One day I was doing some activity on the floor of my living room (let’s say it was exercise). I stared long and hard at our white vinyl roller shades. They serve a very important function: keeping the blazing sun and heat out in the summer, and allowing us to shamelessly prance around in our underwear during the endless night of our Chicago winters. They ain’t pretty, but they get the job done.
But the longer I stared, the more I realized that our roller shades were actually retractable blank canvases.
How could I have gone this long without seeing the creative possibilities lurking in almost every window in our home? All I needed was some masking tape, spray paint and an unhealthy obsession with chevrons.
Why spray paint? I had been pondering this project for a while, but didn’t trust the effects of regular latex wall paint. Then last month, I was in the suburbs buying up spray paint for myself and my other inner-city friends** and stumbled upon this paint made especially for fabric and vinyl. I grabbed a can in grey – my favorite decorating color. After a few weeks of procrastination, I was ready to paint.
HOW TO TURN YOUR HIDEOUS VINYL ROLLER SHADES INTO BEAUTIFUL WORKS OF ART:
STEP ONE — PREPARE: Take the shade out of its bracket, but first, put some pants on because you will be standing on a ladder in front of the window. I once saw a naked man changing a light bulb on a ladder in front of his window and it is an image that I can never forget.
As with all painting projects, we must create a welcoming surface for your paint – clean, dry, and free of any grease or dust. After a few seconds of internet research, I determined that the safest way to clean vinyl shades, especially the “blackout” shades that we have, is with water and a sponge, and maybe a little bit of mild dish soap.
STEP TWO — MEASURE: Measure the width of your shades and determine the length of the shade that will actually hang down. For example, since my window is only 70” tall, in practice, I’ll never actually see more than 70” of shade.
Pick a design. Chevrons are trendy now, but it doesn’t mean they are not fantastic. I also love that the word CHEVRON has a chevron right in the middle of the word (at least in English). Like a visual onomatopoeia!To set the pattern, take the width of your shade and divide by the number of points you want your chevrons to have. My shade was 41 inches wide, so I divided that in half (20.5″) and then in half again (10.25″). I marked four spots with a pencil on the bottom of the shade, each 10.25 inches apart. Pencil a line up the shade from each of the four points on the bottom to make sure you are staying straight.
I also decided that I wanted 10 inches of white space between my chevrons. This is completely arbitrary, it just seemed like a nice even number, and not cursed or culturally significant.
STEP THREE — TAPE: You could cut the masking tape as you go, but I find it easier to cut off a bunch of strips at once and have them handy for mass application. But don’t just tear it off like a savage– cut the tape with a scissors at a straight 90 degree angle (cutting freehand worked for me).
Next, line up the bottom of your tape so that one end meets the bottom corner of the shade, and the other end meets the apex of the first chevron, then smooth out the tape. Use another strip to make the “down angle” of the chevron – again meeting at the apex and then at the bottom middle point of the shade (for my 41 inch shade that was the 20.5 inch-point).
At this point you can add as many strips as you like to achieve the desired chevron thickness. As you can see, I started with two strips of tape, then finished and realized I wanted it thicker. Easy enough to do, I just applied another strip to each “arm” (or wing?) of the chevron.
To create the next line of chevrons, just measure 10 inches from the apex (top point) of your first row of chevrons. Draw a line horizontally across connecting the two marks (check to make sure it’s roughly level) and start taping again. Repeat as many times as you like. I didn’t tape all the way to the top of my shade because (1) I’m Lazy, and (2) I thought it would add visual interest to have a white space at the top. But mostly I just wanted to finish taping and watch the first episode of Breaking Bad Season 5 before it was time to go to bed.
STEP FOUR — PAINT: Lay your shade down on a tarp outside or in a REALLY well ventilated area, like a garage with the door open. Run your finger over the tape to make sure it is completely stuck to the shade.
Before using spray paint, always strap on your safety goggles and face mask. I still haven’t bought a replacement for my old face mask that got moldy, so I went with the non-NOISH approved handkerchief instead:
After shaking your can for a minute, spray with continuous, even application. Give the whole thing a light misting, then go back to where you started and do it again. Repeat until you either run out of paint or you’re satisfied with the results.
ANOTHER PRO TIP: There really isn’t that much paint in a single can. I realized I was running out and made a quick decision to leave the very top of the shade white; otherwise, I would have to somehow get to the suburbs to get a replacement can. I actually like the way it turned out, but do yourself a favor and buy two cans. Also, if you feel yourself running low, make sure you fully coat the areas where the masking tape meets the shade. As long as you have crisply-lined edges, the middle of the chevrons won’t be as noticeable if they’re a bit splotchy.
Lucky for you, spray paint dries almost instantly when applied in thin, even coats. This means you can start pulling off your masking tape after a few minutes, or when you can feel that the paint is dry to the touch.
I LOVE pulling masking tape off! It feels like I am giving my shade a face lift and am pulling off the bandages. Since I’m neither wealthy nor weird enough to consider plastic surgery on myself, this is a pretty big thrill for me.
When pulling up the tape, start with the last piece of tape you applied – in this case the top layer of the three layers in each branch of the chevron. Since the strips of tape are overlapped, this will keep you from pulling up the edges of the neighboring tape.
Wait—you’re not done yet! When you’ve finished peeling, clean off the back of the shade with a damp sponge. My tarp was covered in a very fine layer of wood dust from my recent MCM Credenza Makeover project, which of course stuck to the back of the vinyl shade. Remember that as you roll the shade up, the back will rub all over the front, so keep it clean.
Finally, erase all the pencil marks you made in step two, and — with your pants still on — hang your beautiful artwork up in the window!