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Transform your walls with limewash paint: a how-to guide for our spa-like bathroom makeover

Updated: Aug 15

This post is sponsored by James Alexander Paint, who provided the limewash paint to make our beautiful bathroom makeover possible! I have also included commissionable links to decor items that were of my own purchasing and not associated with James Alexander Paint.

I’m a big believer that bringing new life to a living space does not mean you have to do a costly renovation! In this guide I’ll take you through the step-by-step process of using limewash paint to create a stunning textural transformation on your walls.

The end result of our limewash project! Plus new hardware, mirrors, and lights!

There's no denying our primary bathroom was a bit stuck in the 90’s, but using James Alexander Limewash paint we were able to give it an updated spa-like feel that we absolutely love! I’m excited to share the “how-to limewash process” you can use to achieve a unique and beautiful finish that adds so much depth, dimension, and character to your home!

Exploring the Possibilities

When we set out to reimagine our primary bathroom, we brainstormed how we could make a big impact while working with the pre-existing countertops and the stone tile found all throughout the space.

Our previous experience updating our kitchen taught us that changing surrounding features of a room can make a huge difference – without spending tons

of money on a total gut and remodel. I’m all about workin’ with what you already have!

Although the pre-existing countertops and tile would not have been my first choice if we were starting from scratch, I knew they still offered big potential to lean into a spa-like, natural, and organic design that would complement their neutral tones of black, grey, white and beige.

Our goal was to give the room a completely new look and add character by changing up the décor and adding a fresh coat of paint. This led us to limewash!

Discovering Limewash Paint

Prior to this project, I had seen a few videos and pictures from other DIYer’s limewashed walls and loved how the texture and application of the paint adds so much depth and dimension to an otherwise flat surface. I knew our primary bathroom would be the perfect place to test it out and create visual interest.

I connected with James Alexander Paint for the limewash product. Their website is super user friendly and they are all so knowledgeable about the limewash process. I learned that limewash paint contains zero VOC’s and is a pure mineral formulation made from limestone. It’s a great eco-friendly paint solution and an awesome way to bring in earthy and grounding elements to any room design.

Crafting a Vision

With any design project, it’s so valuable to develop a solid design concept or mood board before actually putting a brush to the walls. I started by searching Pinterest for design inspo for the bathroom. I wanted the bathroom to feel spa-like with lots of warm, organic textures to balance out the cool tone of the countertop.

Once I had a design direction in mind, James Alexander paint sent us a range of their hand paint samples… you can actually touch and feel what your limewashed walls will be like! It was so helpful to be able to hold these samples against the bathroom tile and potential décor items I had collected around the house.

Ultimately, I decided on the color Totura taupe. I loved the richness of the brown color and thought it both complimented and contrasted nicely with the existing tile. The darker color was a bit out of my comfort zone, but I had zero regrets going with the darker tone once we started!

Gathering paint supplies

James Alexander ships anywhere within the United States. But if you are local to Kansas City, a visit to the James Alexander Gallery is worth it!! It’s a beautiful studio with all the colors displayed on their wall. This is a nice option too if you are still undecided on color and want to see more options in person.

Color wall in James Alexander Paint's studio

Before you order supplies, be sure to calculate your square footage to know how much to order. James Alexander recommends 1 gallon for every ~300 of square foot of wall space.

Limewash is best applied using a large block style brush. In addition to the Limewash paint, you will need Limewash Primer if painting previously painted walls or drywall. The exception would be if you are painting onto porous brick, stone, or plaster.

Optional paint supplies include the add-in densifier and/or matte sealer.

The densifier increases durability and reduces the chalkiness of the limewash finish, making the limewashed walls “touchable”. We used the densifier in our bathroom project, especially because we knew we’d have towels hanging on the walls and didn’t want the chalkiness to come off on the towels.

The matte protective sealer is for if you need your walls to be “wipeable” and provides the most durable finish. We didn’t use sealer for the bathroom.

Supply List

  • Limewash Paint, 1 gallon per every 300 sq. feet.

  • Limewash Primer, 1 gallon per every 200-300 sq. feet

  • Limewash Densifier, optional to reduce chalkiness and increase durability

  • Limewash Sealer, optional if you need a wipeable surface

  • Limewash Block Brush

  • Stir stick

  • 1-2 clean rags for cleaning up spills

  • Microfiber paint roller

  • Paint tray

  • Spray bottle

  • Painters tape

  • Ladder or step stool

  • Drop cloths

  • Spackle/painters putty for filling holes or joint compound for drywall repair (optional)

  • 120 grit sanding block

Preparation is Key

Just like any painting project, preparation is vital. This includes cleaning any grime off your walls, taping off the edges using painters tape, and filling any holes with painters putty.

This part of the process took me a long time, mostly because I had to repair drywall after removing our large vanity mirror. Instead of simply using painter’s putty (which is what you’d do for filling a nail hole), I had to use actual joint compound.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, make sure to sand it down afterwards using 120 grit sandpaper. Sand until you have a smooth surface and wipe away any remaining dust.

Step-by-Step Application Process

1. Prime

Priming is your first and arguably most critical step! The primer is so necessary, because it gives the limewash something to adhere to. Use the primer if you are applying limewash to drywall or previously painted walls (like we had).

After one coat primer using the block style brush, before I switched to a roller.

I began priming using a large block brush. This was actually a nice way to practice the brushing technique (which I will get to in detail below!). But, I quickly switched to using a roller brush which I felt offered better and quicker coverage.

You can do 1-2 coats of primer. Because I had filled several large holes with joint compound, I did two coats in most areas, paying extra attention to spots that had painters putty or joint compound underneath.

2. Apply the first coat of limewash paint.

Limewash paint is best applied using a block style bristle brush. Lime paint will apply faster and go on thinner than a typical acrylic or latex paint.

Be sure to stir the limewash very well before beginning and throughout the limewash process.

Now you can get started! Using your block brush, apply the limewash in your preferred pattern – crosshatch, random, vertical, or horizontal.

This really is the fun part! Be expressive and tap into your inner artist!! I found this much more exciting and less stressful than typical paint which often makes you feel like you must be perfect. That’s not the case with limewash!

I did a crosshatch pattern, but you could do whatever type of pattern you like! Just know, that whatever pattern you chose will affect the end look as you will see some effect of the brushstroke pattern as the material dries. For that reason, I would recommend using a consistent pattern throughout so you have a cohesive look in the end.

Start by dipping your brush about ¼ of the way, tapping off any excess paint before applying. Because limewash has a much more watery consistency than to a typical household paint - a little bit goes a long way!

Spread the paint as far as it will naturally go. And try not to overbrush or repeatedly go over the same spots. The goal is not a thick coating! It’s quite the opposite. Each coat will be very thin (especially this first one!)

Limewashing is all about layering! I promise you will see a more cohesive look develop with each subsequent coat.

I moved from one side of the wall to the other using the cross hatch pattern. Trying my best not to overbrush. Know that this first coat will be very thin with obvious brush strokes. That is what is supposed to happen. As you later layer on additional coats, your walls will have a more blended, opaque look as it melts together.

Maintain a wet edge as you move across the wall. Best practice would be to do an entire first coat at once. If you need to pause, don’t stop midway through one wall as this will create an undesirable dark layering appearance at the stopping/starting point. You can stop once you reach a corner or new wall.

For edging around trim and ceiling edges, you won’t do a typical cut in technique where you’d cut in around the trim in a straight line, and then go back to the main body of the wall. Instead, I “cut in” and extended my brush toward the trim as I was brushing the main body of the wall -- using flowy, sweeping patterns, catching the edges as I brushed past. I would then be careful to go back over any long straight lines with a more organic sweeping motion.

Be sure to check for any dripping paint as you are applying and brush those away as you go. Do a quick double check of your entire wall before moving onto the next wall.

Limewash lightens as it dries, so don’t be surprised if it looks significantly darker than your color sample at first. Here is a snapshot of what our walls looked like at difference stages of drying. The darkest being the wettest or most freshly painted areas.

3. Next, apply the second coat.

Ideally, wait overnight. If you must do it sooner, make sure the first coat is entirely dry before tackling the second application.

Apply the second coat in the same way as you did the first. Keeping the application thin and spreading the paint as far as it will go. Again, try not to over brush.

The one exception I would make to over-brushing is near the edges. If you notice any long straight lines it’s worthwhile to go back over those, adding in variations of brush strokes. Just be sure to do this as you go, and before the paint dries.

Know that the limewash may not spread quite as far the first did as it on the first coat. This is due to increased absorption into the 1st coat of lime paint. You can lightly mist the walls with a spray bottle to help the limewash spread easier.

The second coat is when you will start to see more coverage and the wall will become more opaque.

4. Apply a 3rd coat with the add-in densifier.

We applied the 3rd coat on the same day as the second coat with just a few hours between. We had no issues with this but ideally, again, you may want to wait 24 hours to ensure the limewash has properly cured.

The purpose of the add-in densifier is to reduce the chalkiness of the limewash and protect your walls. It makes it so the walls are “touchable”. We opted to use the denisifier because we knew we’d be hanging towels against the walls.

Note, if you need your walls to be “wipeable” then you’ll want to use the James Alexander Sealer. Which we didn’t need for this project.

Mix the densifier and regular limewash paint into a separate container using a 1 parts densifier to 4 parts limewash ratio. Mix well. You’ll notice this consistency will be much thicker than the limewash paint alone.

Per the instructions, once the densifier is added to the limewash, its only good for two hours and can’t be stored. So, try not to mix together more than you might think you need.

I mixed together 32 ox limewash with 8 oz of densifier and that was more than enough for 1 coat on our approximately 250 square foot of wall space.

When applying this 3rd coat of limewash + densifier, you’ll want to have spray bottle full of water on hand. Apply the mixture just as you did with the regular limewash, using the crosshatch pattern, or your pattern of choice.

Use the spray bottle to keep the surface wet as you go. With the added densifier, the limewash does not spread nearly as far. The water helps with the spread and prevents undesirable mottling effects.

By the time I was on the third coat, I was very tempted to overload my brush with paint. This will lead to splattering the paint on your floor and surrounding walls. So, you are best to dip your brush more frequently and use the spray bottle to help you spread the paint smoothly

Be sure to mix well and frequently as you apply the limewash. Carefully examine for any run down or water drips, making sure to brush those away.

5. Touch ups / optional 4th coat of densifier + limewash

In my opinion, this step is the hardest of them all!! Deciding where to touch up, how much to touch up and if you even need to touch up was difficult to know and its all based on your personal preference!

This is where I am going to tell you to remember that the point of limewash is to have dimension, depth and variations in tone. (That’s the beauty of it!)

With that being said, I noticed that some parts of our walls had more obvious brush strokes or looked opaque than others. It was unevenly uneven, if that makes sense!

We played around with touch ups – applying limewash both with and without the added densifier and noticing the effect that had.

For the areas that were really opaque (I think from the result of overbrushing), we even experimented with taking a dry paint brush to the walls and brushing away some of the limewash to add back in some dimension. This created a somewhat distressed look and was a nice way to add make in some dimension. **Note, if you try this, be extremely delicate!!! You are essentially wiping away all of your hard work, so do this sparingly.**

After playing around with the effects of touch ups using various techniques, I decided to go ahead and do a 4th coat of limewash + added densifier.

I don’t think a 4th coat is totally necessary, but I was very comfortable with the limewashing technique at this point so I felt like I could “finesse” the walls just a bit more.

You may find, that you don’t need to 4th coat all of your walls. Additional coats don’t darken the walls, they just make them more opaque, so if you have a wall that you love the look of as is, no need to add a 4th coat.

6. Final touch ups

Of course, I couldn’t resist doing a few more touch ups even after the 4th coat. This is where I am going to tell you, hold off on doing much more. Wait a full 24 hours to let everything cure.

Example in James Alexander's studio of what the end result should look like.

In my opinion, the limewashed walls took some getting used to. I had to keep reminding myself that there is supposed to be variations in color and brush strokes…that is what gives the walls the beautiful depth and dimension! It was just so different than any other typical household paint I’ve ever used.

The more I stepped back and waited, the more I fell in love with the walls – and the imperfection and beauty that is limewash.

7. Decorate!

This is really when we absolutely fell in love with the limewash! Once we started adding our décor on the walls, updated light fixtures and new mirrors, everything started tying together.

My original vision was coming to life! And the limewash added SO much visual interest. I really loved how it turned out.

Check out some more pictures of the project including some before and after's in the slideshow below! Click on the pic to see the full view and use the arrows on the left and right to go to the next pic.

Here's a quick summary of the limewash process, with highlights and tips to remember! As you tackle your own project – keep this list with you to refer back to!

Your go-to guide for limewashing walls

1. Prep your walls, filling any holes with spackle and then sanding down until smooth.

2. Ensure walls are clean and dust free.

3. Use painters tape to tape off trim and edges you don’t want paint on.

4. Apply 1-2 coats of limewash primer using a large bristle brush or microfiber roller.

a. Ensure any areas that were previously spackled have a thorough coat of primer.

5. Wait up to 24 hours between coats or, at minimum, until walls are completely dry.

6. Apply 1st coat of limewash, stirring well behorehand and throughout limewash process.

7. Use crosshatch pattern or your preferred method using the large bristle block brush.

8. Work from one side of the wall to the other, maintaining a wet edge as you apply.

9. Cover all parts of the wall without overbrushing keeping in mind that a little bit of limewash goes a long way. This first coat will be very thin with noticeable brush strokes.

10. Review as you go making sure to brush away any drips or runs as you go on the wall surface.

11. “Cut in” as you go, avoiding long straight lines. Use a curved, sweeping pattern by edges to eliminate noticeable straight lines.

12. Once the first coat is completely dry, apply 2nd coat of limewash.

13. This second coat and each subsequent coat will provide more coverage for a more opaque finish.

14. Use the same brush-on method you did for the first coat, painting thinly over the surface.

15. Option to mist the walls to help the pain spread easier.

16. You will use more limewash with each subsequent coat.

17. Apply a 3rd coat with the add-in densifier. Mix 1 parts densifier with 4 parts limewash.

18. Mix densifier and limewash combo frequently. Apply using the same brush style technique.

18. Use a spray bottle to lightly mist the surface as you apply the limewash + densifier. This will help you maintain a wet edge as you work and spread the limewash more easily.

19. Catch any water drips as you work

20. Let the walls sit for 24 hours before deciding if you need any touch ups!

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