Friday 23 March 2018

Interiors... Get the perfect blend

Creating paint effects is not just for skilled TV presenters

Digetex ombre wallpaper
Digetex ombre wallpaper
Layered paint effect from Dulux
Magnetic paint from Smarter Surfaces
Marianne Shillingford

Eleanor Flegg

They say that if you wore a fashion the first time around you shouldn't attempt to do it again. I wonder if the same rule applies to paint effects.

I'm old enough to remember the 1990s craze for stippling, rag rolling and sponging that left our walls looking like they'd broken out in a rash. These paint effects looked amazing on television and the presenters swore, lying through their teeth, that it was easy to create the look at home.

Most of us, myself included, made a pig's ear of it. The paint companies must have loved us. After splashing our walls with blotches of yellow and orange, we then had to run out to the shop for buckets of white emulsion to paint over the mess. This is why I'm approaching the current interiors trend for paint effects with a strong element of caution.

The top trend in contemporary paint effects is known as 'ombré' (the word comes from the French word for shade) and involves a subtle transition from light tones to darker ones. Skilfully done, it can make a room look perpetually sunlit.

The ombré effect can be created with horizontal stripes of paint (a spirit level and a roll of masking tape are your friends) or the colours can be blended either subtly, so that the colours fade into each other like a sunset, or roughly with visible brush strokes. The effect can look stunning but, in my opinion, you have to be a bit of an artist to pull it off.

"Just learning to hold the paintbrush in the right way makes it so much easier," says Marianne Shillingford, creative director of Dulux. "You need to hold it by the stock, close to the bristles. If you hold the brush by the handle, it just flaps around and you don't have a lot of control."

I wonder, in my cynicism, how much a top level executive knows about the business end of a paintbrush. Shillingford explains that she originally trained as a traditional sign painter and then spent five years working in a fairground, painting carousel horses and waltzers.

"It was nowhere near as romantic as my children imagine," she says. It sounds pretty romantic to me, though, plus the story has me convinced Shillingford actually does know about applying paint. "The trick is to water the paint down," she explains. "Dulux paints are formulated so that you can use them straight from the tin, you don't even need to stir them, but for paint effects, you need to add about 30pc water." A standard tin of matt emulsion from Dulux costs around €53.99.

Those who, like me, messed up their walls with ill-advised paint effects in the 1990s may not want to repeat the experience. "In the 1990s a lot people were inspired by makeover programmes like Changing Rooms. The trouble is that television is edited so you don't see the whole process. Now we have YouTube videos where you can see a close-up of the technique and you can view it as often as you need to. It's like watching Delia doing something amazing with eggs," says Shillingford.

The other point she makes is that magazines and newspaper articles like this one tend to show bright colours because these work best on the page. In the same way, how-to videos on YouTube use bold colours because it's easier to learn the technique this way. Not everyone wants to live with a pink and yellow wall, but you can use the same techniques with different shades of neutrals to create a toned-down version of the same effect.

If you like the look but can't face the paint, a roll of ready-made ombré wallpaper costs €56 from Digetex.

Now here's a paint effect I might be tempted to try at home. The Irish company Smarter Surfaces has come up with a paint that creates a magnetic surface (€59.95 for a two square metre area). It comes in mid-grey but can be top-coated in a paint of any colour. "You can use it in the kitchen to create an invisible notice board with fridge magnets," says Steven Wall of Smarter Surfaces.

"People also use it in home offices and children's rooms. If you put a layer of clear whiteboard paint over it then you can draw on it. We heard from a father who bought the magnetic paint for his children's bedroom. He put a very detailed decal of a world map over the magnetic area. Then he got an aeroplane-shaped marker. He travels a lot and his children move the aeroplane across the map to keep track of where he is. When we heard the story, we were a little bit in awe that our paint was being used to help a family feel more connected."

Smarter Surfaces have recently launched a projector paint. This has great potential for families that like to watch movies projected on to the wall. "It's a low shine paint that absorbs the projection so there's no bounce-back," says Wall. "It means that a projection straight on to the wall has the same high definition quality as a projector screen."

The paint is white (€89.99 to cover a 6.5 square metre area), but you can define the viewing area by taping around it and painting the rest of the wall in other colours. You could always use an ombré paint effect to blur the edges.

For more info on the products above, please go to:,,,

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