Murals: Ancient Idea With Modern Touch : Home Decorating Suggestion Offered for the Do-It-Yourselfer

Associated Press

The more things change, the more they remain the same, is an old saying that illustrates many aspects of home decoration. Consider, for example, the decoration of walls.

The remarkable prehistoric cave drawings at Lascaux in southeastern France prove that the urge to embellish walls is as old as humankind itself. Archaeologists theorize that only the most talented individuals had authority to draw the animals and natural features of the world that intrigued these ancient people.

Today, we, too, have our talented muralists. However, the graffiti on city walls and subway trains are examples of the commonality of the desire to embellish a wall.

If such an urge is part of your psyche, a socially acceptable way of gratifying it is to decorate the walls of your own home. Kitchen, bathrooms, children’s rooms, recreation areas, laundry rooms and hallways lend themselves nicely to such a project.


Paint Your Own

Furthermore, with the use of standard semi-gloss latex paints for interiors, an individual should be able to produce an acceptable decoration inexpensively.

That opinion comes from Karen Greenbaum, half of a partnership known as Whimsical Walls Ltd. She and her partner, Iris Vanderputten, of Scarborough, N.Y., paint murals for a living on other people’s walls. But Greenbaum shared some of their methodology for do-it-yourselfers.

First, she said, paint your wall with semi-gloss latex interior house paint in white or an extremely pale tone. That way you know you are starting out with a good sealed washable wall.


If you can draw freehand, then use this ability to create an appropriate scene or design. Use a grease pencil or crayon to place the design directly on the wall. The grease pencil will outline the pattern and also serve as a border to contain the paint. Once the wall is painted and dry you can erase the pencil lines.

Trace Outline

Select as many colors as you like, suggests Greenbaum. She says successful murals can be as simple as a single motif in one color or elaborate all-over creations that employ many different colors.

If you are not adept at drawing, you can select one or more designs from a variety of sources and cut them out and trace them on the wall. Wallpapers, gift-wrapping paper and pictures from magazines and books on art and decorating are all sources for designs.


Once the wall is painted and dry, no further treatment is necessary if you have used washable latex paints. You should be able to wipe up spills and dirt with a sponge and soap. Since you can paint over the latex wall paint quite easily, when you get tired of the design, it will be a relatively simple matter to remove it by repainting the wall, she said.

Another method is to use artists’ acrylic paints and stencils sold at craft-supply and home-decorating outlets, according to Mary Gilliatt, a decorating authority in New York. Ready-made stencils can be taped directly to the wall with masking tape.

Apply With Sponges

She suggests applying the color with sponges cut into small pieces. Use one sponge for each color.


After taping the stencil to the wall, you dip a piece of sponge into one color, removing the excess by dabbing the sponge on a plate. Then, apply the paint on the wall through the stencil opening.

Do one color at a time, she suggests. Gear the size of sponge you use to the size of opening.

When you’ve filled in all the cut-out areas, carefully lift the pattern from the wall, being sure to bring it straight out so the paint does not run.

You can use a small artist’s brush to add details or to touch up small errors. When the entire job is done, a coat of polyurethane varnish can be applied to make the wall washable, said Gilliatt.


If the idea of decorating your wall with a hand-painted mural appeals, but you don’t want to do it yourself, you can hire an artist to do it for you. Sources for artists include art schools, local crafts galleries, and interior designers.