Perfectly Imperfect DIY Painted Floor Tiles

Perfectly Imperfect DIY Painted Floor Tiles


I often surf the web trying to find inspiration for furniture ideas and my home improvement projects. Last year we bought a smaller home which needed quite a bit of updating. We added a bedroom, painted the entire house, gave the fireplace a facelift, set up my new workshop and much more.  Although it’s coming along, it still seems like there’s so much to do. One of our home’s biggest eyesores was a very outdated entryway complete with 90’s era sponge painted walls, mosaic glass door inserts and forest green tile. Our main floor powder room is also part of the same space and it had beautiful apple red painted accent walls, to no doubt accentuate the beautiful forest green tile. And if the colour of the tile wasn’t bad enough, the grout had never been sealed and twenty years of grime had worked itself into the grout lines making it especially gross. I couldn’t wait for it to go!


I changed the lighting almost immediately after we moved in. Our initial plan was to remove and replace the tile this upcoming summer, do some sort of woodwork on the walls (shiplap or molding) and remove the doors’ glass inserts but summer is still a ways away and I’m totally impatient. I wanted to try something new and painting the tile seemed like an amazing possibility. A quick search online brought up quite a few posts with some pretty impressive results.

I read many mixed reviews from several different DIYers on the subject. Some claimed it worked beautifully while others warned not to do it. Since we were already planning on replacing the tile, I decided to test it out myself. Nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Since I wanted a bright white foyer I thought a stenciled floor could give this space a little dimension and visual interest. I found a great mid-century pattern (Tsunagi tile stencil) on Etsy. It’s stylish, simple and you can order it made to measure for your tile size. It took approximately 3 weeks for them to arrive from the UK. The kit came with two full sized tile stencils and two quarter sized stencils for the harder to reach, awkward corners. Here’s an up close shot at the pattern.



Next I chose my primer and paint. After years of testing out primers there wasn’t much to think about here. I would use my old faithful; shellac. It’s an amazing primer and it’s so easy to work with. Drying time is minimal and since I had used it on hardware before, I was pretty sure it would easily adhere to a non-porous surface like tile. Choosing the paint was a little more complicated.

The paint I used not only had to stick to the tile, but it also had to harden to a shell-like protection. It had to withstand constant wear, cleaning products, water and everything else we might bring in on our shoes and boots in a Canadian climate with tons of snow. Ten years ago I would have used oil paint. Since that’s no longer possible, I went with Sherwin Williams’, Emerald Urethane Trim Enamel. It dries to a hard finish, is washable and unlike oil paint, shouldn’t yellow. The colours I chose were Online for the base and Pure White for the stenciling. They look amazing together! Really happy with this combo.



Of course, it goes without saying that the prep work is essential to being successful with a project like this. I can’t stress this enough. Take the extra time to make sure your surface is ready for all your about to put on it. You’ll thank yourself later. I started off by taping all the baseboards then I vacuumed. Once complete, I sanded the tile surface. I had both my sanders out for this job. Normally my go-to is my orbital but for this job I preferred the palm sander. I used 120 grit to just dull the tile a little. You don’t need to go crazy here. Once I was done, I washed the entire floor with tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) then followed up with a good rinse water mopping, with a touch more of TSP thrown in for good measure. For those of you who haven’t heard of TSP before it’s a cleaner/de-greaser that in my opinion, gives you a good base to start priming. FYI, I use this on furniture also.


Once the prep work was finished, I started priming. I bought Zinsser Shellac in white and brought it with me to Sherwin Williams when I bought the paint. I asked them to tint it the same colour as the base coat. By doing this, I avoided having to give two coats of the base coast paint.  Shellac is $24.99/quart and the paint was $44.19/quart. Seemed logical to me. Shellac primer dries almost immediately (20 min to touch and 45 minutes to recoat) so by the time I finished the entire floor, I was able to go ahead and start with the base coat. Both primer and paint were rolled on with a 4-inch paint roller. I also had a paint brush for the corners and sides. The primer and base coat steps were fairly straightforward and took a couple of hours to complete. Next came the stenciling.

I had worked with stencils before and had a pretty good idea of how much patience I’d need. It’s a tricky process and it helps if your organized. Start somewhere where you’re not painting yourself into a corner and try to find some sort of pattern to follow. You’ll see in the photos how I organized myself. Here’s the process I followed:

  1. Center and tape all four corners of the stencil to the tile
  2. Roll a minimal amount of paint onto the roller. This is incredibly important: Think of it as building layers. If you put too much paint, you’ll have bleeding under the stencil and then you’ll spend a ton of time (like I did) touching up your tiles. Remember, minimal amount of paint, always!
  3. Take the next stencil (skip a tile here so as to not overlap on already wet paint) roll on paint
  4. Go back to the first tile and roll second layer of paint
  5. Remove stencil from that tile
  6. Wipe off underside of stencil of any excess paint (you don’t want any marks on the next tile)
  7. Repeat steps 4-6 on the second tile and repeat endlessly (or what might seem as endlessly)


Not going to lie here, the whole project was pretty intense. It was time intensive, physically exerting (sitting, kneeling, bending days on end) it was even mentally challenging. At some points in the process I thought it would never end. Keep in mind the area was quite large and I only had two full consecutive days to do the work without stopping. The touch ups took quite a few of my evenings after work. I would say from beginning to end I worked inconsistently for about three weeks. Was it worth it? Without a doubt!

It’s been a little over a month and the paint should almost be cured by now. We are not giving this area any special treatment. We are living hard! If this is something we’re going to keep, it must pass all of the tests. So far there has only been one minor incident:  I scraped the floor in the powder room (it wasn’t completely dry) with an old step ladder that had some jagged edges. It was my own fault and honestly, with this pattern, it was easy to fix. I re-primed the area, touched up with a little paint and a small artist paint brush and you can’t even tell. We’ve brought in snow, salt and dirt with our boots/shoes and the tiles are holding up beautifully. Even if it wears a little, we’d still love it. I think this pattern and the colours would work well with a distressed look. Of course, I’ll give you updates as time goes by.


Finally, you’re probably wondering what others think? Other than thinking I’m crazy, they’re surprised that the floor is painted and then incredulous at how good they look. Even we have a hard time believing that with such little money, we were able to give this whole area a complete makeover. Isn’t paint magical? Would love to hear what you think. Think this project is in your future?


Vintage sideboard painted in Old Fashioned Milk Paint, Oyster White

Vintage sideboard painted in Old Fashioned Milk Paint, Oyster White

If you follow my work you know that painting furniture white is usually not my thing although I get requests for it all the time. It’s not that I don’t like white furniture. I do, it’s just that I can’t use my regular “go to” topcoat. I had struggled for a while to find one I really liked but I think I finally found it. So excited!
I painted her in Old Fashioned Milk Paint’s Oyster White. I’m thrilled with the colour and of course it did all the stuff that makes me never want to paint with anything else but milk paint. Crackled and chipped better than any other piece I’ve done. I really did nothing at all. The paint does it all itself. 😉
I loved the pulls and wanted to reuse them so I just primed & painted them in milk paint with a top coat as well. Just the right contrast against the white. A little Spoonflower paper to line the cutlery drawer and this beauty is ready for her new home. Isn’t she lovely?

Although I love all the pieces that I work on, this one was an amazing treat. You might remember the dresser and night table made by the same manufacturer that I sold last year? I have worked on some pretty amazing pieces but none as intricate and detailed as these beauties.
Up until I edited the photos, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to part with her. This one of a kind, bowed front sideboard was painted in MMS Artissimo. I painted her the same colour as her sister dresser a year ago. The combination of the wood and paint colour are perfection! Why mess with that?
Of course the milk paint did all the fun unpredictable stuff it always does. It’s so amazing to work with this type of paint once you get the hang of it. It really gives the piece an authentic vintage vibe.
And finally the pulls. As you may have noticed I almost always change out the original hardware on most projects but these beauties were made for this piece. I absolutely love them! I just cleaned them up, whitewashed and topcoated them. What a difference it made. Of course, with all the snow I had to take the compulsory winter shot of my Sorels. 🙂
Although I love doing this work and transformations like these are totally motivating, I secretly hope that one day, Sarah Richardson will discover one of my pieces and have to have it. If that were ever to happen, this would be the one. Spread the word! 😉
Restyled antique radio cabinet

Restyled antique radio cabinet

Remember this little one? I started working on her a while ago and she was sold before she was even done, to us! I’m sorry everyone but we’re just too in love with her and for practical reasons, we needed a bar.

I spotted this little one on kijiji over a year ago. What “had me at hello” were her amazing door mouldings. Rare to see this kind of detail on a piece – it made me swoon! The inside still had the original radio shelf (large u-shaped hole near the back) and someone had nailed two planks to the bottom. Even the feet had been altered and cut into squares (weird!). But, I’m a “I’ll deal with later” kinda girl, so we loaded her up and took her home.

Over the years I’ve learned quite a bit on how to repair and modify pieces but this one was a challenge. First I started with the legs. The radio/bar was just a little too tall for my vertically challenged body and since I prefer no cross joint on furniture legs the decision was easy – take off the bottom half. It immediately looked so much better!


Then I had to deal with the shelves. Despite my business name, I’m actually quite a perfectionist. Not only did I have to replace the shelves, I also needed the right mouldings to butt up against them. Did you know that if you buy wood at any hardware store they will cut it to your dimensions at no extra cost? This is so amazing when you have big ideas on how to fix things but no time to do it. One small-ish board made two shelves. Wood trim was added to bring it all together. Oh, and anytime I get to use my air-nailer is a good day. Love that thing!

The final repair (exhausted yet?) was to fix the moulding I loved so much. There was a small piece missing on the bottom of the right door. I sanded and cleaned the part that was missing and then used regular wood filler to make my moulding. It was like playing with play-doh or I imagine the more mature would call it sculpting?! Regardless, once wood filler dries, it’s as hard as wood. I sanded it down to the right shape and thickness and it looks exactly the same as the other side. Pretty proud of that achievement.

Once everything was fixed and in place it was time to prime and paint. I knew the minute I saw the ad, that this little one would be painted in one of my all-time favourite colours, Mustard. Not only is it my go-to yellow, it just happens to be milk paint. I won’t go on… you know how I feel about milk paint.

The finishing touches were papering the back in a honeycomb pattern and the tiny bubble-gum knobs. It just all worked together. All that’s left to do is to fill it and You’re all invited! 😉

Artissimo empire sideboard with bubblegum knobs

Artissimo empire sideboard with bubblegum knobs

Remember I asked a few weeks ago if you thought a sideboard could be blue? I always stay pretty traditional when it comes to dinning room furniture: greys, blacks and whites are usually my go to. But I thought to myself, navy is also a neutral! Why not! I picked up this gorgeous empire sideboard a few weeks ago and knew immediately, she would be the one!
Again, MMS Artissimo was the paint of choice. I literally have to stop myself from painting things in this colour. My kids moan when they see another piece in this blue… that’s how much I use it. It really reminds me of a worn pair of denim jeans with varying shades of blues. The wood colour of this sideboard was the perfect canvas.
Of course, as you may know, empire styled furniture is one of my favourites. The curves are so stunning and the craftsmanship, second to none. I’m always in awe when I work on one of these. They are truly made to stand the test of time.
I have about 20 different style of knobs in stock and yet, I always go back to these little white knobs. They pop against any colour yet they don’t compete with the beauty of the piece – they just compliment them. I use them so much I ordered another 40 last night.
I’m in love with this one, and I hope you are too. Picked up the little yellow flowers (weeds?) on the side of the road today. Love the combination with the pretty drawer liners. Navy in the dining room? A definite yes!
Pitch black china cabinet with calligraphy papered back

Pitch black china cabinet with calligraphy papered back

After a few delays, she’s finally complete! This beautiful little hutch, with everything going for her, has been transformed inside and out. I’m still using and loving milk paint. On this one I went with Old Fashioned Milk Paint in Pitch Black, but mixed it with a bit of Snow White, which looks better with the papered back. Since starting with milk paint, I’ve been wanting to do a piece that’s really chippy and uber distressed in some places. Although this was something I wanted to do, it wasn’t easy giving up total control to this incredibly unpredictable and wilful paint. I just had to close my eyes (not literally of course 😉 ) and give it a whirl. I’m so happy I did! It chipped, cracked and pealed in all the right places. I really love how she turned out and couldn’t reproduce the same effect twice I’m sure. She’s just strikingly gorgeous!
I lined the back with this pretty little calligraphy paper from Spoonflower and painted the interior with GF Snow White for added contrast. I had originally painted the pulls she came with but after trying out both sets, I went to my go-to white knobs. So simple and delicate – they don’t take any attention away from the beautiful Queen Ann legs or the amazing curves of this piece.
Had to replace the glass in the door as you may recall, but in the end it all turned out fine. Brought the door in on Tuesday and it was ready by Wednesday. The price was more reasonable too. I can afford to break glass all the time! 😉
She might have taken some time to do but as I said before, you can’t rush perfection… or perfect imperfections. Since I gave myself a pedicure, sandals seemed appropriate for the photo shoot. Hope you love her as much as we do!