Feature Wall: How to Fail and then Successfully Paint Birch Trees

My poor baby was stuck sharing a room with her parents for the first year of her life, and because I know she was desperately crying out for pastel wall color and sleek Swedish-designed mobiles, we decided to make it up to her by giving her a baller bedroom.

And in our house, that means a feature wall.  We’re big fans of the feature wall over here.  My son has a navy and grey striped wall, we have a super dark grey bedroom wall, and my family room has one navy wall.  So when we decided to do a feature wall for Baby Lottie, I wanted to make it bad-ass  [well, baby-bad-ass].  I looked into doing some vinyl decals because I am not very artistic, but they wouldn’t stick to low or no VOC paint.  So I decided to get really bold and paint my own wall.  Yikes.  So what you are about to read is the trajectory of that seemingly innocent decision.  Spoiler alert: I have a feature wall.  But it was not as simple as I’d hoped.

Let’s start with the room color.  The original shade of the room was purple.  We decided to throw caution to the wind and not use a primer because we could just buy paint with primer mixed in.  Bad decision.  As we learned, when you are trying to paint over any color that has a hint of red in it, no matter how light, that red will bleed right through, clawing on to any palette that touches it as it grasps for dear life.  It is one determined shade.  So two coats of paint later…I could still see purple.  Fail 1.

Now lets move to the new room color.  Again we threw caution to the wind and figured that we have a good enough style-eye that we could pick a color based on a paint chip alone.  Bad decision again. What looks like a lovely and soft shade of pink resembling a worn-in ballet slipper on two inch card stock will end up looking like Barbie threw up Pepto-Bismol on the wall.  Fail 2.

Back to my new home, Ace Hardware, for a different paint color.  This time, the walls were a much more appropriate shade of pink, but it took two coats of primer and one of color to get it that way.  Lesson learned: it’s worth it to prime and to buy the damn sample jar.  Also, for those of you counting, we now have 5 coats on the walls that we have painted by hand.

So now let’s go to the trees.  This was the part I was sure I’d fail, so I spent a lot of time scouring the interweb for advice.  I ended up really liking this video, as she broke it down into manageable steps and made me feel like I could really conquer the art world.  Thank you, Evynne.

Step 1: Make trees using painter’s tape.

I did these trees free-hand and just stared at them with pride for a day. I wanted them to feel a little whimsical, so I tried not to have perfectly straight lines, which I love in the end. I ripped up little pieces of tape to make the notches in the trees for a more realistic effect, which was also easier than I thought. Win.

Step 2: Paint in the lines.  Now here’s where I got cocky.  I was already contemplating a career change as an artist using painter’s tape as my medium, and I just figured white trees would be perfect because, hey, aren’t birch trees white?  So I start painting the trees white.  After coat one, they don’t look so white.  After coat two, they don’t look so white.  After coat three…you get the pattern?  You see I forgot about the purple wall fiasco and, you guessed it, didn’t prime the trees first.  So that tiny hint of pink [remember that dogmatic bitch, red?] caused the white to look pretty muddy and not, well, white.

Step 3:  Remove painter’s tape. So there I am, FOUR COATS of white tree paint later and I have not-really-white trees.  Logically, I tell myself, well, let’s just take down the painter’s tape and see what we see.  Fail 3.

This. This is what we see. No, this is not a picture of a white wall. Nor is it a picture of a slightly pink wall. It’s a picture of a not-really-white tree on a slightly pink wall.

Step 4: Repaint the trees.  Because contrast matters.

Ahhh, there we go. Now it’s a tree! Thank God we had some grey paint left over. Win.

For those of you still counting, my trees now have TEN total coats of paint on them.  I love them.  I gaze at them daily.  And when Lottie is thirteen and dying to repaint her room because she’s sick of the forest, I’ll hand her a sander and a can of primer and tell her to go do it herself.

Wall color: Deja Vu by Clark + Kensington // Tree color: Coastal Pleasure by Clark + Kensignton

I’ll share more pics of the entire nursery once it’s finished.  In the meantime, anyone looking to hire me out as a feature-wall-painter?  Will only take me one week per wall…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *