. Pick one of these goofproof designs, grab a brush, and start your next makeover underfoot.
Even the most classic kitchen can get a modern update with this approach: Punch up a soft base coat of paint (in this case, an ethereal gray) by using a stencil to create a high-contrast pattern. For great results, good prep is key: Scuff wood floors first to remove any existing finish and to make paint adhere well. To minimize sanding time, Karen Burke of Bravura Finishes, in Portland, Oregon, suggests using a deglosser (like Krud-Kutter Gloss-Off; $21, homedepot.com) and then giving your floors a light sand before you paint.
Staggered triangle stencil, stencil1.com.
Position your stencil in a corner away from the door to avoid painting yourself into the room. To keep all the edges of a pattern sharp, rinse the stencil in water frequently. Stenciled Pattern Paint the floor with your base color. Once it’s dry, position your stencil in one corner -- you’ll want to paint yourself out of the room, toward the door. Dip a stencil brush in your second color, then wipe it well with paper towels to remove excess paint. “Dry” the brush over the stencil with gentle, even pressure. Then lift the guide and move it to the next position, aligning the pattern. Repeat as necessary until the surface is covered. To keep the edges crisp, clean the stencil frequently, says Karen Burke of Bravura Finishes, in Portland, Oregon: “Lay it flat in the sink and gently clean it with running water and a soft brush, then blot it dry with paper towels. Never rub it; you’ll bend the corners.”
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Whether you’re preparing a nursery or making an existing one grow up, you’ll love this idea for its fun technique and its sophisticated, versatile color palette. As toys change and adult furniture comes in, the design goes from whimsical to edgy. It’s also practical enough for a work room and stylish enough for a contemporary office.
Swan plush; Shaggy pouf, in White; and Rocking Play chair, in Natural, landofnod.com.
The size of your splatters depends on the size of your brush: Use a toothbrush for tiny dots, and up to a four-inch flat brush for large spots.
Colorful Spatter Effect
Cover the entire floor with your base color. (For an opaque finish, you’ll need two to three coats.) The size of your splotches will depend on what tool you select; you can pick anything from a fine-art paintbrush to a four-inch flat brush. Load the brush with about a quarter-inch of paint in your second shade, hold it perpendicular to the floor, and gently tap it with a dowel so the pigment spatters. Let dry before repeating the trick with your third shade. If your design becomes too dense, you can open it up by spattering with your base color, says Chris Pearson of Chris Pearson Floors, in Roselle, New Jersey.
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To make splashy color combos, go for three shades that offer vivid counterpoints to one another. The beauty of these palettes is that they work in the bedroom of any child. Each can look softer or stronger, depending on what color you put on the walls.
Behr Porch & Patio floor paint in Porch Song makes the deep backdrop, while splatters of Pools of Blue and Ultra Pure White complete the look (homedepot.com).
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Alternatively, for a lighter effect, use Pools of Blue as the base color, then add flying drops of Porch Song and Ultra Pure White.
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Just Paint the Floor
A simple room gets some major personality (and an easy-to-clean surface) with a bright pop of color -- especially the bathroom.
To achieve a bright pop of glossy color, lay down two to three coats of any paint. Top it with two coats of high-gloss polyurethane to add luster. Know that reflective finishes magnify every imperfection, so it’s especially important to sand the floor well before you start, and fill any dents or holes with wood putty for a smooth start.
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Some Colors We Love
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Step Up the Contrast
With three parts to play up with paint, you can get supercreative on your staircase -- just brush a wide swath of color down the middle to create a faux-runner effect or, as we did here, partner up metallic-gold risers with cream treads and soft-pink walls for an understated elegance. Both are surefire ways to make going up the stairs (again) a pleasure.
On risers: Modern Masters metallic paint, in Pale Gold, modernmasters.com. On treads: Farrow & Ball floor paint, in Dimity, us.farrow-ball.com. On wall: Farrow & Ball interior paint, in Calamine, us.farrowball.com.
Cover treads -- which must stand up to a lot of wear and tear -- with multiple coats. For white, go with three, plus two coats of polyurethane.
Start by painting the risers with two coats of your chosen color. Let dry thoroughly, then tape off the bottom of each section so you get a crisp edge where the risers meet the treads. Next, paint the top of every other step. When those dry (about 12 hours), paint the remaining treads.
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Other Palette Ideas
Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio latex enamel paint, in Sunset Boulevard, benjaminmoore.com.
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Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio latex enamel paint, in Revere Pewter, benjaminmoore.com.
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Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio interior paint, in Golden Delicious, benjaminmoore.com.
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Play with Patterns
Spruce up an old wood floor with simple contrasting stripes -- or pick two shades to fall in line together. We love this idea for hallways, mudrooms, and even kitchens. Depending on the colors you choose -- and their finishes (matte or high-shine) -- the look can be rustic or clean and modern.
When it comes to old floors, forget using the seams as a guide. Paint will magnify any sections that aren’t straight.
Graphic Awning Stripes
Paint the entire floor with the paler of your two colors. Once it’s dry, use a straight edge (ideally one measuring from 36 to 48 inches) and a pencil to draw evenly spaced stripes. Use long pieces of good-quality painters’ tape to mask off the stripes. Press the tape down firmly but to keep your second color from seeping underneath. Paint the stripes with your second color. Let dry, then gently peel the tape back.
There’s no limit to what you can do with a straight edge and a big imagination. We painted floors a basic beige, then used painters’ tape to achieve four eye-catching patterns. Do look down!
Tape off every other floorboard and paint horizontal six-inch green stripes. Once they’re dry, measure six-inch rows perpendicular to your existing ones, and finish the grid.
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Begin by locating your midpoint (or multiple dividing lines, if you’ve got a lot of ground to cover). Tape above the axis, then tape off every other floorboard below it. Paint, let it dry, and repeat painting on the other side.
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Customize this approach for a room or hallway of any size. We alternated six-inch stripes (one plank) with two-inch and 12-inch stripes for a blend of whimsy and order.
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Here, green served as the base color. This stunner is ideal for a long hallway or an entryway but takes a little more legwork.