Introduction

a wall painted in faux subway tile pattern
Photo: Wendell T. Webber
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Gleaming, oversize subway tile set with thick ribbons of matte grout: It's the last thing you expect to see in a foyer or a dining room. But when the work is done with paint, the result can be a perfect, playful visual effect.

Decorative painter Ingrid Leess "tiled" this foyer wall in two days, using 1-inch-wide delicate-adhesion painter's tape and latex paint in two colors and finishes. "The exaggerated grid delivers a lot of punch, and it certainly goes up faster than the real thing," she says.

For maximum effect, she used a base coat of flat gray to create the look of grout lines, and high-gloss gold to make her glazed-ceramic-like tiles. "Strong colors work well," she notes, "but the impact comes from the contrasting finishes; you could also choose flat white and glossy ivory."

Read on for the step-by-step process, from blank wall to trompe l'oeil.

Tip: Any color combination will do—even two shades of white. But contrasting sheens are key. Choose a flat finish for the base coat (the "grout") and a high-gloss finish for the top coat (the "tile"). Draw a brush through the wet paint to give the tile subtle texture.
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    Tools List

    • mini-roller
      Roller and roller tray
    • pencil
      Pencil
    • 30-foot tape measure
      Tape measure
    • straightedge guide
      Straightedge
    • ladder
      Ladder
    • single edge razor
      Single-edge razor
    • small plastic putty knife
      Putty knife
    • 4-inch paintbrush
      4-inch paint brush

    Shopping List

    1 gallon flat latex paint

    Wood stick

    Two rolls 1-inch delicate-adhesion painter's tape

    1 gallon high-gloss latex paint

    Roller covers