Inexpensive Home Decorating With Stencils

Cathy Johnson shares her tips on inexpensively decorating with stencils, including matching the design of your home, creating your own stencil designs, Victorian stencil ideas, and more.

| May/June 1986

It's easier than you might think to add a truly personal touch to any room in your house. 

Try to imagine a plain white room with an uncurtained window centered on one of the walls. How dull! Now paint that imagined window frame sky blue, stencil a green vine to surround the window, and scatter blue morning glories among the tendrils of the vine. Outstanding! Or, perhaps, picture yellow daisies marching cheerfully across your kitchen soffit . . . a border of coral seashells in your bathroom . . . or a band of American Indian designs in brown and brilliant turquoise above the chair rail in your den. You might be surprised to learn that achieving such effects with stencils, using an uncomplicated design with just one or two colors, is easy. No artistic talent is needed — just a careful touch with knife and brush, a bit of practice, and patience.

After we finally finished restoring our 90-year-old Victorian home, my husband and I found we had no funds left for decorating. At first — after eight years of living with dingy green wallpaper — the clean expanses of freshly painted walls seemed heavenly. Soon, however, I felt an urge to personalize those somewhat sterile surfaces.

As I was looking through some pictures of Victorian rooms, I remembered some decorating with stencils I'd done. This technique, I felt, would be a perfect way to add color and pattern to our plain walls, and it would cost very little. I'd need only to choose my designs and then spend a few dollars on acrylic paint, a stencil brush, an X-Acto knife, and some sheets of frosted plastic from which to cut stencils.

Decorating With Stencils: Keep Your Home Design in Mind

I selected my designs with two criteria in mind: They should be to scale in each room and should enhance the Victorian character of the house.

If you decide to try decorating with stencils, choose designs that suit the style of your house and furnishings, and ones that appeal to your own tastes. You may be able to find precut patterns in hobby and craft shops, but be sure any such design is large enough to show up well on your walls. I bought several stencils, used tracing paper and colored felt — tipped pens to reproduce each pattern three or four times, then taped the papers up in various parts of the room to see if they created the effect I wanted.

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