We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

Before Shadina Soondar hauled all her stuff—plus an Australian shepherd mix and three feline friends—over to her first solo apartment, she brought in buckets of paint. “I love painting,” says Soondar. By day, she works as a human resources consultant, and by night she’s dreaming up the next blank canvas to transform. “It’s always been important for me to make my space my own, even if I’m just renting,” she adds. “Painting has been a low-lift way to do that.” 

In her last place, Soondar was limited to the walls of her bedroom (roommate life). Now with an entire Los Angeles home at her disposal, she could expand beyond colorful accent arches to full-on murals. Although she had already completed multiple freehand, her next project, the awkward, 9-by-3-foot hallway broken up by three doors, called for a more precise process. “I knew I wanted to do a checker print after seeing a few DIY posts on Instagram,” Soondar recalls. “It was like, that would be a cool challenge, something new to try.”  

Slow and Steady Wins the Mural

Thankfully she didn’t need to bust out a calculator to figure out the right dimensions—just a level, pencil, and painter’s tape would suffice. Since the space between each doorframe is 8 inches on the dot, she kept things simple by tracing out 8-by-8-inch square stencils. While she expects she could have finished the whole thing in a weekend, Soondar slowly worked over the course of a week, making sure every line was perfectly straight, before painting each individual square by hand. “If I tried to do it all in a day, I think I’d get sloppy,” she says. 

However, the crisp, clean lines were also achieved thanks to a trick she picked up: After applying the painter’s tape, paint over it with whatever the current color of your wall is—in her case, white—and let it dry before applying the hue you plan to use, to prevent bleeding. 

Pastel Palette 

Purple—Gin Blossoms by Backdrop, to be specific—was an easy choice. Aside from the fact that it might very well be her favorite color, she already happened to have an entire bucket from a previous project that she wanted to make the most of. “The colors I use tend to be inspired by the sunset; those blues, pinks, oranges—I love the way they come together,” she notes. 

The same goes for the circles on both sets of cabinet doors at the end. Inspired by Art Deco and Miami, Soondar aimed to create a pastel and pattern-filled home. Backdrop’s Stromboli Chess Club (yes, really, she confirms with a laugh) came to the rescue to fill in the perfectly rounded edges thanks to her clever hack of tracing the outline of an old lampshade. Once dry, she swapped out the old hardware for matching wood checkered knobs (a surprising HomeGoods find!).  

The Bow on Top 

But before considering the look complete, Soondar added a border in Glidden’s Freckles. “I was torn on whether to bring the checkers all the way to the ceiling or stop at the doors,” she points out. However, with a relatively lopsided apartment, she worried the checkers wouldn’t appear even if taken to the top of the 8-foot-tall ceilings. The orange stripe keeps things visually uniform. 

And sure, while Soondar’s colors were simply what she had left over, that doesn’t mean she’s any less obsessed with the final look. If you’re contemplating something bright over neutral, her advice is to just to go for it. “Most people will look at this and think: That’s really bold, or doesn’t it look like it belongs in a nursery?” she says with a shrug. “But I feel like people should do what feels right for them.” 

Tools of the Trade