Design Inspiration Color & Paint

5 Ways to Use Up Leftover Paint That Don’t Involve a Mural (You’re Welcome)

Clear up some space in your utility closet.
green painted living room
Michael Newton

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Odds are you have a trove of leftover paint cans somewhere—the blue from your powder room, the yellow from your nursery—and they’re probably gathering dust. We’re here to save your spares (and your wallet). Rather than pick up a fresh can every time a project arises, reach for one of those colors you already own next time you’re itching to tackle a paint job. They aren’t just for small touch-ups or multicolored murals—they can transform art, furniture, and even architecture. 

Artist Michael Newton reminded us of leftover paint’s superpowers when he opted for a wraparound gradient for his living room, starting with a powder blue and ending with a trendy sage green. “Why choose when I deserve to have it all?” he says. And put away your paintbrush—Newton recommends forgoing straight lines and instead freestyling for a more painterly feel. Ahead, a few more ideas to spark your next DIY day. 

Modernize Traditional Furniture

Photography by Rosa Schous

In Maarten Boomker and Sharvin Ramjan’s Dutch home, pastel pink adorns the baseboards, while Kelly green covers the walls. But if you only have a bit of color to play with, take a note from the couple and spruce up a classic column plant stand with a few drips. Bonus points if you match the pot to your palette.

Refresh Your Fireplace 

Courtesy of the Otto House

The peachy hue that now coats the primary fireplace in Georgia Otto’s British home wasn’t her first choice, but she didn’t want to waste the many paint testers she had lying around (or go outside her budget). Now the structure matches the house’s stair banisters, adding some coincidental continuity to the design. 

Fake Ornate Molding

Photography by Aj Tamari; Design by Owen Holmes

While crown or picture-rail molding is all the rage right now, Owen Holmes’s Crown Heights, Brooklyn, rental couldn’t handle anything too construction heavy. Instead he just grabbed his paintbrush and drew green Grecian-inspired squiggles where the walls meet his 10-foot ceilings. The best part: no perfectly crisp lines needed. 

Lean Into Pop Art

Photography by Anna Yanovski

Picture frames are fine and all, but why not have your art pack more of a punch than simple black frames? Give your prints the “eyeliner treatment” by painting a colorful border around them. Make it large enough to include multiple pieces to unite a gallery wall or choose your favorite poster to stand out.

Kate McGregor


Kate McGregor covers everything related to the home, from design inspiration to IKEA hacks. She has been the market assistant at ELLE Decor where she focused on curating product for the print magazine’s market pages.