Today, StyleBlueprint welcomes guest blogger and decorative painter Robin Campbell. Robin is a Nashville artist who takes the mundane and makes it magnificent with her special techniques and creative eye. In homes all around Nashville, Robin has sprinkled her version of pixie dust over scores of cabinets, walls and pieces of furniture, bringing new life to things that seemed drab or dull. We’re thrilled to have Robin share some insight about her profession, as well as lots of project photos to get our creative wheels turning.


Occasionally I catch myself stopping for a split second to think when someone asks me what I do for a living. For years I described myself as a faux finisher. When I took my first class, faux finishing was cool. Who wouldn’t want to hire me to paint their kitchen to look as if the walls had been reclaimed from a Tuscan villa (regardless of the fact that the house was actually a 950 square foot condo built in 1993)? These days, I call myself a “decorative painter.” I like to think that the newer title does not immediately bring to mind fluffy white clouds on a pale blue ceiling or a kitchen that bears a striking resemblance to the Olive Garden.

This island, featuring a very subtle glaze, is a great example of what decorative painting can do to elevate commonplace objects in the home.


This french antique and newly built cabinet were worlds apart until paint and glaze brought them together. (Interior design by Elizabeth Hague Interiors, Inc.)


Here’s an example of what we’re NOT aiming for with decorative finishes. I can almost smell the bottomless basket of breadsticks just by looking at this wall…

Many industries struggle to remain relevant in the face of changing trends and economic conditions, but decorative painting has some very vivid baggage from which to distance itself. While the subtle glaze on a paneled wall has nothing in common with it’s distant cousin, the garish terracotta-ragged-over-gold-wall, there remains some guilt by association that “dates” decorative painting. The irony is that many of today’s design trends lean heavily on finishes – on furniture, cabinets, walls, flooring – many of which can be created or altered with paint techniques.

A subtle glaze on woodwork adds warmth and depth to the entire room.
Another example of a subtle glaze adding the finishing touch to an already lovely room.

These days, it’s impossible to ignore gray.  Blue-gray, green-gray, French-gray, Belgian-gray. It’s the new standard neutral. We’ve seen it on windows, upholstery, walls and wood. It’s in every design magazine, catalog and all over Pintrest. There are several blogs solely dedicated to extolling its virtues. It feels fresh, it looks current. It’s not beige.

What started as a brand new, unfinished chair now sports the wisdom of age with this warm gray finish.


Gray another way: this time, a metallic plaster ceiling and distressed drapery hardware. (Interior design by Elizabeth Hague Interiors, Inc.)


A dated pine piece enters the millennium with a touch of gray

The good news is that much of that heavy Mediterranean furniture that was acquired to go with the Tuscan walls and beige living areas looks several pounds lighter without all of that dark stain – a good sanding and a coat of paint, a tinted or liming wax, or a coat of  the newest member of the Minwax stain family, surprisingly called “Gray,” can change the entire look and feel of a piece…and a room.

These already beautiful cabinets called for a bluish/gray treatment to complement the lighter style of the new homeowners.


Here are those same cabinets with their new finish. (Interior design by Elizabeth Hague Interiors, Inc.)

On the other end of the spectrum are the super-bright colors of 1970’s Palm Beach. Kelly greens, bright yellows, corals and turquoise are popping up everywhere seemingly in defiance of the gray trend. Lacquered mirrors, chests and chairs, whether new or refurbished, make bold statements with their happy hues. Modern trellis, Moroccan and chevron patterns appear daily on the flash sale websites in the form of pillows, bedding and wallpaper.

And believe it or not, I’m not threatened by wallpaper. In fact, I love it! Not only can wallpaper provide a perfect scenario for a paint technique on a ceiling or nearby piece of furniture, it has also helped bring textured and patterened walls to the forefront of design once more.

Fabulous metallic wallpaper is a perfect partner for an embellished ceiling. (Interior design by Rachel Halvorson Designs)

Kind words about wallpaper and lovely pairings aside, sometimes paint is just the way to go. For these occasions, we can call on a blast from the past, the stencil. I’ll admit that only recently have I seen the light when it comes to stencils, as I’ve always associated them with awful green ivy borders around ceilings of dated kitchens or mauve hearts painted on birdhouses with the words “there’s no place like home” over the little holes. But times have changed, and technology has provided us with the capacity to turn any design imaginable into a laser-cut template that enables the transfer of that design to a surface. The ability to customize color and size to fit a particular space make stencils a great vehicle for incorporating pattern into decor.

Customizable stencil. This would also be great in tone-on-tone or metallics.

The economy has altered the long-term plans of many home owners. At this point, moving to a larger house or gutting kitchen is no longer feasible for some. However, replacing a few appliances, refurbishing dark, tired white and even melamine cabinets can be a cost-effective way of updating a kitchen.

Melamine is great…
…if you paint it.


The same applies to furniture. A 1970’s factory-produced dining room table and chairs seem far less groovy with a coat of paint and a subtle aging glaze.

A smudge on my iPhone makes these chairs look even worse than they actually were.


A coat of paint and aging glaze transform those chairs and the table they surround into pieces that belong in this elegant kitchen. (Interior design by Sandra McDonald/Austine Fleenor)

One of the reasons that faux finishing can conjure up bad memories for some is the abundance of not-so-well-done DIY projects.   That is not to say that there’s no place for the weekend warrior in the world of decorative painting. Several major paint retailers are selling their own lines of glazes and texturing products, and the quality has vastly improved in the last five years. Lowe’s carries Valspar’s Antiquing Glaze, which is a great aging treatment for already painted surfaces. One of my favorite products on the market today for furniture and accessories is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. Made in the UK, this paint is now available in the US and is both user friendly and non-toxic. No priming is needed, and in my opinion, the less uniform the application, the better! Clean up is simple, and after sealing, the finish is very durable. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is carried locally at C’est Moi in Brentwood, and if you’re up for a road trip, Virginia Weathersby in Jackson, MS, teaches great classes on its use at PAINT, her Annie Sloan store.

I have found that this paint is a perfect tool for making over those late ’90’s Pier 1/Storehouse pine pieces…

Armoire. Circa 1990. Before? Yawn…


And after? My version of an Olympic gold medal.

The evolution of decorative painting is much like the evolution of fashion…we can hold on to the classics for a lifetime, but some periods were downright hideous and should be banished for eternity. While some people will forever think of decorative painting as a purple leg warmer, the endless options provided by paint techniques really catapult it into the ranks of the little black dress.

Robin and her dog, Moses. Photo by Stef Atkinson















Thanks, Robin! 

For more information about Robin’s work, visit her Facebook page by clicking here: Or, contact her via email at [email protected]. She does travel to make homes beautiful and works with interior designers in many cities across America.

Today’s photos (with the exception of  “before shots” and the closeup of the stencil) courtesy of Stef Atkinson

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About the Author
Amy Norton