When I moved into my downtown loft (downtown living!), my man and I opted to not bring anything with us. We brought our dogs and a mattress (that sat parked in ‘living room’ for a solid two months). The first time we had a friend over for dinner, we sat cross-legged on the floor.

After years of collecting mismatched pieces and hand-me-down furnishings, we wanted to start with a blank canvas. There were a couple of rules: nothing from IKEA (which, despite it’s short-comings is a HARD habit to break), nothing came in without mutual consent (oh the fights), and above all we promised to take our time. There was no one to impress. No grandparents scoffing at our lack of chairs.

We had all the time in the world to hand-pick each item.

Understandably, this can be a rather expensive ordeal, and it was a decision we made with the financial burden well weighed, but we had made the decision– we wanted to design our space. The one place we knew we could pinch pennies, were with DIY home improvements.

Now, I’ve never been particularly crafty or even hammer-savvy. I once took a nap on insulation on a Habitat for Humanity build (it was lunchtime), only to awake in searing pain. Do you have any idea what fiber-glass feels like when it’s lodged in every square inch of bare skin? Yea. Me… not the sharpest tool the shed, but I had never been in a shed.

Alas, I’m a modern-woman and I channeled my inner Rosie-the-Riveter and got my hands dirty. I promise, if I can do it (whatever DIY “it” is), so can you.

The best part about a loft, is the completely open floor plan. It gives the homeowner (or renter) the ability to hand-craft the space.

One of the first projects we tackled was erecting dark wooden beams on the wall across from the kitchen, as if determine the boundary of that room in the house. The idea was modeled after a technique the  Japanese call minka . It allowed for definition of space in an otherwise open floor plan. The beam clearly indicates: This is where the kitchen ends.

We decided to paint the “minka” space a dark mauve, further indicating its separateness, gallery wall the top half, and wainscot the bottom half with white subway tile.  It was certainly a large undertaking and one we had to break into multiple steps. First step: Painting.

There are a lot of ways painting can go horribly wrong. Here are some tips and tricks on how to paint without regrets.

1. Remove all outlet and switch covers, taking caution to tape corresponding screws to covers. Organization at the onset will help in the long run.

2. Spackle and sand any irregularities in the wall. This is an important and often overlooked step. If you don’t want bumps or lumps in the paint, don’t start with a faulty wall. Laziness is your enemy here, especially if you are using high gloss paint which tends to highlight any imperfections.

3. Stir your paint from the bottom up to prevent settling. If you’re using a primer (when painting dry wall or over darker surfaces) tint it, by mixing in a small amount of your topcoat into the primer.

4.  Tape off the area you want to protect. Unless you are a master at cutting in, which chances are, you’re not, taping off is a crucial step. You should paint around the trim first.

5. Instead of a paint tray, use a paint grid, that you can slip directly into a gallon of paint. It helps with waste and cleanup.

6. When you’re ready to roll. Choosing the right brush is just as important as color. For my project, I used a paint roller. For paint rollers, the rougher the surface, the longer the roller nap should be. To test a roller’s quality, squeeze it around the middle. The better the roller, the faster it returns to its original shape.

7. With a roller, apply the paint in an overlapping W motion and then horizontally. If the build up from the paint on the left and right hand edge of the roller leaves residue on the wall, you must be sure to blend it. Also remember, the more times you roll over one spot, the less smooth it is. Make sure you have plenty of paint on your roller.

8. Let first layer dry entirely, before moving on to the second coat. Or follow the instructions on the paint can. They are usually very thorough.

9. Or, if you don’t want to rock and paint roll and take your chances, take a trip to Home Depot and purchase an electronic power painter. It will make your life so easy. Just be sure to cover everything you don’t want painted with a plastic tarp and tape it down tightly.

Next time step in the process: How to grout tile. Sounds, enticing doesn’t it?

–Arianna Schioldager

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