A DIY Indian-Inspired Closet Nook

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you got little sneak previews while I was painting our Indian-inspired closet nook – revealed today at Paint and Pattern! It was once a plain white closet, now transformed into an exotic space loaded with color and patterns:

DIY with paint and stencils - an Indian-inspired closet reading nook

Head on over to the tutorial at paintandpattern.com to see how to stencil a closet nook bench like this. It’s actually pretty easy to get a high impact look like this. Four stencils + four colors of paint + MDF board = a little reading nook that looks like it came straight from India or Morocco!

DIY Stenciled Closet Reading Nook

The stencils shown here on the bench’s front came from Royal Design Studio’s Moroccan stencil collection. I’ve had these stencils for many years. I bought them for my first trip to our apartment in Chennai, India back in 2011 and intended to paint a little alcove between the apartment’s bedroom doors with this exact combination of patterns. The finishing of that apartment is on hold until we can give it the attention it needs to avoid big, expensive mistakes. (We’ve already had some happen and have no appetite for more!) So … I decided why not create a little corner in our Chicago home with these stencils, so we can enjoy it … here and now.

How to Stencil an Exotic Closet Nook

This project was so fun. I look forward to enjoying this nook. My husband’s home office is in the room next door, and he’s in there all the time, like I swear he works 18-hour days. Really. So I will likely camp out in this nearby nook a lot. And because this nook, and the whole room it’s in, is all “me” and reflects my love of global-inspired spaces, this spot may become my “office” and the space will inspire many more global design blog posts to come!

If you think you cannot spare a closet for a spot like this, well, I didn’t think I could spare the storage space either. But I learned I indeed could give up a closet, and shared that story previously. I also shared a few weeks ago, how to paint new walls to look old, like the mottled teal color walls in this nook.

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How to Avoid Regretting Paint Colors in Your Home

Despite making a huge swatch of the color, a wrong color is on some walls in our house. And what’s worse is, we paid people to paint this wrong color on the walls! As penance, I’ve lived with the color for a decade.

I made several major mistakes that you shouldn’t make when choosing color:

  • Let myself get pressured by the contractors to “hurry up” and choose a color – like, “we need to know first thing tomorrow morning.” Actually as the timeline shook out, they didn’t need to know for days. Our uneven walls (they were like “Ruffles with Ridges”!) needed a lot of sanding and prep and there was wallpaper to remove in many rooms.
  • Did not move the big color swatch into all the rooms where the color would be painted.
  • Did not view the color in the various light it would be in – indoor evening lighting and natural light through the windows.
  • Did not view the color in the morning, afternoon and evening in the various rooms because the natural light changes.

Yes, numerous paint color-choosing sins were committed. If recommendations were followed, we might have had the”coffee with a lot of cream” color we wanted. Instead, most of the time on most walls, the color looks like a slightly pukey yellow with a green undertone. It looks like my walls are feeling seasick. It’s really, really off from the sophisticated look I wanted. No one looks sophisticated when they’re really seasick. No one wants to paint their walls a color that reminds them of unpleasant things. Like phlegm.

If you want to avoid kicking yourself for making wrong choices like that, check out the list of tips to choose paint color at BH&G. They may sound simple, but they are right. Some might sound obvious, but do not think that you are above them. (As I did, ahem.)

How to Choose Paint Color You Won't Regret

Another site I really like is Maria Killam’s blog about choosing color. If I had known about her “understanding undertones” advice years ago, there would be no icky green lurking in the background of our walls. She also did a post about pinky beiges and how you might wind up with something that looks pink when you didn’t expect that. I can’t find it right now, but that’s the kind of info you can find on her site. She describes how colors can deceive us and what to do about it.

I’ve been thinking about the subtleties of color more lately, because the yellowish/greenish cast on walls around here should be dealt with. I’ve served my time. And the honey oak trim and floors around our home need to become less orange. So as new color choices are made, we want to make the right choices.

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How to Paint New Walls to Look Old

Over the years I’ve posted photos of old-looking walls here and here and here. And over the years, many people have emailed asking, how do you do that? Finally! I get around to painting new walls to look old, and can show you. I transformed a plain closet into a luxurious patterned Indian-Moroccan sitting nook with walls that look old:

Paint new walls to look old

Here are supplies you need to paint new walls to look old:

  • Several shades of paint in the main color you want – one lighter and one darker (you can even have a third color for more depth) – I use flat paint because I prefer not much shininess on “old walls” but you can use satin or other finish if you want
  • One or two natural colors of paint like beige, brown or gray
  • Glaze
  • Big sea sponge
  • Paint roller and paint brush
  • Rubber gloves or plastic grocery bag

I’ll walk you through how I painted a white closet for our sitting nook. Although as I worked, the plans changed! That’s the thing, as you work on this, you might discover a change in plans will work better. Mostly, you need to have an idea of the final result you want. As the look on the wall develops, you might need to change the basic steps as you go, in order to achieve the result you want.

Step 1. Have a vision for your final result

Old walls can have many looks. They can be streaky, heavily mottled, softly mottled, chipped and textured:

Old Walls

Because my closet sitting nook will be a stenciled extravaganza with lots of patterns, I didn’t want the old walls to distract from the patterns. Those patterns are supposed to be the “stars of the show.” So I decided to create softly mottled texture like this, but in a deep teal blue color:

Old Wall via Bella Notte Linens

 Step 2. Choose your paint

For the overall color of your wall, choose 2 to 3 similar colors. If you want the soft mottled effect I’m creating, a good rule of thumb is to choose colors from the same paint chip (a few shades away from each other, not right next to each other) and/or from adjacent paint chips. You want some variation in color but not too much. Of course if you want more heavily mottled walls, choose colors that are further apart.

You will also want to add in a natural color that looks like “dirt” or dust to introduce the old element. Study the photos above. The walls don’t look perfectly clean and spotless, right? So choose 1 or 2 beige, brown or gray colors. Keep in mind while choosing the natural color(s), only a small bit of the natural color(s) will peek through your top coats of paint.

To create old-lookin’ teal walls, I chose these colors:

Closet Nook Paint Colors

This was my original plan, but I didn’t use one of the colors. What happened is, the Benjamin Moore colors were less green-blue than I expected. Teal blue has a lot of green in it. But it can be hard to tell from paint chips how much green really is in a blue. When you look at the paint chips under the yellowish indoor light in a store or your home, a blue paint chip can look greener than it is. Once I painted the first Benjamin Moore color on the wall, I saw it wasn’t green-blue enough — it wasn’t teal, it was leaning toward a more blue-blue coastal blue. The paint chips really did look teal in indoor light, but they deceived me. Looking at the paint chips in natural sunlight – with all indoor lights turned off – revealed their “true colors!” So I ran to Home Depot and found a Behr color with much more green in the blue. It’s teal, and I am happy.

Here’s the base coat – not “teal” enough – on the stick, compared to the Behr color in the can, chosen in natural light:

Not Right and Just Right - Pick Your Paint Colors in the Right Light


Tip: Check your paint chip colors in natural light!


 Step 3. Paint your base coat

Paint the lightest of your wall colors first. You can paint this with a roller and don’t worry about being perfect. In fact very imperfect is good! Here’s my first coat:

Painting New Walls to Look Old - Step 1

Make sure to get good color coverage in the corners. On old walls, the corners tend to not wear away as much so they are often darker. With a brush, I painted two coats of teal in the corners to be sure they’re good and dark.

Making New Walls Look Old - Get Paint in the Corners

Step 4. Sponge rivers of paint down your wall

With your natural color(s), paint “rivers” of color down  your walls. If you have two natural colors you can paint each color here ‘n there to your liking. Make them flow unevenly down the wall. Don’t space them apart perfectly either, and maybe leave some big open spots. You could put more river effect where the wall would naturally get more wear and dirt on it. Use a sponge to dab these rivers on the wall. Here’s my rivers:

Painting New Walls to Look Old - Step 2

Tip: Use the biggest sea sponge you can find. This will give you sweeping color. Don’t use tiny sponges which will give you little dabs and spots. You can find big sea sponges in beauty care aisles cheaper than the paint aisles.


Step 5. Sponge the second coat of wall color

Wash the natural paint color out of your sea sponge and let the sponge dry. Using the sea sponge again, you’ll now paint a darker shade of your wall color. While sponging this coat, go for uneven coverage. Let the lighter shade of color show through. Let the natural color rivers show through. How much you let show depends on the look you want.

Also consider, will you be seeing your wall up close? Or from far away most of the time? If you will see it up close, you’ll be able to see subtleties in the first coats peeking through. If you’ll mostly be looking at the wall from afar, you may need to create a bolder effect.

Another way to allow more of the first coats to show through is to use glaze. Adding glaze to your paint makes it a bit transparent. I’d recommend adding glaze to these additional coats. It helps to build up layers of color and allow you to still see glimpses of the colors beneath.

Here’s how this step worked out for me:

Painting New Walls to Look Old

I wound up covering most of the natural color rivers. This was because I realized the first coat of paint wasn’t the teal color I really wanted. This second coat brought the greenish-blue teal, so I wound up applying this coat pretty heavily. It was a change in plans but it’s okay, this isn’t a precise process, it’s much more intuitive and “go with the flow!” My walls are also more “blotchy” than I really wanted. I might keep adding color and playing with the walls later.


EDITED TO ADD: I painted an old wall look again, a few years after these teal walls. Instead of using a sponge, I used a “Woolie.” See that new tutorial that shows how to use a Woolie to paint an old wall look. The Woolie made wider swaths of color instead of a blotchy effect.

Tips to get a natural old wall look:

  • Really get into the corners! You’ll find you may have a tendency to avoid the corners when you’re sponge painting. Push and squish the sponge into the corners, so you don’t get an obvious stripe running down the corners. Plus on real old walls, the corners are often darker because they’re not touched and worn down as much.
  • Same thing with the edges of the walls. Make sure all your colors extend to the bottom and top edges of the walls so you don’t get bare stripes there.
  • To avoid small splotchy patches while sponge painting, apply the full surface of the biggest sea sponge you can find to the wall. Also watch your hands. Try to hold and apply the sea sponge with an open fist shape to make your hand as big as possible. Don’t apply the sea sponge with your fingertips which could result in a series of small splotches.

How to Hold Sea Sponge

  • Be sure to not get repeating patterns from the sponge on the wall. Rotate the sponge, swirl it, change it up so it doesn’t make any duplicate patterns.
  • Wear rubber or latex gloves so you don’t get paint from the sponge all over your hands. I couldn’t find our box of latex gloves so I used a plastic grocery bag over my hands and that kept my hands free of paint just as well!

After following all these tips, here’s how my sitting nook walls look:

Painting New Walls to Look Old

Next up for the nook: building a storage bench, making a bench cushion, making a pierced metal ceiling lantern, creating a very special hidden ceiling … and, stenciling patterns!

Shared at:

Home Stories A to Z | DIY Showoff | The DIY Dreamer

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DIY Colored Mercury Glass Candle Holders

So it seems everyone has posted DIY mercury glass projects. What could be different about mine? Well, I wanted colored mercury glass. These votive candle holders I photographed in the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe were the inspiration:

Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe Votive Candles

This is the famous church with a spiral staircase built by a mysterious man who disappeared, after building a spiral staircase that has no known means of support. It’s a popular tourist spot in Santa Fe. This photo of the chapel’s votives reminds me how much I love the rich repetition of the red and copper colors – this picture has stuck in my mind all year since March!

So, I made similar mercury glass votive holders. And I’m so excited to share this DIY with you! Because it’s super easy to make colored mercury glass, easier than I thought it would be.

How to Make Colored Mercury Glass

Here’s how you can make it yourself …

Continue reading “DIY Colored Mercury Glass Candle Holders”

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