7 Tips For Choosing The Right Paint & Wall Coverings For Your Home

Since walls form the largest area of the home, it is not surprising that the decorative-arts industry has focused so much attention on them. With all the products and art work available, the proper choice can heighten the desired decorative effect, visually change the proportions of a room, camouflage faults and hide uneven surfaces.

Early cave dwellers’ preoccupation with walls is seen in the decorative as well as narrative murals that have survived. The ancient Egyptians wrote entire historical accounts on their walls by means of decorative symbols. The Romans developed elegant wall frescoes.

Today, the most economical way of decorating the walls of a home is with paint. Here are a few primers to keep your walls looking their best:

  • When developing a decorative format based on a monochromatic painted room, try one of these three variations: Paint the ceiling two to three shades lighter than the walls; select a wall color two to three shades lighter than the floor covering, and reverse the ceiling and wall colors if the ceiling is particularly high and you want to visually lower it. If the ceiling is part of a long, narrow hallway and very high, you may want to use the darkest of the three color values on the ceiling.


  • When a room is very long and narrow, you can change the feel of the room’s proportions by painting on of the short walls a darker color, which will make it appear closer.


  • Rooms will appear larger when painted a bright, light color. The reverse is true for barn-like rooms: Darker paint tones will give a sense of closeness and warmth, reducing the hollow, empty feel.


  • If your home is traditional and you have great moldings, paint can help accentuate these architectural details. Use either a contrasting color or a variation of the wall paint. Two or three shades lighter or darker will bring out these features in a subtle but elegant way.


  • The glazing of walls is a painting technique which gives the top coat a clear, lacquered finish. This creates a deep, almost antique surface. When applied properly, it is beautiful. This is a job for professionals.


  • Airbrushing or speckling with paint is a technique first developed in the 1930s, but recently it has gained renewed popularity. This method, like glazing, requires the skill of a professional painter, but the results are well worth it. The effect resembles tiny, confetti-like specs, and you can select an endless number of color combinations.


  • Simulated stone textures can be created with this same technique when applied in flat, grayish tones. When executed in high-gloss, brightly colored speckles, the result is a high-tech look. This decorative solution offers a multitude of possibilities and, unlike highly patterned papers, does not conflict with art.

Wall coverings other than paint are available in a variety of materials. The type of covering to be used will depend on two factors: the condition of the walls that need to be covered and the decorative effect desired.

It is essential to establish the condition of the walls before the covering is selected. If the walls are rough or uneven, either a liner and/or a heavy-gauge material should be selected to ensure a smooth effect. Sometimes, highly patterned or three-dimensional textures must be used, to disguise the faulty surfaces.

If the walls are in good shape and the decorative effect is the main consideration, here are some guidelines for selecting patterns:

  • Mini-prints will unify awkward walls that jog in and out. Dormer ceiling lines that break up these walls could be covered in the same print to give a sense of height to a low ceiling. Vertically patterned papers will make a room look taller.


  • Light-colored, open-patterned prints will expand a room more than small, dark patterns.


  • Very small rooms will appear larger if the same small pattern is used not only on the walls but on windows, in matching fabric or in paper covered blinds.


  • In contemporary design applications, very simple wallcoverings are the choice. A textured grass cloth, silk or linen string or a quiet texture will do the trick, as long as only a hint of pattern or color is used.