Paint has often been called the decorator’s best friend.

Quite justifiably so, for not only is it the most versatile and the least expensive wall treatment available, it can also be used to create an enormous range of effects. Even a novice can produce some dazzling wall treatments in a relatively short period of time. It is also an enormously liberating material to work with, because even if your experiments go disastrously wrong, it is a relatively inexpensive and quick exercise to paint over them.

Whether you are inclined towards a bold modern look, or a delicate, subdued scheme, you can create any effect with paint; practically anything is possible. Your best guide will undoubtedly be the room itself.

There are, of course, some things that you probably cannot change — short of a complete remodelling job. The room’s proportions, and the size and position of windows and architectural details, are probable starting points when you are deciding how to tackle the space. If you have a small room, for example, a pale colour will give you a brighter, more airy look. But equally, you might like to go in the opposite direction and use dark colours to enhance or create a cosy or ‘clubby’ feeling.

However, there is little point in setting yourself an impossible task. You can only work against a room’s natural inclination to a certain point — further than that, and it proves to be a frustrating, fruitless and expensive exercise. For instance, a dark, north-facing room can rarely be made to look bright and cheerful, whatever its proportions. Indeed, a chilly light on bright, jolly colours can even make them look harsh, dreary and depressing. It is always best — as with other aspects of decorating — to work with what you have, enhancing and developing it. It is probably better to choose dark colours such as terracotta, mossy green or midnight blue for a north-facing room and then enjoy the challenge of creating a rich, opulent scheme.

In a badly proportioned room, using the same colour throughout, on walls, ceiling, and even on the floor, will blur the confines of the space. But remember that you can also combine paint colours and finishes to great effect. So,, in a small room, gloss paint will reflect the light and give a more spacious feel. And if a room seems too high for its dimensions, a dark, matt paint on the ceiling will ‘lower’ it, or alternatively, you could add a dado rail and paint the area beneath it in a darker colour than the rest of the walls. If your room has low ceilings, you can create a more lofty appearance by painting the walls with vertical stripes , or by making the ceiling either matt white or a paler colour than the rest of the walls.

Of course, there are many different paint effects you can use to disguise the room’s less attractive features; but equally, they can be used simply to create a dramatic effect. effects, for instance, can also be used to create architectural interest where once there was none — and at a fraction of the cost of the real thing.

These days, we have moved away from some of the showier effects of the 1980s, when many a decorative crime was committed in the name of sponging and marbling. The look now is more subtle; the colours are more subdued; and, ultimately, final appearances are more sophisticated. If you are a decorating novice, this trend actually works to your advantage, because if you are working with two different shades of cream, terracotta or grey, mistakes and irregularities will be less glaringly obvious than if your colours had been more strident, and your overall schemes altogether less subtle. The tact that more relaxed, distressed interiors are increasingly popular probably also works in your favour.

As well as the enormous variety of paint colours available, the kind of paint you choose will have a huge bearing on the look you eventually achieve. Some purists would never use anything except matt emulsion finish on the walls and eggshell on the wood- work, but gloss finishes have gone through something of a revival recently. Vinyl silk and gloss finishes are wonderful in areas such as halls, bathrooms and kitchens which receive a lot of wear, as scuff marks can simply be washed off. Remember not to ignore the possibilities of textured paint either, because this  does  not have  to  mean full-blown

Artex: manufacturers have recently developed a new range of paints, designed to cover minor cracks and imperfections in walls and ceilings, while appearing only slightly more textured than traditional vinyl matt emulsion — useful and unobtrusively interesting.

Paint’s possibilities are almost endless.

Practically speaking, it is simply a question of finding a product that suits the surface you are decorating and creates the look you want.

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