Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Colorwashing our Farmhouse Stairs

Last fall I decided to re-fresh the stairway that runs from our living room to the upstairs bedroom. I had painted this staircase over a decade before using a technique called colorwashing but it was becoming worn and the wood was beginning to show. I learned how to do this from Jocasta Innes' Paint Magic which I wrote about on this post. The first time I painted these stairs, blogs did not exist. I never documented many of the creative techniques I used to decorate our home.

Colorwashing walls or stairways is akin to applying layers of paint on an oil painting. My goal was to have the different layers of paint show through as the stairs aged - so that they have the feeling of being painted different colors over decades. I love an aged look.

Step One: Vacuum or sweep the stairs. Wash the stairs and let them dry.

Step Two: With a 2" brush, apply a random and streaky coat of royal blue latex paint. The goal is not to cover the stairway with the blue - just to apply patchy bits. Let it dry completely - overnight is best. It is also best not to walk on the new paint with shoes - wear stocking feet as the paint is not cured.


Here's what it looks like. I know - ghastly, isn't it? But just bear with me.


Step Three: With the same brush, apply another streaky coat of paint - but this time orange. As I remember, this orange was the color of Velveeta cheese.


Wow - really looking good, huh? Again, bear with me.

Step Three: Here's where the magic happens. I wanted the final color of the stairway to be a streaky olive green. This layer of paint covers the entire stairway and is applied as if I were painting a traditional coat of paint. The orange and blue streaks were covered up with the olive green. Because I only used one layer of paint, there is a bit of show-through of the other colors - this is a characteristic of colorwashing.


That's it. The stairs were all refreshed. No bare wood anymore. 


The blue and the orange will begin to show through in a few years time. In about ten years I'll have to refresh them again. Maybe I will change the color, maybe not. I love the way this paint treatment looks. What do you think?


p.s. I would have used oil paint if I had the time but because we couldn't move out to let the paint dry and we have so many 4 footed friends, I used latex paint instead.

17 comments:

Blonde said...

Oh! How funny, that's exactly what we did with our staircase many years ago! We painted two coats of different shades of yellow, followed by a coat of tomato red.
I love it! :-)

Stickhorsecowgirls said...

I do love it. Benjamin Moore has a fairly new paint out - cleans up like latex, but cures like oil - I think it is called "Advance", but bloggers I have been reading rave about it. I am going to refresh my stairs this summer and paint my kitchen cupboards-Like you, I have many 4 footed friends living here and it would be impossible to use a true oil paint.

nadinecreates said...

I love it. It fits the personality of a farm house. But I do like the other comment about using it on cabinets. I have some I need to redo and I think this is the way I will go. I couldn't decide what what to do but now I know.

MicheleinMaine said...

Your stairs are awesome!

I use this technique when I make pastels. I paint the paper with a diluted red acrylic wash, let dry, then use my pastels over it. I do an initial pass in complementary colors (red for trees, orange for water - I paint landscapes/seascapes), spray with fixative, then use the more representational colors. The colors showing through the layers of pastel give great depth.

Goldie Stetten said...

It looks great! It photographs lovely.

Frances said...

Colorwashing is so much fun! I still remember a ceiling I once painted in this way (also inspired by JI) to resemble a rosy sunset sky. I did use oil-based paint.

Now you've got my colorwash wheels rolling again. xo

Beth in Maryland said...

I love it! especially with your decorated walls. Which I think would be beyond me. But I can do floors!

Jules Means said...

That looks so cool! I have to admit I'm distracted by the fabulous wall of blue flowers!

Robin Allen said...

Very cool. I'm always amazed at your industriousness and creativity.

annie said...

Love these stairs! Wish I still had a wood staircase. Hmm, I'm looking at everything...thinking bathroom cabinets to start.

annie said...

PS: I love the white bannister and the flowers on the wall too!

mn_bird said...

That was really fun to see. Thanks for sharing. With the humans and animals underfoot, I'll bet it was challenging!

shadesofidaho said...

LOL My first thought was,"How did she keep the animals and kids out of it?" Great job. Makes me almost wish we had stairs I could paint. We chose one level because of our age. OH well. There are other applications to use this method on. Like Cabinet doors.....

adaliza said...

I haven't tried colour-washing but now I'm feeling tempted. Your staircase looks awesome - you'll have to run up and down with the dogs to get the other colours to show through - I can't wait for years to see that bit!!!

Lizy Tish said...

Wow - so cool. It looks so great!

Brenda said...

Oh my---when my ex and I bought our house, the bedroom walls were a pale olive green. Trying to stretch our money, I bought some store-brand paint at the hardware store and painted them pink. My husband hated it---between the lousy coverage I got with that cheap paint and the pale pink color, it was a hot mess. He re-painted with a peach color, and after the first coat, it had that colorwashed look even though that's not what we were aiming for.

Penny said...

Wow! I know I wouldn't think to do this, but they look absolutely lovely!