Oyamel Paint Finish – A Story of Finding Meaningful Inspiration for Your Creativity

Before and After Oyamel Paint Finish

I thought this would be a step-by-step tutorial. But then I counted all the cans and bottles I used – 20!!!. And all the paint layering steps, the salt, powerwash, baby wipes, polyacrylic base coat seal, gilding wax accents, wax top coat … whew!! I had a lot of fun playing with it all. But you know what, I don’t think anybody would follow a 20-page tutorial with 25 supplies!

There’s a lot of subtlety here, details that don’t show up on camera. That’s the depth you get when you use lots of layers and techniques. You are rewarded when you look very close.

Shimmery

It’s nice, but I don’t know if you’d do a tutorial to get subtle details that you can’t even see in photos.

Instead, remember when the Talking Heads asked, “How did I get here?”  Where did a paint finish called “oyamel” come from? How did it get here?

FINDING CREATIVE INSPIRATION

The Talking Heads song Once In A Lifetime is about being on autopilot and half awake most days, getting through everything we have to do. The days go by. Day by day by day. What happens when we stop and take a second to look around? To notice things? We might get answers. We might get inspiration!

Creatives now often go to Pinterest for inspiration. My Pinterest is ALL ABOUT inspiration. It’s like I’ve hoarded every picture I like for years. I have boards about inspiring places to travel to. Doors. Colors. Patterns. Walls. The hard thing on Pinterest is choosing which photo.

But I also like to look around my own home for inspiration. When inspiration comes from something in your life, it has extra meaning.

Look around you right now.

Is there something in the room that makes you happy? Is there something that has a story? Something that makes you imagine colors? If you walk around your home, what’s the first thing you see that makes you want to reach out and touch it?

Is there something sentimental given to you by family? A friend?

What about a travel memory? Where do you go on vacation? When you’re there, what are the colors, textures, and feelings you notice?

What are your hobbies and interests? What’s your favorite piece of jewelry? What’s your favorite spice? Imagine where the spice comes from. What’s it like there?

Do you like flowers? Plants? If so, what’s your favorite flower?

Can you find inspiration in what’s around you right now? These are things close to you, things you live with. Use them to weave a personal story into what you create.

Oyamel Paint Finish

MY INSPIRATION FOR “OYAMEL”

What is oyamel? It’s a special tree. It’s a fir tree that grows in the mountains of Mexico, and it’s where monarch butterflies spend their winters. Monarch butterflies will leave areas of the U.S. and Canada where it freezes in the winter, and they’ll fly thousands of miles to Mexico to overwinter where it’s warmer. These monarchs were born up north — they’ve never been to Mexico before. But somehow, they know how to get there! They spend winter flying and huddling together in mass bunches in oyamel fir forests.

So my inspiration for the “oyamel paint finish” is the olive green, orange, and golden yellow colors of the monarchs in these trees. With some brown bark color. And the blue sky they fly through to get there.

Oyamel Inspiration Photos

Photo Sources: Vermont Woods StudiosNational Geographic, FlavioLandin on TripAdvisor

I name everything after places, being the “nomadic” decorator and all. So that’s why I name this oyamel. I hope to see these oyamel forests someday soon – they’re within a days’ drive from Mexico City and San Miguel de Allende.

So, how did I get to that idea? Read on to see how inspiration can come from anything in your life …

THE MONARCH BUTTERFLY JOURNEY

Monarchs must overcome many struggles to survive. As caterpillars, they can only eat milkweed. But milkweed is being killed on a mass level by Roundup and the spread of farmland using Roundup and insecticides. Plus, predators and diseases kill 90-99% of monarch eggs and caterpillars before they can become butterflies! Only 1-10% make it! Thankfully once they become butterflies, they can drink nectar from many types of flowers. But they must survive an epic flight for such a little creature. Once they finally get to Mexico after flying thousands of miles, the butterflies are finding smaller fir forests – the trees are being cut down though there are a few reserves somewhat protected by the Mexican government. These pretty little guys battle a lot. Their numbers are plummeting toward endangerment.

Here’s a video that explains that the monarchs might have the most complex migration of any animal or insect in the world, and what’s happening to the Mexican forests they migrate to:

Why did I learn all this stuff? Well, I planted milkweed in my garden a few years ago. One day I saw a big fat caterpillar munching away. Yay! The next day, he was gone. He wasn’t big enough to become a chrysalis (cocoon) yet. That’s when I learned, a bird probably saw him as a big fat juicy dinner. 

So early this year, I looked for tiny baby caterpillars so small you can barely see them, and I found eggs. I rescued so many that I raised 160 monarch butterflies this summer in our house. Seeing them grow and become butterflies and take their first flight was so amazing! I’m smitten. Here’s one getting ready to take off from our bathroom window. When I found this one, it was just a little white dot of an egg, not much bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.

Monarch Butterfly

So, I created this oyamel finish to honor these little guys and their long journeys to survive. This finish also captures the lively colors of Mexico, which I’ve been seeing a lot as I’ve been researching a trip to San Miguel de Allende, an artsy town in central Mexico.

OYAMEL FINISH DETAILS

While I’m not doing a 20-page step-by-step tutorial with lessons learned and details, below is a basic run-down of major things I did to get the look. I used mostly chalk and clay paints (Annie Sloan, DIY Paint, Frenchic) because you can blend and manipulate them easily. I also used acrylic matte “chalky finish” paints for the base coats where I did not blend.

Oyamel Shelf Steps


Put a layer of light beige on the bottom half, where I knew I’d put lighter colors. The wood is dark and the light paint helps the lighter colors be truer.


Added base colors of paprika orange on the top; curry yellow on the bottom. I LOVE this curry yellow! It’s the color of tamarind staining your fingers after you eat a South Indian masala dosa!


Sealed base coats with flat polyacrylic top coat. So the base coats would stay in place while I “powerwashed” and manipulated top layers of paint.


Added dark blue on top half over the paprika orange base coat, and added olive green on the bottom half over the curry yellow base coat.


Distressed the blue and olive with baby wipes to reveal paprika orange, curry yellow and beige layers, and bare wood in a few spots.


Did asymmetrical distressing so orange and yellow areas look like random wear like maybe from a flood or something pouring onto the painted surface. Tried to hit areas where natural wear n’ tear would happen.


Powerwashed some blue off with water for texture.


Threw salt in areas while blue paint was wet. Got cool dark speckles but not super impressed. Like I said, lots of subtle details.


Added metallic shimmers with pear green color metallic, teal blue metallic, orange metallic.


Toned down everything with a light sandy beige layer of paint; wiped off most of this paint. Left enough for a dusty look.


Applied rich gold metallic gilding wax to the four bars.


Sealed with clear wax.


Noticed the clear wax diminished some metallic shimmers. Reapplied them all.


So that’s the Cliff’s Notes version. A lot of the magic happens when you reveal the layers underneath, when colors get “caught” on texture, when shimmery iridescence shows up when light hits it just right. I like the contrast of elegant iridescence mixed with a rustic cowboy outpost town kind of feel.

If you look closely at a monarch butterfly’s wings, they are iridescent! They have a color that shimmies and changes in the light. So that’s why this oyamel paint finish has metallic accents. And plus, it’s pretty!

Shimmery

The shelf now lives in my studio and holds … well, not much. Because I want to see the shelf! 

Painted Shelf in Studio

The colors all together remind me of flashes of the iridescent golden orange butterflies clinging to the rough bark of a tree, surrounded by green leaves and blue sky. Soaking up the winter sunshine in Mexico. Even when it’s winter here in Chicago, I can look at this and think of warmer days, and maybe even a flight for myself to San Miguel and a drive to see the butterfly forest.

Meanwhile, I’m dreaming up ideas to paint something in this oyamel finish for sale, and a percentage of profits could go toward a monarch habitat conservation organization. What do you think?

Shelf in My Studio





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DIY Painted Wall Headboard

If you want a unique, one-of-a-kind and affordable headboard, how about painting a headboard on the wall? If you like to change decor often, you can easily paint over it to make a new look. You can customize it to the color and design you want. That’s what I did to make a unique headboard in our apartment in India.

The first time I shared the inspiration photo for this project was way back in October 2010:

Inspiration Photo

That was only 3 days after I launched this blog! In February 2018, I spent three weeks in India, working in the apartment. I finally painted this:

Painted Headboard Wall Finished

I’m happy to see this idea come true!

Why did it take so long to get things done? Two reasons:  1) There was a lot of trial and error with architects and contractors from half a planet away, and we got so frustrated that we stopped working on the apartment for a while, and 2) My husband and I both worked full-time so there was limited time to go to India.

How to make a painted headboard wall

As you’ll see below, I used stencils for my headboard wall. But you don’t have to use stencils. You can paint whatever you want. I mostly hope to inspire you to see a different way to do things than the usual way, which is to buy a wood headboard or upholstered headboard. You don’t even have to paint all the way up to the ceiling. You can paint a square, rectangle, arched or rounded shape on the wall in the area where you usually see headboards.

The original inspiration photo was published in an Australian décor magazine, Vogue Living. It is a mother-of-pearl door from India. To make the diamond shapes like you see in the door, I used stencils from Royal Design Studio — the large Star Diamonds Wall Stencil and the smaller Star Diamonds Furniture Stencil:

Star Diamond Stencils

Mother-of-pearl has a metallic quality to it, so I painted with shimmery paints. I used Royal Design Studio Stencil Cremes in Bronze Age, Smoked Oyster and Aged Nickel. And I made a custom copper.

Stencil Creme

There’s a copper color Stencil Creme (Copper Kettle) but I didn’t have enough. So I mixed these colors together to make a yummy rich glowing copper:

Custom Copper Color

First, I painted a base coat with a taupe color, Asian Paints Silk Route, back in 2015!

Asian Paints Silk Route

I thought this base coat would make it easier to build rich color than stenciling directly on a white wall.

Now, 3 years later, I dabbed and swirled one of the shimmery Stencil Cremes over the Silk Route paint. I think this was Aged Nickel? Or it could have been Bronze Age. I’m sorry I didn’t keep notes.

Metallic Base Coat

Here you can see the mottled metallic look made by the shimmery paint:

Shimmery Base Coat

It’s a little blotchy but that gets covered up a lot by the stenciled pattern.

So many of these photos will be bad, I admit it! I painted most of this at night with bad lighting. The lighting was even worse than usual because one of the wall sconces stopped working.

Here you see I painted the big diamonds along the edges first. Then I filled in the middle with the small diamonds:

In Progress

This is 10 feet tall! It’s hard to tell by the photos how tall it is. It took many hours to fill in the whole pattern. I had two of these small diamond stencils, so I could work in two areas at the same time while paint dried.

Almost done!! After painting all night until about 4 a.m.

Almost Done

I remember being really sick and coughing so hard it hurt while painting this. Why keep painting? There was limited time before I had to go home to Chicago. And I’d already waited more than 7 years to paint this! So I didn’t care how sick I was. I decided not to climb to the top of the ladder and finish that top row at 4 a.m. when I was so tired and sick. I left it for the next day.

Once this was done, it seemed like it needed something more. It just didn’t “feel finished.” So I painted some more. I added dark borders and scrolly stencil patterns on the edges:

Adding Borders

The scrolly pattern is a custom stencil cut with my Cricut Explore, with a vector illustration purchased from Shutterstock.

Ahhhh! This feels better! It feels done!

Finished Painted Wall Headboard

Are there enough diamond shapes here?!

Also, I “pounced” or dabbed bronze and silver colors over the patterns with a brush to make an antique and “slightly dirty” look:

Close Up of Pattern

The day after, I was so tired from painting till 4 a.m., I crashed with the phone next to me, probably in the middle of Instagramming. When I opened my eyes, I saw this. The rich, multi-patterned look I worked so hard to make:

Scene in Master Bedroom Pattern Layers

It’s a little thing, but this view made it all worth it!

This boho chic patchwork pillow is another DIY project shared here on the blog:

DIY Stenciled Patterned Pillow

Here are shots of the room:

Tassel

Block Print Bedding and Curtain

Master Bedroom Simple Furnishings

Chinese Chest Nightstand

Simple Master Bedroom

It’s furnished simply. We spend only a few weeks a year here so we don’t need much stuff. And everything gets very dusty in India, even indoors, so the less stuff we have, the less stuff we have to clean.

Some walls still need more art. But the “headboard wall” is complete. Finally.

DIY Painted Headboard Wall





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One Room Challenge Week 5: How to Paint an “Old Wall” Look

Wow, the One Room Challenge has really been a journey! Originally I wanted to makeover our basement into a light, bright, creative studio for blog DIYs, a creative business, who knows the future when you have a big inspiring room to play in, right? But in Week 3, the basement flooded. In Week 4, it flooded again. The basement is beyond any makeover now. Only a total tear-out can help it. So in Week 4 I moved the ORC party to a guest room two stories higher — there’s no flooding 12 feet above the ground and far from plumbing pipes!

So after switching rooms halfway through this challenge, I am sooooooo thankful we have an extra seventh week now. This has been a lesson in handling unexpected events, and thinking fast and flexibly.

I’m not spending much money on this makeover because 1.) I was not planning to  re-do the guest room, and 2.) I already own much of what I need, and whenever our basement is renovated, I want to move the studio down there per the original plans. What’s a great way to get big visual change on a lower budget? Paint!

Paint Paint Paint

As shared last week, the guest room had dark terra cotta color walls, painted with a mottled effect to look old. I left one wall in the original terra cotta color, and painted the other walls with a similar texture to look old. I followed the steps that I shared in a previous tutorial — How to paint new walls to look old — with one big difference. Instead of using a sea sponge, this time I used a Woolie, shown here:

(Hmmmm. Sorry it’s so dark — I will re-shoot this with better light.)

The closet nook walls shown in my previous tutorial have a “small splotchy” look that I still want to fix. I think it’s hard to avoid that when using a sea sponge, even though I shared tips in that post to avoid small splotches. They still happened to my wall. The Woolie has a broad base and you can twist and turn it, pounce it, swipe it, do all sorts of big wide moves with it to make “splotchy swaths” — like big splotches instead of little ones. Here’s part of a wall I did this week. It has bigger swooping swaths of varying colors:

How to Paint an Old Wall Look

One recommendation in my “old wall” painting tutorial that I followed again, and it worked well again, was the advice for choosing paint colors. I recommend using two to three similar colors. Three is much better. You will get more depth on the wall. Then choose an accent color, usually a natural color like a beige or gray.

For the room I show you today, I did the opposite with wall color vs. accent color choices. Because the wall color is beige, my accent color is terra cotta.

Paint Colors for Natural Old Wall Look

Here are the three colors that I used to make the old wall look shown above:

Paint Colors for Natural Old Wall Look

Then the accent color, where small areas of the color peeks through the three above colors. The walls were previously painted mostly with Benjamin Moore Audubon Russett (HC-51) and Georgian Brick (HC-50). I left small subtle patches of this terra cotta color peeking through the beige and white layers.

Accent Color

The ceiling is a light gray. When the walls were terra cotta, the gray wasn’t so obvious. But now that the walls are turning beige, this is emphasizing the gray in the ceiling.

Gray Ceiling

I’m not loving that. I don’t feel like repainting the ceiling. But after finishing the walls, I think I really need to paint the ceiling. There are so many other colors in the room — a teal nook in the closet, a terra cotta accent wall. Gray on the ceiling adds yet another color. I will likely paint over the gray with Benjamin Moore Maritime White, so I’m pulling a color from the wall up onto the ceiling. Also, the white color will be lighter and help bounce light around more, which I like.

How Much Paint to Get

Now, I just suggested buying numerous paint colors. But that doesn’t mean that this is going to cost a lot. As you’ll see below, you are not applying full even coats of paint. So you will use less paint. I used a surprisingly little amount of paint, far less than I expected.

As a benchmark, here is what I used for “two and a half” walls in a room that’s about 10 x 10 feet, with walls that are 8 feet high. I say “two and a half” walls because I left one wall alone with its previous color, and there is a closet and door on another wall, plus two smaller windows. So I painted about 200 square feet. I used:

  • A sample pint can of Simply White and about 3″ of a gallon can of Simply White
  • A quart of Bungalow Beige
  • A pint sample of Maritime White

Yeah, that’s it! I even bought a quart of Maritime White, thinking for sure I’d run out of a pint. I didn’t. As you’ll see below, you are applying light layers and leaving lots of holes showing the layers below, so you will use a lot less paint. Also, rollers suck up a lot of paint. I would have used a lot less Simply White if I had sponged that on the wall instead of rolled it.

Painting an Old Wall Look

Here’s how it went down. Or, how the paint went on!

The first layer, Benjamin Moore Simply White, was painted terribly! On purpose. I loaded a roller and haphazardly rolled the paint in different directions on the walls. It looked awful, really awful!

First Layer

First Layer

But don’t worry. This is how it’s supposed to look. The purpose of this layer of paint was to cover most of the terra cotta color, and to not leave a perfect finish. Old walls are imperfect, right?

After painting for years, I trust the process and know it will turn out okay. Though this week wasn’t without its worrisome moments. As you’ll see in a minute.

The second layer, Sherwin Williams Bungalow Beige, was applied to the walls with the Woolie. I pounced the Woolie on the wall, swished it, swooped it,  twisted it, turned it. Anything to make a random effect. You don’t want to see any repetitive patterns. I was aiming for a natural weathering look on the walls. So to achieve this, you want to make wider swaths with the Woolie. Leave areas of the colors below peeking through.

Here’s how it looked after this second layer:

Second Layer

Second Layer of Paint to Make an Old Wall Look

I was painting this Bungalow Beige layer late at night. The next morning I took a look at the room. My heart sank. It felt so … blaahhhhhhhhhhhh. Like it was a FEELING. A feeling of sadness. Hopelessness. Loneliness. This is how the room FELT! It FELT like a single lonely piece of plain beige paper, all wadded up and discarded in the middle of a room with beige floors, beige walls, beige ceiling. Just so much beige-ness.

Oh my. What did I do?

I had a moment of uncertainty. But just a moment. This is to be expected!! I just erased a rich deep color and replaced it with, yeah, blahhhhh.

One solution is to TRUST. Trust the process, and keep going. To avoid this blah-ness, a third layer of paint is necessary. The third layer adds more dimension.

When I put swatches on the wall a few weeks ago, some colors looked flat, but the Benjamin Moore Maritime White was really singing in this particular room and in its light, during both day and night. Like I was really loving it. So I saved it for the last paint layer, the most obvious paint layer.

The third layer, Benjamin Moore Maritime White, was also applied with the Woolie, just like the second layer. I paid attention to how much of the first and second layers I wanted to peek through. And also, I was careful about how much of the original terra cotta to leave peeking through.

I felt MUCH better after adding the Maritime White onto the walls! Instead of wondering if I’d made a big boring mistake, the walls are coming more alive, and sophisticated, with the addition of this third layer.

Mottled Old Wall Look with Paint

The accent color, Benjamin Moore Audubon Russett, in the end wound up being far more subtle than the original plan. I originally left larger “rivers” and random spots of the terra cotta color:

River of Terra Cotta Paint

Making an Old Wall Look

But, the next day, as I looked around the room, my eye kept getting caught on those terra cotta blotches. And I realized, I don’t think that’s what I want to be looking at. It’s too much. Plus, I was envisioning the final result, all the other things that will be coming into the room — the textiles, the patterns, the textures. This gives you an idea of the things that will be in the room:

Texture Color Pattern Textiles

The big terra cotta rivers and blotches on the wall will compete too much with these things. The other factor is, this room is smaller, about 10 x 10 feet. If it was a huge room, maybe the walls could have handled more “stuff” happening on them. In this room, I decided it was “trying too hard.”

So I painted over much of the terra cotta. I left subtle areas that you can see in person. But they don’t photograph well, so it’s hard to see online. I should note, what you see in the next photo is not the final wall — this is after the second layer of paint. The third layer evened the splotches out on this wall a lot more:

Painted Over Terra Cotta Accents

After getting through these steps, I am starting to feel excited about the walls and how they’ll “play” with the other things coming into the room!

Speaking of the Other Things …

I started painting other pieces too. I’ll share more in future weeks. For now, here’s a peek at a little Moroccan table that will be a step stool to get up into the Moroccan-Indian closet nook:

Moroccan Stenciled Step Stool

And I started painting trays that will be stenciled to look like baskets from Africa, like the one shown here with the trays:

Trays

I started painting over a bowl that no longer fits my style. It will be painted with varying colors of Chalk Paint, then dry-brushed with metallic copper to catch on the raised edges of the flower pattern:

Repainting a Tray

There is still a LOT to do … I’ll stop now and get back to work!

But first, visit the other bloggers who are doing the One Room Challenge. There are 20 featured designers and about 200 guest participants who are making over rooms. As the end gets closer, I’m seeing color concepts come together, accessories meeting furniture, walls and floors transformed, and innovative DIYs. Go see what they’re doing!





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Furniture Makeover: From Danish Modern to “Antique”

Several times, I’ve transformed furniture from a plain “Danish modern” style into something far more interesting (to me, at least!). Did you know you can makeover furniture from plain Danish modern into a global style — Chinese antique and Indian antique?

Here’s a few pieces I’ve made over …

I did a makeover on this cabinet to make it look like a Chinese antique:

DIY Cabinet Makeover

Click here for a full tutorial. I used a small poster of a Chinese scene that I ordered from the V&A Museum, olive green milk paint, a few pieces of basswood, and Chinese style hardware found on eBay. That’s it! It now fits much better with our global decor, with Moroccan lanterns and a gong found in Cambodia.

I added raised stencils and Chalk Paint to this armoire to make it look like an Indian antique:

DIY Armoire Makeover

Click here for a full tutorial. I used a Moroccan stencil from Royal Design Studio and created a raised effect, and several colors of Chalk Paint and Clear Wax from Annie Sloan to totally transform this armoire. Oh, and new pulls that look old, from Anthropologie.

Cabinet Makeover Indian Antique

I’m itching to do another piece. I wanted a shelf or cabinet in our living room to hold a bunch of books. While surfing the Ikea website, I found the BESTA cabinet with DJUPVIKEN doors:

IKEA BESTA DJUPVIKEN Doors

That’s what that cabinet looks like now. But when I look at it, I see its future!

I see adding paint to make it look old, metal studs, and old metal hardware from India, to make it look like an antique damachiya (wedding chest) from northern India. Here’s a few examples of what this cabinet could become …

This damachiya was sold by Hammer & Hand Imports at Etsy. I loooove it, the chippy turquoise paint:

Antique Turquoise Blue Indian Wedding Chest Global Warm Industrial Storage Trunk Sideboard Console Media Console

Incidentally, the carved chippy painted wood piece that we used for the base of a bathroom counter in our “second home” apartment in India was found at the Hammer & Hand Etsy shop — check out what we did with it!

Here’s a damachiya that shows the metal stud idea, from De-Cor in Pasadena, California:

Damachiya from de-cor

I think it’s the raised square-ish shapes on the IKEA cabinet that made me see it as a damachiya similar to these old chests. With chalk paint or milk paint and the right metal accents, I could make the IKEA look old, like we found it in a desert hideaway in Rajasthan and shipped it to Chicago!

You can tell I’m not a huge fan of the currently popular mid-century modern style. Because any furniture we own that’s similar to that style, I keep turning into global antique style!

Maybe you will see a “DIY damachiya” in my living room in a future post.





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