Hmmm …. What Can't Paint Do?


Recently while driving, I glanced to my left as a well-loved car was passing. I’m pretty sure that car was painted with house paint and a paintbrush.  It makes me pause, and it’s a “hmmmmm … “ moment for sure, but I find myself smiling and wanting to catch my neighbor's eye. 

Why?  Because there is this unifying element at play here.

It’s an instinct near to my heart that so many of us share: this urge to make something look better.  Or to improve the places where we spend our time.  Or to have those places be a closer reflection of who we are.  I’m not really sure why, but somehow it makes me want to tip my hat to this fellow human and say, “I get it,“ and, “Me too.”

I see that common instinct take on many forms.  Some of us embark on expensive home renovations, while others buy a cement donkey for the front yard or carefully duct tape over a dented fender.  But regardless of what drives you, I think we can all agree that the humble can of paint is frequently up to the task.  Nothing is better suited to the job of a high-impact improvement with a low-impact investment than a coat of paint.

I’m no stranger to the wonders of it.  I shake my head when I think about the “improvements” I used to make to a host of sketchy rental apartments in my youth.  I mean, I never painted my car, but I did paint a rusty refrigerator with house paint once.  This makes just about the same kind of sense, so this glass house will be throwing no stones.

I knew painting that fridge wasn’t right when I did it.  But I also knew I’d probably be long gone before that fridge shed its new layer of skin.  And that’s an important distinction actually.  You really can paint just about anything if your only goal is to buy yourself a little time.  Paint can do that. It can also, when done properly, create lasting change that will stand up to the years.

And all that makes paint the perfect muse for these long, dark days of February.  If you’re like me, you are craving a quick change that’s not too big of a project.  And, again, if you're like me, you may also be craving half a tray of mac and cheese.  But first things first.

What paint projects are good candidates? Oh so, so many.  How about a new color for your stair risers, your mudroom built-in, the back panels of bookshelves, or a bedroom ceiling?  Or whip out some spray paint and quickly upgrade your light fixtures or even (with the proper masking) your doorknobs and hinges.  Try painting all your interior doors a light, neutral tone and be amazed at the impact of this subtle change.

You can have fun with a powder room by painting it all one color: walls, vanity, ceiling, and trim.  Or paint your cat. I don’t know, you do you.  But if you get it right, there will be a great reward.  And if you really, really hate it?  Well, you can always repaint.  Which is admittedly soul-crushing, so I hope you don’t have to.  But the point being that paint is largely reversible.

Largely, but not always.  So, think carefully before you decide to paint over your varnished woodwork or exposed brick.  And also, remember this: unless you are in a low-grade rental where you are painting lemons to make lemonade?  Please do your homework and adhere to good painting practices.  Tape things off, use a drop cloth and quality brushes, set up good project lighting, and prep those surfaces just like they tell you to on YouTube. Otherwise, you may have just made matters worse, and that sort of defeats the purpose.

Are you ready to up the ante?  Because there is a whole other paint world out there and it goes by the name of epoxy.  Let me first say that these paints are tricky to work with.  There are lots of ways to go wrong, and if you are using them, be sure to crack a window.   But it might be worth it because these paints when used correctly, can do crazy things.

They can refinish a bathtub, transform a linoleum counter, or maybe cover a granite that you hate.  It can change your avocado green appliances to white or visa-versa if that’s your thing.  It can paint over tile, concrete, and enamel.  And it can definitely paint your garage floor because that’s where these paints originally came into fashion.  I haven’t seen a car painted with it yet, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled.

But like I said, there are lots of ways to go wrong.  So much so that I don’t go near it myself. I hire professionals for the tricky stuff because I have zero tolerance for a flubbed project.  But you DIYers always amaze me.  I saw on Pinterest that one woman used epoxy paint to change the color of her kitchen counter while (get this) her baby was napping.  I mean, hmmmm …, on that one too.  But she seemed happy, and the pictures looked nice.  I hope she cracked a window.

I’ve used it professionally to give antique bathtubs and sinks new life. I saw one of my clients recently and asked her how her tub was holding up.  She said it was great, and that was five years ago.  Online, they say it can last ten to twenty years, so at that rate, the finish might actually outlive the appliances that you just painted it with.

I frequent a restaurant where I've noticed they used it to change the color of the floor tile in their bathroom.  I keep an eye on it to see how it’s holding up in this wet, high-traffic area, and so far, it’s doing very well.  I also went to a yoga studio that had cement floors covered in this beautiful epoxy blue. It was shiny and smooth and almost looked like glass.  My yoga practice missed the wood underfoot, but it was pretty enough to make me come back.

So I’ve given you lots to think about.  These are my inspirations, but you can google a ton more.  Just don’t ignore that urge to make your space more you.  Or to make something you spend time around look nicer.  I get it.  And me too.

Jennifer Coles is a local interior designer. Her website is: