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Paint your own outdoor rug! – a beautiful mess

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When it comes to decorating an outdoor space, rugs are a big deal. They are a great way to add a large amount of pattern or color to an area, and they help create the intimate feel of a living room right in the middle of the outdoors. They can, however, also be a bit of a pain to track down. I don't know if you relate, but I have the hardest time finding outdoor rugs that I really like. It's time consuming enough to find the perfect indoor rug in just the right size, color, and price for your needs, and when you move to the smaller-supplied outdoor category, it gets even more difficult. For that reason I wanted to try a painted rug on our concrete porch this year. I mean, what's better than a rug where you can pick the pattern and colors yourself?

outdoor carpet for porch


  • Supplies: -concrete cleaner and scrub brush/broom
  • -concrete primer
  • -outdoor porch/floor paint (I used this brand in quart size, but any other recommended brand should work)

    outdoor porch carpet


  • -paint brushes
  • -painter's tape
  • -craft paper for stencil (if needed)
  • First you'll want to use a concrete cleaner and brush to thoroughly clean the area you'll be painting. If you have a slightly rough and porous surface, then you'll only need to clean the surface to prep the area. If you have a smooth non-porous concrete, you'll want to consider also using a concrete etcher to open pores in the concrete and absorb the paint more effectively. If you aren't sure if your concrete is porous or not, drip a small amount of water on the concrete-if it soaks into the concrete quickly, it's porous, but if it sits on top before slowly soaking in, then you'll want to use an etcher. 

    porch carpet


    Once the cleaned concrete has fully dried, use a measuring tape and painter's tape to mark off the area that will be your rug (mine is a 5' x 7' area). The tape won't fully stick to the concrete, but it will still help to give you a visual guide as you work. 

    porch rugs


    Using a brush, paint your concrete primer within the tape lines and allow the primer to fully dry according to the directions. 

    outdoor rug for porch


    While the concrete primer dries, you can work on the pattern for your rug. I like to make mock-ups of patterns in Illustrator first so I can plan out my color placement and size, but you can also just make a quick sketch with markers or pencils, too, if that helps. I chose a kilim-style rug pattern, so I had to make giant craft paper stencils of each of the different-sized geometric shapes. Whoa. There was a lot of measuring and math skills happening to get those shapes just right. I would highly suggest doing a simpler pattern if you aren't a really patient personality-stripes, dots, color blocked patterns are all really cute options that would be way easier to plan out. You can use the painter's tape as a guide or make stencils from craft paper-whatever fits your needs!

    Once the primer was dry, I filled in the area of the rug with one of my lighter-colored paints.* You'll have to trim the edges of the rug as neatly as you can by hand since you can't rely on the painter's tape to stop the paint in this rough-surface situation. Depending on your pattern and color choices, you may want to paint the bottom color white for your first coat as a primer so your colors look bright and true when painted on top.

    Note: The colors I chose for the rug are Valspar Pink Quartz, Valspar Aquatic Mist, Pantone Blithe, Pantone Peony, Clark + Kensington Snow Cone, and Clark + Kensington Yellow Finch.

    Once the bottom coat was dry, I placed my different-sized stencils on top and used a pencil to trace the pattern directly onto the painted surface. 

    From there, it was just a matter of filling in all the shapes with my different-colored paints. I had a mix of smaller and larger paint brushes and switched between them as needed. Like I said, I chose what ended up being a pretty time-consuming pattern, so choose a pattern based on how long you want to be outside painting on a concrete slab in summer. It can get hot!

    Also, if you find that some colors aren't layering quite right (like painting a light color over a darker color or yellow over a blue-toned color), you might need to do a primer layer of white again in that shape before adding the top color. It's usually easiest to paint darker colors on top of lighter colors, but doing a primer layer is the best way to get around that rule if your pattern calls for it. 

    Once your pattern is all filled in, allow the paint to dry and keep all people and patio furniture off the paint for as long as the manufacturer recommends so the paint can fully cure. You can check and see if a topcoat sealer is needed with the brand of porch paint you buy, but you most likely won't need one for most porch paints.  

    I would say that I'm happy with my finished rug, but that would be a lie. I'm not happy; I'm thrilled. This is totally a project that I plan to redo each summer to give our space a fresh face each year. I'll probably pick a pattern that's less time-consuming next time, but I'm so happy that I can create whatever I want now and completely customize the look. Think you'll give it a try? What would your dream painted rug look like? xo. Laura

    Credits // Author: Laura Gummerman. Photography: Laura Gummerman & Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with Stella from the Signature Collection.

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