Old Walls, Or Made to Look That Way

The walls in our India pied-à-terre are very new, and I want them to look very old. Walls are on my mind lately because when we visit Chennai soon, I will paint. I will plan the ideas, I will do the tedious prep work, I will transform with color and textures. I will savor the whole process — the fun and the sweat. Here’s inspiration photos I’ve been collecting of walls …

My apologies for not knowing all sources of above photos. If you know of sources, please share in comments.

The wall below was photographed by Suzanne Dimma and shared in House & Home. It is in an old, abandoned hacienda near San Miguel de Allende:

Below is image via William Zanotta:

Via photographer Sarah Maingot:

Via Remodelista:

Via This Is Glamorous:

Via Belle Notte Linens:

Via Sharyn Bromley:

Via Interior Decline:

Via Desire to Inspire:

Via Pinterest:

Via Design Amour:

Via Style Me Pretty:

Via Arabella McNie:

Via Greige:

Via Flickr, truly old walls in an abandoned castle in Spain:

Next two via John Dugdale, a Hudson River Farmhouse:

Via Flights of Whimsy:

Via Enrique Menossi:

Via Wunderley:

Via Murobond:

Via Virginia Macdonald:

Here are old dilapidated walls of the ballroom of the Lee Plaza Hotel in Detroit, from the Ruins of Detroit book:

Here’s the thing. What’s the difference between walls looking intentional and appropriate versus looking like walls that you couldn’t afford or couldn’t bother to finish? What’s the difference between messy and dilapidated, and fabulous? How do you make sure your results are on the positive side of these?

To get an effect that looks random or subtle, I realize it takes great care and effort, having done effects similar to these. See my tutorial that shows how to paint new walls to look old.

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13 Replies to “Old Walls, Or Made to Look That Way”

  1. Gorgeous images! How would you replicate something like this on a new wall? Ours is a very old house and our kitchen wall is still unplastered (you can see bits of laterite stone and red brick where the paint is flaking) and now needs some work. I’d love something like this there but I have no idea how to begin or what to tell our contractors. I’d hate to just paint it all a neutral colour (bah) and then regret it for the next ten years.

    1. Hi, I made our walls in our guest room look old and mottled like some of these photos — I’ll do a post! Unfortunately I wasn’t even reading blogs 7 years ago when I did that, so I didn’t take pics of the step-by-step process. The walls did change dramatically with each additional coat of color and technique, and it was cool to watch it evolve. We still have left-over paint and maybe I could replicate it on foam core board. It involved 4 maybe 5 colors of paint. Some of the paints were small amounts because you’re just dabbing light amounts of paint for a mottled effect, so you don’t have to buy a ton of paint. But it does take attention to detail. And you’re right — I’m so befuddled about how to explain the process to our painting contractors in Chennai — and trust them to carry through on it well — that I’ll do most of it myself. Plus I do enjoy painting. We’ll have the contractors do the wall smoothing, primer and base coat of color. Then I’ll do the mottled effects and stenciling. I’ll go back and pull together the resources that taught me how to paint some “old walls” in our Chicago home for a post here! In the U.S., there are decorative painters who will do this kind of work but it can be time-intensive, so it costs more. Watch for a post about this soon!

  2. Thanks for the reply! I was wondering if we (in our house) should go back to lime on our walls instead of paint. I’ve been hoarding images of lime-washed walls tinted or not and it seems like the natural thing to do for old walls. Contractors prefer paint, though, sadly.


  3. Having lived in that part of the world (Pakistan) I know that OLD can be viewed by others as POOR and there is little appreciation for the nostalgic look that you (and I) were after !

  4. I love all the walls,actually I told some friends,If they didn’t know better,one of the kitchen photos looks just like my kitchen now,scales,beams,clock etc…I have many walls I have finished out with beams,my house was a store in the 1800s,so the ceiling was 16ft,no walls,50ft long and 26ft wide,so I bought an antique barn and raised it up inside and went to work,I’m almost finished,I wish I could post photos here but you can go to my photos on facebook to see them…I use a lot of the doors from India and antiques from India also…..

    1. Hello Bob, thanks so much for sharing your photos. Your doors are beautiful! They fit so well in the setting, the way you installed them. Because country/barn style is a trend lately, I’ve often wondered if Indian antiques could look really good in a barn style setting and you’ve proven that they do. Do you find your doors in Illinois? Hope you find some good inspiration for the home you’re creating here! Deb

  5. Hey!
    Your pictures are really inspiring!
    I would love to paint my bedroom in the indian- colorfull-old looking style….but i could not find any instruction on how to do it.did i miss the link? Is there any?would you give me a short walk through?
    Thanks for your good work!


    1. Hi Sarah! I hope you check back soon – in fact what timing you have, I’ve been drafting a post to show step-by-step how I painted old walls like this in a bedroom. I plan to paint the steps this weekend and will be posting a tutorial soon. Thank you, I’m so glad you’re inspired! Deb

      1. Oh wow! That sounds perfect!we are in the process of moving and i will renovate in a few weeks…..so i hope the tutorial will be available until then( no pressure though)…i am looking forward to it!!!thanks again for your ideas!

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