Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Painting Stripes Part 2: Layout

Continuing the story of my experience painting stripes in our baby’s nursery, here I’ll discuss a few more of the decisions that went into making the finished product beautiful, subtle, and exactly what I was looking for.

stripes in morning light

Previously, I talked about color. How I went far beyond my usual way of selecting paint colors only to make sure that the contrast of the stripes was very subtle, so the vertical bars wouldn’t box us in the small room. With colors selected, now I needed to decide on the layout of the stripes. That is, how many stripes per wall, how wide, how uniform. All these aspects were key in the final effect and feeling of the room. So once more, I used Photoshop mockups to guide my decisions.

Doing some quick research online, I read that the ideal width of stripes is 6 to 8 inches. According to the dimensions of my room, that guideline would give me about 15 stripes per wall. I mocked that up and compared it to my original plan of 11 stripes per wall, and felt like —at least in this very small room— less and wider stripes look much better. That is, less like a cage.

11 vs. 15 stripes

Then, I considered: Should all stripes have the same width, or should there be some variety?… Uniform variety, or random variety?… I mocked up all stripes at the same width, dark stripes wider than the light ones, light stripes wider than the dark ones, all different…

Different stripe layouts

In the end, although I was very tempted to try the layout with completely uneven stripes (image 3 above), I decided not to push the design of the stripes too far — potentially distracting from the mural. So I went for dark stripes wider than the light ones at a consistent ratio (image 2 above).

But what should be the actual ratio?… I had done the mockup with dark stripes about 50% wider than the light ones. That looked good to me, but I wanted to try some more options just to be sure…

So knowing that I wanted a total of 11 stripes per wall (6 light ones, 5 dark ones), I mocked up a small scale diagram of my wall, trying 1.25, 1.5, and 1.75 ratios of wide to narrow stripes.

stripe ratios

The images confirmed it: My clear winner was 1.5. Therefore, my light stripes would be 8.5 inches wide, and my dark ones 50% wider: 12.75 inches.

But before going crazy and starting to tape and paint, you better check your measurements twice. In my case, two of the room walls happened to be 5 inches wider. That’s not a huge difference, so instead of keeping the same stripe dimensions and having to paint an awkwardly skinny extra stripe on two of the walls, or modify the dimensions of the first and last stripes, I decided to keep the same ratio on all walls and make the stripes on the wider walls just a little wider (8.85 and 13.28 inches respectively). To make these numbers easy to measure, I rounded them to 8 14?16 (8.9 inches) and 13 4?16 (13.25 inches). The difference is so small, you can’t tell at all.

That’s it. At that point I had done enough planning and was finally ready to tape the walls and paint the stripes. It may sound like all this thinking and sketching dangerously approaches the line of “analysis paralysis”, and you may be right… But with a baby coming soon and the belly growing fast, I didn’t want to risk going through all that effort to end up trapped in a bird cage. I love the final look of the room, and I’m sure I owe that to the carefully crafted plan.

On the final part of this series I’ll share my method to tape perfectly straight stripes, and no: It doesn’t involve a laser leveler.

Painting Stripes


  1. On , Marla wrote:

    I’m ready to see the taping part!:)

  2. On , Maria wrote:

    I know!… That’s probably ALL you wanted to hear about the subject. HA! HA! HA!

  3. On , Laurel wrote:

    So many good tips! I can’t wait to see what you have to say about taping. I really want to get my baby’s room done (I have one wall done already), but I want to see what you have to say on the subject before finishing. Thanks so much!

  4. On , Maria wrote:

    Then I better not make you wait Laurel… I understand the urge (and itch) to get the room done… I’m glad you’ve found these posts helpful. I’ll try to post about taping within the next few days :)