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Color Wonderful: Easy Paint Techniques for Baby’s Nursery

With so many big purchases to make with a baby on the way—cribs, high chairs, dressers, car seats—it’s hard to imagine having any money leftover for decorating. The answer? A can of paint and a brush. Painting your baby’s room is an inexpensive, fun way to add a personal touch to the nursery and pull together the look of the room. Are you ready for a little color? Then keep reading.

Supplies

What you need depends on how much painting you do. To paint an entire room, plan on buying a drop cloth, a two- to four- inch paintbrush, a paint tray, a roller, and at least a gallon of paint. You can buy each of these items separately, or usually for under $10 you can purchase them as part of a kit. Along with the standard painting supplies, you should also buy masking tape, to cover door rims and fixtures, and an edger, which is used to create straight paint lines around doors, at the ceiling, and at floorboards.

Preparation: The Key to a Good Paint Job

Painting a room takes more time, with sloppier results, if you don’t prep the room. First you’ll need to move all of the furniture into the center of the room and cover it with a drop cloth; cover the floors and carpeting with drop cloths as well. Then, adhere masking tape in straight lines around the floorboards and at the ceiling, especially if you’re not using an edger.

Deciding on Color

Lay paint samples out in the room so you can consider what the color looks like at different times of the day. Remember that you probably won’t want to be painting your baby’s room again for a few years. Decide on a color that will last. Ask yourself how the room is going to be used—and not just this year. Are you planning on using the room for a sibling? You might not want to go with pink if your baby will soon be sharing the room with a brother. Do you want the color on the wall to be the major decorative element, or should it instead compliment bedding or wall hangings that will be added to the room? Brighter colors draw attention, while softer, neutral tones lend themselves to a variety of styles.

Painting on Single or Opposing Walls

Would you like to add a playful hint of yellow or blue to the room? Perhaps there’s a heavy dresser that you never want to move again—even for painting. Consider painting a single wall or opposing walls, instead of the entire room (just sure that the color you choose matches the pre-existing color).

Two Stripe Methods

1. The Basic Stripe: Stripes can be bold or subtle. Painting stripes on the wall can add an elegant touch to your nursery. While it’s not difficult to master this technique, it will take some time—get your ruler and pencil ready!

First you need one paint color in two finishes. For a child’s room that may need to be cleaned often, opt for glossier finishes that are easy to clean. For instance, satin as your base coat and semi-gloss for the stripes.

Paint the entire room with your satin-finished paint. Allow at least four hours for the paint to dry. Use your ruler to decide on the width of the stripe, somewhere between 10 to 12 inches, depending on your preference. With your pencil make small dots the width of the stripe down the wall. When you’re done, place masking tape along the dotted pencil lines. Gently erase any pencil marks that are too dark or too big for your coat of paint to cover. Follow this procedure around the room to create your stripes. Keep in mind that the stripes you paint, and that will appear, should be from what you paint outside the taped lines. It’s easy to get confused with all the stripes; try drawing an arrow on the tape to mark where you will be painting. Apply two coats of paint (but keep the paint coats thin). Wait until the paint is completely dry before removing the tape.

To create an illusion of height to the room, you may want to add a border at the top of the wall. Simply tape off a four-inch border and paint the top to match the ceiling.

Remember that you can also choose to do a single wall or opposing walls if you don’t want to do the entire room.

2. Combing:
Not looking forward to spending time with a ruler and tape, but you still like the idea of stripes? Instead of large stripes, you can paint smaller, thinner lines with the combing technique. As the name implies, you will be using a rubber paint “comb” available at most paint stores and home improvement centers. Choose two colors that contrast each other enough so that you will be able to see the stripes. Decide which color you want to be the background. After you prep the room, paint the background color. Allow at least four hours for the paint to dry. Working in small sections, add a wet coat of the secondary paint color to the base. Using the comb, draw lines from the top of the wall to the bottom. Continue this around the room, making sure not to apply too much of the wet paint at a time. You need it be able to “comb” the paint away to reveal the base color. You can add glazing liquid to the secondary paint so that it won’t dry as quickly.

Again, consider painting one or two walls, or adding a baseboard partway up the wall and painting the strips below it.

Painting Accents on Furniture

If the paint roller intimidates you, try instead painting accents on furniture or other elements within the room. Maybe you inherited a dresser or two from relatives? Adding paint to the legs or the drawer knobs is a simple way to add color to the room—sometimes without even taking a trip to the hardware store.

If the wood is unfinished, lightly sand it and rub it down with a damp cloth before you paint. Prep the area with masking tape to create crisp lines. You can use the water-based paint, or acrylic paint sold in most craft stores. If you use acrylic paint, plan on doing at least two coats and finishing it with a water-based varnish, also available at the craft store.

If the furniture is already painted, you can use a primer to cover the previous color. Zinsser 1-2-3 Primer Sealer works well on painted surfaces. Use white if you’re going to paint with a light color, and a tinted primer for darker colors. Apply the water-based paint of your choice to the dresser, bookcase, or crib. Keep your can of paint on hand and use it to add additional decorative accents. Buy and paint inexpensive wood frames and shelves to match your furniture. Mismatched furniture looks intentional when it shares the same color scheme as your new room.

Last Minute Reminders

Always open the room’s windows and doors while you’re painting. If you feel ill at any time, take a break. Ask your doctor before beginning your paint project. And if you are pregnant, check with your doctor before doing any painting—you may need to wear a special mask or enlist someone else do your painting.

If you’re painting an older room, make sure that the paint is not lead-based. Lead dust particles can come off and be released into the air. Exposure to lead can cause serious health problems for you, your unborn child, and any other children in your home.

Whether you decide to paint all of the walls, or parts of the furniture, paint is a great way to complete the look of your baby’s room.

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