Give a Kitchen Checkered Charm With Paint
Add warmth and whimsy to a plain white space with the help of painter's tape and a half-dozen pale shades
For a dynamic look, allow windows and countertops to interrupt the pattern's flow.
Confronted by a cottage kitchen where nothing lined up, San Francisco–based decorative painter Paul d'Orleans decided to play off its funky lines with a checkerboard in six muted shades. After putting down a base coat of robin's-egg blue, he mapped out a pattern of 16-inch squares, allowing them to bump up against cabinets, windows, and countertops. "The eye is very forgiving," he says. "As long as the horizontals are the same throughout, you have leeway to widen or narrow a square—where it meets a corner, say—by a half inch or so." Or more like 10 millimeters. "I always use metric tape," he says. "Making fractions out of inches will drive you crazy."
Armed with a pencil and a 4-foot level and using the countertops as a starting point, d'Orleans marked out and taped off the squares, then filled two-thirds of them in a random patchwork of related colors. He worked in sections, using 8-inch mini rollers and taking care to work on the right side of the tape. "Measuring took about four hours and painting maybe six," says this pro, who likes to spread out the work over a few days. "Just be sure to choose colors of the same intensity." The result: six-part harmony.