23 Surprising (and Totally Delightful) Paint Ideas

A splash of color can change everything.

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Reid Rolls

You don’t have to look much farther than history’s famed unnatural blondes—Madonna! Marilyn! Dolly! Diana!—to witness the transformative power of a color change. Sometimes, a new hue is all you need to find a new you. Same goes for designers, who find that a fresh coat of paint is the ultimate “presto, change-o” move. Here, a few of the shocking things they’ve overhauled, plus other ideas to mull. DIY-ers, pick up your brushes and start your engines.

1 HVAC Ducts
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CHRISTOPHER DIBBLE

“In this basement remodel, we would’ve had to spend a ton of money rerouting the HVAC air duct. Who wouldn’t go with ballet-slipper pink instead?”—Max Humphrey

2 Bare Stairs
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Courtesy of Annie Sloan

“Do something groovy on the actual steps! The bolder you go, the bigger the smile when you see them,” says Fawn Galli. A painted-on runner by Annie Sloan looks just like carpet.

3 Laminate Counters
cans with purple, pink, white and lavender paint
pidjoe

“After cleaning, sanding, and priming twice, we painted in stages and added a few coats of clear, high-gloss acrylic for protection.” —Shannon Kadwell, Anthony Wilder Design/Build

4 Concrete Surfaces
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Kalina Kheirolomoom

“My patio was poured using two different mixes, making it multicolored. So I had it painted, and I actually like it better now!” —Danielle Rollins

5 Vintage Appliances
Loft Kitchen
asbeGetty Images

“Send it for an overnight stay at an auto-body shop for a coat of high-gloss paint and it’ll be the centerpiece of a modern kitchen.”—Joseph Berkowitz, JAB Design Group

6 Electrical Outlets
Power Outlet In Empty Room
Spiderstock

“They are often too obvious and look out of place, so we paint them to match.” —Shannon Kadwell

7 Closet Interiors
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Matthew Williams

“You’ll be happier when you open it,” says Stephanie Sabbe. This surprise hit of orange in a space by Studio DB does exactly that.

8 Basic Tiles
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Laura Moss

”Replacing these tiles was not an option, budget-​wise. So I created a stencil, painted them, then polyeurethaned over it all!” —Jessica Davis, Nest Studio

9 Gilt Mirrors
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© 2016 Fritz von der Schulenburg, courtesy of A House By the Sea, Abrams

“Paint it with a chalky white, then lightly wipe it down just before it dries, letting some of the gold show through,” says Rollins. Designer Bunny Williams painted this gilt frame white in her Punta Cana home.

10 Wicker Furniture
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Stephan Julliard

“Why not push past conformity and paint wicker in a bright, happy color? We used this sunny yellow to punctuate the entire color story.” —Kirill Istomin

11 Grass-Cloth Walls
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Paul Costello

“We painted this mural to convey that these are people who want their guests to enjoy a rum drink and some laughs.” —Sara Gilbane

12 Book Spines
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Angie Seckinger

“I wanted to create uniformity in this library with wood paneling, so we painted the books two shades of blue.” —Kelley Proxmire

13 Exposed Brick
Cosy Bedroom
Aleksandar Novoselski

“A light aqua color is unexpected but soft enough that the brick won’t stand out.”—Katie Gibson

14 A Trough Sink
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Brian Hom

”Adding a pop of ocean blue created a fresh feel in this surfer family’s poolhouse. We used Sapphire by Sherwin-Williams—ask for the special formula for metal.” —Jill Johnson, Waterleaf Interiors

15 Metal Pendants
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Amy Bartlam

“Using Benjamin Moore’s Blue Lapis, we painted only the interior of this Urban Electric Co. pendant. It’s a subtle statement that gives the fixture an extra touch of personality.” —Amy Sklar

16 Old Radiators
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Nicole Franzen/GRT Architects

“It wasn’t about making this cast-iron radiator disappear; its sculptural nature is what we liked!” —Tal Schori, GRT Architects

17 AC Vents
Air duct and ceiling light
Matthieu SpohnGetty Images

“I didn’t want a giant white grate sticking out, so I painted it the same hue as the walls.” —J.P. Horton

18 Lamp Shades
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Young Huh

For her 2019 Kips Bay Decorator Show House room, Young Huh's friends helped paint the chandelier shades. A tip from designer Pamela Harvey: "After you apply the first coat, pop it back on the lamp to see any areas you might have missed.”

19 Cheap Fixtures
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Amy Baltram

“I powder-coated this midrange hardware to match the yellow Vola faucet. The right spray paint would also work in a pinch.” —Amy Sklar

20 Faux Molding
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Peter Murdock

“There was no ceiling molding and no molding around the doors in this apartment, so I added them with paint!” —Aldous Bertram

21 Sisal Rugs
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Reid Rolls

“I had a sisal rug hand-painted," recalls Philip Thomas. "It costs a fraction of having a custom rug woven, with all the durability of sisal.” Leanne Ford painted this one white to match a neutral room.

22 Outdoor Furniture
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Brantley Photography

“Pieces found at everything-​must-go clearance sales can become the talked-about new kids on the block.” —Danielle Rollins

23 Faded Curtains
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Lauren Logan Photography

“I hand-dyed these window curtains, and then went in afterward and hand-painted them to create a beautiful, textured look that no one else has.” —Maureen Stevens

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