I first learned the power of a good can of spray paint from my mother, who is an excellent gardener but who, through an unfortunate series of landscaping mishaps, was faced with a whole yard's worth of dead and dying boxwoods a few years ago. They were still puffed up and fluffy, but tan in patches, so she took to them with two cans of spray paint—a sort of dark woodsy green for the deeper leaves and a yellow-tinted chartreuse for highlights.
You might be thinking: Why are you telling me this? Your mother spray paints her bushes? But at the root of this action—taking one thing that you would have otherwise discarded and giving it a second life—is exactly what spray paint is good for. Here are some of my favorite ways to use it, starting with a last minute craft for Thanksgiving.
Nature: Pine cones, pressed leaves, petals, feathers, branches, and driftwood are all lovely in their natural state, but sometimes enough is enough of the rustic look. By spray painting any of these (maybe not a whole bush) a solid shade, it becomes a sculptural and organic-shaped piece of art you can decorate with. We used a mix of white paint, copper paint, and unpainted pine-cones to craft an autumnal garland.
Furniture Hardware: Just because you don't like the legs on a certain thrift store chair, or the sides of a rusting bar cart, or the headboard you're sleeping against, or the base of an old lamp, or the knobs on your dresser doesn't mean you need to throw the whole piece out. A couple coats of brass or black lacquer spray paint will make throwaways feel new.
Glassware: For an instantly festive set of glasses, cover the most of the tumbler (including the opening) with painter's tape, so only the base of the glass is exposed, then spray paint that part gold or silver. Large vessels also do nicely this way, and you can get creative with the line of your tape and what shape it makes.
Bookends and brackets: A cheap set of hardware store brackets for shelves is very affordable, and you can spray paint them any color you like—white? army green? a matte, dusty charcoal grey? Same goes for bookends—and how cute would they be gilded?
Planters: Terra cotta is nice, but it can be a limiting color. A few glossy metallic pots amongst the earthy ones will be a welcome glimmer of light, both indoors or out.
Cabinets: You'd have to do some serious taping to be sure you don't get spray paint all over the walls, but there might be no faster way to upgrade a set of rosy cherry wood cabinets than by spray painting the color (or non-color, if you're going for all-white) of your dreams. Just check your lease, renters, before proceeding.
Tips for more successful spray painting:
Whenever possible, spray paint outdoors. If you must be inside, open the windows and direct a box fan to blow the fumes outside.
Tape up everything you don't want to get paint on and put down a large drop cloth. Wear a respirator or a mask and grungy clothes.
Read the can to know how far to hold it, how long to shake it, and what the shelf life of that particular paint is.
Spray in a smooth, consistent sweeping motion.
Sand and prime, if necessary, before spray painting.
What are your favorite things to spray paint? Let us know in the comments!