hand-painted walls

Whenever I have a vision for changing something, I become very impatient to see it completed. This amazing dining room transformation from Ava Roth reminds me how wonderful it can be to tackle slow, epic projects, working bit by bit when you have a spare moment and watching your work grow from one little section into a gorgeous, dreamlike expanse. Truly a labor of love, these illustrations took Ava a little over a year to complete and are all painted freehand. You can read more about Ava’s process, including her paint brands and colors, after the jump. Thank you so much for sharing, Ava! — Kate

Photographs by Brenda Liu

Read the full post after the jump . . .

I first started thinking about painting my dining room years ago when, on a trip to the royal palace in Phnom Phen (Cambodia), I saw that many of the rooms were painted instead of wallpapered. Although the rooms at the palace were repeating patterns, just like standard wallpaper, I was immediately inspired by the idea of meticulously painting an entire room in my own freehand style. I decided to create something that looked at first glance to be wallpaper, but on closer inspection became apparent to be a non-repeating painted design. Like with a wallpapered room, my goal was to be able to hang art on top of the painting, as opposed to having the painting dominate the walls like a mural.

The initial inspiration for the painting itself came from looking at the designer Tord Boontje’s beautiful work. His art has a very whimsical feel to it, and I fell in love with his magical forest motifs. The painting on the dining room walls does not follow any pattern and does not repeat itself. It is painted entirely freehand, using a very small (#02) paint brush. I looked at images of forest foliage and animals on the internet when I needed fresh ideas of what to paint.

The first step was painting the walls dark grey (Benjamin Moore “Cinder” AF-705). I chose this color because I knew I wanted to paint in gold and thought that a sharp contrast between the wall color and the gold would appear very chaotic.

The gold paint is from Sheffield Bronze Paint Corp., and is a water-based paint called “Supertone Golden Touch.” Once the walls were painted grey, I simply picked up the gold paint and began painting freehand in one corner, and slowly worked my way around the entire room. I have three kids and run a business, so painting the walls happened only when I could grab a spare hour — usually in the wee hours of the night. For this reason, the project took well over a year to complete, although I know I could do it in a month or two if I had had the time to paint during the day. The cost for the project was very minimal. The only cost was the paint, and the only tool I used was a small paint brush. I estimate that the entire room cost less than $350. — Ava


This is unbelievable. I’ve just been sort of staring at the photos on my screen in a trance. There are no words.


Those are exquisite beyond words. Love the choice of background colour with that gold. Even more impressive to read about the homeowner’s intrepid DIY approach to it.


Love that she was inspired by the royal palace. was just in front of there for an anniversary shoot. This version is gorgeous.


This is amazing….I can’t wait to do this in my next house, two more months till my lease is up!



I’ve been painting on my dining room wall too and was planning to only do a small section…now I might be inspired to take it further!!!


STUNNING. Please Design Sponge Staff — can we see more of Ava’s beautiful home?

Christina Newhard

Holy mother of god this is BEAUTIFUL. I’ve been wanting to do a gold stencil on cream in a foyer, but the thought of freehanding it never occurred to me. I think I like this better.


Absolutely wonderful! I love the wolf mixing organically into the pattern! And her cakes are just lovely! I do wish I lived in Toronto.


This is hands down stunning. It looks like gold leaf!

I agree with Barbara above who said it reminds her of William Morris — contemporary Arts and Crafts.


That is ridiculously beautiful! So inspiring.
Ava, you must feel so satisfied!


I really thought that was wallpaper. Wow. Ava is one extremely talented lady.


Wow! This is absolutely beautiful! The room alone is stunning, but the hand-painting kicks it up to a whole nother level!


This is fantastically beautiful. I love the wolf, and the whimsey of it all, executed so elegantly. Perfection.


I think my head just exploded. Brilliant. I’m going to try this in my bathroom. Although my freehand painting cannot be this good.


Awesome. What dedication. Might try this on a smaller scale in our tiny house bathroom. Maybe start with one wall – I have a hard time with follow-through. :)


Those are the most beautiful and inspiring walls I’ve ever seen….a hundred times better than any wallpaper. I’m so impressed!!


Sooooooo stunning, and what perserverence (sp?)! I have a new hero today. Absolutely amazing, thanks for sharing…

Sarah H

After looking at your cakes, I can see why you could paint your own walls in such detail! So beautiful!


Thank you so much for this one! The gold and gray are perfect, perfect, perfect. Feeling so inspired. Ava has a lovely, talented hand. And yes, could we get a sneak peek of the rest?



that is the sound of my jaw dropping. Stunning work!


Ditto to everything everyone else said above. Sort of like living in a dream. I can only imagine what a candlelight dinner in that room might be like.


What can I say that hasn’t been said? I could only dream of replicating this on a smaller scale. Thank you so much for the inspiration!!!!

Since I’m renting, I have half-a-mind to stretch some canvas into three small(er), long rectangles and do some sort of work like that that I’d be able to move. However, the fact that it isn’t a mural and has the ability to be layered on top of really does make it… beyond complex and fascinating. Thank you once again!

leah houston

this is just wonderful, unique and unusual. lately i’ve felt a bit blah about some of what’s been on my beloved sponge – this work is much-needed and i hope such examples will proliferate!

Jen Petrich

This is amazing and very beautiful! What a talent…


This is just beautiful. I love that it’s so personal and lovely but maintains a subtlety. Just gorgeous.


Can’t take my eyes off of those walls! Goes to show that a little bit (by bit) goes a long way. Beautiful work!

Kathryn Neale

THANK YOU for sharing! I’m an artist and interested in patterns in my paintings, etc. There are contemporary artists out there just doing that for site-specific installations! But it’s so cool to see you doing this in such a personal space. I know Tord Boontje’s work well (wrote him into my Masters Thesis paper!) Beautiful job and very inspiring, again thanks for sharing with us.


I’d be pulling my hair out choosing where to hammer a nail in for hanging pictures but this is ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL!

I’ve been thinking about painting my walls without it looking too mural-like, much like the concern of this artist and she pulled it off brilliantly.

paula graham

I am so happy to see your project or actually beautiful work of art ….
Lately I have felt so uninspired….joining Pinterest has really helped me connect with such lovely ideas such as yours. Thank you so much for creating something so beautiful that it starts the motor of a fellow being and artist.

Cynthia Hallum

Renters can do murals with canvas, you can starch them to the walls and peel them off when you leave. This is fabulous and I know the feeling of wanting to do it but can’t because you rent.


Freaky! I have in my sketch book right now a dark gray background with a coppery gold trailing celery “rose” stamp with free hand leaves and branches. This was an idea I had for and accent wall in my master bedroom. I haven’.t done anything with it yet but this is defiantly making me want to get it started. I hope my wall turns out this


Eye Candy! Makes my spirit run free when I see possibilties that can happen from your mind to your hand….ideas fly like sparklers on a 4’th of July.

Galit Barak

Got some silver stenciles all over my bedroom and living room, in a 50’s Israeli home, it’s an amazing effect!

Michelle Yee

Incredible and inspiring! I’m definitely not bold enough to try this on such a grand scale but my tiny powder room could use something magical like this. Thank you for sharing this and yes please, may we see more of Ava’s beautiful home!?


Where in the world did you find this paint? I can’t locate a source.


I hate it! JUST JOKING, I am totally in love and very envious of your talent because I would never be able to do anything as awesome as that.


Absolutely amazing & gorgeous! Your cakes are also incredible! (I followed the business link in the post.)

Heidi (AlpineGypsy)

This is just *magical*…..wow…..it reminds me of those gorgeous tapestries with oodles of flowers and unicorns on a black background somewhat. Amazing!



that this is one amazing room! It works in a big way not just in how
much work it took to do it, but in the talent in pulling it off..Managing
a design on that scale takes a lot and I guess I am even more in awe
that she did it as she worked along the wall instead of drawing it all
out at once. I am amazed and inspired and..hm so where could I possible
start a wall like that???

Gail Randolph

I agree with all these appreciative comments. Stunning, warm, and inviting.


I am madly in love with your brain. I just painted my entrance in a geometric pattern, matte on gloss, and now want to do my whole house! You have just given me another form of “wallpaper” to mull about in my brain. Thank yo so much for sharing your work! Simply beautiful.


mesmerizing. your children are lucking to grow up in such a magical place.

Rachel M

Wow… I am completely inspired to do this in our next home, which will hopefully be in the next several months or so. I love to doodle and draw, and always thought I was strongest with pen and ink. I can completely see this as a feasible project for myself in a half-bath of other smaller room, and a larger room in time. Thank you, Ava!


WOW, this looks amazing! I admire your dedication as I would have designed it and printed custom wallpaper. However, you are correct as the hand painted mural is quite simply stunning!


Spectacular doesn’t begin to describe how lovely this is!


Holy Schnap!! This is FAN-tastic. The wolf reminds me of a mysterious old Europe. The possibilities of hidden treasures are endless. Thanks for sharing, it’s very inspiring. I hope one day I make the time for a project like this.


Masterful, magical, & magnificant!!! Thanks for your gift of example & inspiration.


Absolutely amazing work! And I can imagine how much dedication it takes to come back to a project that goes on for a year. Way to go!


This is absolutely gorgeous! I can’t imagine the kind of patience it took to complete this but it was definitely worth it. The room itself, has become a work of art. Simply amazing!


I do love this so much , so inspiring…but I’m sorry, the face pictures really detract from the look!!


The price you quoted is just the material. The cost of your commitment and the result is at least tenfold.

Kate Pruitt

I don’t know what you mean exactly by the “cost” of your commitment, but I would wager that somebody would not undertake such a project unless they enjoyed the process at least in some part. Still, it is quite a commitment of time, but in my mind well worth it!