Painting the Music Room Arch

BECAUSE IT WAS PAINTED WHITE — and a glaring white at that — the arch above my Music Room bay has bugged me for a long, long time. But how to select a new, more suitable color? And how to paint this 19th century architectural detail without damaging the wallpaper around it, or worse — the draperies beneath it?Β  I sought the advice of a higher authority:

Meet my higher authority. Her name is Dottie W., and she runs the paint department at my local hardware store.

Dottie is a color-genius. And because no one on God’s green earth possesses her talent, she can never, ever retire.

Dottie looked at the wallpaper sample I’d brought along, and helped me decide on an accent color. That is, after she gagged at the current color of the arch.

It took Dottie all of 3 seconds (I’m not exaggerating here) to find something we both liked — Benjamin Moore’s “Mistletoe.” She mixed up a pint-size sample for me to try.

Of course, before any painting could begin, I had to protect the draperies with a heavy plastic drop cloth. Why? Because the draperies cost more than I make in a year.

Next, I grabbed some “frog tape.” Frog tape is less sticky than regular blue “painter’s” tape. It’s perfect for delicate materials like wallpaper.

I applied the tape where wallpaper meets arch.

To prove to you that I’m doing this job myself, I asked my partner to snap the above photograph.

Then I left the room while the real painter took over.

I hope you know I’m kidding.

Tip: If you want to accomplish a professional-looking paint job, be sure to use a professional-quality brush. Dottie recommends — and so do I —Β  the XL brush from Purdy. It runs about $20, but with care it will last for years.

And now, back up the ladder, where the moment of reckoning awaits.

The view from on high. Keep in mind that the walls in this room are just shy of 14 feet, and that I’m standing on the penultimate step of a 6-foot ladder.

I hope you don’t have vertigo.

I decided to change clothes midway through my performance. You know, just like Cher does when she plays Vegas.

Don’t be jealous of my legs.

Fresh paint = instant gratification.

After applying the first coat, I noticed some pin holes in the ancient plaster.

To fill those holes in no time, I dabbed them with “One Time.” You can paint over this light-weight spackling-compound even before it dries.

I applied the stuff the way most contractors do — with my fingers.

The finished arch. I think the paint picks up the green in the wallpaper, without clashing with the red window hangings.

And incidentally, behind those draperies are the glass shelves which support a bevy of houseplants. The plants are currently vacationing out of doors. But you can see my winter set-up here.

Was this post at all helpful to you? You can let me know by leaving a comment. As always, your words are the sunshine of my day.

Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for my weekly newsletter.

Related Posts:
House Tour Part 1: The Music Room
My Entrance Hall, Before & After Papering
House Tour Part 3: The Parlor


  1. Ann Manning says:

    Love it,perfect match to the wallpaper. I would rush any future painting thoughts to this lady before she does retire even if you don’t plan to do it anytime soon.

  2. Dottie adviaed you well. It looks beautiful.
    Will have to get Onetime, thanks for the tip.

  3. That looks fantastic! A reminder of how much difference the small changes can make. Thanks for sharing.

  4. That was a perfect choice of color, it looks so nice.

  5. You and your blog are both a huge treat, Kevin,
    and I learn something new all the time from you. How fun is that?

  6. Scott Trudell says:

    Great color choice for the arch. Not to make more work for you…. But have you considered perhaps taking that green a bit further up and highlighting the crown moulding a bit?

  7. Scott – I had the same thought as you. But it’s a coved ceiling, with multiple layers of moulding. And it’s nearly 14-feet high! So we shall see…

  8. Thank you for sharing! Great matching with the wall paper! I love everything in your music room! The windows with your beautiful plants are my dream! Maybe one day I will have my bay window with shelves and plants too….. Now I will look for the frog tape it will be handy to have for delicate surfaces.

  9. Kevin if you go up painting the ceiling to match your arch and walls it is going to be safer to use scaffolding than your ladder.. But the final result will be a dream come true!

  10. Jocelyne Mas says:

    Ah, just love the way you write; no better way to brighten a dull day than to read your post; it just brings a smile and all that you do is very inspiring. Thank you!

  11. Carolyn Jones says:

    Kevin, do you play the piano as well? They are beautiful and I”m sure, sound marvelous! Color choice was perfect and I love the wallpaper.

  12. Looks like it’s always been that color. Another great post. thanks.

  13. Amazing eye Dottie has and beautiful job you did. Would love to have known about OneTime when we lived in a 1936 handplastered barrel-ceilinged house in Whittier after the Whittier quake in 1987. Replastering those cracks in that curved ceiling was a labor of love and OneTime might have been a huge help. Kevin dear, you are a huge help. Thanks for sharing and your legs are cute!

  14. That’s the perfect accent color, Kevin. What a difference it makes!

  15. It is perfect!!! Love that color!

  16. Erin Brady says:

    It’s beautiful! It’s amazing what a touch of color will do for a room.

  17. Yes, the new colour is a HUGE improvement. The white did make me choke a bit on my coffee when I saw it this morning …..
    I have tons of painting to do and I’ve been putting it off forever, mostly because of the “taping”. You made it look pretty easy, so maybe I’ll give it a try ……. next month ….. *sigh*
    Great post. Thanks.

  18. Lovely! I, too love your blog. It brightens my day. Thank you! Do you and your partner both play piano? Maybe one of you teaches? Just curious about the two pianos as a musician myself.

  19. Melissa Horton says:

    Thanks for showing us…the color is so tasteful.

  20. Chip Barkel says:

    wonderful colour. VERY Victorian chic. As usual, you are bang-on!!!

  21. Chip Barkel says:

    Funny how we often live with these things that bug us and then when we finally change it, the results are so amazing and we ask “what took me so long, when it was really not that hard.?”

  22. Dear,
    I love your posts. The green archway is divine – brings the outdoors in and subdues the reds.

    Update: I’ve planted all my winter geraniums, as per your directive. Hoping for the best. I will keep you posted. Thanks!

  23. Dottie has helped me many times, and the Frog tape doesn’t let the paint seep under like other tapes sometimes do.

    Great job and great color!

  24. Kevin, I love that color and thanks for all the helpful hints. I need to go out and buy some Frog tape! Too bad Dottie doesn’t live closer to me πŸ™‚

  25. Naomi Shelton says:

    Oh, what a difference the green makes! Much better. Amazing. Go, Dottie!

  26. Heather O'Shaughnessy says:

    It stuck out like a sore thumb before and now in green the arch is so wonderful, it just harmonizes with the wallpaper!! Dottie is a keeper as a friend just in case she does retire. πŸ˜‰

  27. Suzanne Cox says:

    Love it – especially the wallpaper! Any secret sites for buying great wallpaper in small quantities? I am looking for something similar to accent a bedrom as well as a small amount of grasscloth for another project?? Look forward to hearing from you!

  28. Love it – looks much better. Hope you make Dottie lots of scrumptious delights!!!

  29. That makes a big difference…much better.

  30. What a divine music room! The green is the perfect shade, and those curtains make a wonderfully theatrical setting for the music room. I want to hear a piano duet and a quartet play in that room!

  31. I need Dottie’s help!!! No one around where I live in FL can tell me how to restore a cement garden bench where the finish has worn off. Could use any help or advice I can get on how to restore the finish. Wish there was a Dottie close by.

  32. Thank you, Kevin for such an interesting, informative and fun blog. I look forward to your newsletter, all your latest doings and discoveries, and love your writing. As a gardening enthusiast I love to see yours and learn your methods and enjoy hearing about both your successes and what does not work (it is always thus).

    I love the color of the arch and appreciate wonderful help from people like your friend at the hardware store. I too would love to hear those pianos played.

    Wonderful newsletter!

  33. Kevin – Beautiful color is perfect for the room, but I’m surprised you didn’t cover the pianos. I’d think that even the best painter, brush, care might result in an inadvertent splatter of paint —

  34. Perfect color for that accent! Blends in so well. Thank you for your well written, informative and humorous articles. I, too, look forward to them every Sunday morning.

  35. Diane Kratz says:

    Perfect. And it’s remarkably easy for me to agree with Scott that the crown moulding would look outstanding in that same smart color. Love your tips here also. And you are correct that contractor’s use their fingers to apply that type of spackling. I doubt you used your shorts though to clean off your fingers..!

  36. Diane Kratz says:

    that would be *contractors*. Lose the apostrophe!

  37. Dee Otness says:

    An amazing change for the better! Love how the color was so easy on your eyes as compared to the bright white before. Will have to pick up some frog tape and one step as I have a painting job of my own pending. Thanks for the tips.

  38. What a great post! I think I would have chosen a beige or taupe or off white color for the paint but the green actually works wonderfully and best! (And green is my favorite color.)
    I must tell you that I am always educated and entertained by your newsletter. I think I had better start a little notebook of items that you suggest using in your house. If it works in an older (way older!) house, it should be fantastic in a newer one, right? I really had to laugh at the Cher comment. So thanks for the knowledge and for the laughs. I do so look forward to the newsletters. Keep them coming!

  39. I totally agree with Karen–couldn’t have said it better. To be educated and laugh while it’s happening is the ultimate in a good teacher. And I have forwarded your site to many friends and they are all hooked now, just like me:)

  40. Donnella Bryce says:

    Hello Kevin, Always read your blog, love it and often try the recipes. How come you didn’t take the elaborate curtaining drapes down to do the painting? If they are ‘fixed’ how do you manage cleaning them?

  41. Sheri – Thanks so much for sharing this site with others. Love you for that!

    Donella Bryce – The bay-window hangings are extremely involved. I shudder to think of the time it would take to dismantle and then reassemble them! In fact, it took me all of 30 seconds to arrange the drop-cloth. I haven’t had the fabric professionally cleaned yet. But I do vacuum the curtains and valance weekly, as part of my Monday morning cleaning chores.

  42. Much better, now the arch blends with the rest!
    I thought when you said ‘higher authority’, you were going to consult the Ouja board again!!!! πŸ™‚
    Giggle, giggle!
    A charming house!

  43. ayla dumont says:

    how very, very coooool

  44. ayla dumont says:

    made me want to paint, it turned out to be so incredible

  45. Kevin What a treasure your house is and how lucky it is to have you!!!

  46. sue chiafullo says:

    Wow, Kevin, what a difference the color makes. Really accents the architecture without blaring it!

  47. This color enhances both the wall paper and the drapes, it’s perfect! Beautiful parlor! Beautiful house! I do believe you never sleep πŸ™‚

    The tips are truly appreciated.
    I’ve started a Kevin Tips word doc. for myself ; every time you give us a tip I add it to the list.

    Merci, merci, merci!

  48. Martey Costello says:

    Love it! Mario’s True Value Hardware? They turned me into a Benjamin Moore and Purdy Brush addict 30 years ago. The classics!

  49. Green Green Green! Yes! Perfect! I am wondering if you will do the crown mouldings as well now that you have had such success with the window arch.
    NOW! Please talk about that fabulous wallpaper? New? old? Name of pattern. Oh thank you thank you!!

  50. Love it! Green is my new favorite these days…..,it goes so well with so much. It looks like it should have always been that color.

  51. Donna Scramling says:

    I love the new green; it’s perfect with the wallpaper. I also will only use Purdy paintbrushes; they’re the best, and once they’re clean and dry, I put them right back into their covers so that they hold their shape until I need them again. Since we just completed the build of our home, my Purdy paintbrushes got quite the workout; I painted every room using them. Our new bedroom is a lovely sage green, so you must know that I love the green of your window trim! πŸ™‚

  52. Dawn Sievers says:

    Dottie was correct in her color choice. That green compliments the wallpaper beautifully.

    Have you thought of kidnapping Dottie before she retires? You don’t want her to retire to Florida!

  53. Morning Kevin,

    I have a question about your African violets in your bay. Do you close those fantastic red drapes at night to keep the chill out and if so, how do the African violets hold up in the mini chilled area between glass windows and red drapes?

  54. Good job Kevin! GOOD job.

  55. Carol Ballard says:

    The color is great and makes a wonderful change. Now the room looks complete.
    I’m still toying with your idea of the glass shelves in your windows for the African violets. It is perfect for that spot.

  56. Will need to look into “OneTime” a little further. Have always used blue painters tape on all painting projects. Besides using “FrogTape” on all delicate surfaces, would you think to use “FrogTape” on any type od surfaces? Great Tip.

  57. We love your paint job ! The color is good also love the the look of the whole room love those red chairs also wish we could find some chairs like those ! Any way we love getting your emails keep up the good work god bless you and everyone

    Yours truly
    David and penny

  58. Frog Tape is wonderful stuff – just remember to run your finger over the edge to seal it down. Worth the cost.
    Now, I know there’s an obvious answer, but – why would you not take the drapes down before painting?
    They’re very…red! are they velvet? Custom, obviously.

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