Find your true colours and perk up your home with a lick of paint


SORT IT: PAINT:When my husband and I bought our house I was five months pregnant and there was only four weeks to Christmas. Having spent all of the money on the house itself we had very little left to make any changes. The house had been lovingly maintained but was very dated. So with time running out and a non-existent budget we had to be very creative about how to transform our new house into the home of our dreams in time for Santa’s arrival.

Every room in the house had been wallpapered, including the bathroom and kitchen and therein lay our first challenge. Stripping the wallpaper would not only be extremely labour intensive and therefore costly but there was also a risk that the walls would get damaged in the process resulting in them needing to be re-skimmed – a risk our tiny budget could not take – so where absolutely necessary the wallpaper was removed and elsewhere we simply decided to repaint. We inherited some fine examples of 1960s and 1970s tiled fireplaces and could not afford to replace them so we painted them white.

I meet so many clients with these kinds of fireplaces and this is such an easy and actually therapeutic thing to do yourself. I primed the tiles before hand and then used white tile paint. It took a couple of coats but is a really durable finish.

Wardrobes are another large expense and we inherited some home-made dark wood floor-to-ceiling types. So again I painted them white and changed the handles and they provide fantastic storage in my eldest son’s bedroom.

Painting is a very cost effective and easy way to give any home a new lease of life. I went for a complimentary palette in my own home – this gave a sense of unity and connection, creating the illusion of more space. So if you do intend to repaint your home here are my top tips when picking paint colours. In general I would steer clear of any shade with a hint of pink or peach tone in it, particularly when choosing neutral shades. My advice when picking a neutral or off-white is to go for a colour with the slightest hint of green in it. You will find that these colours react really well in the light that comes with the Irish climate.

To help you get just the right shade pick up a range of sample pots in varying tones of the same colour ranging from light to dark. Resist the temptation to paint directly on to the walls as painting on to an already coloured surface can greatly affect the final colour of the paint. Instead, paint each colour on a piece of white card. This way, you can hold up the card in a number of areas of the room to see how the colour looks in different lights.

Colours are much stronger when they are painted on to the wall compared with swatch-cards, so it’s a good idea to look at your chosen colour during the day and with the lights switched on at night. If it’s furniture, wood-work or floors you are planning to repaint, try testing your sample colours on some off-cuts of wood which will give you a truer idea of the finished effect.

If you plan to do the painting yourself, make sure your surface is clean and dust free, and lightly sand it to get a “key”. This is by far the most labour intensive part of the job, particularly with woodwork, but it’s essential if you want to get a good finish. And make sure you choose the right product and tools for the job. Matt paints require different brushes and rollers to gloss and eggshells, so ask the shop assistants for advice before you purchase. And bear in mind that quality brushes and rollers will give a better finish and last longer so it’s worth paying that little bit extra.

Denise O’Connor is an architect and design consultant