Are you looking to add some character to your builder-grade or cookie-cutter home? Welcome to the club. Most of us would like our homes to have some personality or that little extra something not everybody in our neighborhood has. If you find yourself feeling defeated just thinking about the cost of adding wainscoting, built-ins, or tall baseboards, take heart and read on. I’m going to teach you how to add character to your interior doors with paint and plaques. It’s easy, affordable, and packs a big punch of character.
Case in point:
This is what the double doors to our office/guest room at the top of the stairs looked like when we moved in.
And this is what they look like after some paint, a few plaques, new hinges, and a little bit of my time (this hallway is REALLY hard to photograph so I apologize for the sub-par, grainy photos).
I have been painting all of my upstairs doors in our loft because it’s under construction, so I don’t have to worry about being too careful. In these next instructional photos, you’ll see that the wall behind the door I was painting looks like some Jackson Pollock installation. It’s really just leftover adhesive from the 1970’s wood paneling that was here when we moved in. Again, I apologize for the less-than-perfect photos, but this wall allows me to paint these doors without hauling them downstairs, and if you were here in my home, this is where I’d teach you how to paint your doors. Let’s just say we’re keepin’ it real.
*Please read this ENTIRE post before painting your doors as I answer some important questions at the end!
What You’ll Need:
- Angled Brush – this is the best angled brush in all the land!
- 6″ Foam Roller – I’ve really been enjoying this brand lately.
- Paint (I always use Sherwin Williams Infinity paint at Lowe’s – this was color matched to Benjamin Moore’s Wrought Iron and the sheen was SATIN)
- Brass Plaque – I’ve listed all my favorites at the end of the post.
How to Paint Your Doors:
1) Remove doorknob and take door off hinges if you are changing them out. If you are not changing hinges, simply cover them with painter’s tape and trim around the hinge (Kris from @drivenbydecor has a great door-painting tutorial where she shows this step…I don’t do this because every door in my house needs new hinges).
*Another option for painting doors upstairs (if you don’t have a Jackson Pollock wall like mine to lean your doors against) is to paint them while still hanging on the hinges, and when the paint is dry and set, take the doors off the hinges to change those out.
2) Use an angled brush to paint ONE set of insets. You can choose which set you start with, but resist the temptation to paint all the insets at one time. There is a reason why you want to brush just one set, then move to the next step. Make sure to feather the edges of the paint so you don’t have any drips or hard lines.
3) Roll the flat panels inside the insets you just painted with a foam roller, making sure not to use too much paint on this initial coat. Check for drips. The reason for this order is so that the rolled flat panel and the brushed inset can blend seamlessly while still wet.
4) Brush the next set of insets…ONE set.
5) Roll the flat panels inside the insets you just painted with a light coat.
6) Brush your last set of insets (if you have a different style of door, just keep brushing the insets and rolling the flat panels until they’re all covered).
7) Roll your last set of flat panels. Go back over all your work so far and make sure you don’t have any drips, hard lines, or places where the paint was applied too thickly. You can now put your brush away (I put mine in a Ziploc bag until I need it again) because you’ll be rolling the rest of the door.
8) When I roll, I like to go back to where I started since that part will have been drying the longest. The trick to no roller marks or brush strokes is to blend the paints when they’re still wet. I start with the middle and top vertical sections, then the top horizontal section; like a cross.
9) Then roll the lower vertical section.
10) Next is the lower horizontal section.
11) Then the very top horizontal portion.
12) And finally the lower horizontal section. If you are painting on plastic or a drop cloth, really push your roller down to the bottom edge so you won’t have an unpainted line there when you lift the door up.
12) Next, paint one whole vertical flat side and the edge, making sure you are applying a light coat and checking for drips or heavy paint that leaves a raised line along the edge.
13) Your final step is to paint the remaining vertical flat side and edge and you’re officially done with your first coat!
Let the paint dry completely, then add one or two more coats, depending on what color you chose and the amount of coverage you need.
After everything is completely dry, add your brass plaque to the front by screwing it in and covering the screw heads with the provided caps. Then stand back and admire your unique door. These plaques can be customized to say just about anything!
Painting the doors in my girls’ bathroom and attaching those cute plaques added SO much to the space! It really dials up the sophistication and creates a ton of visual interest.
Since I’ve shared about painting my doors on social media, I’ve gotten some questions I thought I’d answer here in case you have the same ones.
- Do I need to prime the door? No…unless it’s necessary (how do you like that answer!). I never prime anything. With today’s technology, I take the paint companies at their word when they say the paint-and-primer-in-one products eliminate the need for primer. I just trust them because it benefits me and my disdain for prep work. Disclaimer: If you have really shiny doors or feel that there is any reason you SHOULD prime, then please do! Better safe than sorry.
- Do I need to clean the door with TSP or sand it? No. In preparation for the first door I painted, I took the advice of the paint expert at Lowe’s and used TSP all over the door before painting. It literally did nothing. How do I know this? All the other doors I’ve painted WITHOUT using TSP first have held up equally as well as the one I DID use it on. If you feel you need something for the paint to grab onto, I recommend priming, not sanding or using TSP. Sanding is time consuming and messy, and TSP is toxic. In my opinion, priming would just be easier than both of those options.
- What sheen should I use for doors? My preference is SATIN. I don’t like super shiny doors (I don’t care how wipeable my painter says they are) but eggshell and flat are too close to my wall sheen (flat) and I do like my walls to be a different sheen than my trim and doors.
- Do I need to remove the doorknob? Yes. I’ve tried using painter’s tape around the doorknob and it just ends up looking janky once you pull the tape off so don’t do it.
- Do I need to take the door off the hinges? I almost always do. I have always changed out our hinges though, so if you don’t need to do that, then you can leave your door on the hinges and just put tape over them. If it’s a front door, I recommend leaving the door hanging on the hinges to paint. I also like to paint the door jamb while painting the door (it freshens and lightens it up…plus, they get dirty and repainting every few years helps keeps them clean) so taking the door off the hinges, even if you don’t plan to replace them, helps with painting the jamb.
- Should I roll or brush? As stated in the above instructions, I recommend both. My favorite brush and rollers are listed in the “What You’ll Need” section of this post.
- Do I need to seal the door after it’s painted? No. But try to be gentle with it for a few days as it still needs to cure a bit in order to maximize durability.
- Can I paint one side one color and the other side a different color? Absolutely! I plan to do this in the girls’ rooms. The outside, which faces the hallway, will be Benjamin Moore Wrought Iron to match the rest of the upstairs doors, and the inside of their doors will coordinate with their rooms just for fun!
- Do you have any favorite colors that you would recommend for interior doors? Here is the link for my favorite door paint colors (my friend Kris’ @drivenbydecor post).
- Are there different styles of brass plaques I can use? These are my favorite brass plaques for doors:
- If I paint one door, should I paint them all? What about on different floors? In my opinion, if you are going to paint one interior door, you should probably keep things uniform and paint them all, but it all depends on the location of the door(s) you are painting. You wouldn’t want to have only one door painted in a hallway with several unpainted doors. However, if you’re painting your laundry room or pantry door, you don’t necessarily need to follow suit with all the doors in your home.
We have been really pleased with this simple change in our builder-basic home that is 30 years old. I work on one to two doors at a time and am only two doors away from being completely done with the upstairs interior doors (our downstairs doesn’t have as many so that’ll be quick).
Adding character to your doors with paint and plaques is a fun change you can make in a weekend for very little money and requires only basic DIY skills. So I say go for it! Pick the color that best suits you and your house (if you aren’t confident in your style, go to this post to nail that down first) and don’t look back. It’s only paint after all.
I’m sharing with you a sneak peek of the plan for the space behind those double doors to our office/guest room. It’s a surprise for Jeff, so shhh! I’ve partnered with some great companies to create this beautiful space (office area not shown) and I can’t wait to share the behind-the-scenes with you, as well as the after. I know it’s going to be SO GOOD!
Are you planning to paint your doors? How about adding plaques? Let me know in the comments, and tell me what you think about the design board for the office/guest room so far.
Happy door painting,