Decide on your palette; the colors should be very close in value (lightness) and fairly similar in hue, because too much contrast can create a splotchy, dissonant effect. Thomas first paints the entire wall with a base color, then chooses three darker colors for his first layer. A lighter palette is used for the second layer; he finishes with a third layer in a warm tone.
Cut several pieces of double-waxed butcher's paper or regular waxed paper to about 18 inches. With a large 4-inch brush, apply a liberal quantity of the paint chosen for your first layer to the paper, coating one sheet at a time. Depending on the desired effect, you can use a single color or any combination of the three. Use a separate brush for each color to help keep the colors pure. Remember to create and experiment with as many samples as you need before actually painting the wall.
To apply the paint, press the paper firmly to the wall before gently peeling it away. Repeat in an adjacent area, turning the paper slightly to create an organic look. Reapply paint when the paper is dry. Be aware that the paper will rip and tatter after several applications, so it may be necessary to use additional sheets (cut as many as needed). Continue until the entire surface is covered. Use a small brush to smooth out uneven surfaces or areas around windows.
Once the first layer has dried, apply the second, using lighter colors and a thinner application of paint (try not to completely obscure the first layer). This gives the appearance of depth and complexity to the flat surface. Continue until the surface is covered. Thomas brushes on his lighter second-layer colors all in one direction and applies the paint conservatively -- so that the first coat is still visible. When the butcher's wax paper is pulled away, the unidirectional brushstroke he uses creates the effect of an aged, peeling wall.
Soften and unify the look of the wall with a wash. In a plastic bucket, mix some of the paint with water (any color will do, depending on your preference), and apply. Thomas uses a raw sienna, which when brushed on the wall gives the appearance of old, crinkled varnish. Wipe off excess with a clean cotton rag.
Paint, of various colors
Double-waxed butcher's paper or regular waxed paper
Large 4-inch brush
Clean cotton rag
She and Thomas Eberharter, of the Martha Stewart Living Style department, demonstrate an unusual approach to painting a room.