Tips on painting a ceiling

When remodeling a room you should plan on doing the work from the ceiling down when it comes to repairs, painting, installation etc… One major reason for this is painting a ceiling IS messy! Splatter WILL go everywhere.

Everything on the floor must be covered, remove what you can, and have a wet rag on hand to immediately clean up drips. Since I plan on replacing counters and painting the cabinets, I was only concerned about splatter hitting the ceramic floor. It’s the reason that builders, spray plaster on and paint before the flooring goes it. It makes the job go a lot faster and the risk of damaging anything is lessened.


Roller, can opener, stir sticks, damp wiping rag for splatters, and lots and lots of dropclothes. If you step away from your job for a while, wrap the roller in a plastic bag so you can re-use. If you will be gone for over two hours, put the plastic wrapped roller in the fridge to slow down paint drying.

A paint roller handle that has an extension is necessary for doing ceilings. Without it your back will start to hurt.

I bought a paint roller screen which sits down into your 5 gallon bucket. This removes the need for a tray or pouring out paint into a tray so the job goes faster, it wastes less paint and the jobsite remains neater.

When planning the amount of paint you will need, if painting over fresh plaster (which we did) consider that you will use half again as much paint. For example, the ceiling would probably normally take a gallon and a half; I planned on using two gallons at least.

For the majority of the house, I used a simple white flat latex ceiling paint. That way I could extend the paint and anything left over could be used in any room. However, for this room I will be choosing a color.

Choosing a Color for Ceilings

When I used to watch Christopher Lowell’s show, he always recommended painting the ceiling of a room a color. I would pick two complimentary, but different colors and the ceiling was always too obvious. I mean your eyes would zero in on the ceiling and that wasn’t where I wanted the eyes to go. 

Martha Stewart also paints the ceiling of rooms a separate color then the walls. She does it in this matter: Room A has Color 1 on the walls, and Color 2 on the ceiling; then the adjoining room would have Color 2 on the walls and Color 3 on the ceiling and so on. This was profiled in one of her magazine articles yet, all of this seems overally complicated to me and means more colors you have to deal with in your design. More colors also means more paint left over and increased costs.

OTOH sometimes a white ceiling doesn’t do it for me, especially in a room which has a high ceiling. For example, in the powder room, I painted the ceiling a silver. It’s so high that the color is not oppressive which it would be in a lower ceiling room.

Because the kitchen has a high ceiling, has a lot of views while you sit in the breakfast nook to eat, and I will be installing white crown molding, I wanted to paint the ceiling a color other then white. Over the years of experimenting, I decided that what I would do is take the wall color (Rock) and use some of it to tint white flat ceiling paint. It would be substantially lighter in color then the wall, but would not be white, and the colors would automatically compliment each other.

Mixing Paint

To start with, I got two large, clean 5 gallon containers ($5 each at Lowes), two gallons of flat white ceiling paint (about $22 each), and I had a quart of Valspar’s allen + roth Rock ar720 (Lowes) leftover. Rock is the color all the downstairs walls will be painted in order for the downstairs to appear bigger for sale purposes.

I poured both of the two gallons of white together, and hand stirred. Then I added the Rock color gradually. Stirring and testing the color on the walls. Depending on how picky you are with this you may want to make a bigger patch area and let dry before proceeding with adding more color to your white base. If you get it too dark, it’s very hard to get it lighter again while it’s easier to keep darkening the white. For my purposes, I wasn’t that picky so used about a quart of Rock to two gallons of white.

TIP! ~ If you were mixing more then two gallons I suggest you get a paint mixer attachment for your drill to ensure thorough mixing.

Then I pour out about half into the second bucket, hand stir again, and then pour back to the original. Mixing paint in this manner should be done if you will be using more then one gallon of the same paint color in a room. For example, the family room will take three gallons of paint – I will mix all of them together to ensure the color is even throughout the painting process.

TIP! ~ Even if the paint is bought from the same store, at the same time, with the same product color and brand, slight variation can exist between cans. This variation will be blatantly obvious when applied to the walls or ceiling. Mixing the cans will ensure you don’t end up with streaks.

If using a custom mix, always, ALWAYS have enough paint on hand to finish the job. If you run out of a custom mix in painting a large flat area such as a ceiling you have no where you can conceal a break and change in paint. For example, when painting walls, you can switch to a new gallon of the same color at a corner but that isn’t true of a ceiling. And expecting a color match to be accurate on a custom mix is simply not going to happen.

While the job isn’t quite finished, and it’s hard to take a photo showing the proper color on the ceiling here is a bit of how the colors are working out. Between the ceiling and wall will be crown molding painted the same white as the door trim. This was another reason I wanted a color on the ceiling – the white between the two will have a sharper definition.

Project: Cornice of Crown moulding over door

I posted about some overhead door moulding cornices that we saw on the Parade of Homes and that we already did a large moulding Cornice on the inside, over the front door. I’ve had a lot of hits on those pages and since there is so much interest, here is a DIY Tutorial on how we did it.

First, we sketched out what we were going to do, along with planning measurements for the moulding’s height and width and calculations for lumber. For two door cornices (one above the pantry door in the kitchen, and the other, the under-stair closet in the front entry hall) we needed 6′ of trim moulding and 8′ of Crown, and all the lumber came out to be about $36.


Using your level, mark the moulding pieces where you will take it off:

Use a mat knife to cut the paint/caulking seal around the top piece of door moulding. This makes it easier to remove.

Level the top of the vertical moulding pieces with a small hand saw such as a Coping Saw.

Once all the top trim is removed, pull out any leftover nails and measure the width (left to right form the outside of each vertical moulding) for a total width.

To do this project you need three types of wood – crown moulding, base or trim moulding, and a board that fits the size of your project’s height.

Cut a horizontal board the width you measured earlier. Sand or rasp smooth the ends and any rough edges.

Cut the small, bottom trim. This is a 45 degree cut using a radial arm saw. You can also use a miter box but it is a bit more time consuming and you need a steady hand. Do the front piece first, then the two, smaller side pieces.

These pieces are assembled at what will become the bottom of your horizontal board. Wood glue is applied to the end pieces, and they are nailed in using a finishing nail. Tip: if not using a finishing nail gun with a compressor, pre-drill a smaller diameter hole (i.e. pilot hole) for your nail to use as a guide.

The middle section also gets some wood glue and is nailed into place with finishing nails (through pilot holes) onto the large horizontal board.

Repeat with the Crown Moulding. Crown Moulding is also cut at a 45 degree angle but takes some special handling which I will cover in a later post. If this is your first time working with Crown Moulding be sure to research some videos to show you how – it’s not impossible but does take some careful planning and know how.

Again, glue, attach and nail the Crown at the ends first. Ends are attached using smaller finishing nails (or brads) as the Crown moulding is too thin for the larger finishing nails.

The corners need to be attached to each other for support (nail shows diagonal nail path, but we used a smaller nail then shown).

It takes a little extra time, but drilling a pilot hole let’s nails easily go in.

Finishing nails are recessed using a nail-setter.

After the Crown moulding was nailed into place, the corners were taped with painters tape and it was left to dry for a few hours. After glue is set, use wood putty applied with your finger into the recessed nail holes and the joining corners of moulding.

…and after it dries, it’s sanded smooth.

It’s painted first with a brush to get into all the lines of the moulding. Because this is bare wood, the paint is soaked up quickly; if you prefer you could use primer at this stage. Two additional coats are applied with a 4″ cabinet foam roller; generally, I give a light sanding between coats for a very smooth finish.

Tip: it’s much easier to paint before it goes up!

Now you are ready to get your Cornice up on the door. First, drill pilot holes and push in your finishing nails so they are aligned correctly. There generally is a stud running the same direction as the side moulding so be sure to attach along the side for extra, holding strength.

Construction Adhesive on the back is helpful.

Set on top of the door and make sure it is centered. Finish hammering in the nails, recess the nail heads, fill with wood putty, let dry, sand smooth and give it all one last paint coat. A line of interior caulking on the inside bottom of the door gives a clean look.

Pantry door with new overhead moulding – the paint on the left is allen + roth Rock ar720, the paint on the right is the old color. We are waiting on some drywall repair and then that side will also be painted with the new color (just couldnt’ wait though!). View through the formal dining room doorway to the pantry door:

View from kitchen to the entry hall, showing closet door on left, and front door on right.

Entry door with a larger, overhead Cornice moulding (the moulding in the middle covers a seam) which was about $125 due to the height of the board used and the size of the crown moulding used..

LOVE IT! And only $18 each for the smaller Cornices! Well worth the money investment especially if you have higher ceilings; the cornices draw your eye right up, enhancing the height of the room.

BTW if you want something simpler, Lowes is now selling a kit (called Archetype Over Door and Window Moulding) found in the moulding section of the store. It’s not as fancy but would be easier for those who don’t want to do all the work shown above.

Tip: Using patterns to prevent design mistakes

I’ve touched upon how you can use a pattern to decide where to place new kitchen pendants, how to use it to position a heavy mirror, and for help on deciding art placement.

We are also using a pattern (cut from foam core board) to decide how much of an arch we want to do over the kitchen cabinets. This already helped us because the arched cabinets to the left gave an illusion that the arch was lower then it was – we were able to re-position easily with the foam board and prevented a costly cutting mistake.

Whenever possible try to provide a visual reference to where your project is going. It really does help!

Want to see more about cabinets? There’s more on the blog right here….

Planning: kitchen updates

Generally, I try to work on one room, one project at a time. However, with the reality of husband moving out of state for work, and the house to go up for sale next summer, there is a lot I need to be juggling. I also want to spend a lot of time planning and replanning the kitchen. For example, from my original plan of a gray, white, chrome kitchen I’ve decided to go with a cream, warm brown kitchen.

Research First and Make a Plan

I did a LOT of kitchen cabinet research before starting. I visited a lot of showrooms and talked to sales people and designers about what was desired in my area, as well as visiting many open houses of homes on the market in my price range.

While national kitchen magazines state that distressed cabinets are out and dark wood cabinets are in, my area of the U.S. is still selling a lot of white or distressed cabinetry. “White Kitchens” are still the no. 1 search in kitchen cabinetry colors on the internet.

The point is that trends can be regional and be determined by the price range your house would sell at also. I can’t stress enough that if you are redoing your home with the thought of re-sale you need to thoroughly do your homework beforehand.

Another thing is that kitchen remodels are generally the most expensive room to remodel (the next is the bathroom) so if you plan on staying a long time in your home, feel free to personalize. However, if you plan on re-selling in the next five years, compromises may need to be made.

This is some of the information I came away with:

For Sale homes in my area, that have not updated their kitchens, stay on the market much longer.

Any sort of wallpaper needs to be removed, especially if it is plaid, floral, “country” etc…

Personally, I see breakfast bars on the way out. Seating at the prep island is in.

Counter surfaces and backsplash tile choices really date a kitchen.  Corian is out, Granite or Quartz  is still very much in. Marble is also making a comeback. Glass, stainless steel or wood countertops are on the edge of acceptable and appeal to less buyers then Granite does.

Pantry storage remains hot.  Open storage is in. Islands large enough for seating with a sink for prepping are hot.

Stainless steel appliances are still hot.

Drop lighting is in, especially over task areas and is generally combined with recessed can lights.

High end kitchens have taller cabinets that go straight to the ceiling with no gap. They have varying profiles of projecting cabinets vs. a flat profile of cabinets with all the same depth. They have crown molding and decorative trim accents. They also have several types of cabinets in one kitchen such as glass front cabinets, open cabinetry, solid wood cabinetry, etc…

Thoughts on the kitchen

changes to the kitchen cabinet doors, counter, backsplash and lighting
areas getting changed

Changes have quickly been made from the first photo to the next with the removal of doors over the fridge, and opening the doors upper left and preparing them for glass inserts. The area above the fridge will become open, a shorter version of this longer display area, with decorative, wood  appliques, curved opening, bead moulding backing and lighting:

display area will be built in over the fridge where closes cabinets are located now

The two series of upper cabinets left of the fridge will become lighted cabinets with glass doors. Here the 4 cabinet doors (left) have been cut to allow glass.

Above the stove, the cabinet will be given additional height and reach the ceiling. This cabinet will become open, something like this, reaching to the ceiling with crown moulding and with a beadboard backing with lighting:

cabinets over stove will be replaced with an open display cabinet

Lower cabinets on either side of the stove will be pull drawers. They are designed behind the cabinet doors this way but we will remove the cabinet doors and have the drawers themselves face out.

Cabinet door paint: with Anni Sloan Chalk Paint Old White (whitest portion of test board) with Sherwin Williams Van Dyke Brown glaze.

Granite Countertop throughout the kitchen with a stone Backsplash, either brick or piano style. Something modern looking that isn’t too busy. 

Door and Cabinet Hardware (oil rubbed bronze): Cup Pulls (15) ; Knobs (9) 5 for top mounted cabinets along stove wall and four for glass doors. I currently have; Door Pulls (4 pantry fridge wall)

The dishwasher (14 years old) and the fridge (18 years old) definitely need replacing (fridge with a side by side) and most likely I’ll be looking on Craigslist – people are remodeling and moving so these items come up for sale more often then you think. I’m not all that keen on

A beautiful faucet with dark brown sink …

The biggest issue is the island. I’ve hated it for years. It is not decorative or even useful. But it is not tiled underneath so I can’t simply remove it. Working with what I have on hand, we’d decided to keep the three drawers (far too useful) and open the two ends, leaving a center cabinet which I’ll turn into a baking tray storage area, retaining the cabinet door.


We’ve already installed four drop pendants (Lowes), two over the island and two over the sink working counter.


The point is to update the kitchen make it more on par with houses $20,000 above our range, and do it without spending a bundle. Kitchens sell homes and this one could really carry the house to a closing.

Want to see more about cabinets? There’s more on the blog right here….

Tip: planning for drop pendants

Our original kitchen plan for lighting included 7 can lights – two rows of 3 and one over the sink. Because the builder aligned the kitchen sink light with the general lighting, it was never centered over the sink but along the row of general lights. Another misalignment was the chandelier over the breakfast table. It needed a chain to swag it over to the right spot – UGH!

A light hung over the island was never used and it’s color was selected only at the last minute when we were building – so it never matched well with our style or the existing pieces.

In updating the kitchen we are changing some of the lighting situation. We wanted to change the island light to drop pendants, as well as put a matching pendant over the sink as well as one that lines up next to the sink light. Using some string and plastic bags we worked on what it would look like, how it would line up and the drop distance of the pendant.

planning the visual placement of pendant lights over the kitchen island

We’ve installed these pendant lights from Lowes:


Tip: Installing cabinet hardware with a jig

I got a great deal on some cabinet knobs via Craigslist;  they were really nice knobs and I got 18 for $25. The seller told she bought them through ebay and didn’t use them all, so I will have to check ebay out! Thanks Christine for the tip!

back of jigWe installed the knobs on the kitchen cabinets by making a jig. Our jig was made from some scrap lumber and it serves as a guide for cutting the holes which makes the job go faster and easier.

Since we knew the edge of the cabinet w0uld hold the jig in place, the jig was designed so the L would butt into the cabinet. Hubby first cut two pieces of scrap lumber and attached them in an L shape, using his square to check alignment.

Next he attached a flat scrap to the L-shape. He measured the distance from each side of the door corner and transposed that onto the flat side of the jig.

front of jig with drill

Then he drilled a hole that would become the guide for future drilling into the cabinet doors. You can see from the back of the jig (above) that the first hole wasn’t right (always check before using), so he re-measured and made another.

The jig is then placed against the corner of the cabinet door where the drill is used to start the hole. Hubby used a drill bit that would fit the screws snugly; you need to be careful with that because if it isn’t a snug fit, over time, the screw will loosen in the hole, making your pull or handle wobbly.

drilling for hole in cabinet

Also, don’t put the drill on full force; start with slow to medium speed.

Once you get the hole started, enough to mark to the hole (about an eighth of an inch), remove the jig and drill the rest of the hole.

cabinet screw

The screw for the cabinet knob is screwed in from the back.

screwing on cabinet knob
Once it’s screwed flush,
then the knob is applied from the front of the cabinet.

installed cabinet pulls

The installed cabinet pulls.

Project: round table for breakfast nook

This photo inspired me to change our too big, rectangular breakfast table to a round one, hoping to relieve the traffic flow in the small area.


I knew the next breakfast table had to be exceptionally strong and stable as my 15 year old son leans and rocks away from the table in his chair. Everyone has complained that it’s like eating at sea! It also had to be affordable as I would be needing new chairs.

Luckily, this item (below) came up on Craigslist. When I bought it for $60 I told them they could keep the chairs as I had other plans.


tablewitholdchairsI wish I had the original picture as this table came with four chairs that were your typical 1970’s / 80’s variety – extremely solid, thick chairs with low backs that really dated the entire table. The original chairs were similar to these in this photo of another table – I’m sure you’ve seen something like them!

Looks can be deceiving so you have to keep focused on the bones of a piece. Some things I immediately liked about it:

Image wise it fitted my inspiration photo pretty well.

Pedestal – I really liked the curves of the pedestal. A central pedastal, as opposed to legs, allowed a lot of leg room.

The diameter of the tabletop fitted the space nicely and it comfortably sat four.

Extremely solid and stable. The surface is at least two inches thick.

Price – $60. I mean can you beat that?

Color – I could clean it up, re-stain in a similar color which would limit the amount I would need to sand. Honestly, I am always looking for projects that are easy to sand and prep; if they are close to the original color I want to redo it in that means a lot less prep time. If they have one coat that would be easy to take off that is even better.

Remember, one problem with a stained piece is that you will seldom get it to the exact color that a stain chip offers; you have to factor in the original color that is seldom completely sanded from a piece.

Because I wanted a bit of definition from the original stain, I used the Mouse Sander to bring down the tabletop to almost, but not quite, bare wood.

I started with Cabots’ Black Walnut, mixed with some Valspar Antiquing Glaze (Asphaltum). After two coats of stain it was topped with Valspar Clear Mixing Glaze tinted with Valspar Antiquing Glaze (Asphaltum).

For protection, I went with three coats of matte Wipe-On Poly from Mini-Wax with two coats of glossy Wipe-On Poly for an extremely durable finish.


breakfasttablepedestalThe bottom section was lightly sanded. This turned out to be a bigger job then I anticipated because the curves made it a slow, by hand, job. Beauty had it’s price!

After sanding, the pedestal was painted a chocolate brown and topped with Valspar Clear Glaze tinted with Asphaltum. The advantage of a glaze is that it has a slow drying time, giving you more time to work it.

The tables’ original chairs had backs the same height as the table. With thes new chairs, the higher backs give more visual interest. They contemporary design also nicely updates the table.

Although, normally, I love chairs with arms this breakfast nook didn’t have the space. Instead these armless chairs snugs into the table, providing more walk around room.  The chairs’ black finish provides a contrast to the brown, brings out some of the black glaze, and isn’t matchey-matchey.


Price: Table ($60), four chairs ($160), stain, sanding papers, glaze, tint etc… were divided between several projects so I’m guesstimating it was about $40 or less. This project was easily less then $300 for the table and four chairs.
And glad to report that husband is also very happy with the result.