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Though the floorboards on this porch were scratched and dinged, Brian Carter, a decorative painter in Atlanta, was glad to have what he calls a built-in ruler. "I've learned to coordinate patterns with plank width so that I can count across. It saves time measuring," he says, "and the rhythm of the planks can reinforce the design." Here, board width guided placement of two templates: a four-petal blossom the width of six boards, and an oval two boards wide. Carter alternated their placement from row to row, yielding a pattern that contrasts with the window and door grids while warming up the space.

Shown: Benjamin Moore's Arborcoat Waterborne Exterior Wood Stain tinted to match Northwood Brown 1000 (base coat) and Alexandria Beige HC-77.

Download and print out the template here.

Step 1

Roll on the Base Coat

Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Roll on the base coat, and allow it to dry at least 24 hours. Meanwhile, create two templates using heavy paper or posterboard. Consider making the width of the larger one based on an even number of floorboards, which will do away with the need for chalk lines. The one used here covered six floorboards left to right; it measured 34 inches from the top tip to the bottom tip, with petals that were 18 inches at their widest point. Create a second, proportional oval template; this one measured 17 inches from top to bottom and 12 inches, or two floorboards, across. Starting at the center of the floor, position the large template, using the floorboards as a guide, and outline it in chalk.

Step 2

Trace the Template

Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Center the small template directly above the large one and outline it, working along the length of the floorboards.

Step 3

Stagger the Pattern

Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

When the first row is done, do the next, starting this time with the oval so that the pattern is staggered.

Step 4

Fill Out the Rest of the Pattern

Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Keep going with alternating rows across the porch. When you reach the porch rail, fold the templates as needed to fit the smaller space.

Step 5

Paint Over the Chalk Lines

Photo by Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn

Using a 1½-inch painter's brush—and taking care not to paint yourself into a corner—go over the chalk lines with a stain in a contrasting color. Aim to let the floorboard edges run through the centers of the lines.