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Designer tips for the perfect paint job

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Want to change the look of your place? Follow the advice of these stylish homeowners

Carlos Chavarría

Perhaps nothing changes the nature of a room more than a new coat of paint. But before you take up the brush or roller, check out these tips from the style makers we’ve recently featured in our House Calls column.

1. Use the best quality of paint you can afford

"Always buy the top-of-the-line paint for best finish and durability," says prop stylist David Anger. Anger’s Minneapolis home is done in Benjamin Moore’s Linen White with pops of color coming from accent walls and artwork.

The light blue walls are Clothesline Fresh by Valspar. Photo by Carmen Troesser.

2. Go green

Photographer Carmen Troesser says she doesn’t consider herself a master painter, but she says: "I do go for the very lowest VOC or no VOC paint, always." Not only is it good for the environment, it reduces that new paint smell. In her St. Charles, Missouri living room, she chose Clothesline Fresh by Valspar.

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3. Prep with a thorough clean

Lifestyle guru Carlo Geraci painted his Brooklyn apartment in Benjamin Moore’s Antique Pewter. But before the brush hit the wall, he did a through prep. "Always dust and clean baseboards and trim before painting," he says. "I always use a Swiffer duster, then baby wipes. Baby wipes are gentle on the existing paint, but really lift dirt and residue."

4. Take the color on a road test.

Jamie Bryant, owner and farmer at Bluebell Farms and former interior designer, says the best thing to do is to try out a color before committing. In her Fayette, Missouri house she took her time choosing her shade.

"Order larger swatches from paint stores or paint several colors on one wall," she says. "Look at the colors throughout the day and notice how they change in lighting. A paint color viewed in the store will look dramatically different in your home." In their event barn, they used Chantilly Lace by Benjamin Moore.

By tinting the ceiling with a small amount of wall color, you can create a more seamless transition. Photo by Carmen Troesser.

5. Tint the ceiling

One of the most troubling paint problems looms overhead, as in the ceiling. Choosing a hue for the top of the room can be tough. Bryant makes it work with some clever blending. "Tint the ceiling white with a small amount of your wall color to create a subtle transition from wall to ceiling," she says.

6. Smooth it out

Photographer Hallie Burton says her best advice is to hire a professional painter. But, if you do decide to try your hand at the task, she recommends using a fine (short bristle) roller. "The less texture, the better," she says. "For me, anyway." In her New York City apartment she went with Atrium White by Benjamin Moore.

The wood paneling in Ben Erickson's cabin was hand painted with Benjamin Moore's Decorator’s White.

7. Use the right tool for the right task

In his New Jersey cabin, furniture designer Ben Erickson decided to forgo rollers and sprayers for a simple, hand-held paintbrush. "All of the paneling in my cabin was actually brushed with a 4- or 5-inch-wide brush. This is historically accurate for woodwork and gives you a great linear texture," he says. "For flat walls and ceilings I almost always use an 18-inch roller because the coverage is so much more even and you're done in a third of the time." In his home, he uses a color by Benjamin Moore called Decorator’s White.