Coming back from the dark side (or how many coats of paint does it take to cover Downpipe?)

9/30/2016 09:15:00 am HELEN STILES 6 Comments

It's been a busy few weeks at mine, a lovely couple of weeks off with friends in the South of France, where the children ran a little wild and the grown-ups weren't much better (plenty of sun, sea, beer, bread and cheese – not necessarily in that order). Then there was the 'significant' birthday (i.e. I turned 40 – which bothered me surprisingly little and was a great excuse for some partying). And then I decided to dye my hair peroxide blonde. When I say decided, what I really mean is I got coaxed into it by my hairdresser, who felt that a landmark birthday should be marked by a landmark hair-do! I think I like it – it certainly feels like a bit of a change (or is that a mid-life crisis?)

Maybe it's the new hair that got me to thinking about coming back from the dark side at home too. The world has gone a bit dark-paint crazy over the past few years, and whilst I do love a good inky room – like my current, chocolate brown office (shown here on a tidy day) – change is definitely in the air.

With the kids back at school and the business gaining momentum, my work has started to take over the entire house – every surface of every room seems to be covered in scale drawings, fabric samples, tape measures and catalogues, so it's all starting to feel a little too chaotic even for me! It's time for some serious reorganisation (and a MUCH bigger desk). After much debate, I've decided to swap rooms with my 2 year old daughter (she'll get my current office, I'll get her smaller box room to work from. It's a bit of a compromise, but I'm hoping that with some clever storage all will work out fine).

Much as I love dark interiors, I feel like the chocolate brown walls just aren't going to work for my daughter. I have my heart set on something much brighter (and whiter). I hope Abigail Ahern isn't reading this, I feel a bit like I'm committing style treason!

To be honest, I'm a little bit nervous too – in my opinion you have to work a whole lot harder to make a white room look cool. Without a dark, warm, luxurious backdrop everything else can look a little pedestrian and dull. But given that I've got to be thrifty (and I'm not particularly patient when it comes to decorating for myself) I've decided to press the 10 litres of white paint I found in the shed into service.

Which brings me neatly back to the title of this post... how many coats of paint does it take to cover Downpipe? (OK, so my office is not actually painted Downpipe, it's Little Greene's Felt, but Downpipe has to be the most universally recognised dark wall colour of the past 5 years, so you'll forgive my generalisation). I cleared the room and started slapping the paint on last week. I was thinking maybe three coats would do it. After the first coat, I was feeling pretty optimistic – it was patchy and there was plenty of brown showing through, but hey, I hadn't cut in yet and the second coat always covers sooooo much better. Doesn't it?

Two coats down and I thought maybe it might just need four. Four coats later and I was hoping one more would do the trick. Nope! SIX COATS PEOPLE!!!! Six coats of white paint and it now finally looks well, white! (I have since researched this and realise that what I should have done was use a latex undercoat to cover the original dark paint colour, but you know, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Did I mention I'm impatient when it comes to decorating?)

So now comes the challenge of how to make a white room look cool. I want it to be fun, happy, strong and warm (just like my youngest...awww). At the moment it just looks very, very white. (Whilst my inner Emily Henderson is gushing excitedly at all the pretty light my inner Ms Ahern is definitely yelling what have you done???)

Whilst I wait for my inner design alter-egos to stop fighting and figure out the finer details, I thought I'd share a few inspirational images of bright (and white) children’s rooms to spur me on – and maybe motivate any of you who are thinking of painting your dark walls light again!

 1 // I love the vintage textiles and boho feel of this simple room.

2 // I can't resist a Moroccan rug with a bit of wicker – classic Cali combo done here with a Scandi twist.

3 // I have no need of bunkbeds for my daughter's room, but how much would you have loved these as a kid?

4 // I'm a little bit in love with cacti at the moment (isn't everyone?) I've seen this wallpaper in a few places, but it looks great with all the white and black in this child's room.

So, what do you think? Have you gone over to the dark side in your home? Would you ever come back again (or has my 6 coats just put you off?) Let me know…


  1. 6 over chocolate brown? Blimey! You did well. It took 5 to cover pale blue. PALE BLUE! we even used industrial, trade-type-person's paint. Worse still... It was the hallway. It's the only (and possibly last!) room Beloved has helped with. He was not impressed! Looking forward to seeing what you do with the space. My office needs a complete overhaul *adds it to the list* Sue x

  2. Ha ha, so now I feel lucky with 6 coats! (Or maybe you just don't want to look too closely at my handiwork...)

  3. I really enjoyed this post Helen! I've been oggling over Abigail Ahern's interiors (and browsing anything hashtagged with her name on Instagram), and while I LOVE the dark walls and inky hues, I always seem to end up going white! So, I understand the treason thing ;) haha. I think change is good: you can always go back to dark one day, can't you? In the mean time is nice to try something new.

    I can't believe it took SIX coats of paint (you have the patience of a saint to keep going - three is about my limit... patches be damned!), but nice to know it's a latex undercoat you need... mentally noting that, thank you!

    Can't wait to see what you do with your daughter's room, and I'm sure it'll look fantastic. New blonde hair sounds exciting too: I fancied a change as well, and because my boyfriend and I aren't buying a house until later next year, I decided to lop my hair off instead of repainting the room we're renting from my mum and dad! haha! So, all change here, too!

    Flora x

  4. Thanks Flora, hair changes are always a good quick fix, I don't blame you! Unfortunately I have a lovely start-of-term cold/bug thing which is slowing down progress on the rest of this room...but I'll be on it again soon, promise! Hx

  5. Loved this post! The title made me lol! Although I've 'gone to the dark side' in two rooms I love a light bright white room. But totally true about it being harder to pull together. The Australians have such great inspiration for this look I think. Good luck with your room.

  6. Thanks Katherine! Very good point, I love a good Aussie interior - (heads to Pinterest for another hour's research....)