Nothing transforms a room as fast as paint. Do some trompe l’oeil panelling, paint a mural, cover a feature wall in a fashionable dark colour, or paint inside an alcove to make a niche for a desk.
Run a citrus stripe along a skirting, or paint a chair in singing flame for instant zing.
Work with different tones of the same colour on wall, cornices and ceiling for an “architectural” look, or put strongly contrasting colours on walls and doors for elegant fun.
This season's hottest new paint colours
This season's hottest new paint colours
Packed with pigment: a strong, stunning blue deserves to be splashed across a generous-sized space. Panelling in Azurite water-based eggshell, priced £25 for 750ml, £70 for 2.5L, from Edward Bulmer Natural Paint (edwardbulmerpaint.co.uk)
2/17 What's new?
Superhero skyline: feeling artistic? Give the kids somewhere for their imaginations to soar with a combination of Striking Cyan and Rich Black endurance matt paints, priced at £26.48 for 2.5L, and 250ml tester pots of Polished Pebble and White Cotton for £1 (dulux.co.uk)
3/17 What's new?
Cool contrast: Yeabridge Green walls and doors, opening to room in Vardo, both estate emulsion, £39.50 per 2.5L; Shadow White woodwork in estate eggshell, £55 per 2.5L; floor paint in Manor House Gray, £59 per 2.5L (farrow-ball.com)
© James Merrell
4/17 What's new?
Upcycle: give old furniture a new lease of life with geometric stripes. This chest teams Beige White with Soft Shadow, both from Crown, £14.99 for 750ml of non-drip satin (crownpaint.co.uk)
5/17 What's new?
Lift your spirits: walls in Sun-drenched City, £19.49 for 2.5L, and block shapes of East Village, Ballet Shoes, Beauty Queen, Happy Daze, Mustard Jar and Copper with a Rebel border, £1.49 for 40ml tester pots (crownpaint.co.uk)
6/17 What's new?
Earn your stripes: Crown Breatheasy Standard Clay White walls with feature stripe in Shocking Pink, both in matt and silk emulsion, £17.99 for 2.5L (homebase.co.uk)
7/17 What's new?
Stunning feature wall: cover your walls in Spotlight matt emulsion, £19.49 for 2.5L. Create your feature with Rebel matt on wall, £18.49 for 1.25L, with a bold border of English Fire, £1.49 for 40ml tester pot and finish the shelves with Tibetan Gold and Jet Black non-drip gloss, £15.49 for 750ml (crownpaint.co.uk)
8/17 What's new?
Warm and inviting shades: finish a feature wall in Addiction, £18.49 for 1.25L and complement shelves in Grey Putty in matt and silk emulsion, £1.49 for tester pots or £19.49 for 2.5L (crownpaint.co.uk)
9/17 What's new?
Create a home office: Crown suggests painting an alcove or a feature wall darker than the rest of the room to highlight an area for your desk. This is new Peek-a-Boo Blue, £18.49 for 1.25L emulsion (crownpaint.co.uk)
10/17 What's new?
Blue sky thinking: for children's rooms use this super hard-wearing Endurance+ paints in matt Blue Babe and Jasmine White, from £20.99, and tester pots of Goose Down and Polished Pebble, from £1 (dulux.co.uk)
11/17 Go architectural
Stunning combination: Lamp Black intelligent matt on wall, £45 for 2.5L, teamed with Shallows floor paint, £61 for 2.5L (littlegreene.com)
12/17 Go architectural
Going to extremes: Portland Stone Dark Intelligent Eggshell on wall panelling, £54.50 for 2.5L; chair in best-selling Atomic Red Intelligent Gloss, £27 per 1L (littlegreene.com)
13/17 Go architectural
Striking effect: paint a two-inch band along the top of a skirting board for a splash of colour. Walls in matt Grey Teal, complemented with a bright matt Marigold stripe, from £26.49 for 2.5L (littlegreene.com)
14/17 Go architectural
Standout shades: score with doors in a sunny shade. Little Greene’s brightest yellow is Mister David, £28 per litre of traditional oil gloss (littlegreene.com)
Universally useful shade: this wall is finished in Edward Bulmer Natural Paint White Lead emulsion, £40 for 2.5L (edwardbulmerpaint.co.uk)
Counterpoint: white pieces make the most of elegant, on-trend greys. This is Inferior Grey, £40 for 2.5L of emulsion (edwardbulmerpaint.co.uk)
Keep it modern: Edward Bulmer's Fine Grey, £40 for 2.5L, will give you an on-trend, clean finish (edwardbulmerpaint.co.uk)
Use one strong colour, such as a dark blue, on everything — or just apply a shocking-pink band right round a room like a wide ribbon. Be a devil and do the ceilings a darker colour than white — if you don’t like it, change it.
Colour lifts your spirits. And since even posh paint only costs about £40 for a can that will coat the walls of a smallish room, pick up a brush. There are hundreds of colours, so choose a brand, do some tests, and get cracking.
Why it always pays to buy quality brands
If you use cheap paint, you will spend just as much of your precious time applying it but the result won’t be as good. In particular, it may not look as good in certain lights. Pigments appear different under electric and natural light. It is worth spending a few pounds more to get the best result.
Buy good-quality brushes, ideally with natural bristles. Cheap brushes shed hairs, and picking hairs out of a painted wall is just a waste of time.
At the end of the job always clean the brush meticulously, with white spirit if using oil paint, or water and a bit of washing-up liquid if the paint is water-based. A really clean brush can be used over and over, but one left half-clean will dry rock hard.
Order a tester pot of your top choices. This small outlay helps to minimise mistakes. Paint a big test patch on white paper, write the paint name by it, and when dry, tack it to the wall with masking tape. Look at it in natural and electric light and move it on to
different walls to see the true colour effect.
Oil or water based?
For centuries, most paint was mixed by eye in a bucket using linseed oil, pigments, and turpentine to thin or flatten.
House painters knew basic recipes by heart, mixed with a limited range of cheap earth tones, such as yellow ochre, green earth, lamp black (from soot), white lead (from lead —poisonous), along with precious pigments such as blue made from ground-up lapis lazuli.
From the Seventies, advanced chemistry and concern about volatile solvents including turpentine led to a surge of acrylic water-based paints. Pioneers were companies such as Crown.
Today, water-based paints come in many finishes from flat to glossy and can be really durable, wipeable — and of course, they dry fast. But demand for traditional oil-based paints has surged again, mainly because they use natural ingredients, they last even better —particularly for outside woodwork — and look gorgeous. Many smart companies now offer them once more.
And finally…. what about those half-used tins?
Once opened, as long as you close the tin tight and use tape to secure the lid, most unused paint will last about a year — longer if you decant it carefully into a suitable smaller container; this removes air, so helps prevent drying out.
But do label it with its name and type. Small amounts are great for touching up, but stir very well before reuse.
Don’t pour unwanted paint down the sink — that’s an eco no-no. Take the cans to the local dump. Most have special disposal areas for paint.