An Expert’s Tips on Painting Your Home

If you’ve ever picked up a roller and brush and painted a room, you may have quickly learned that it’s not necessarily as easy as it looks. It’s not that painting itself is hard; it’s the prep work and the attention to detail that’s required, both of which go a long way toward elevating the end result. So, for some expert advice, the Remodelista editors turned to Philip Reno, the proprietor of G & R Paint Company in San Francisco and auteur of the Philip’s Perfect Colors line of paints. Reno has spent the last two decades as a master painter, faux finisher, and color consultant, and, since 1995, he’s operated San Francisco’s G&R Paint Company, creating a palette of full-spectrum colors for C2 Paints.

Here are several of Reno’s top tips:

Above: Painting essentials; photo by Sarah Londsdale.

Remodelista: Where do you begin when you paint?
Philip Reno: It may sound silly but I always tell my clients three things:

  • Don’t be hungry—hunger will lead to sloppy work, so always have snacks and things to nosh on while working.
  • Don’t be in a hurry. Plan to paint. If you rush, accidents will happen.
  • Play music you love, and you will fool yourself into having a good time. It changes the whole approach.

RM: So once we’ve lined up snacks and music, what should we think of next?
PR: Don’t start to paint before you’ve made a definitive color choice. People think they should walk into a paint store and pick a color, then paint straightaway. It’s a process. You have to sample paint and live with it first.

Above: Paint sample: Benjamin Moore’s low- and no-VOC paints in Super White and Decorators White. Click here for 10 recommended eco-friendly paints.

RM: So how do you choose a color?
PR: This is difficult for just about everyone. It’s a huge discussion, and people come to it from every direction. Colors will look different depending on the light in a room. Sampling is a process that should be done before a room is torn apart. A color can look completely different in two different rooms, so live with a sample color for a while.

See: Home Feng Shui Color Guide

RM: Prep?
PR: The more time up front you spend doing prep, the easier the paint job will be. Move the furniture to the middle of the room and cover everything completely. Then, the most important thing is to make sure the surface to be painted is clean. Taking a duster cloth to the walls is enough unless there is obvious grime. Oil from hand prints around door knobs might be invisible so use household detergent to remove grease as this may be the one spot where the paint won’t stick. Wash all walls in the kitchen and bathroom, the environments that get the most dirty. You may not see it, but steam from a shower is carrying soap to a wall.

RM: Nail holes and the like?
PR: Spackle nail holes. Use sandpaper for sanding spackled patches or chipped areas on wood trim.

RM: Essential tools?
PR: Quality tools will make this job better for amateurs. People can wrap their mind around buying good quality paint, but then want to use the cheapest applicators. The amateur in particular needs a better tool to make the job go better.

RM: So what are the best tools to use?
PR: The most useful brush that covers most things is a 2- or 2 1/2-inch angle sash brush. It cuts into corners and covers 90 percent of what needs to be done. Corona makes the best brush on the market, no question. For roller covers, I recommend a 3/8-inch nap. It covers most things. Wooster is my favorite and our number one seller. Use a good quality blue painter’s tape with edge lock technology.

RM: What’s next?
PR: I think we’re ready to paint! Work from top to bottom. Paint the ceiling first. You don’t need to use a ladder; save your back and neck and buy an extension pole for the roller. You can go from side to side with your roller, and being on the ground means you can stand back and see what you are doing. After the ceiling, paint the walls, then the trim.

Read more about Remo and his recommendations on Remodelista.


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.20 days ago

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Past Member
Past Member 5 months ago

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.5 months ago

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Mickey J.
Past Member about a year ago

I even have been getting a lot of helpful and informative material in your web site. painting contractor alexandria va

Rosemary H.
Rosemary H.2 years ago

Thanks! The hard bit is getting an absolutely straight division between wall and ceiling colours.

Sheri P.
Sheri P.2 years ago

great tips, thanks!

Svetlana B.
Svetlana B.2 years ago


Fi T.
Fi T.2 years ago

That's an example of how to enjoy life

Winn Adams
Winn Adams2 years ago

I'm really lucky as I have about 7 huge evergreen trees just off my deck so it really feels very private.

Terry V.
Terry V.2 years ago