I love spaces that have character (like so many of these rooms that I am still drooling over!) and one of my favorite DIY ways to add character to a room is by adding some texture — something like board and batten or a plank wall. Our guest today had an unfinished attic space just waiting to be made into something beautiful, so, taking a cue from a partial planked ceiling section, she planked and whitewashed the entire ceiling and the walls — and the result is gorgeous!
Keep reading for the tutorial on how Rachel whitewashed her attic room, and start thinking of where you want to put YOUR whitewashed plank wall! You could try it in a small space like a bathroom:
or on that “5th wall” — the ceiling!
or put it on just part of the wall as a wainscoting treatment, like this:
Now that you’re imagining where to put your beautiful whitewashed plank wall, here’s Rachel with all the details to help you make it happen:
Attic with Whitewashed Plank Walls and Ceiling
by Rachel of Maison de Pax
Hi Remodelaholic readers! I’m Rachel Paxton from Maison de Pax, and I am so thrilled to be here. Two years ago, we moved back to Texas from a stent in France, purchased our 1940 colonial (aka Maison de Pax), and got right to work loving this old home back to life. Last year, I began documenting our work, like our exterior transformation, my Restoration Hardware-inspired DIY decor, and my whole slew of furniture makeovers.
Our most recent project (other than welcoming our third child into our lives this May!) was to finish out our attic as a guest room so that the new baby could have her own room. And what a project it has been! Today I’m going to share a tutorial with you that I believe has been the most pivotal part of giving this attic the character we wanted: the whitewashed plank wall and ceiling.
You can see the little bit of planking on the ceiling. We let that inspire us, but we knew we needed a brighter space. Adding a skylight helped, but it would never feel light enough with the natural wood. Plus, there was not nearly enough of the original planking to close in the entire space, so we had to somehow match new, fresh cedar planks to the old ones. It was a trial-and-error process (and pretty hilariously awkward, given that I was 7 months pregnant while we did this!), but I’m so very happy with the result.
The match between the old and new is not perfect, but I think it adds to the depth and texture of the whitewashing. The key to merging the old and new planks involved staining the new ones to match the old before whitewashing them all. Actually, even if you are considering whitewashing all newer planking, I would recommend staining it a bit darker first. This brings out the knots and textures in the wood grain more clearly. Then, when you whitewash, you can see more of that peeking through.
Here’s the basic process:
- Stain your wood a medium brown (we used Wheat by Rustoleum with just a touch of Kona to make it a bit darker).
- Mix up 1 part water to 2 parts flat white latex paint (we used budget ceiling paint from our local hardware store).
- Brush (don’t roll) the paint on in the direction of the wood grain.
- Wipe off with a paper towel or rag in the direction of the wood grain.
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 if desired.
Now that doesn’t sound too hard, does it?
And it wasn’t… but it wasn’t really easy either. Like a lot of painting projects, it’s more an art form than a science. You have to keep going until you love it…
To help you reach the “love it” stage, here are some tips I found that helped. Each plank has its own identity, and each plank will take a certain finesse, but the overall result is wonderful… isn’t it?
Tip 1: The brush strokes in the direction of the wood grain are important, especially if you’re working with faux aged (i.e. stained new wood) rather than authentically aged planks. Some of your texture comes from those brush strokes, and you want them to work with your grain, rather than against it.
Tip 2: Have a spray bottle with water in it on hand. If you ever feel your paint is getting too thick, just squirt a little extra water in. The 1:2 water to paint ratio is a guideline.
Tip 3: Be careful at the ends of boards. The paint tends to glob up there a bit and show the wiping marks if you don’t rub it in well.
Tip 4: Don’t wipe too vigorously or you’ll have to put on a million coats.
Tip 5: Even though you’re working with watered down paint, sometimes a “dry brush” technique is the best approach. In other words, squeeze your brush out on a paper towel, get just a little watered down paint, and then brush it onto the surface of the board. “Dry brushing” watered-down paint seems counter-intuitive, but trust me; sometimes it’s the easiest way to create the desired texture.
Tip 6: If you ever do end up with ugly brush strokes or too much paint, use a wet rag and rub vigorously… As long as the paint hasn’t fully dried, you can wipe most of it off.
Tip 7: If you are layering any pieces a different direction (like our faux beams below which were used to cover up the seams between the planks), try to whitewash them before you install them so you don’t mess up your brush strokes.
I could spend all day every day in this room.
We loved the whitewashed look so much that we even whitewashed the closet door. You can find the tutorial for that project here.
We also finished off the stairwell with a little DIY project. Rather than closing the narrow space in with sheetrock, we built a bookcase using more cedar scraps found in the attic. I love the reclaimed look and the way it opens the stairwell visually while still keeping little ones from falling off the edge!
I feel I should warn you, though: whitewashing can be addictive. Seriously. I want to plank and whitewash everything in my house now! It makes the perfect romantic space.
Gorgeous work, Rachel! Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful attic with us!
Added June 2015: our reader John send us these pictures of his ceiling that he used this treatment on — it looks great!
From John: “Doing my ceiling I used all new cedar. I first stained the wood grey before painting on the watered down white paint.
I did some test pieces first and the grey stain had the look I was wanting. I then painted on a couple coats of watered down white and wiped off the excess white fairly quick after applying.
All the boards were finished before installing on the ceiling.
Thanks for the help in making my project work out.”