Textured, even excavated interior walls—the sort with charmingly exposed plaster or peeled-back wallpaper—are trending. (Read: Trend Alert: The Excavated Look, 15 Ways.) Not so much the other sort of textured walls: the “orange peel,” popcorn, or faux-stucco walls that might plague your house or rental.

If you love your new place but don’t love the textured walls, what’s the solution? To get some options, we talked with Joan Barton, owner of Los Angeles’s Dirty Girl Construction. (She has helped us with other pressing questions in the past; see her take on 5 Things Your Contractor Wishes You Knew (But Is Too Polite to Tell You).) Read on.

Charmingly textured walls in Paris-based designer Clarisse Demory&#8
Above: Charmingly textured walls in Paris-based designer Clarisse Demory’s flat in Sofia, Bulgaria. See more in A Parisian’s Pied-a-Terre in Sofia, Bulgaria.

What are textured walls?

Textured interior walls (think: “orange peel,” popcorn, or swirled patterns) have a practical function, since the texture hides the signs of drywall installation—that is, the taped seams where the sheets of drywall meet—and other imperfections. “It’s cost-saving,” says Barton. “Maybe people actually liked it back in the seventies, but the reason it’s done now is to save money. It’s cheap and fast.”

That’s why you often see textured walls in rental or commercial buildings. It’s also a more durable surface than a smooth wall, and less affected by minor wear and tear. And some people still feel texture adds character: The bumps reflect light and create shadows, making ordinary walls less “boring.”

In the Atelier St. George showroom in Vancouver, the walls are intentionally crumbling. Read more in Peasant Chic: Atelier St. George in Vancouver.
Above: In the Atelier St. George showroom in Vancouver, the walls are intentionally crumbling. Read more in Peasant Chic: Atelier St. George in Vancouver.

How are textured walls achieved?

Typically, the texture is sprayed on; sometimes patterns are added, either with a soft brush or an implement like a comb, rag, or sponge. And the textures and patterns have names: For example, there’s Santa Fe (for an adobe look), “orange peel,” “knockdown,” “swirl,” and “cat’s paw.” It’s also possible to apply ready-made texture paint using a brush or roller.

The type of texture you might want to get rid of: unsightly ridges, shown here on a ceiling (which the homeowners covered up with beadboard). See their solution at Rehab Diaries: DIY Beadboard Ceilings, Before and After.
Above: The type of texture you might want to get rid of: unsightly ridges, shown here on a ceiling (which the homeowners covered up with beadboard). See their solution at Rehab Diaries: DIY Beadboard Ceilings, Before and After.

Four ways to get rid of unwanted textured walls:

To many of us, the best wall is the smoothest wall you can get. Here are four ways to turn a stippled surface into a smooth one. These methods will also work with walls that are distressed in other ways (should you tire of the exposed plaster or old-wallpaper look someday).

Photograph from DIY Project: Limewashed Walls for Modern Times.
Above: Photograph from DIY Project: Limewashed Walls for Modern Times.

1. Apply a skim coat.

When drywall is installed, the fasteners and taped seams are skim coated—covered with a thin coat of joint compound, or “mud,” to level the surface in preparation for painting or papering. The same technique gets rid of textured walls. A thin coat of mud is applied over the entire wall surface, allowed to dry, and then sanded smooth. Especially bumpy walls may need more than one coat.

Skim coating a whole room is both messy and time-consuming. The job is perhaps best left to a professional who has the experience (and strategies) to keep sanding dust from infiltrating every crevice of your home.

Once the repaired surface is smooth, it can be sealed with a primer and then painted or wallpapered, as desired.



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