This week I’ll be revealing a very special room makeover that is incredibly close to my heart.
Words can hardly express the courage and heartbreak and hope that lie behind this one project. Never before have I painted a room with tears running down my cheeks and a prayer constantly on my lips. Some of you already know this story, and some don’t. For those who don’t, I want to share a little of the journey behind this surprise makeover.
After years of trying to conceive through IVF, my sister-in-law Jen fell pregnant with twins. Four months ago she went into labour at only 24 weeks gestation, and was air-lifted to Brisbane, where she gave birth to Theodore Matthew and Imogen Grace. The tiny babies were given a 60% chance of survival.
The babies began a long and arduous battle against the odds. Little Imogen in particular struggled through one setback after another – first necrotising entercolitis, which required emergency bowel surgery, then meningitis, and finally a Golden Staff infection. This was the final blow for her fragile little body, and at just 3 and a half months of age, precious little Immy lost her fight for life.
|Imogen on the left and big brother Theo on the right|
They were coming home!! My mind immediately turned to the room Jenny and Dean were planning to use as a nursery. Because Jen went into labour so early and they’d spent the next four months living in a city far from home, they’d never had a chance to do up that room or buy any baby gear. They had no cot, no change table… nothing.
The room intended for use as the nursery was currently their study/ sewing room/ storage room. It looked like this:
With only 2 weeks to completely transform the room, I had no time to waste. So I set to work emptying out the room to give me a blank slate to work with. Luckily there was plenty of storage space in the other two spare rooms, currently used as guest bedrooms.
The next step was to paint the entire room a fresh white. It’s hard to see in the before photo, but the walls were a dirty cream colour which made the already-small room feel even more closed in. This picture shows some of the white going onto the walls, and you can kind of see the contrast between the white and cream.
I chose Dulux “Lexicon Half” in a low sheen finish, with the same colour in gloss for the window and door architraves. It’s a very fresh, crisp white with the slightest nearly-imperceptible undertone of grey, which makes it a cool white to banish those warm and creamy tones. Perfect!
Then it was time to tackle the striped feature wall.
I’d decided on a base colour-scheme of white and grey for the nursery, with accents of blue and green, and here and there a happy little pop of yellow. I wanted the overall feel of the room to be calming and serene: a sanctuary of peace for an emotionally-exhausted new Mummy.
I envisioned my stripes to be quite wide, around the 16-19cm mark. I began by measuring the height of the wall (2258mm), and then I divided this measurement by the number of stripes I wanted on the wall in order to work out what the exact width of each stripe would be.
This was a process of trial and error – I knew that with ten stripes on the wall, the stripes would be too wide (22.5cm) so I needed more than ten. So I just started plugging numbers into my calculator. 11 stripes? Still too wide. 12 stripes? Perfect – that worked out to 18.8cm each.
I started from the top and marked out 18.8cm intervals with a pencil, going down the wall. Then I took a 1 metre long spirit level ruler (I had to buy one – it was only $14 from Bunnings) and ruled lines straight across the wall from one end to the other. (E.T. kindly dropped by to hold the ruler in place so I could take this photo. Look at those freaky alien fingers.)
There was no need to make any more measurement markings on the other side of the wall: it’s actually more accurate to use a spirit level to get the lines perfectly straight, instead of measuring down at intervals from the ceiling, which may not be dead level.
Next I marked with a small cross the stripes that would be painted in the feature colour. This was to accommodate my Mummy brain, which gets confused easily.
I used painter’s tape to mark out my pencil-lines, like so:
You’ll notice that every second stripe looks a little wider. That’s because you have to remember to tape the OUTSIDE edges of the stripe that will be painted. Hence my little pencil marks.
The next step is crucial to gettting those crisp, clean edges you want for your stripes, without any of that pesky bleeding underneath the tape.
Secret weapon: seal the edges of the tape in the background wall colour, BEFORE you paint the stripes.
You can see from this photo that I laid it on pretty thick, using a small foam roller. The white bleeds underneath the tape, but because it’s the same colour as the wall, you can’t see it. And then it dries and creates a seal, so the next colour can’t bleed under.
After the sealing layer has dried completely (usually a couple of hours – check the recoat times on the back of the paint tin) it’s time to get this stripe party started.
I chose Taubman’s “Silvertone Grey” for the stripes. I stressed about that colour. I knew I wanted a pale grey, because bold stripes to me look a bit circusy, and that would detract from the calming feel I was trying to create in the room. I made sure to hold paint chips up next to the curtain fabric I’d chosen, because grey is a colour chameleon, and can look completely different depending on what it’s next to. It matched the curtain fabric very nicely. But it was SO pale. Aaaagh – anxiety! Should I go a shade or two darker?
Let me tell you, “Silvertone Grey” is a very, very pale grey on the sample paint chips; it’s even paler when you crack open the tin and stare down at a colour that looks nearly white and freak out that it will barely even be visible on the wall.
No such worry needed. As soon as it hit the wall I knew it was absolutely perfect next to that crisp white. And of course paint always dries darker than it appears in the tin.
Lesson: when painting stripes on a white wall, always go a shade or two lighter than you think! Silvertone Grey turned out to be the perfect colour for this room. In case you were wondering, I painted the stripes with the same small foam roller I used to seal the tape.
As I painted, let me tell you, I was praying my little heart out. Praying that this room would be a true sanctuary for Jenny; that every time she sits in here with her baby boy, she will be at peace. That it would be a refuge from sadness and pain… that God’s presence would saturate the very air around her, enfolding her in love and hope for her future. With every stroke of the roller I prayed, “Lord, let your peace be in these very walls…”
More than the right paint colours or a beautiful nursery, I want that for her. The overwhelming comfort of a God who loves her and walks with her through her grief.
More drying time here before applying a second coat to each stripe. At this point, it’s important to remove the painter’s tape before that top coat dries, so the tape doesn’t pull the dried paint away from the wall. So I painted one stripe at a time and removed the tape while the top coat was still wet:
Ta-da! Perfect crisp edges. Such a relief!
And here is the completed wall:
Tomorrow I’ll post the final room reveal and a video of Jenny’s awesome reaction to the surprise. It was so good, it made me want to go on one of those home makeover shows so I can do this for a living and make people this happy every day. It was truly a blessing to see her with a huge smile on her face, completely and utterly blown away by the beautiful room.
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Thanks for reading, and I’d love it if you would leave a comment so that I know you were here! Tell me – what’s the most meaningful painting project you’ve ever undertaken? Anyone tried stripes on a wall before? Inspired to give it a try?
UPDATE: You can see the final room reveal here! Here’s a sneak peek: