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Choosing a ColorFirst things first: When selecting a wall color, taking the color of your floors into account is crucial. People often forget that their floors have a color, and they think only about how a paint hue relates to their furniture. In my apartment, the bleached wood floors really drove the bus and led me to go for beige walls and ceilings to create a cohesive look. But which beige? Neutrals are not a free pass. They can be as nuanced as bright colors, so you have to experiment with warmer and cooler versions of the shade you think you want.
Remember that samples are cheap but repainting a room is not. I chose a range of beiges, from a pale taupe to a grayish brown, and painted large test swatches on the walls. You can also paint pieces of poster board, which are easy to move around a room, to see how colors look in different light. That's an important point: The same color may appear dramatically different even on adjacent walls.
Spend a week living with your samples, and ask the following questions: When will you be in that room most often? At what time of day does each color look its best? Consider what's outside the window as well (deciduous trees? an expanse of lawn?). I noticed that a brick building across the street cast a red glow on my walls, so I knew I needed a yellower beige for balance.
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Select a FinishDetermining which finish to use is a matter of taste and lifestyle. I love flat finishes, which have the least amount of sheen and tend to absorb light and hide imperfections. Eggshell has a subtle sheen and texture and is more durable and washable. Semigloss is even more durable and washable and has an obvious sheen, making it ideal for woodwork.
For extreme shine, there are high-gloss finishes. I was keen on using one in my bathroom, but this finish is really suited to smooth, perfect surfaces (not my walls). Here's a good tip from my contractor, Bob Tobin: Don't go cheap on bathroom paint. Spend the extra money on one that's moisture resistant; for a bathroom, you'll probably need only one gallon.
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Color in DepthPeople often choose white walls because they don't want to be associated with a particular color. I totally understand the feeling. But I've learned that there is a way to use allover color conservatively. If the walls and ceiling are painted red, the red will seem to disappear. Plus, there's a side benefit to creating a "color cocoon." In a white space, it's hard to make white furniture look good. But in a room with an allover hue, white reads as a color. Finally, I'll be able to have white furniture!
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Expert Advice: Easy MaintenanceKeep a small jar of paint and a sponge brush handy for touch-ups. Stored indoors, latex paint can last a decade. To clean walls (only those painted with washable paint), apply mild dish soap to a wet cloth and gently wipe away stains; never apply soap directly to a wall.
6 of 22For the best results from a paint job, repair any flaws in your walls (such as a battered drywall corner) before painting. Kevin Sharkey's contractor, Bob Tobin, explains how to fix a few common problems. Drywall Corner Repairs: How-To
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Contractor Advice: Protect SurfacesSafeguard your furniture.Disposable plastic drop cloths are great for protecting your furniture. Gather items in the center of the room, wrap them thoroughly in plastic, and secure with painters' tape.
Cover the floors.Bob prefers to use heavy masking paper here rather than plastic drop cloths because it doesn't slide around underfoot. Secure the paper with an easy-release painters' tape, which won't leave residue. For bigger jobs that involve equipment and lots of foot traffic, he often lays hardboard beneath the paper for extra protection.
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Professional Toolbox: Plastic Drop ClothsThese items are essential for any wall-repair job.
Plastic drop cloths from $1.50, homedepot.com
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Professional Toolbox: Painter's TapePainters' tape from $3.50, by Scotch, homedepot.com
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Professional Toolbox: Red Rosin PaperRed rosin paper from $12 per roll, janovic.com
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Professional Toolbox: Vinyl Spackling CompoundVinyl spackling compound $4 for 1/2 pint, by DAP, homedepot.com
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Professional Toolbox: All-Purpose Joint CompoundAll-purpose joint compound $9 per gallon, by Sheetrock, homedepot.com
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Professional Toolbox: Wood FillerWood filler $2.60 for 1/4 pint, by Elmer's, homedepot.com
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Professional Toolbox: Sandpaper and Sanding SpongesSandpaper from $3, and sanding sponges from $2.50, both by Norton, homedepot.com
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Professional Toolbox: 10-Inch Taping Knife10-inch taping knife $9, by Wallboard Tools, homedepot.com
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Professional Toolbox: Pour Spout (For Paint Can)Pour spout (for paint can) $1, by Foampro, homedepot.com
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Professional Toolbox: Flexible Putty KnifeFlexible putty knife $6, by Warner Tools, janovic.com
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Professional Toolbox: 5-In-1 Tool5-in-1 tool $8, by Warner Tools, janovic.com
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Professional Toolbox: Paper Joint TapePaper joint tape $4 for a 250-foot roll, by Sheetrock, janovic.com
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