What Nobody Told You About Prepping Your Walls For Paint

Before I get into my topic about prepping your walls for paint, I want to take a moment to…


Wish myself and everyone who follows this blog




The first couple of years, was a bit of a rocky start to put it mildly. I had no idea what I was doing and did everything wrong. But guess what? It doesn’t matter. No one was reading my blog anyway. And one reason why is because no one could find me.

With the help of some amazing people*** who helped me fix the many things holding me back here are some current stats as of mid-April 2016.

  • the laurel home blog has a subscription list of nearly 13,000 where everyone signed up of their own accord.
  • The website is receiving some 360,000 page views a month with over 170,000 unique visitors– and still growing at a steady clip.

Yes, wow, is right!  I had no idea that this was even possible, but apparently it is. I also want to encourage others who might wish to travel a similar path to know that it IS possible.

To give some point of reference, two years ago, April 2014, the blog had a subscription list of 12. Yes, 12 subscribers and had 5,250 page views that month. That was vastly improved from the previous November when the website had a whopping 779 page views for the entire month.


Believe me when I tell you that no one is more shocked about this growth than I am.

I am grateful to every one of you for your support, kind comments and for giving me the inspiration to create this blog; it’s been one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.

Like most of us interior design bloggers, I began my blog because that is what I was “supposed to do,” but then discovered that I rather love it.


And here we are.


Usually, I write my posts right before they go out and have no back-up which is a little dangerous, I know. This time, knowing I would be at the High Point Market, I am writing this the previous Wednesday.

As most of you know, I am eyeball deep in getting the new curated paint collection ready for you. One of my issues and don’t laugh (too hard) is that I am having the same problem that plagues most of us.




It’s not that I’m unsure of the color, it’s that it sometimes feels like a Sophie’s Choice moment and I need to make a quick and final DECISION over which child gets the ax.

Okay, that’s obviously a grotesque exaggeration and tasteless analogy but you get the point. There are so many beautiful colors, but I have finalized the list and am very happy with it. One decision I finally settled on a few weeks ago is that it needs to be 144 colors, no more, no less. That is still a lot of colors, but a lot more manageable than 3,500.


The paint guide is going to be so much more than just a bunch of pretty paint colors.


It’s going to be packed with advice, the 144 great colors + the trim colors to go with each color(s) and much, much more! Here’s the link to Part I, the paint color collection

Such as:

  • Great Cabinet Colors
  • Best Colors For Kid’s Rooms
  • Best Colors For Home Resale
  • Looks Great With Wood Tones
  • Best For Darker Rooms
Phase II will be turning the colors into a paint palette. Yes, 40+ different paint palettes which will go in palette families so you can mix them up, if you like.

In turn, the combo of paint colors will act as a sort of Rosetta Stone in that if one is picking a similar color but not one of the 144, even it’s not the exact one, the same trim color(s) will almost always work with it.

There are 12 whites. I could’ve done it with six whites and I’m going to explain how some are so close that even the same color on a different fan deck is more different from itself than some of the so-called different whites are from each other!

I’ll let you chew on that one a sec.

I am doing 12 whites, not because it’s necessary but because I’m trying to avoid fewer people being upset if their favorite white is not on the list.

There will also be a link to show how the color looks in a room setting.


And that brings us to today’s main topic.

What Nobody Told You About Prepping Your Walls For Paint


And how do I know nobody told you?


I know because it has to do with something far more profound than spackle and sand paper.

It has to do with the architecture of the room.


Now, I have spoken to you about this, a few times over the last couple of years. Some of you understand it but many do not.

Paint is only one aspect of your room. Rooms are like master paintings and it’s one reason why I so often love to incorporate fine art in my posts. Everything in a masterpiece painting works together to make for a pleasing composition. But if you take the elements individually, you may find that there are aspects of the painting that are actually quite boring. That is intentional. Not everything can be the star of the show!


detail_-_Google_Art_Project copyDetail from the painting below

John_Singer_Sargent_-_Mrs._Cecil_Wade_-_Google_Art_Project-- prepping your walls for paintMrs. Cecil Wade by John Singer Sargent


And it is the same with our rooms. But that is the art of putting together a room. Paint does not live in isolation. Nor do the other finishes and furnishings.

But, here’s the deal.



It’s possible that no paint color is ever going to look good.



Today, I got a comment.

“How long should I give the new color if I don’t like it.  It is day 2 and I hate it.  I wanted a change from all the “brown” and now its all too blue.  I feel like I wasted a ton of money and if I have the painters re-paint that’s just more money spent…What to do????”

It’s very difficult because sometimes it takes time to get used to things and often it helps a lot to put stuff back in the room. But again, sometimes the paint color is not ever going to look good.


It’s like this.


There’s a not-very-attractive woman. She goes out and buys a beautiful dress.



She does not fix her hair or put on makeup. The dress doesn’t fit right, the slip is showing and she’s wearing brown loafers. (not this woman, obviously)

I get an email.

What color eye shadow should I wear, Laurel?


Sorry, if that sounds mean. I am trying to make a point that color does not live in isolation and the problem may very well be the room or some other elements, not what color are you to paint the walls.

End of lecture.

(BTW, that fabulous concoction is the dress that I found and just got that I’m wearing to the Cinderella Ball. lol Thank you Aidan Mattox for creating such gorgeous dresses!)

In the meantime, in honor of the Laurel Home Four Year Blogiversary, I’d love to Share Four Topics Times Four:

(you can click on the image to read the posts if interested)


Top Four posts by number of page views

these are the most popular posts on the blog







Top Four posts to help you with the technical aspects of painting and decorating.






Top Four posts to help you with the architecture of your room.

(the thing I think you should be the most worried about)







Laurel’s Top Four Favorite Posts


(this was a bit difficult, however there are more favorites in the related posts below)


And now, I’d like to pay tribute to


*** Six  Awesome People Who Have Helped Me Get To Where I Am Today


(and no, none of these are paid endorsements, affiliate links or anything like that. These are just people I love and who deserve to be recognized!)


EILEEN LONERGANeileenlongergan.com I have NO idea how I found Eileen but somehow through the grace of God got on her email list. I saw that she is a wordpress expert. So, I contacted her and oh boy, I was so overwhelmed. There was so much to learn, but Eileen guided me ever-so-patiently and was there every step of the way, even when my entire site BLEW UP TO SMITHEREENS in September 2013.  She dropped everything to get it back up and running. By the end of 2013, I was finally in a position to start growing.

(note: December 2018 – It is with great sadness that I am reporting that my Angel, Eileen passed away recently from metastatic breast cancer. All who knew her including myself are profoundly devastated.

All women must have annual mammograms and also ask your doctor if you need to also have an ultra sound. Women with dense breast tissue need to get have one in addition to their mammos. Unfortunately, doctors have only been recommending this recently. Dense breast tissue shows up on a mammo as white. Cancer is also white. And thus, as in the case of Eileen, who did have annual mammograms, it can go undetected for years and when discovered, it could already be quite advanced and more difficult to treat.)


To read my tribute to Eileen Lonergan, please click here.

My recommendation if you are thinking of starting a blog or are struggling to get yours going, to get some wonderful pro help.


Not everything you read or see other people doing on their blogs is correct. I have seen famous people make terrible mistakes– like having a different blog URL that is separate from their main website. It doesn’t hurt them much because they are already famous, but for the rest of us, it matters. There’s lots of stuff like that and Eileen can get you where you need to be.


ALYCIA WICKERalyciawicker.com Alycia is a former interior designer turned interior designer guru. Alycia is terrific and especially so, because she understands the unique needs of us interior design folks and she definitely knows what she’s talking about!


JON MORROW AND MARSHA STOPAsmartblogger.com No words will suffice. Jon is nicknamed THE KING for a reason. Anyone wanting to go into blogging as a business. Look no further. Take his courses. Any of them. You will not be sorry. Marsha is my guardian angel. She has a way of telling me I need to change something in a way that doesn’t make me feel like an idiot. That’s a very rare talent!


SCOTT SIND — Scott started a mastermind accountability group on facebook a year ago. There is nothing like 6 other supportive people who are holding you accountable for getting one to whoop their own butt into action. Scott is an incredibly talented writer and the author.


LAURIE LAIZUREAnother Angel. Laurie started an interior design community on facebook. And yes, it’s a private group; it’s been the most awesome thing ever as it has brought professional in our industry together to share and learn. Laurie is one of the kindest, smartest, most generous people I’ve ever known!


And thank you again to everyone who’s been a part of this blog.


I love your comments, contribution and questions. It helps me provide the material you want to know more about.




PS: Some of the links might not be working, if so, hopefully the ones below should be better


26 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel, do you believe in fate? I do and I believe it was fate that I found you!! The first and foremost thing I love about you (is it too soon to use the “L” word?) is that you are clever. That is at the top of my list of compliments! You are also entertaining and funny and interesting but, for me, being clever elevates you to the highest level of admiration! Next is, considering your obvious talent and experience, you are not full of yourself. You do not hesitate to say you still obsess over paint colors and you still occasionally make a less than stellar choice. You have a way of making everyone feel better about their decorating and that is HUGE!

    I have very much enjoyed reading your blog this past month in light of my present situation. I have been working on the “project from hell” for 4 long years and it has destroyed what few brain cells I had left! I am blubbering, even as I type. I have had to take to my bed (a southern thing) multiple times during this ordeal. In fairness, I knew it was a monumental undertaking, and I knew it would be a fairly long process and I knew there would be problems but, 4 years? My tale of woe began when I drove by this once grand 1866 Greek Revival home, in a horrific state of disrepair, and felt it was my destiny to save it. I then proceeded to convince my wonderful husband of my aforementioned destiny. Fast forward, I now worry on a daily basis that I am going to do physical harm to someone on this job and will have to use temporary insanity as my defense.

    After all this time, I have unraveled to the point I question every decision I make. For instance, I am one of the many struggling with neutral paint colors. I have had a paint schedule done for a very long time. I knew that, since most of the windows have a north and east exposure, some of my tried and true colors would probably have to be adjusted but was not worried about it. I have now been trying to accomplish this for months and I am about to fling myself from the very high roof of this house. I have always enjoyed the process of choosing a “just right” paint color but now I have lost all confidence in my ability as it is the basic ones I am struggling with. Sound familiar? The custom mix neutral I have used over the years (it is not greige but more a “buff”?? with a touch of gray) has been impossible for me to get right due to the light. Also, like you, I always try to use just one trim color but I am forced to use a white in the kitchen to match the cabinets and it has a little green in it so I don’t want to use it elsewhere. Since I generally like a “pure white”, I am having trouble deciding on a white that will transition well. Last, but not least, I want a black exterior trim color that is soft, not harsh like some blacks look when used in semigloss, and I do not like anything I have tried. At this point, I need to pull the trigger immediately, if not sooner. My next decision is whether to pull it figuratively or literally. Just kidding, of course, but I think you get the idea of how frustrated I am!

    Having said all this (sadly, I am as wordy when I type as when I talk), would it be possible to hire you for a brief telephone consultation? I know you are extremely busy in general and leaving in a few hours for Italy, one of my favorite places, but I think it would help to get me off the ledge so I do not have to jump. I have read your blogs on paint colors and they are wonderful. In the past, I have used many of the colors you like and recommend but, in my weakened state, I am unable to choose these three simple colors. I wish you were close enough to slap me and shake me and tell me to get a grip but, since that is not possible, I think a few minutes to hear your advice and suggestions would help. I tell others that decorating is not rocket science and, therefore, not worth stressing about but, unfortunately, I am cursed with being a perfectionist so it is more important to me than it should be to get it right.

    I know this email is way too long and more than a tad dramatic. I have been expecting a popup on the screen telling me I am over my word quota. I am now
    going to push the button quickly before I change my mind and I am hoping you will identify somewhat with my predicament and respond when you have the time!!

  2. Hi Laurel,

    What am amazing accomplishment!!! Your blog is humorous, down to earth and offers advice on so many elements of design. I enjoy reading (and reading again) your posts.

    And, I do think when it comes to designing, that sometimes, if we listen carefully, a room might just whisper to us the answer to what it needs to be spectacular be it the right color of paint, a work of art or even molding.

    Thank you for your blog and sharing with us so many of your secrets.

  3. Laurel,

    In case you have not come across Simon Schama’s series “The Power of Art” I cannot recommend them highly enough. They are on DVD but I think you can also find the episodes on youtube. The episodes on Caravaggio and Bernini would be great to watch in advance of your Italy trip….

    ps this is not really mean to be posted. Just realized that with your love of art this might be down your alley

    1. Thanks for that KG. I would love to see that! I did study both artists when I studied Art History, (fave, fave subject by far) my first go-around at college and again in Historical Styles at the New York School of Interior Design, but a refresher wouldn’t hurt.

  4. Once more I want to shout how much I adore your work: design and blog!

    Thrilled for you and all your success. Loved getting the links to some prior posts that I missed first time around. Especially grateful for the post about ASID and the silly designer/decorator thing. I am proud to say that I am a decorator and definitely NOT a member of ASID, nor will I ever be. It seems to me the members I know not only do inferior work, but seem to spend most of their time giving themselves awards.

    Hope you have a great trip. Can’t wait to hear and see what you think about the market. Toasting your success right this very minute!


    1. Hi Leslie,

      Thank you so much for the lovely comment. It was funny. I was about six feet away from Kelly Wearstler who by the way, IS the most beautiful woman God ever created, just the other day at market. And no, lol, I did not tell her about the post. It did cross my mind, but no.

  5. Congrats! I love your blog, and your funky sense of humor. As a color consultant, I appreciate all you have to say. Because I get that it’s not just about paint colors! I think and see wholistically, like you, and try my best to educate my clients. I also appreciate that you’re willing to give actual advice, not just vague statements. I’ve been reading color and design blogs for six years, and have seen the evolution from “giving it away for free”. I understand that, but love you for your generous nature. I can’t imagine how much time and energy you spend on the blog, but am glad that so many people enjoy it. Thanks for your talent, advice, and good cheer!

  6. Beautiful dress – you will rock it! I won’t tell you what eyeshadow to wear. I will implore you not to wear nude pumps! The equivalent of plastic covered lampshades and furniture. And, yes, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge wears them ; )

    1. Oh Libby,

      I did not wear nude pumps. Shoes were sandals that are tan. Also, not fabulous but I have the worst feet. These are supposed to be comfortable but nothing is. But the dress was a hit. I ended up at the VIP super-star table. I’m sure it was the dress. I was just standing there and invited to sit with them. I really did feel like a princess!

  7. Love your blog and all the info you share – thank you. Just a shout out for BM china white – we moved into our house recently and I just found out the paint color that looks so elegant and chic in our south west facing (good light) dining room is china white – no dingyness at all. The trim is simply white – (imo trim colors really affect a wall color).

    1. Hi Em,

      I know that a lot of people like China White and agree that it’s fine in a bright room. My aversion was that our townhouse was painted this color top to bottom including the trim. It was sprayed on and in the north facing rooms, it was dreadfully sad and grayish.

  8. Happy Blogiversary and many more years to come! I found your blog quite by accident about a year ago and I’ve been a fan ever since. The first thing I do when I get up Sunday morning is grab my coffee and run to read your blog. I used to do that with the Sunday crossword, but you have taken 1st place now. I hope that doesn’t make me sound like a stalker! (I really do miss your Wednesday blog btw) I just want to tell you that I love your style of writing, your tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, and the fact that I always deep-down felt a little sense of connection other than the fact that we are both in the same profession. There was always something in your writing that lead me to believe that we were from the same tribe, (for lack of a better way of saying it) and then one day you said it! And…aha.. I knew it! Keep up the wonderful work, the wonderful blog and I look forward to reading more.

    1. Hi Susan,

      What an incredibly lovely comment! BTW, I adore stalkers! Well, ones as nice as you are. Mean stalkers are booted off the island.

      I am hoping to reinstate the mid-week post soon. I did post a few times, but right now, my schedule is such that it’s impossible. Thanks again for your kind words!

  9. Happy Anniversary!! LOVE your blog!! I will have a great week re-reading all those posts!

    I went to read one (12 mistakes about painting) and when I came back to your blog many of the links to your posts were missing.(Nothing like a few technical problems to ruin a day.)

    I was wondering if there are other parts to the “15 Hideous Decorating Mistakes” than part 1

    Thanks for writing such a entertaining and informative blog.

    1. Hi Maggie,

      I was in such a rush this morning, but I scrambled to put the links in. When I did the post, it came up with the wordpress snippets which must be something new because that never happened before. WordPress just did a big update and that must be part of it.

      It was a little wonky on my end too but all looked good in the preview. Oy! But any time you want to look up something, there’s a search box on any blog page sidebar. It really works!

  10. Hi Laurel

    Many thanks for writing such a great article on drapes! On the subject of prepping walls…. I am thinking of putting a shiny finish on my dining room walls. How do I do it? Do I use Benjamin Moore High Gloss? Or is there some special super shiny lacquer paint that is used?

    I look forward to your blog every weekend.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Anon,

      Usually, the super glossy paint you see is lacquer which is not anything I’ve ever done. It’s a labor intensive process, not high-gloss paint, however, you can use high gloss paint. I would use Benjamin Moore Advance which has excellent leveling qualities. I would only do it with a deep rich color and definitely do a large sample first to see if it’s the look and finish you want.

    2. @anon: I haven’t read Laurel’s article re prepping of walls but as I have done most of my own painting for the past twenty + years; Laurel is correct in her statement about lacquer. (Application of it is not for the amateur…. ☺.) That said what you may try is a conventional latex paint and top it off with a clear/non-yellowing/high gloss varathane which is a technique sometimes used to create a subtle pattern of stripes or similar. In closing; if you should wish to try it I highly recommend that you do a few sample boards up first and practise the application of it. -Brenda-
      Footnote: I have found the use of a foam roller works best.

  11. Congratulations! I was wondering why I hadn’t found your blog years ago! (I just found it last week.)
    One reason I love it (aside from the great expert advice and colour palates I love) is your voice, which is so clearly unique and sounds like a real, interesting person. Please keep writing!

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Welcome To Laurel Home!


Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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