Sunday, October 10, 2010

Stencil Fail and Lesson Learned

I wholeheartedly advocate finding cost cutting ways to decorate a home.  I absolutely believe that anyone can get great style and tons of impact without spending a lot of money.   Great style on any budget -  yadda, yadda, big fat yadda.  A while back, I got a bug in my ear about dressing up my boring guest bedroom.  I’d LOOOOVE to do some really gorgeous wallpaper on the headboard wall and glam the place up big time but alas, wallpaper is not in the budget and it’s a little outside my comfort zone to try to install on my own.    

Photos from

 Well, imagine the thrill, the absolute THRILL when I stumbled upon inspiring posts like this one over on Fresh Crush  (I will remain eternally amazed and insanely jealous of her perfect-looking application!).  Inspired to the gills and raring to get my stencil on I headed out to pick up my supplies.   Back home with my loot and a wide open weekend stretched out ahead of me I began.
 After cutting out my stencil, getting my paint and brushes ready, finding the center of my wall, cranking some “I’m in the mood to paint and rock!” tunes, I rolled on my first bit of to-die-for-cerulean paint.  A few rolls of my sponge later I gingerly peeled back the stencil, excitement barely contained and right away I thought to myself, “This, is gonna look like shit”.    But I kept at it because clearly I have masochistic tendencies. 
Here began the desperate process of deluding myself. 
“I’ll just do a couple of rows and see what I think then”,   I said. 
“It’ll get easier the more you do it”, I said. 
“You can always go back over the edges after it’s finished”, I said. 

“No one’s gonna see all the imperfections once the room is put together”, I said.

That's my pup Abby laying on the bed with her back turned.  Even she knows this isn't going well.

So I persevered.  I covered half of the wall over the next two days, my stencil tripling in thickness with all the paint being rolled onto it row after row after kinda-sorta-mostly-straight-ish row.  Come Monday I still wasn’t too sure about the whole thing but I wasn’t ready to give up either.  I figured I would just mull it over throughout the workweek and come back to it Saturday morning with a newfound energy and appreciation for my efforts.
Saturday morning arrives.  I am ready to bang this wall stencil out!  I’m already picturing my glorious “Lookie Lookie What I Did This Weekend!” post and the super-effusive, congratulatory posts in my comments.
B and I are standing in the doorway, staring at the turquoise disaster on the wall.
Me: “Does this look like shit?”
B: “Well, if you’re asking you must think …..”
Me: “It looks like shit.”
You can see where my rows started to get a bit wonky
Then I spent the next two hours painting over my epic stencil fail with a leftover can of the most perfect chocolate-brown paint. 
Judging solely by these photos, you might think I’m being just a tad dramatic and a little too hard on myself.  Maybe, but up close all I could see were the imperfections.  The brush strokes, the smudges, the spots and splotches from where the paint crept under the stencil and bled outside the lines.  This did not look like an inexpensive yet genius alternative to designer wallpaper.  This shit looked like a hot, crafty mess and I hate crafty.  Hate it. 
There are several inspiring tutorials on the DIY blogosphere about using an allover stencil to create the look of expensive, designer wallpaper.  This post is not a knock on their projects because it was their beautiful photos and enthusiasm that inspired me to give this a try.  My hat is truly off to all those who took this project and ran with it to make something they absolutely love.  
For me, it comes down to this: if you really, really want the look of designer wallpaper there’s only one way to get it. Save up and buy the damned designer wallpaper.  Seriously.
Because sometimes there are no shortcuts to getting a designer look.  Sometimes things that look truly amazing and knock-your-socks-off-gorgeous are going to be expensive.   And as I found out this weekend, sometimes things that are cheap can wind up looking cheap. 
There is a delicate balance between the budget I have to work with and the level of quality I seek that as both a designer and a DIY’er I still struggle to find.  Luckily this lesson didn’t cost me very much in terms of money but it has definitely served as a reminder to recognize when it's time to scrap an idea and move on to Plan ‘B’.   
Now excuse me while I go gather up some stencil supplies that need to be set on fire.


  1. Oh Sarah...I love your honesty here! Why? Because all of us "non-designers" look at everything you do with Awe and Admiration, which in 99% of the time you are so deserving! But to hear that even with your talent, your education, your eye for design and creativity you too have flub-ups. Thank you for making us feel better with all the mistakes and re-do's we have had to do over the years. You remain an esteemed designer in my book!

  2. LOL! That is so freaking funny. I tried stencil once too, and it was a hot crafty mess. I couldn't agree more. No matter how hard you try to get it right, it isn't easy to keep the paint from getting up under that stencil.

    I would like to get up the courage to freehand paint something in my home, but I haven't found it yet.


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