A Jungle Room Decorating Disaster

We moved back to our home state of Oklahoma in 1994, after nearly 30 years in the military. We thought taking back possession of our home there would be an easy task. However, that didn’t prove to be the case.

Our house had been rented for more than 20 years. Unfortunately the company we hired to oversee the tenants opted not to do their job properly. It ended up costing us over $12,000 to bring the house back to a livable condition.

I knew exactly how I wanted to decorate every room with the exception of one. I knew the colors I planned to use. I had chosen a theme for each space. I even knew the furnishings I wanted to use. I didn’t; however, have a handle on the decor I wanted for our home office.

Eventually, I decided to decorate it in a jungle theme for a rich environmental feel. It fit well with the personalities of both my husband and myself. Additionally, I already had several prints that I could use for the wall art.

My daughter suggested I sponge paint the walls to give them texture and dimension. It was a popular technique during the 90’s so I decided to give it a try. However, since I had never actually done it before, I depended on my daughter’s phone instructions to walk me through the process.

I began with a basic off-white base color for the walls. Then I chose mushroom taupe and forest green to be sponged onto the wall. I thought the color combination would help simulate the look of a jungle. The initial practice board looked pretty good so I decided to go through with the idea. Sadly that proved to be a huge mistake.

Sponge painting is easy if you know what you are doing, but for novices it can be a challenge. It requires a careful, steady and delicate hand. It also requires cautious application to prevent smudging or smearing. Still, I managed to get the taupe color on the wall without much difficulty. I considered abandoning the green color altogether but decided I needed it in order to tie everything together with the green woodwork.

After finishing one wall, I wasn’t particulalry happy with the finished product. However, my daughter encouraged me not to prejudge the outcome before the job was finished. Therefore, I continued to sponge paint on the remaining three walls.

To say the end effect was a disaster would a minor understatement. It was hideous in every sense of the word. The muddiness of the taupe in combination with the dark green was too much against the off white background. Combined with the darl woodwork, the overall effect was horrendous.

It wasn’t until later that someone informed me that sponge painting should be done in reverse with a lighter paint color being sponged on top of a darker one. The way I did it made the walls stand out opposite to the way intended.

In the end, we still lived with that room for four years. I just couldn’t bring myself to prime and repaint after spending all that time I’d already spent on the technique.

Oddly, the person who bought our home, liked the room as it was. It turned out to be a major selling point. There is no accounting for taste.

Anyone thinking about sponge painting as a wall treatment should keep these tips in mind.

Tip #1. Make sure the wall to be painted is clean and in good condition. Plug any holes, cracks or mars with spackle and sand out the imperfections before painting.

Tip #2. Choose a darker color for the wall base coat. Choose one or more lighter colors for the sponge layers. It is usually best to keep color choices to a minimum. Too many colors can spoil the overall effect.

You can use the same type of paint chosen for the base color or opt for a glaze, translucent or opalescent paint for sponging. Switching the type of paint used for the top layers can add to the overall effect of the painting technique.

Tip #3. Make sure the sponges used are in good condition and clean. Sponges with holes in them may leave unsightly marks. Dirty sponges may transfer residue onto the wall.

Cut small sections of sponge off for sponging room corners. Large pieces will likely smear if you try to cover a corner with one loaded dose.

Tip #4. Sponge a trial board first. Foam core board works great for this purpose. Apply the base color. Let it dry thoroughly and then apply the sponge layer. Keep practicing until the technique used achieves the desired outcome.

Tip #5. Tape off the woodwork before beginning. Sponging shouldn’t be done on window seals, doorways, etc. Those should remain a solid color. Taping them off will prevent sponging overlap.

Tip #6. Lightly dampen the sponge before loading it with paint. Wipe all but the top layer of paint. Too much paint in the sponge will cause it to drip, smear or smudge. It may also leave behind unintended tracks or an uneven color.

Clean the sponge whenever it gets too inundated with paint or between paint colors. Be sure not to let paint dry on the sponge. That will lead to unexpected and undesired paint effects.

Tip #7. Use a light, even hand when applying the sponge layer. Overlap the sponge layer and vary the technique. Try moving in different directions from right to left, left to right, up and down, down and up or a combination of any or all of these to get the effect desired as outlined on your practice board.

Tip #8. Allow each coat of sponge paint to dry before applying another. A minimum of 24-hours is advised between coats.

Since those disastrous days, I have learned to sponge paint with ease. I used the technique with great effect to cover up old wallpaper in my current home. It works, but only if you know what you are doing.


My own personal experience
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