What I wanted in my big country kitchen was a border of hand-painted tiles at chair-rail height.

What I had was the lower part of my 8-foot-high walls covered in a truly horrible cheap tileboard — basically, that’s sheets of Masonite with horizontal and vertical grooves cut into them to simulate 4-inch tiles.

faux hand-painted tilesAnd what I didn’t have was very much money for decorating the kitchen!

A friend suggested that I just stencil a border above the tileboard on the upper wall — which, by the way, had been wallpapered in a depressing brown design of kitchen utensils, circa 1960 (I’ll have more to say about that another day!).

Another friend suggested applying a pre-pasted wallpaper border on top of the tileboard, or placing a decoupage motif in each of the “faux tile” squares where I wanted the border.

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But the soft-hued stencil look just wouldn’t work in my kitchen with its “full spectrum” colour scheme. All the colours of the rainbow are used to accent the main colours of yellow, white, and a gorgeous cobalt blue. This helps to warm up the huge space (about 17 x 20 feet) and brighten it up as well — we could use a few more windows there, especially on dark winter days!

And I couldn’t find a wallpaper border I liked, so that idea was out.

And, while the idea of decoupage had a certain appeal, it seemed like it might be a great deal of work, to do the treatment on three sides of the room (the fourth wall being covered in floor-to-ceiling cupboards).

A New Way to Stencil!

faux hand-painted tiles in wide viewI found a stencil at a local chain store — quite a simple floral pattern, large enough in scale to match the room — and dug out my stock of acrylic craft paints. With the stencil applied to the wall exactly as if I were going to use it according to ordinary stencilling directions, I traced a light pencil line around the edge of each shape.

Where a door or window broke the expanse of wall, I was careful to jig the stencil around to end or begin with one complete flower, but now I think that wasn’t strictly necessary.

Then, with the pencil outlines all completed, I spread out my supply of craft paint and planned out what flower should be what colour… not evenly distributed in a formal repeating pattern, but spread around evenly enough that the broad view of the room looks balanced.

I filled in the pencilled outlines with the acrylic craft paint in a range of warm colours, echoing the colours of other decorative objects here and there in the kitchen — some bright Mexican pottery, a whimsical painted cat, a strong abstract painting over the breakfast table…

(In a small kitchen, I’d be inclined to go with just a couple of colours that were fairly close together in tone (blush/pink/dusty-rose, for example, or butter-cream/pale-yellow/primrose), to help the eye travel smoothly along the length of the border and keep the space from looking smaller than it is.)

Intentionally, I used a fairly loose brush stroke and mixed a little water into the paint so that it almost floated over the new white of the new semi-gloss base coat, a little bit uneven, like glaze on a hand-painted tile. And — this part is very important — I carefully left the tileboard grooves just plain white, to simulate the look of grout lines between each tile.

The resulting wall border is wild and unconventional, to be sure, but a real “faux success” and just right for this big warm welcoming kitchen, which is the heart of so many big happy family gatherings. I never get tired of my faux tile flower garden!

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