Let’s admit it--stenciling can be scary. It seems like something that can easily go wrong, leaving weird Rorschach blot blobs on the wall instead of nice,
crisp rows of fleur-de-lis. And how do you choose what to stencil in the first place? What colors will give you the look you want? We recently got a chance to talk with stencil artist Ed Roth about his exciting new book, Stencil 101 Decor, and to learn how the whole process doesn't have to be stressful--you just need a few basic rules and a little bit of practice. Ed gives clear, step-by-step advice on how to choose a pattern and color combination that's right for you--either a subtle accent or a bold, major statement and get it up on the wall without making a mess.
My first question to Ed was: How do you pick what you're going to put on the wall? (Seemed like a good place to start!) He told me it's basically about how much or how little pattern is going to fit into your lifestyle. "How much can you live with and how much do you want to come home to every day?" There a couple of basic things that tip the scales in the bold direction: large, over-scale patterns and high contrast. This black and white houndstooth is the perfect example of BOLD. But be careful! Too much of a good thing isn't always wise. "Putting a pattern like this on every wall in every room could feel like a madhouse!"
If you're not feeling quite so graphic and high impact, you can tone it down some. Smaller elements (the individual shape that gets repeated over and over again) are generally more subtle than bigger ones. Also, making the colors of the foreground and background less contrasting is a big step, like with this pretty and low-key wall. "With a more tone-on-tone technique like this, you're allowing people to see the rest of your stuff more, rather than the main focus being on the wall." I love the way this looks like mod wallpaper, but it's not hitting you over the head.
Ed gets to work on some really high-end projects, like this one at the ultra-hip Ace Hotel in New York, where he created a really interesting look using different finishes together--in this case, matte charcoal gray walls and a high-gloss pattern of birds-on-wires. Okay, you might not want black walls (or maybe you do), but the technique could work with any color. "The pattern catches your eye when you move through the room, when light is hitting the wall. It's really very tasteful, and something I've wanted to do for some time."
So how to you apply stencils without making a mess? Practice. For a
complete, start-to finish video on how Ed makes the magic happen, go to his website. The basic idea is that you should practice everything on scrap
cardboard until you have the right feel for the brush or roller and the way the paint handles--how much you put on the roller or brush matters a lot--and the intricacies of the stencil pattern. Start with a simple shape and simple repeat. Once you've got your patterns and colors picked out, and you've done a few practice runs, you're ready to go! Have fun--and don't make your home a madhouse!