I bought the wrong green.
We were in the middle of carpeting our downstairs rec room, which we use as a bedroom for the younger kids. The previous green was too institutional. It reminded me of hospital scrubs or cheap mint ice cream. I felt queasy just looking at it.
I was thrilled when my husband told me I should paint the room before our new carpet arrived. I headed to Home Depot, determined not to repeat the same mistake. I would choose a richer, darker green, and we would live happily ever after.
But the green I picked in the store was not the green I brushed on the wall. I gasped when I saw that first stroke. It was darker. Waaaaaay darker. And richer. Like mud. It was the wrong green. But we didn’t have time to fix it. The carpet was coming and the paint had to be on the walls first. The first coat went up, and I hoped I would like it better after the second. But I didn’t. I hated it.
I spent the next couple days standing in the empty room, alternately crying and brainstorming how to fix it. The room looked like a cave, not a whimsical child’s room. Could I put a lighter glaze over it? Attempt some kind of faux finish? Both of those options were risky. Then one night, an idea came to me. I’d paint giant silhouettes on the wall with some paint I already had on hand. It was a free solution with many benefits: it would draw the eye away from the awful green, lighten the room, and decorate the bare walls all in one shot. Here’s what I did.
First, I had my five-year-old stand in front of a lamp so I could project her shadow onto the wall. I quickly outlined her with a white colored pencil, then simply filled in the outline with beige wall paint. It took several coats to cover the swamp green. I drew the dandelion freehand, which is probably why it looks like a 4th of July Sparkler, but I didn’t have a dandelion and I wanted to have the effect of the fuzz blowing over the bunk bed, as if carried on the wind.
Next, I painted Faith up against the steps, reading a book. I used the same technique: I had her sit in front of a lamp until I got the shadow where I wanted it. I traced it quickly and filled it in with paint. So simple.
After I drew Faith, I decided I wanted her leaning against a tree, so I painted a tree on the wall freehand. I didn’t sketch it out first, but you certainly could, or project a branch on the wall if you’re nervous about it. I added leaves, and a little J+K heart detail for my sweetie. After looking at it, I thought the whole thing could use a little color, so I painted a couple more leaves in a lime green. I didn’t want too many, because I wanted to keep the shadow effect, but a little color is nice. Here’s another shot to show you how BIG it is! What a great way to cover a lot of empty space.
I also added some butterflies, snails, and toadstools around the room. Maybe I’ll even paint an owl.
Then, I found the sweetest sheer curtains at World Market. They look like they were made for the room, and they were on sale! I had to buy them.
The furniture in the room was old and mismatched, so we moved my great-grandmother’s lowboy dresser downstairs. I love the look of it in the room, even without its mirror.
On the very left of the picture above, you can see the edge of the frame of a watercolor done by another great-grandma nearly 100 years ago. The colors are perfect for the room, as is the charm. She picked great greens (unlike me).
The other wall was really dark because it has no windows, so I painted an abstract of flowers for a pop of color. It didn’t turn out quite the way I hoped, but it still works. I hung it over a dresser I found on craigslist for $25. The basket-weave adds to the “picnic” feel of the room, and goes with the antique dresser. We also have lots of kids’ books to display!
Here’s another perspective to show the scale of the shadow art. It’s about 1/3 bigger than the real child.
We’d love to trade that bright blue bunk bed for a wooden one, but for now, it’s functional for our big family, even if it doesn’t quite work with the theme of the room. If you look closely, you can see the dandelion fluff blowing over the bed.
All in all, I am happy with the way the room turned out, given the color mistake!
What do you think? Are you ready to try shadow art on your big walls?