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Add Personality and Pizzazz With Fabrics, Patterns and Stencils
By Marsha Canright

Strong colors, a playfulness with texture and scale, and the courage to experiment with new techniques will result in a style that’s uniquely yours. Whether you’re a DIY goddess or simply curious about stencils and creative paint techniques, there are plenty of methods for transforming a humdrum space into something vibrant, joyful and extraordinary.

The 12-foot walls in Jill Peveto’s small butler’s pantry were blank and boring and called out for “something” to add interest.

Peveto and her husband Robert, who own a 19th century house in Galveston, decided to paint the walls a deep khaki color – Gobi Desert by Behr – with a simple stencil overlay in creamy Cottage White.

The room came to life.

“I was surprised by how much it transformed the space,” Peveto says. “The pattern gives it a subtle Victorian feel without overwhelming it. Now, it’s the room visitors most admire.”

The use of stencils and decorative painting is practically part of human DNA. It dates back 65,000 years to Neanderthal art in Spanish caves. There you can see outlines of repeating handprints alongside primitive etchings of animals and scenes from daily life.

Today, patterns and paint can be used to enliven walls and floors or to add pizzazz to fabrics, lampshades and serving trays — even upholstery.

Massachusetts-based artist and author Kristin Nicholas has just released her latest book, Crafting a Patterned Home: Painting, Printing, and Stitching Projects to Enliven Every Room, a project-heavy guide that creatively explores how to mix and layer patterns and colors together.

“Pattern is inspiring and intoxicating. It’s warm and welcoming. It’s cheerful and full of joy,” writes Nichols.

The author, who lives on a working sheep farm and who has transformed her 1751 cape style farmhouse into an explosion of color, encourages experimenting with homemade patterns for a more interesting, lively look. She’s big on using embroidery, knitting, crochet, ceramics, painting and stamping to add personalized touches to a home.

“Handmade patterns have a quality to them that cannot be obtained by a machine. Although repetitious, making patterns by hand is challenging and creative,” she writes.

While it’s true that we don’t all have the patience and inclination to hand-stamp an entire room, bright and bold wallpapers can also do the trick. Nicholas has designed a trio of Garden of Family Farm Life mural panels for Casart Coverings, with whimsical birds and flowers against colorful backdrops like Maize, Pumpkin Sunset and Clear Blue Sky.

Visiting a local upholstery shop such as Hien Lam Upholstery or Sunny Road Interiors is a safe way to experiment with pattern and color. Practice placing florals from the Jaima Brown Home collection against stripes or geometric prints and see how it changes the mood and feel. The consultants on staff can also show you their look books to help jumpstart your inspirational journey.

In central Texas, the Painted Churches illustrate how Czech and German immigrant artisans used colorful patterns and clever trompe l’oeil to decorate their simple sanctuaries and to serve as a reminder of home. The Saints Cyril and Methodius Catholic Church in Shiner features a magnificent mural of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Houston designers who specialize in paint selections and decorative applications say that even clients with minimalist and modern décor like a bit of color and pattern.

“This year at Round Top I saw a huge number of painted French antiques. Very expensive, but still in demand as accent pieces,” says Julie Downey of Downey Design LLC. “The right piece or the right paint acts as a focal point; it can make a space feel beautiful and finished.”

One of her new projects is a pure white polyaspartic UV light-resistant floor with a faux finish that looks like marble. Faux is the term used to describe a finish that looks like another material, such as wood, but can provide greater resiliency than the actual materials.

“This faux marble floor is regal but easy to clean and it won’t chip, crack or turn yellow in the sun. It’s part of a neutral backdrop which allows the artwork to be the focus,” says Downey.

Creating a one-of-a-kind look is satisfying but it should be done carefully because it’s easy to overdo. Too much is too much, she warns.

“It’s important to know what you want from a room. You have to get down to the bones of what you are trying to achieve in a particular space and not get distracted,” she adds.

Downey was designing a hotel for a client who purchased a large, elaborate fountain in her world travels and wanted it placed in the center of the lobby.

“It was a beautiful artifact but it didn’t fit the space and it could have been a disaster,” she says.
Avoiding catastrophes and homeowner disappointment is part of the designer’s forte.

“Sometimes a client sees a color in someone else’s home and they just have to have it,” says Patty Hoffman with Patty Hoffman Wall Designs.

“Color is subjective and reflective. It depends on your lighting and the amount of sunlight and exposure. You have to live with samples in different lighting situations to know what you’re getting. It may not look like the color you were expecting when it’s on your walls,” she says.

When Hoffman, who has done all types of decorative painting over the past 25 years, picks a base coat for clients or suggests a faux finish, she draws from their personal style — colors they favor and artworks they love. “I visit their home and I take in everything I see and then I make suggestions. My goal is to make it look like their stuff grew there.”

A Houston-area triathlete wanted trompe l‘oeil — a flat painting that looks three-dimensional — in his laundry room as a tribute to his favorite sport. Hoffman painted his athletic equipment on a clothesline, along with shorts, shirt, goggles and shoes.

“It looked so real that one of the contractors had to touch it to be sure,” she says.

After Hurricane Harvey flooded his office, one local physician had new cabinets made with insets painted to look like zebrawood. The rest was a soft, metallic gray. “It turned out to be spectacular,” Hoffman says.

If you love decorative painting but don’t have the budget for it, it’s still possible for DIY aficionados to incorporate paint and patterns into their home. “Find something at a resale shop and get a kit for crackling or faux finish,” Downey suggests.“Don’t be afraid to experiment.”


Downey Design LLC
Patty Hoffman Wall Designs
522 Cole, Webster

Casart Wallcoverings
Harvard Street, Alexandria, Virginia

Hien Lam Upholstery
819 West Drew

Kristin Nicholas Embroidery Patterns
P.O. Box 212
Bernardston, Massachusetts

Sunny Road Interiors
3111 Fondren

C&D Hardware & Gifts
314 E 11th

Clark’s Hardwood Lumber Co.
700 East 5 ½

Decorative Concrete Supply Inc.
8310 Castleford

Southland Hardware
1822 Westheimer

Houston Web Design Company