You just bought a house, and its previous owners had…unique design tastes. Some walls are painted blood-red, others smurf-blue. There’s a unicorn mural on the living room wall, and a “God bless this mess” stencil above the kitchen window. Someone named Tiffani has documented her undying love for someone named Chad in magic marker all over the inside of her closet. And you are really more of an earth-tone kind of family. How do you undo this décor to make the house your own?
Really. Good. Primer.
For covering dark walls, you may need a special primer or just a 3rd coat of paint. Sherwin Williams has a variety of interior primers to choose from or the Kilz brand makes a variety of specialty primers to cover dark paint, stains, and even odors. They offer water-based options, but oil-based are always the better choice for quality stain blocking capabilities.
You also need to remember to prime the whole wall, not just cover up the “problem spots.” Wall-to-wall priming assures that the top coats maintain the same sheen and color everywhere.
Sand and Mud are more than just earth tones.
Run your hand over that stencil—you can feel it, can’t you? Stencils, murals, and the like will be raised from the wall just a fraction, but enough so that simply painting over them is not adequate (unless you want a ghostly “God bless this mess” outline in your freshly-painted wall). These decorative elements will need to be sanded away as best as possible with 100 grit sand paper, then covered with a skim coat or two of joint compound (a.k.a. “mudding”), which will in turn need to be sanded smooth. And, just like primer, you’ll need to do the whole wall, or risk showing differing textures or sheens on the final coat of paint.
Sanding and mudding take patience, and will leave your hair, clothes, and house with a significant coating of very fine joint compound dust. Wear protective eye covering and mask, and cover or remove as much furniture as possible.