When you're renovating an old house, you're bound to find something exciting behind layers of peeling paint. But the colorful plaster I found in my son's bedroom of our 1905 fixer was beyond my expectation. I love the look of exposed plaster - we saw it earlier this month in the kitchen of this Swedish home - and ours had a particularly lovely patina reflecting 110 years worth of different paint colors.
Of course too much of a good thing can be too much, especially when we're talking about 100 square feet. So to temper the look of the colorful plaster, I covered the lower half of the wall with a chalkboard-painted panel - a fairly simple DIY that we'll show you how to do today!
A chalkboard was a natural choice for my two-year-old's bedroom - Wilder has a pension for art and, as it turns out, for drawing on walls - but this wall would have looked just as stunning with wainscot paneling. As an added bonus, paneling protects the brittle plaster from bumps and dings and, in the case of my house, tonka truck head-ons.
Exposing plaster can be tricky, depending on what's covering it and how well that cover is adhered. We were lucky that the paint in Wilder's bedroom was already peeling and came off easily with a paint scraper. You guys probably already know this, but make sure to check old paint for lead before scraping it (we used a home kit like this one). And if you like the look of plaster but don't have an old house, there is a plaster compound that can be skim-coated over drywall.
Once the paint was all scraped off the plaster in Wilder's room, I wiped off the walls with warm, soapy water and patched a few holes. We haven't applied a sealer to the wall yet, but it's likely something we'll do this fall. A clear sealant would keep the plaster from getting dusty and from falling loose as little particles when touched.
Next up we built the chalkboard wall.
DIY Chalkboard Wall //
- 1/2" MDF panel
- Wood Putty
- 220-grit Sandpaper
- Chalkboard Paint
- Smooth roller or paint brush
STEP 1 To build a chalkboard wall, you need a smooth surface. Since I was dealing with a 110 year-old, uneven wall with peeling paint, my husband and I installed a 4' wide panel of 1/2" mdf. We glued it to the wall and then secured it with brad nails using a nail gun and air compressor. (If you live in a house with smooth drywall, you could skip this step and go straight to applying the chalkboard paint directly to your wall.)
STEP 2 Fill nail holes and any seams between mdf panels with wood putty, let it dry, and then sand lightly with fine-grit sandpaper. Repeat until the wall is smooth.
STEP 3 Prime and then paint your wall. I used Benjamin Moore's Chalkboard Paint, tinted to Onyx (to match the color we painted our hardwood floors) and applied with a low-nap roller. After paint dries, apply a second coat if needed.
We installed a small shelf to bridge the transition between the chalkboard wall and the plaster. To build that, I found a left-over piece of crown molding and topped it with a pine 1"x4". After nailing the molding to the wall, I caulked the seam, primed it, and then painted it! Take a peek at how it all came together...
This is by far my favorite wall in our 1905 Spanish-style house. It's all art on the top and fun on the bottom. And of course, Wilder's pretty excited to finally be allowed to draw on a wall!