before and afterInteriors

Before & After: A Vision Board Comes To Life With Celestial Painted Tiles

by Erin Austen Abbott

I love this Before & After project so much — I have had an eyesore of a builder grade, poorly tiled fireplace for years now. It was there when I bought my house and I’ve just not had time to teach myself how to retile it. But thanks to Catherine Lee, I might have figured out a solution. Catherine is based in Decatur, GA, where she works in economic development.

Catherine found herself pinning, saving on Instagram, and adding to her inspiration board the same tile images, over and over again. She was drawn to the Lily Pad hexagonal tile design from Ca’ Pietra. When she bought her first home, she thought about saving for the tile of her vision board dreams, but she finally decided to take a turn and try her hand at painting it herself. “I quickly priced out the tile and even more quickly realized there was no way I could afford it,” Catherine shares. “So I decided to just go for it and paint the design directly on the existing tile myself. I had seen some faux tile DIYs online, felt inspired, and figured anything would be an improvement over the burnt red tile. I got a quart of dark grey chalk paint because I wanted the look to be matte, as well as two white paint pens and some clear matte chalk paint finish. Before starting, I spent hours sketching out the design and trying to figure out the template.” 

To keep the effect looking as similar to tile as possible, Catherine amplified a simple aspect of the design by drawing the hexagon running off the edge, creating a cut tile illusion. After learning this skill and having the guts to jump in with a DIY project, Catherine now has the confidence to tackle more improvements around her house. “After trusting my gut and going for it, I realized there are a ton of projects I hold off on doing to my house because I don’t have the money to do it exactly as I want it,” she begins. “This is my first home that I’ve owned and when I bought it, I figured any improvements I make should be something that makes the house more valuable for when I sell it someday. I’ve gotten stuck in the mindset that I shouldn’t do something temporary like paint over tile, when I should just save up for the actual tile or a complete renovation of the fireplace. Now that this project is finished, I don’t have any motivation to save up for the real thing, because I love the painted version so much! So I’m rethinking other long-term projects in my house that I can do now on a smaller budget by altering it a little. It’s also made me treat the house less like a precious object and more like an exciting, ever-changing living space.”

We would love to see more projects, Catherine! And we can’t wait to hear more about the exciting project she and her twin sister have planned in the coming months. Have you painted tile before? I’d love to hear the results. —Erin

Photography by Catherine Lee / @asiancajunscath

Image above: From faux brick tiles to spectacular DIY project.

Catherine Lee for Design*Sponge
The final outcome from the DIY project.
Catherine Lee for Design*Sponge
A before look at the tile that Catherine hand painted over.
Catherine Lee for Design*Sponge
Creating a stencil was the best way for Catherine to create the design she was hoping for.
Catherine Lee for Design*Sponge
A close-up of the hexagon design using matte chalk paint and white paint pens.
Catherine Lee for Design*Sponge
"The chimney needs repairing before the fireplace can ever be used again. So I don't know how the paint would hold up to soot. However, my dog runs across it a lot and gets bright, red Georgia mud on it all the time, and the paint has held up to a lot of scrubbing," Catherine adds.

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  • Decatur!! Sweet! I was raised in Decatur and my mom still lives there (I moved to Norcross because my husband and I could literally not afford Decatur when we were house-hunting; the prices are sky high now!). It’s a great place. Very charming and not far at all from downtown Atlanta. Charming, just like this cute project!

  • Wow! This is so inspiring. I have a similarish fireplace that I am inspired to do this to (heart eyes)

  • What a great idea! It looks fabulous. I’m glad to see that you didn’t rip it out but were a bit more mindful.

  • Oh man, I absolutely love this. I love how the stars look handpainted in an artisan way and the texture & colors are spot on.