A fresh coat of paint is a quick, inexpensive way to transform any room. But if you're only putting color on the walls, you're missing a golden opportunity. Done right, painted floors create a stylish, easy-to-care-for foundation that will last for years. Pick one of these foolproof designs, grab a brush and start your next makeover underfoot.
In the kitchen: go graphic
Even the most classic kitchen can get a modern update with this approach: Punch up a soft base coat of paint (in this case, an ethereal gray) by using a stencil to create a high-contrast pattern. For great results, good prep is key: Scuff wood floors first to remove any existing finish and to make paint adhere well. To minimize sanding time, Karen Burke of Bravura Finishes, in Portland, Oregon, suggests using a deglosser (like Krud-Kutter Gloss-Off, $21, homedepot.com) and then giving your floors a light sand before you paint. For the staggered triangle stencil, visit marthastewart.com/paintedfloor.
PRO TIP: Paint the floor with your base color. Once it's dry, position your stencil in one corner — you'll want to paint yourself out of the room, toward the door. Dip a stencil brush in your second color, then wipe it well with paper towels to remove excess paint. "Dry" the brush over the stencil with gentle, even pressure. Then lift the guide and move it to the next position, aligning the pattern. Repeat as necessary until the surface is covered.
To keep the edges crisp, clean the stencil frequently, says Burke: "Lay it flat in the sink and gently clean it with running water and a soft brush, then blot it dry with paper towels. Never rub it; you'll bend the corners."
On Floor: Behr Low Luster Porch & Patio Paint, in Pacific Fog and Ultra Pure White, homedepot.com
In the kid's room: play with splatter
Whether you're preparing a nursery or creating a room for a growing child, you'll love this idea for its fun technique and its sophisticated, versatile color palette. As toys change and more adult furniture comes in, the design can go from whimsical to edgy. It's also practical enough for a workroom and stylish enough for a contemporary office.
PRO TIP: Cover the entire floor with your base color. (For an opaque finish, you'll need two to three coats.) The size of your splotches will depend on what tool you select; you can pick anything from a fine-art paintbrush to a 4-inch flat brush. Load the brush with about a 1/4-inch of paint in your second shade, hold it perpendicular to the floor and gently tap it with a dowel so the pigment splatters. Let dry before repeating the trick with your third shade. If your design becomes too dense, you can open it up by splattering with your base color, says Chris Pearson of Chris Pearson Floors, in Roselle, New Jersey.
On wall: Benjamin Moore interior paint, in Mixed Fruit, benjaminmoore.com. On floor: Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio latex enamel paint, in White Dove, Old World, and Grége Avenue, benjaminmoore.com. Swan plush; Shaggy pouf, in White; and Rocking Play chair, in Natural, landofnod.com.
In the bathroom: add shine
Add some major personality to your bathroom (and create an easy-to-clean surface) with a bright pop of color. This calls for two to three coats of any paint. Top it with two coats of high-gloss polyurethane to add luster. Reflective finishes magnify every imperfection, so it's especially important to sand the floor well before you start, and fill any dents or holes with wood putty for a smooth surface.
Some Great Color Options:
• Sherwin-Williams Porch & Floor enamel, in Rapture Blue or Dove Tail, sherwin-williams.com
• Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio latex enamel, in North Sea Green, benjaminmoore.com.
• Fine Paints of Europe Hollandlac Satin paint, in Van Gogh Yellow, finepaintsofeurope.com.
On the stairs: step up the color
With three parts to play up with paint, you can get supercreative on your staircase. You might brush a wide swath of color down the middle to create a faux-runner effect or mix metallic-gold risers with cream treads and soft-pink walls for an understated elegance. Both are surefire ways to make going up the stairs (again) a pleasure.
PRO TIP: Start by painting the risers with two coats of your chosen color. Let dry thoroughly, then tape off the bottom of each section so you get a crisp edge where the risers meet the treads. Next, paint the top of every other step. When those dry (about 12 hours), paint the remaining treads. Cover treads — which must stand up to a lot of wear and tear — with multiple coats. For white, go with three, plus two coats of polyurethane.
• On risers: Modern Masters metallic paint, in Pale Gold, modernmasters.com. On treads: Farrow & Ball floor paint, in Dimity, us.farrow-ball.com. On wall: Farrow & Ball interior paint, in Calamine, us.farrowball.com.
• Benjamin Moore Floor & Patio latex enamel paint, in Sunset Boulevard and Revere Pewter; and interior paint, in Golden Delicious.
In the entryway: walk the line
Spruce up an old wood floor with simple contrasting stripes — or pick two shades to fall in line together. This is a great idea for hallways, mudrooms and even kitchens. Depending on the colors you choose — and their finishes (matte or high-shine) — the look can be rustic or clean and modern.
PRO TIP: When it comes to old floors, forget using the seams as a guide. Paint will magnify any sections that aren't straight. Paint the entire floor with the paler of your two colors. Once it's dry, use a straight edge (ideally one measuring from 36 to 48 inches) and a pencil to draw evenly spaced stripes, for instance. Use long pieces of good-quality painters' tape to mask off the stripes. Press the tape down firmly to keep your second color from seeping underneath. Paint the stripes with your second color. Let dry, then gently peel the tape back.
Paint your floors like a pro
Take time to prep: To ensure that the paint adheres well, thoroughly scuff wood floors to remove any existing finish. Sand them with 100-grit sandpaper, followed by 150-grit sandpaper. Wipe up residue with a tack cloth and vacuum well. Mask off baseboards and other trim with painters' tape.
Choose the proper paint: For the easiest, fastest application, opt for satin latex floor paint. (Although oil-based paints are more durable, they're tricky to use, can take a long time to dry and require toxic chemicals for cleanup.)
Protect your work: Lay down base colors using a good-quality paintbrush or a firm, dense foam roller. Never use a roller with nap, which creates an orange-peel texture, says Chris Pearson of Chris Pearson Floors, in Roselle, New Jersey. (Also, the paint may not bond uniformly.)
Be patient: Allow each coat to dry for 12 to 24 hours before moving to the next stage of your design.
Top it off: Always finish a painted floor with at least one coat of polyurethane designed for floors. Water-based products, available in satin and glossy finishes, are easiest to work with.
Sherwin-Williams Porch & Floor enamel, in Rye Grass and Sand Dollar, sherwin-williams.com.