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Makeover! How to paint your perfect feature wall

Muddy ed-in-chief Hero Brown has transformed her living room from plain white to wonderful with a brave choice of paint. Here's how to revamp your space with paint brush, roller and a splash of colour.


Have you looked at your home lately? I mean, really looked at it? If you’re like me you’ve spent the last two years cramming spaces, scuffing skirtings and being a bystander in your own interiors car crash.

Apart from a lick of white paint when we arrived at our house ten years, ago, and a single surge of creativity with a nearly-black shade on the wall of our snug, I’ve come to realise that I’ve been treating my house like the interiors equivalent to my knicker drawer – sure, the plain white granny pants fit OK, but do you really want to expose them to the neighbours?

Undoubtedly, the most important room in my house is my living room, below, the ‘through’ space that links one side of the house to the other, and is adjacent to the kitchen, so it’s a true entertaining space that I plan to utilise fully again, once I can be sure I won’t fall asleep by 9.30pm (what can I tell you, I’m permanently knackered).

My house dates from the Fifties and Sixties, so no surprise that the living room has a retro Scandi-vibe with massive windows, asymmetric ceiling and original features like the wooden floors and a huge grey brick fire, but over the years I’ve struggled to create the impact in this room that it deserves.

For me the problem isn’t the furniture, which I love (and even if didn’t, I don’t have the money right now to change it!). So how to give the room a reset? Like the rest of the UK, I’ve watched enough DIY makeover programmes to know that the easiest, quickest and least expensive way to transform a room is to get out the roller and get jiggy with a change of colour. So I headed down to the Brewers Decorator Centre 10 minutes away (there are 180 across the UK, you’re bound to have one local to you too), and swatched my little heart out with the frankly huge range of Albany colours available.

I didn’t want anything too overpowering for a light-filled room, and decided to explore dusky pink shades that would hopefully look warm, modern but not too girly in the day, and ambient at night. For me the colour was to be an accent – two statement walls with the door and ceilings and opposite walls still white and an easy reversal back to blanc if I decided I didn’t like it.

I’ll be honest with you, choosing the colour took longer than painting the walls. It was so difficult! I literally tried 16 tester pots mainly from Brewers’ Albany range, as its super-durable and ideal for through-spaces like mine, or areas where kids might scuff or smear. I also tried a couple of testers from Farrow & Ball and Dulux which Brewers also sell.

With the light hitting differently on the two walls, a shade that looked great on one looked underwhelming on the other. And they also looked so different from day to night. I spent what felt like days with my head on the side, pondering the future of my living room walls and even accosting my children for their thoughts. Tip: never canvass interiors advice from a 12 year old boy – that’s half an hour of my life I’ll never get back again.

In the end, I chose an Albany paint called Sandleheath – and here it is!

I absolutely love the look. It’s muted enough to stop my room becoming a Barbie Palace, light enough to feel uplifting in the day, and at night the colour is warm and darker, a sort of putty-meets-plaster shade.  

To me it feels relaxed and confident, and still talks to the retro Sixties features and furniture in the room. I wish I’d done it years ago! And here’s the thing: after prepping the walls, it literally took two hours to paint and only needed two coats – my decorators, who often work with National Trust properties, gave a big thumbs up to the range which says something.


Do your prep
If you’re going to the trouble of transforming a wall, make sure it’s prepped first. Lumps and bumps will make the colour look less uniform, so get acquainted with your filler and sander.


Don’t skimp on the tester pots
Swatch colours don’t always match what you see on the walls. And the colour you like most might be one that you just picked up as an afterthought.


Wait for 24 hours
See how paints look like at different times of day on different walls. The bright, energising colour you see in the day may become dark in the evening so take time to consider what ambience you want to create.


Use lining paper for your swatches
I made the rookie error of putting swatches next to each other on the wall. I realised after a while that having so many shades of pink next to each other meant my eye was being tricked, and it was difficult to see the ‘true’ colour of some of the shades. Instead, buy lining paper which allows you to then move the swatch around the room. 


Make a decision!
I spent two weeks in a state of high confusion trying to work out my wall colour, but with a bit more confidence I could have got cracking much sooner. The worst that can happen is that you’ll repaint a wall or two if you don’t like the colour. More likely though that you’ll fall head over heels in love with the new look.


Consider refining your space
What would your room look like with simple new additions to replace the clutter? I bought a few key pieces from authentic Scandi brand Norsk Lifestyle including an elegant brass table lamp and simple candle holders, two new cushions and a throw to complement the painted wall and statement planters for my greenery. Inexpensive, and they’ve really lifted the room. Shop the look here.


With thanks to Eleanor Walpole photography, Emma Spellman at Oojamaflick Filmmaker, Harriet Thorpe MUA, and Decorare decorators

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