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Designing a Fun, Colorful Mural

Tips for adding color to your home with a mural.

Outdoor murals can liven up an otherwise dull porch, patio or wall. Try your hand at painting a landscape, a fun clown or hot-air balloon. The only limit is your imagination. (SHNS photo courtesy Home & Garden Television)

By Shari Hiller

My favorite painting partner, Matt Fox, and I have painted nearly everything you could possibly paint in our 12 years of working together. Everything from furniture to fabrics, walls, floors, window coverings and exteriors have received at least a coat of solid color paint. However, as we all know, when you can be extra-creative and use more than one color, or paint a real landscape, even a fun clown or hot-air balloon on a child's wall, that's when painting can actually be called "fun"!

One of the projects I remember with great fondness was a single exterior wall on a back patio that was part of an entertainment area. The home was in Florida, and the patio had a screened-in pool and several different covered areas to escape the midday sun. The area we were working on was a small snack bar with a large window to the kitchen so treats could easily be handed outside and arranged on the built-in bar. The house was painted white, on a stucco surface, and even though the patio was full of tropical plants and flowers, the plain white was ... well... plain.

During one of our shopping trips for accessories to add to the space, we came across a lovely patterned napkin-and-placemat set. The design was in irregular blocks, with bits of interesting geometric borders here and there. And, in some of the blocks, a simple fruit or leaf design was stamped. The colors were fresh and warm, and we were so pleased with the spark of color they gave to the dining area of the patio.

Of course, Matt and I tend to go one step beyond normal, and I think we both had this idea at the same time. Wouldn't it be great to paint a similar design on just one wall of the exterior? Maybe the window wall in the snack-bar area would be an option? Surprisingly, our homeowners were willing to give it a try.

So, Matt and I rushed out to the paint store with placemat in hand to start matching paint colors to the design. There were seven colors plus white on the placemat, and we matched each one easily and had quarts made in exterior latex satin paint. Then, as you know, with most great teams, each person has a particular strength, and mine was in the drawing. So, when we arrived back at the house, I got started with a long level and a carpenter's pencil and drew in the background of rectangles, borders and blocks of color.

As I moved across the wall, Matt started filling in the blocks with the colors I had chosen. The selection and placement of colors was easier than developing an original design, because I used the placemat as a guide. And why not? A designer or artist had created a design of patterns and colors that was very attractive to all of us, so why change a thing? Of course, because of the shape of the wall and the window and bar right in the middle, there had to be some alterations.

Once I was finished with the drawing, I stepped back and took a look at the developing design. As soon as some of the blocks that Matt had painted were dry, I started drawing in the pear or leaf or cherries that would adorn certain spaces. The selection of color allowed for some highlights or shadows on the pictures to give them a little depth. And, the use of white in the borders really helped tie the design to the rest of the white on the house.

To even further tie the mural into the house, we chose one of the strong oranges to paint a flat part of the eaves all the way around the patio. The soffit in the dining area received a collection of border designs butted together to create a bordered effect that was visible from inside the house and just beckoned you to come out for additional investigation.

When the job was complete, we presented it to our homeowners, and they were thrilled. Since then, we've heard stories that golfers passing by (the home is on a golf course) yell over their pleasure at the fun, colorful mural.

(Shari Hiller writes this column with Matt Fox. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.)

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