Published on September 5, 2019

woman on a ladder painting black strokes across the wallPin It
photography by chelci lindsay

Even if you don’t consider yourself a nitpicky person, it’s easy to turn into a perfectionist when you start painting a wall. Every stroke must be smooth! Don’t go past the blue tape! At least two coats! Suddenly, something that should be as fun as creating a work of art becomes a lengthy list of dos and don’ts. So what if mistakes didn’t exist? What if you didn’t need a game plan? More and more DIY’ers are painting their walls freestyle, and it’s convinced us to be more carefree and tap into our inner artist. 

Chelci Lindsay, the blogger and shop owner behind White Grove Decor, recently made over her bedroom and decided to let loose with abstract brush strokes. “I didn’t want a ‘perfect’ or even look, so I mixed up the length of each movement and also the amount of paint on the brush,” she says. Even if Lindsay “messed up,” you’d never know. Every line was meant to be fluid. “You can always paint over it if you don’t love it!” she adds. Make up your own design as you go, or try one of the seven freeform ideas below. Spontaneity is on your side. 

Go with a Gradient

pale green arches in a nurseryPin It
photo courtesy of vintage revivals

Mandi Gubler, the DIY’er and blogger behind Vintage Revivals, turned a plain white space into a whimsical nursery for the One Room Challenge with a series of ombre arches. Using various combinations of Sherwin-Williams Softened Green and her own mix of white paints (peep her secret formula), Gubler created six different shades. From there, she began with the lightest hue on the outer layer and slowly worked her way in. 

Stick to Basic Shapes

giant terrazzo shapes on a wall by the stairsPin It
photography courtesy of house on a sugar hill

While Jodi Bond of House on a Sugar Hill didn’t go completely freehand on this design (she sketched the large-scale shapes on the wall before filling them in with pinks, beiges, and black), the blogger didn’t overthink the placement. In fact, she drew the whole thing in three minutes flat. “In actual terrazzo, the chips fall where they may, quite literally,” the blogger explains in her tutorial. In order for the wall to look authentic, she had to embrace imperfections. 

“In actual terrazzo, the chips fall where they may, quite literally.” — Bond

Start on the Ceiling

dining room with a blotch of paints going up to the ceilingPin It
Photography by Aubrie Pick

Designer Jeff Schlarb recruited pro decorative painter and wallpaper fabricator Elan Evans for this colorful job, but anyone can re-create the vibe by layering a handful of brightly colored streaks on top of one another. 

Channel Familiar Shapes

nursery crib with gray plane and mountain painted on the wallPin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY HEIDI’S BRIDGE; DESIGN BY TALI ROTH

There’s no better place to be playful than a newborn’s room. Using a darker shade of gray than the walls, Tali Roth surrounded her son Romeo’s crib with simple silhouettes of airplanes, birds, and trees. 

“You can always paint over it if you don’t love it!” — Lindsay

Smooth Out the Edges Afterward

imagePin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JESSICA ANTOLA

Another tactic: Let the kids do the dirty work for you. Angela Chrusciaki Blehm tasked two of her children with graffitiing the family playroom wall. When they were finished, she went back over it with white spray paint to define the shapes. 

Ask a Creative Friend for a Hand

bathroom with purple seal and green frog and other shapesPin It
photography courtesy of Dusen Dusen/Ellen Van Dusen and Lorien Stern

If you’re low on ideas, bring in someone who’s full of them. Dusen Dusen founder Ellen Van Dusen called upon a friend, artist Lorien Stern, to transform her ordinary powder room into an homage to her favorite animals and characters. Her dog, Snips, even makes an appearance on the wall. 

Treat Your Wall Like a Giant Doodle

little girl scribbling on a pink wallPin It
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JEREMY LIEBMAN

Domino’s creative director, Kate Berry, gave her daughter, Quinn, free decorative rein over her bedroom. And what do kids love more than scribbling? For Quinn, this wall is a never-ending outlet for her imagination. For everyone else, it’s a spunky work of art.

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