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Creativity Out of Imperfection: {Painting Subfloors}

by | Feb 7, 2011 | Creative Before & After, Creative Inspiration & Projects, Decorating Inspiration

Creativity Out of Imperfection: {Painting Subfloors}

Painted Subfloors: Ashley Ann Photography

So, long before our unfortunate paint mishap, my daughter and I sat in our family room staring at the carpet I don’t like. We were about 30 seconds away from ripping it out, come what may (i.e. my husband was not home at the time, eh hem). We pulled one corner of the carpet back and sat staring at that subfloor for quite awhile, imagining the possibilities. But, somehow we got a grip on our impulsive side and remembered we didn’t have time to tackle a project that day.

But now that our living room carpet is officially a casualty of “the paint incident,” I’m realizing this might be an opportunity in disguise. New hardwood flooring is not an option right now, so I’m either going to put my seagrass rug back over the carpet I didn’t like to begin with so I can hide the graffiti like paint stains (which is a fine temporary solution) or I’m going to use this as an opportunity to rip the carpet out and get creative. The paint incident just may be one of those happy accidents in life.

When I saw the beautiful floors that Ashley painted on a whim after ripping out her carpet in her bedroom (I love that she did that!), I was inspired. I’m thinking I might need to get brave, creative and find the time to paint the subfloors. Even if I just paint them a solid color and lay my seagrass rug back on the top, I couldn’t possibly make it worse than my carpet looks now, right? Hmmm.

Isn’t that an inspiring decorating principle for those of us who tend to get paralyzed waiting for the perfect solution?

Why do we think it is better to hang on to ugly while we wait sometimes forever for perfect? Life is too short for ugly. Sometimes those moments of “forced creativity” (like paint splattered across your carpet) can bring out the best ideas.

Creativity comes out of imperfect circumstances and happy accidents.

Be sure to check out Ashley Anne Photography’s post on her DIY Stencil Painted Subfloors!


  1. Jojo

    I ripped out the carpet in my previous house and painted the subflooring. It was beautiful. It was in my daughters bedroom and once the carpet was removed, I cleaned up the subfloor, caulked all the cracks really well, then used 2 coats of an oil-based paint. I planned this project for when my kids were at summer camp so the floor dried thoroughly while they were gone. Honestly, besides the pine flooring me and my dad put in the house, it was the second most beautifully floored room in the house.

  2. N.

    We just painted our girls’ sub-floors (white!) but we didn’t caulk the cracks. Still, we love how they look – they really open up and brighten the rooms.

  3. leanne

    go for it…too many times i lived with horrible decor far too long…i’ve learned that even just priming can make me happy until the big stuff happens. this house had indoor/outdoor carpet on the stairs. put up with it for 3 years until i couldn’t take it anymore (waiting for the huge task of replacing all the treads…) they are now painted white…holes and nail heads included. it’s still bad, but so, so much better!

  4. laney

    do it…rip it…paint it…love it…

  5. sunflowernd

    I convinced my husband to pull the carpet from the upstair bedrooms, hallway, bathroom and stairs and then we pulled it from the living room, dining room, hallway and stairs. We are still making hardscape changes to the inside – remove a half wall, remove floor cabinets etc and that was 10 years ago. We also caulked the seams and used one common color to tie it all together – someday we will put flooring down but for now this is a great solution.

  6. Theresa

    I needed that. I usually sit paralyzed in ugly waiting for the perfect inspiration. I do like to wait for inspiration but sometimes you just have to GO FOR IT! I have a sister who does creativity out of imperfection very well and admire her for it!

  7. Michelle

    I totally did this in my sewing room. I put a couple of coats of wall paint on the floor, then stencilled, and finished it off with a couple of coats of polycrylic. It has held up great and looks pretty good as well!

  8. Lisa

    Oh my gosh I love that idea Melissa! It’s the kind of thing that sounds crazy (like, to your husband maybe) and then once you do it, you want to rip up the rest of the wall-to-wall in house! I love a white-on-white or grey diamond pattern painted onto the floorboards for a little visual interest!

  9. Deanna

    Oooh, Melissa! The possibilities! You know you could just do a solid color at first and later when you get time you could add a stencil….

  10. Leen

    I think it’s a great idea, Melissa! I love the look of painted floors but I know I couldn’t get myself to paint hardwood so the sub-floor is perfect! Then if you get sick of it, you’re already at square one!

  11. SimplyLKJ

    I have seen some really beautiful painted floors out there! I say go for it.

  12. Bekki

    I am planning to do this in my home. I just have to wait for warm weather. My son is alergic to paint fumes.

  13. Shauntelle

    “Isn’t that an inspiring decorating principle for those of us who tend to get paralyzed waiting for the perfect solution?

    Why do we think it is better to hang on to ugly while we wait sometimes forever for perfect? Life is too short for ugly.”

    I was thinking about this over the weekend as I was finishing up some projects for my office revamp. I spent several days just looking at these two chairs I wanted to paint, completely petrified about dipping the brush into the paint and getting started. I finally had to tell myself, “hello! it’s JUST paint. What’s the worst that can happen?”

    The chairs turned out great and my office looks really awesome… but I would NEVER have gotten to this point if I hadn’t just told the perfectionist voice in my head to just.SHUT.UP!

    The really great thing is that now, I’m a little more confident about tackling the next DIY project. Seeing that the world didn’t end when I made a mistake helped me feel more comfortable with the idea that it’s okay to just get STARTED. And that’s the only real way to tackle paralysis I think… just get started on one thing.

  14. laxsupermom

    Life is too short for ugly

    I think that’s my new favorite quote. Pull it up. Paint it. And show us, of course. Can’t wait to see what you do.

    • Bethe

      Me, too!!! I wish I could get that in a bumper sticker. I’m writing it on my mirror when I go to bed tonight. :)

  15. maggie

    Rip. That. Carpet. Out.

    The painted subfloor will be waaay better than throwing your seagrass rug over the blotches. You’ll still know it’s under there and it will bug you. What’s holding you back? If you liked the carpet it would be a whole different issue. Start ripping and don’t look back! :)

    • Melissa

      True, it will bug me just knowing it is there…

  16. Sweet Tea

    Do it! It’s nearly free, and you just might love it. The carpet, on the other hand, you will never love.

    Many years ago, when my aunt and uncle bit (on their own) their home, they couldn’t afford carpet. So, for the first few years, they lived with the subfloors. One of my uncles likes to draw, so he covered the floors in the children’s rooms in disney characters, which my aunt painted in.

    I also saw a post on a blog once where someone stained their subfloors as a temporary “hardwood” look.

    • Melissa

      Yes, I will never love the carpet. Never.

  17. Luciane at


    Wow you have a fantastic blog. This is my very first time here and I see I’ll spend hours reading it.

    “Life is too short for ugly”! geee… how true is that?!

    I hope you have a minute to drop by my blog. It would be a honor having you there!

    Thank you!

    Have a blessed week!


    Luciane at

    Post of the Day: Well Designed Kicthens.

    • Melissa

      Well thank you! I would be honored to visit!

  18. Willo

    This is an inspiration, as I daily glare at my (stained, dust infested, ripping at the seams) carpet in disgust.

  19. Jill

    At our house at the beach we had this horrible area rug and a dilemma. The are arug was covering up the fact that the last owners did not put wood flooring in the whole room. No! They did the perimeter and where they planned to put their rug they put…..plywood! Really! How cheapo. The area rug was always the wrong color (a horible washed out peach) and not very beach friendly. It held onto sand and collected stains too easily. To make it worse, it was the first thing people would see when they enterred the house. Not just my guests but my renteres as well.

    I finally had enough. On our last visit to the house we spontaneously rolled up the rug and threw it away. We bought some porch paint in a slighlty glossy finish in a custom blue tinted to match the kitchen floor (open floor plan). It looks soooo much better. Even if it only lasts a year or two, the room finally feels clean and fresh.

    On my next visit to the house, I intend to take pictures and share the experience on my blog.

    • Melissa

      Sounds fabulous!!!

  20. ColleenwithMurals&More

    Melissa, I have to weigh in here with a feng shui slant (even if you’re not ‘into’ feng shui ;). Camouflaging the rug with the seagrass rug might be perfectly lovely – but how will YOU feel about it? If every time you walk into the room, it bugs you – get rid of it and rip it up.

    That being said, I’ve done a few floors for clients and they are loads of work. But something tells me you’re up for it.!

  21. Marilyn Holeman

    Melissa, This sounds like the proverbial “When life gives you lemons . .” I say, enjoy the lemonade! Can’t wait to see what you do.


  22. Merritt

    I totally get this! I just painted my living floor (although concrete, not sub floors). Wood floors were out of the question budget-wise and I loate carpet. Sometimes, you just have to work with what you have and that includes money! This is my post about floors, it PRETENDS to be wood :P

  23. Cheryl

    My Floors are far from level enough for this and my sub floor is horrid pressed particle board…
    It is a cute idea.


  24. Sara

    So the question is – what are your subfloors? Concrete? Particle board?

  25. Andrea

    I have been saving this online article about making sub floor look like painted plank flooring.

    I haven’t tried it yet, but it might be an option for you…

    I’d love to do this with white paint.

    Can’t wait to see what you come up with!


  26. deborah

    *an opportunity in disguise*– i love that. i might have to have an incident happen, here too. whoopsies:)

  27. teresa

    I say go for it….if you have cement there are so many wonderful things you can do with cement..

  28. Paul C

    You’re renting and the owner says???

  29. Irene

    Painting the subfloor sounds like a terrific idea. You’ll have a clean slate to do anything you want to it.

  30. rose

    LOL or do like I did and just live on the sub floor! I thought I would be able to get the floor covering in a month or so but that didn’t work out ye. BUT like you, to me it’s STILL better than having to live with yucky dusty carpet that was 21 years old. I even thought about painting mine and hubby keeps telling me to wait we will get the floor covering. lol anyway just had to tell you how much I enjoyed this post because I to am in almost the same situation! ;)

  31. Janis Hill

    Originally I was going to refinish my living room floor, but there were water stains that sanding wouldn’t have taken out. So I did the only thing I could do. I had a gallon of beigish paint and a little bit of this color and a little bit of that color. I painted the entire floor with the beigy color then dry brushed the other colors over it, blending one into the other as I went. I loved, loved, loved it!
    I wish I had pictures, but this was in the house I lived in 4 houses back.
    Go for it! The worse that will happen is you have to put your ug down.

  32. Janis Hill

    Whoops! that should read r-u-g, rug, not ug!

  33. Mrs. C

    Go for it, rip out the carpet and paint the floors. There are so many creative ideas for painting floors. I’ve even seen in an old copy of Country Home magazine where people have painted what looks like an area rug on their floors, there are so many options when painting the floor. Go for it!

    I love how Ashley’s turned out, it reminds me of flooring from days gone by, the big floral pattern. I’m really intrigued by the chicken wire as well and can’t wait to see what that’s all about.

  34. jane

    go for it!! i think you will do a super job, and i support 100% the philosophy “that it could not look worse” IS a wonderful cause of serendipity! i have tackled chipped kitchen counters that i couldn’t replace with paint and grout with happy results following this philosophy. if it gives you pleasure who cares if it isn’t “orthodox” (or whatever the word i want is)?jkj

  35. Erin - The Smallest Sparrow

    Go for it! I bet it would turn out great. I love this idea and am already thinking of lots of variations on the stencil theme. I wish I had a place in my home where I could try this.

  36. Kara

    What a great take on this! A perfect chance to take a leap and do something that seems crazy! I love the look of painted floors.

  37. laurie

    Make lemonade from lemons! I love that stenciled floor! laurie

  38. BeInLoveDesigns

    I don’t know if I’d ever have the courage to rip up the carpet without a firm back up plan, but I do love the idea! And those stenciled floors look awesome.

  39. Michelle

    I love this idea! We have a concrete floor on our screened in patio and plan to paint it with a stencil. Great story!

  40. meg duerksen

    when i was 8 months pregnant with sean i sent my husaband and two kids way for the week for something(?)and no sooner were they out the door than i ran up to what would be the new baby’s room and began ripping out the carpet! i got it all out….it was DISGUSTING. i rolled it up. i drug it down the stairs and then it got stuck. and i could not do a thing about it. i had to call my husband’s friend and ask him to come pull it to the curb for me.
    then i painted (gasp!) the whole room and it was all done when they came home. surprise!
    and i think back to that project 11 years ago and realize….it was all because i didn’t want to hear the word NO from my husband. so i did all that myself! what a dork i am.
    so anyway….that is my nasty carpet story.
    not that you asked for it.
    i love ashley.
    she is super creative….like in a crazy way! love her!

  41. Cindy Vaughn

    I absolutely loved your blog. It was so ironic that I came across it since I began the renovation of my guest room yesterday. I decided to hang a new ceiling fan and paint. So, I removed all of the furniture and noticed the stained carpet even more prominent with an empty room. After hanging the fan and painting the room – I have decided that this is going to be my inspiration room. I am not going to put all of the furniture back in – just a comfy chair – my desk and have a place to go and write or when I need inspiration. That is how I came across your blog – looking for inspiration room ideas. Thanks to all of you for now taking it a step further by giving me the courage to go home and rip up the stained carpet! Love your blog!

  42. Deimar

    Sometimes we must let our impulses take control, so we can achieve the changes we seek.

  43. carol jane

    Hey melissa. I just ripped out the cat pee carpet in my small home office/computer room, and thought about painting the sub floors too. Im not sure how to go about it or what kind of paint to use. I bleached the, um, yucky areas on the sub floor, and started to prime it.I notice that there are several spots on the floor where the boards are spaced far apart. Like about a half inch. Should I chalk these areas? I do plan on putting an area rug over the painted floor.This is all a temporary fix, because new flooring is not in the budget right now. I do not really want to deal with oil based paint either. Any suggestions would truly be appreciated!!!


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