Step 1: Map out a design

marking shelf areas with a tape measure
Photo: Ryan Benyi
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with two floating shelves and four colors—a base coat of flat pale blue plus two contrasting blues and a lively yellow in an eggshell finish, say. Mark the desk height with a pencil and tape measure and work up, spacing 10-inch-high blocks at even intervals while keeping in mind the height of books and display objects. Make the middle block the same length as the shelf, and allow the other two blocks to wrap the recess and stop at different spots.
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    Tools List

    • paintroller
      Large roller for walls (base coat)
    • nap roller cover
      Roller cover For smooth surfaces, like plaster: - to ¼-inch nap. For lightly textured drywall: ¼- to ½-inch nap.
    • roller tray
      Roller tray
    • 30-foot tape measure
      Tape measure
    • pencil
      Pencil
    • 3-inch painter's tape
      Painter's tape
    • plastic putty knife
      Plastic putty knife or credit card
    • dense-foam paint roller
      Dense foam rollers for color blocks and shelves
    • 2-and-a-half-inch paintbrush
      2-inch paint brush
    • artist paintbrush
      Small artist's brush

    Shopping List

    Latex paint in four colors. Get 1 gallon for the base coat and 1 quart each in a contrasting sheen for the accent colors.

    Magnetic primer (optional)