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A chair rail is a classic way to bring the eye down and make a large room feel more intimate. Here, paint achieves the same effect while also enlivening the room with a pattern in triplicate—call it an accent wall of receding waves, or maybe festive scalloped pennant strings.

A DIY template makes this project pretty straightforward. First, choose two paint colors and put down the base coat. Then decide how high you want the rows to be, keeping in mind the height of the ceiling, fixed elements like a window, and furnishings like a bookcase, dresser, or headboard.

To make our template, we used a strip of Mylar 3 inches wide and about 2 feet long; longer strips would work too.

We opted to align the waves neatly, but they could also be staggered for a more dynamic look. Either way, have some fun and furnish the space in the same playful spirit.

We used a quart-size paint can to make our Mylar template.

Step 1

Create a Template

Photo by Andrew McCaul

Cut a strip of Mylar 3 inches wide. Align a paint stick or ruler along its top edge and bump a paint can or small plate against it. Trace a semicircle, move the can over, and repeat. Cut out the semicircles with a hot knife (available at craft stores) or an X-Acto blade.

Step 2

Mark the Tops of the Rows

Photo by Andrew McCaul

With the help of a tape measure and a pencil, lightly mark the heights of the three sets of waves, allowing for the width of the Mylar strip between marks.

Step 3

Continue the Marks Along the Wall

Photo by Andrew McCaul

Use a level to draw horizontal lines for the three rows plus a line 3 inches below the lowest one (see Step 4).

Step 4

Tape Off the Rows

Photo by Andrew McCaul

Apply painter's tape just above each penciled line. The fourth strip of tape will protect the base coat when the bottom row of waves is being brushed on.

Step 5

Position the Template

Photo by Andrew McCaul

Apply spray adhesive to the back of the template and press it in place, with the points at the tape edge, or use a bit of painter's tape to secure it.

Step 6

Paint the Waves

Photo by Andrew McCaul

Lightly pounce paint around the edges to avoid bleeding, and use the stencil brush or a small painter's brush to fill in. Wait a few minutes, peel up the template, reposition it, and repeat.