15 Shades of Gray

Ok, so maybe it’s more like 5…but I figured that title might catch your attention a little more effectively.

After two or three weeks of research (aka falling down the Pinterest rabbit hole during nap time), I was finally ready to complete my kitchen wall!

I’m relieved to say I wasn’t missing the trees, but the flat gray paint felt like too much of a dead end to call the project “finished.”


Originally, I envisioned vertical stripes to draw the eyes up to our high ceilings. I was hoping to achieve the same illusion of height and spaciousness that the stenciled trees provided.

Once the wall was a solid gray, I realized that the kitchen no longer needed anything to pull your eyes up and away from unsightly cabinets and countertops. Our white upper cabinets now helped to open up the kitchen. Instead of distracting from the countertops and cabinets I finally wanted to feature them!

I decided to go with a tone on tone wide horizontal stripe. I’d seen a few examples of contrasting flat paint with semi-gloss on Pinterest, and it felt like the perfect way to add interest without “busying” up the serene space I was hoping to create.

Here are my inspiration rooms using a flat/semi-gloss paint combination:





The daunting part of this task was finding the time and energy to prep my space for perfectly spaced, and perfectly straight horizontal lines.

I was contemplating renting a laser level from Home Depot, when I came across an inexpensive gadget combination tool (tape measure + laser level) my husband received last Christmas. Score!!

My nap time lighting (or lack thereof) provided the perfect opportunity to test out my laser level.

I (naturally) ran into a problem right away. My floors are FAR from level! Since I needed to rest the level on something (because the suction cup provided wasn’t working) I had an innately flawed system.

I began to check the levelness of the laser with my own level and ruler. I quickly realized that I could totally manage this project with these two very basic tools.

In the dimly lit kitchen I eyeballed the number of stripes that fit my vision, and divided the height of the room in inches, by the number of stripes. I chose to place my first stripe in the area directly touching and above the counter and stove. It serves as a semi-gloss “splash zone.”

I split the distance for the rest of the stripes, and the numbers worked out almost perfectly. The top stripe was a little large, but I was planning to add molding that would shorten that stripe anyway.

Here are the sketched stripes, in natural (cave-like naptime) lighting and with a quick flip of the lights on for photo documentation that you can actually see.


Since I was happy with the spacing, it was time to tape!! It was hard to remember which side of the stripe I needed to tape so that the stripes remained equal sizes. After getting confused a few times, I finally decided to write it down.



When all the taping was done (and the baby was MIRACULOUSLY still sleeping!) my wall looked like this:

The stripes look uneven because of the tape being inside some of the stripe lines, but trust me – I triple checked and we are good to go!

One final check: Does the artwork look ok with the stripe location?


That’s a yes for me!

After bedtime, I was ready to start my semi-gloss stripes!!

It took 30 minutes or less to realize…this was NOT going to work out like I’d hoped.


I couldn’t see ANY contrast between the stripes, except where the overhead light hit the top stripe (not in a particularly attractive way either). Afraid I’d never get the tape lined up perfectly again, I didn’t even take it down as I began to plan my second attempt.

I went back to the paint store to see if they could tint my recently purchased (and hardly used) quart to be a tiny but lighter. My Mom does this regularly at Lowe’s and Home Depot, but this local shop said they didn’t have the ability to tint paint that was already mixed.

I was complaining about spending another 20+ bucks on new paint, when my husband suggested mixing in some white paint that we already owned. Why didn’t I think of that?!!

I recently repainted the baseboard on the kitchen wall (and a little molding – more to come on that soon!) with the glossy white paint our painters left behind when we moved in, so I knew we had plenty to mix and tint on our own.

I was hesitant to combine two different brands and finishes (eggshell and semi-gloss), but since I was looking at spending money on a new quart of paint anyway, I might as well see if I could manage not to screw this up (for free) first!


The old can of paint had some rusty edges that threw dark pieces of grit into my perfectly white paint when I opened it up.


I did my best to fish the worst of them out, but I still ended up pouring a few unwelcome guests into my gray Valspar paint.


I freaked out for a few seconds and then decided to move on. What will be, will be. At this point, I needed to move forward. Time is of the essence with a sleeping toddler in the house! I stirred the paint and compared the new tint to the original paint by placing some of the new mix onto the original swatch. I wanted to make sure I created enough contrast before wasting any more time or paint on the wall.

Round One:


When the paint was wet, the contrast looked excellent! As it dried, it disappeared entirely into the original swatch.

Round Two:


You can see #1 blending in on the right, and wet #2 looking good so far! As it dried, I was still unsure if the contrast would be visible enough from across the room. After taping it to the wall and stepping back, I suspected it needed one more round.

Round Three:


This time, I finally felt sure there was enough contrast between the two colors. I was ready to take it to the wall!


This time I could see a definite difference between stripe colors already. I couldn’t wait to get the tape off and see my final product!


It was a little lighter than I’d intended, but I still love the results. The stripe gives the kitchen a little more dimension and interest as well as a functional, easy to clean, glossy finish where splatters and messes are most likely to occur.


Now we just add some artwork…


…and, Voila! I realize the rest of the kitchen is still a complete mess, but at the time the transformation felt incredible!!

I started looking back at the original kitchen, and realized that my kitchen has taken 4 years to get to this point! Slow and steady, I suppose!

It’s crazy to think we started with this:




Now I can just sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Well… maybe I’ll enjoy doing dishes in it at least??