Painting Seventies-Style Stripes at the Cabin!

Alright alright alright. Our 1972 cabin just got real groovy, and we’re digging it! When we were deciding what direction to go with the styling of the cabin as a whole, I was first thinking the obvious “preppy lake house” or “rustic cabin,” but after spending our first few days there, Andy and I both said, this place wants to go back to its ’70s roots and have some FUN with it… with some of our modern, minimal tastes mixed in. We also immediately agreed, this room needed stripes!

That decision was a whole lot easier than the actual implementation of said idea since so much went wrong. Well, just watch the video and see…

(and how funny is my accidental matching sweater choice in the last part of the video?)

Choosing a Color Palette

Picking colors is always most fun part! Our downstairs bedroom, or guest bedroom, features a full wall of windows that overlook the lake, so we took inspiration from the epic sunrises that rise over the bay to choose a color palette of oranges and blue-greys to represent the sun and water, to go along with the deep blue we had already painted the whole wall.

Here’s a random, unedited iPhone photo of the sunrise I took during our last trip to the cabin in November. Aren’t the colors amazing (imagine how much better they were in real life!):

As you saw in the video, we actually switched up paint colors halfway through since two of the original colors just weren’t working. We had originally chosen a more yellow-orange for the second stripe from the top but ultimately went with a peachy coral to reflect our tile choice in the hopefully-one-day-renovated bathroom — and looking at this photo, the sunrise definitely is full of a near exact shade. For the top stripe we switched to a slightly redder orange that looked better with the coral and went on better! I wasn’t sure how the peach would turn out but I love it so much.

All the Things That Went Wrong

Sigh. This project started out as a disaster. The first can of orange paint had something wrong with it. Even though we had it made fresh that morning, it seemed as though it wasn’t mixed properly and there was always an oily streak in the can. Since going back to Lowe’s is about 25 minutes each way from our cabin I wanted to make it work and just kept putting up coat after coat, all of which were streaky, gloopy, drippy. Just gross. I finally had to admit defeat, return that can to Lowe’s and get a new one. I had to wait for the old paint to dry and then sand it all because it had left the wall so bumpy from the drips and glops, as you can see in the photos below:

Only to find… The new can was a little better — no oil streaks — but it was still thin and would need soooo many coats to cover the dark blue underneath — and I didn’t have time for that. The other shade of orange had the same issue of being thin and having no coverage, so I think that was due to the base used in those shades of orange. Of course I could have used a primer, but I didn’t really have time to go through that extra step and since the paint was so thin I still think it would have needed several coats.

I only had a weekend to work on this, so I had to give up with it half done, with paint that didn’t work, and drive back home wondering if this project would ever actually be finished. On our next trip to the cabin a month later, I picked two new paint colors, crossed my fingers and it went SO MUCH better. Thank goodness.

How to Paint the Stripes

This project intimidated me and seemed like it was going to be really complicated, like there would be math and so much measuring, but it was so much easier than I thought it would be! I think I could have finished the whole thing in a weekend if everything had gone according to plan.

To start, I figured out where I wanted the bottom of my stripe to be by sticking a piece of tape on the wall and standing back until I got the right height. Before taping the whole thing, we also had to determine where we wanted the curve to start, which was also just a matter of eyeballing it until we found a spot we liked.

We decided that we wanted the stripes to be the thickness of two pieces of tape. I used 2″ painter’s tape so each stripe is about 4″ wide. Using tape as a guide is way easier than constantly having to measure to some more complicated width — no math involved! I just used a level to mark my bottom line and taped all the way across the wall, except where the curve would be. Then I just continued upwards lining up the tape across the wall and frequently checking it with a level to make sure it wasn’t becoming crooked. Once all the stripes were there, including an extra piece of tape at the top and bottom, I then removed the tape for the stripe I’d be painting first. I started with the top stripe and then the third stripe. Once they had second coats (or, you know, six or seven coats, as the case may be – ugh) and dried, I could tape them off and do the opposite two stripes. I actually saved all of the tape that I removed in between stripes so I could reuse it next time!

The key to getting sharp lines is to press down on all of the tape edges with a credit card or something similar. I used a wooden paint stirrer because it’s what I had handy. Then be sure to press the paint away from the tape as you go, instead of towards it. You don’t want to push a bunch of paint under the tape. Since our plaster walls weren’t perfectly smooth, there were a few places where it bled, and in my experience that almost always happens no matter how hard you try. I haven’t yet come across a perfectly smooth wall and it’s nearly impossible to get tape to attach flatly when a wall is bumpy. I always keep a tiny artist’s brush handy to go over the edges as the last step, so they’re super crisp and clean.

How to Paint a Curved Stripe

Once we had all of the straight lines taped off, we then measured for the curve. There’s a couple of ways to do this. One common method is to attach a pencil to a string and the string to a nail in the wall and then pull the string taught to draw the line, which will automatically curve as you go. However, when Andy tried this method he found that his results weren’t super consistent since it’s so easy for string to stretch differently as you apply pressure.

So he tried something different: he measured the exact width of each stripe and drilled a hole in a yardstick exactly where the edge of the line would be, plus a hole for a nail. He stuck the nail in the wall and then could put a pencil in each hole, turn the yardstick, and have perfectly even lines. Watch the video to see this in action! It’s a foolproof method and still only took a couple of minutes to set up.

To paint the curves, I didn’t use tape at all, but just painted everything by hand. It’s tricky but trying to do tape on a curve is way harder!

Easy peasy! Ok. Not really. But other than the paint issues this was a super fun project and I immediately started imagining other places where I could put stripes. I’ve thought of at least four places in our house that could get stripes so I might go a little crazy, haha!!

I’m so, so, so, so, so happy with how everything turned out. It’s the perfect 1970s cabin bedroom — complete with VCR and VHS Disney movies!!

Paint Colors

  • Valspar Vivid Orange 2011-3
  • Valspar Simply Coral 2001-2A
  • Valspar Coventry Blue 4005-5C
  • Valspar Ice Rink Blue 4007-5A
  • On the rest of the wall: Valspar Mystified 4011-8

Other Sources

  • Brass bed frames — Wayfair (the name is different but it looks exactly the same)
  • Quilts — Target
  • Striped blankets — Target, no longer available
  • Fish pillow — Linen Goods

There’s still a few little things we want to do in this room, like covering up that obnoxious smoke alarm. I’m cringing at each picture I see it in! It’s hardwired to the wall so we can’t move it, UGH. And why is there an outlet 3/4 of the way up the wall? So weird. I’ll probably just paint the smoke alarm and hang a lamp in front of it and the outlet. This room also has no overhead lighting. The roller blinds are broken so we need to figure out something new to do there. And I still need to finish styling all the shelves. But this room is one of the most complete in the cabin so far!

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