Military Weekend Warrior Project: DIY Painting & Shadowbox WainscotingTips

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The dining room is the gathering spot in many homes for conversation, good eats and a good glass of wine. This is our first home where we wainscoting, diywill have a formal dining room and we could not be more excited! Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, many homes have a colonial-traditional feel that speaks to the deep tradition in the area. I always wanted to have that feel when I could finally have my own formal dining room. Luckily, Ryan was on board! We set out to create our colonial-modern room.

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Here is how you can be make this a reality in your home:


  • Colonial-Retro Blue Paint: 2 Gallons
  • High-Gloss Stark White Paint: 1 Gallon
  • 2-Rolls of Paint Masking Tape
  • Edging Paint Brush: 2-3
  • Wide Soft Bristle Pain Brush: 2-3
  • 2-Large Paint Rollers & 1 Pack of Rollers
  • 2-Small Paint Rollers
  • 2-Paint Trays
  • 4-Paint Tray Plastic Covers
  • 1-Large Edging Blade
  • 1-Small Edging Blade
  • White Wood Molding: 18 8ft Pieces (Pro-Tip: Add 20% to every total you create for materials)
  • 1-Saw
  • 1-Air Compressor
  • 1-Air Gun & Nails
  • Caulk & Caulk Gun
  • Drop clothes: Lots of Drop clothes!

paint masking tips, how to mask for paintingMasking

Mask All Edges of the room, including baseboards, window edges, crown molding, and any wall edges leading to other rooms. Take your time when doing this and execute with sharp edging and no bubbling. If there is bubbling or crooked taping, the results will show in the paint process. Use quality tape that has a strong adhesive to the application site.

Paint the Uppers

We used a Retro Colonial Blue for the upper walls (see what we did there with the theme!). Use the Edging Brush to paint the around the trim and hard-to-roll areas carefully. Try to keep the streaks in the paint to a minimum in this area as it shows well with the rolled area. Once completed, it is time to move to the rollers. Be sure to spread the paint evenly using the roller and do not push the roller on the wall. Doing so will create dreaded lines in the paint that everyone fears. Use the large roller for easily accessible areas and the smaller rollers for in-between windows and corners and any other small areas. Once completed, let it dry to determine if a second coat is needed or just touch up in some areas. This will depend upon the wainscoting, paint tips, painting how towalls in your home and the paint you use. Some walls soak up paint better than others.

Install Shadowboxes

Take measurements throughout the room with even spaces set for the shadowboxes. We utilized 3½ “ x 3½ “ spacer to make measuring easier. This cuts down on having to keep checking your math and helps keep the shadowboxes even on the wall. The size of the box can be adjusted to fit your home. Boxes can be created to be more narrow or taller as well. Having a solid map of the room and the length the molding pieces needed will reduce errors and the need for additional material.

shadowbox tips, how to create shadowboxA miter saw works best for cutting the molding pieces, but a circular saw could be used as well. Using the lengths determined from above, cut the molding into the length desired at a 45-degree angle.

Now it is time to install along the pre-marked grid. Use the caulk gun to apply construction adhesive to the back of the molding and install carefully. We use 1½ ” 18-gauge brad nails as fasteners. Try to have the ends of each piece asclose as possible together. This is why measuring and cutting properly is so important. There will likely be a small gap between the pieces, which can be filled with caulk. Pro-tip: Be sure to purchase “paintable” caulking ONLY.

Paint the Lowers

Using the same technique as used on the uppers, paint the lowers in your desired color. Be sure to use a soft bristle brush on the actual molding, as this usually takes to paint differently than the wall will. This should help you provide a nice, even feel. Determine if a second coat is needed after drying. Repeat process.


Have fun designing your room! We choose a beautiful walnut-topped dining table and will be adding beautiful chairs to match, accent chairs, an antique buffet, colonial-inspired wall art and more. This style can be used with other designs, not just colonial. Bright upper colors make shadowboxes pop as well! No matter your design choice, have fun with it!

Want to hear about upcoming episodes of the Military Weekend Warrior Project for more DIY tips and see our next adventure? Follow our YouTube playlist!

Lynn Black is a graduate of Christopher Newport University with over a decade of experience in marketing strategies and content writing. She is a military spouse to a member of the United States Coast Guard.  Lynn has experience completing numerous DIY projects both alongside her husband and while he is away.