Spray paint gives new life to hidden treasures in your home

schandler@newsobserver.comMay 30, 2014 

  • Spray-painting tips

    Here are some tips from our designers on how best to use spray paint to make something meh into something marvelous:

    • Research spray paint application methods and “how-tos.” Sometimes seeing before/after ideas will give you inspiration and confidence.

    • Use a spray primer on the piece before applying coats of paint, especially if you are dealing with unfinished wood or metal. Some spray paints are a one-step, combination primer and finish coat – check the label.

    • Before spraying, be sure the surfaces have been sanded, if needed, and all loose surface material has been removed (use a cloth, sandpaper, steel wool, a wire brush – whatever’s needed to get the job done).

    • Spray in an area where nothing else is close by because paint drifts and can land on adjacent surfaces. It’s best to spray outside when there is no breeze and in warm temperatures (see instructions on the label).

    • A large cardboard box open on the side makes a good “spray booth” for painting smaller objects and will keep the over-spray from adjacent surfaces.

    • Apply multiple light coats of paint, rather than a few heavier coats. The result will be smoother and more even and minimize paint runs.

    • The most important thing to remember is to keep an open mind and have fun. Don’t overthink it. It’s your creation; allow it to evolve.

  • Not just color

    It’s easy to change the color of an item with spray paint, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Other cans in the spray-paint aisle can change the texture of a surface, reduce or add shine, give a faux finish like stone or glitter or protect what’s already there. You can even add glow-in-the-dark effects, create a chalkboard or make a surface magnetic.

    There are also plenty of accessories that can help you along. Interchangeable nozzles can refine how your paint sprays, and an attachable handle can add control while giving your spray-button finger a break.

Like wine in a box or lunch from a vending machine, paint from a spray can doesn’t get a lot of respect. But it gets the job done, and sometimes it’s surprisingly good.

With a drop cloth and a little creativity, you can use a humble can of spray paint to transform a ho-hum household item into the focal point of a room. Scuffed-up picture frames, dated lamps and even tired furniture can get an easy and cheap makeover with a simple (or not-so-simple, if you’re feeling ambitious) coat of spray paint.

“Spray paint is definitely easier to use because of ‘no drip, no clog’ features that have evolved over the years,” said KathyLynn Gariboldi, owner and lead designer at reInvented Spaces in Raleigh. “None of it is mistake-proof, but this helps.”

We challenged Gariboldi and other local designers to transform an item using spray paint and were dazzled with the results. They shared step-by-step instructions for their projects as well as spray-painting tips that will come in handy for anything that needs a bold new look in your home.

Ombré planters

Designer: Amy Lawson Howard of Alys Design in Pittsboro

Contact: 919-633-8125 or


Our world comes to life with color every year with the spring season; why not help bring new life to some of your old planters? This year, inspired by all of the ombré coloring we are seeing in everything from hair to fashion to furnishings, I decided to create my own version of color gradients, and these fun planters are the result.

Supplies: For this project all you need is a couple cans of spray paint and an open mind. I used Valspar’s Outdoor Color spray paint in Peacock Blue and Spring Sprout.

How to: To begin, I thoroughly cleaned and dried my pots, then laid the foundation with Peacock Blue, as can be seen most prominently on the inside lip of the planter. I then layered on the Spring Sprout in wispy strokes, allowing a portion of the orange terra cotta to remain, creating an ethereal sunset effect. Adding Valspar’s Purple Fury for definition around the outside lip and again blending it with the wispy strokes below completes the look.

Spectacular seats

Designer: KathyLynn Gariboldi of reInvented Spaces in Raleigh

Contact: 919-852-1964 or reInventedSpaces.com

Create a one-of-a-kind focal point for a dining area, breakfast nook or office.

If you don’t have a chair on hand, purchase one at a garage sale or second-hand store. Make sure the chair is in reasonably good condition so you can actually use it! If there are imperfections in the wood, don’t worry – you’re creating something funky anyway, and these characteristics can add some flavor to the overall style. Do be sure to check the bottom of the seat to make sure that the cushion can be removed easily with a screwdriver.

Supplies: Find or buy one-half to one full yard of fabric. (Check the remnant table at your favorite fabric shop.) Measure your chair and account for the fold-over needed on the bottom of the seat to secure it. You’ll also need fabric scissors (or a nice, sharp household pair), a staple gun and staples, and a screwdriver.

Pick your paint: Check out your fabric for a color that you want to showcase – or use something completely different. Consider other colors in the room – walls, rugs, furniture, drapery. I prefer the “no drip” spray paints available at local hardware and paint stores.

Paint the frame: First, remove the seat cushion, then dust off the chair frame. Protect yourself by wearing a face mask and rubber gloves. Spray outside on a clear day. I use an old towel under the chair so I don’t get paint on surrounding areas. Follow the instructions on the spray-paint can. Use long flowing motions for an even coat. A second coat is highly recommended for a flawless look.

Re-cover the cushion: Spread out your fabric face down on a floor or a table. Position seat cushion on the area of the fabric you want to use. If your fabric has medallions or any other symmetrical component, be sure to center the cushion. Allow 3 to 4 inches all around for the fold-overs and cut the fabric to size. Staple each side at center, pulling the fabric gently to flatten (but don’t stretch it). On each side, staple to left and right of center. And at each corner, fold in the fabric as neatly and flatly as possible. Staple to secure.

Put it together: Make sure your chair frame is completely dry after the second coat of spray paint, then use a screwdriver to put the seat cushion back in place.

Unifying factor

Designer: Ed Starr, design consultant, Gastonia

Contact: 704-458-4605 or edstarr@carolina.rr.com

A can of spray paint is a great tool when you have a group of objects that could be compatible grouped together, except that the existing finishes just don’t work with one another. I assembled several “found objects” that have interesting shapes and details, but whose surfaces were worn, damaged or otherwise undesirable.

Supplies: The two small figures on bases were found in a box of junk at a flea market years ago and purchased for $1 each. The wood box was also a junk-shop find for $4. The lump of metal with the distorted shape is a fragment of heavy chain with the links fused together by rust. I found it washed up on a beach years ago.

Paint to unify: I gave all of the objects a unifying aspect with a can of white gloss spray paint. Details in the figures are highly defined by the solid white surface, and cracks in the wooden bases seem to be part of the design. The interesting, simple shape of the box is better outlined when not cluttered by chipping, discoloration and brush marks, and a large old glass knob has been added to the top, giving a touch of elegance to an otherwise simple piece. The rusted chain has taken on a totally new look with the individual links now defined by the white paint, resulting in a new texture.

Add importance: To complete this grouping of interesting objects, I combined these junk items with a truly important and valuable piece: a hand-blown, white glass vase from Italy. The unifying factor, which makes all of these pieces compatible and gives them each an important role in the grouping, is the white finish applied to the found objects with a simple can of spray paint.

Chandler: 919-829-4320

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