For those who have asked about painting the light switches, outlets, and trim in the same color as the wall in the basement family room, this post is for you!  Before I ever put a roller on the wall, I envisioned the walls and trim painted the same color.  The rest of my house has white trim as a frame to blue/gray walls or wallpaper/starched fabric, but I want this room to have a Gentleman’s Library sort of vibe.  I’m sure that many gentleman’s libraries have white trim, but I imagined this room with moody blue walls and trim.  There are a lot of different finishes and colors happening in the space right now and painting it all one color (but different sheens) will remove those visual distractions.

As an aside, if I thought we were going to live in this house “forever”, I would want to clad the walls and ceiling in paneling, add beams, and paint it all!  While we don’t plan on moving anytime soon, we envision ourselves living in an old house one day and on a bigger piece of property with a view.  Who knows if that will ever happen, but that idea does factor into some of the choices I make.  (I actually have started writing a post about the idea of the “forever home” and we’ll have a chat about that more in-depth at some point.)

But, today, let’s talk about the riveting subject of painting light switches.  This is the juicy part of a room makeover that everyone gets super excited about.

painting light switches | miss mustard seed

Okay, not really.  Painting light switches is boring and not glamourous at all, but when you’re painting the walls and trim in a moody blue, the light switches, outlets, and vents start to really stick out.

I sort of cropped out the vents and outlets out of most of the pictures I’ve taken in the family room because they are super distracting!  You can see the surround sound speaker practically waving at you.  I’m not actually going to paint the speakers, but those will be hidden.

basement family room makeover | miss mustard seed

Anyway, painting the light switches, outlets, and vents was an easy thing to do. I wouldn’t do it in every case.  Since we have white trim in the rest of the house, the white switchplates don’t pull very much focus.  We use a soft blue/gray (Stonington Gray) on the walls in most of the house, too, so the white plates blend better.

The key to painting the switches, specifically plastic ones, is to use an adhesive primer.  I used STIX for this project and had it tinted to the color of the paint by my local paint store…

painting light switches | stix primer | miss mustard seed

This is a fantastic primer that will stick to just about anything.  I used it for priming the tile on the fireplace surround as well.  (It’s still in the ugly primer stage, but it’ll be looking finished soon!)

basement family room makeover | miss mustard seed

For painting the light switches and outlets, I just brushed the primer onto the switchplates with a quality brush (THIS is one of my new favorites.)  I was careful to keep the coat thin and really watch for drips and brush strokes.  I kept the screws in, so I could paint those as well and I would hold each plate by the back of the screws as I was painting it.

painting light switches | stix primer | miss mustard seed

I then painted them in the same paint I used for the walls (Oval Room Blue Modern Emulsion.)  Once they were dry, I put them on just like normal light switches!  I debated about painting the toggles themselves and the outlets, but I couldn’t get past the idea that it would look sloppy.  I’ve seen apartments where the switches and outlets were caked with paint and it just looked so lazy!  I’m sure I couldn’ve done a neat job at this, but then the light switches would have to be repainted or replaced when/if the walls are ever repainted in a different color.  Leaving the switches and outlets white seemed like the best thing and they aren’t visually bothersome.

basement family room makeover | miss mustard seed

Have you ever tried painting light switches and/our outlets and vent covers to match the walls?  I’m curious if this is normal practice or just good for certain cases like this room.  This is a first for me!

42 Comments

  1. Laura

    I’ve never painted the toggles themselves, but you can find brass push buttons from Rejuvenation Hardware. They would lend a more “gentlemen’s club” vibe to your space, without much cost and not need refreshing with paint.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      Yes! I love those old-school buttons/switches! I would replace every switch if I could.

      Reply
    • Jason Dessenberg

      Stupid, that is all that I can say.

      Reply
  2. Babs

    Details, details, details…it’s all in the details. Yes, I have painted light switch covers and outlets to match the walls. I have even wallpapered them so they would blend in…being certain to match the pattern, of course. No one wants our modern conveniences waving at us from across the room. Love the idea of the brass push button ones! Who knew?

    Reply
    • Terry Marino

      Yes! I had my painters FAUX the switch covers to blend seamlessly with my granite on my backsplash!

      Reply
    • Sandra

      I decopage mine & put a picture frame insert (or two) around them to give them extra punch & pizzazz! I used Elmers glue & can be removed & redone or just replace the cover all together. & starch can be used in place of the glue- again removable! Great for temporary situations!

      Reply
  3. Amy

    I’ve painted light switches and plugs. It saves on time and money. It work! A forever home- my husband and I also do this. Planning what it will look like and what we want. Thank you again for sharing all you do.

    Reply
  4. Jennifer Erickson

    I’ve painted the light switches/covers in a room before. Sometimes right over the existing ones and one time we bought wooden ones when new construction. And in the Olsen days growing up we wallpapered them.

    Now I just use plain white ones, I feel it’s more classic!

    Reply
  5. Lisa P

    These painted switch plate covers will look great on the beautiful blue walls! It’s against darker walls that those little white rectangles are so distracting.
    I’ve got pine walls in my summer cottage and cheap beige switch covers. Ive been trying to imagine how I could improve their look rather than replacing all of them with pine switch covers, which turn out to be quite expensive when you have to buy dozens of them! Pine-coloured paint strikes me too orangey. Wallpaper? Maybe modpodge some cute fabric that blends in with the pine walls? Or maybe bite the bullet and just spend the money on the wood ones. Hmmmm.

    Reply
  6. Jo Ann

    In our city it is a code violation to paint the actual plugs, covers are OK.
    Can’t wIt for the final reveal.

    Reply
    • Doug Harp

      You are exactly right. It is not a city code, but a national code. You can paint the covers but if paint gets on the outlet or switch, or the wires it must be removed

      Reply
  7. Ellen

    I was taught to always paint or wallpaper the plates to match the walls, but not the toggle. Your room is really shaping up! And yes please paint the air intake grids and any other weird stuff on the walls so that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb! The speakers have to be camouflaged in some way, so I will be curious to see what you do there. What I wish I knew how to fix is the blooming security control panels which the installer so carefully placed like an artistic focal point!!!

    Reply
    • Joelle

      If your alarm panel is wireless (the newer ones like SimpliSafe), you can put it anywhere!

      Reply
  8. Margaret

    When my bedroom was painted dark gray (I was working night shift, and wanted a cave) the friend who did the painting painted the switches, toggles, outlets–he had to go hit the breaker each time–and cold air return.
    The trim and a line of picture ledges are white, which looks very nice, but having all the bitty-piece-y stuff blend into the wall color made a huge difference in a small room.
    The smoke detector said DO NOT PAINT. We did not.

    Reply
  9. sandi m

    I’ve always painted the light plates, outlet plates and wall air vents to match the paint on its resident wall. I also remove the screws and paint them with a small brush after they’re reinstalled, otherwise the paint chips when using the screwdriver. My dining room has a 2 color stripe painted wall and and I even matched the stripe colors on both the light switch and thermostat back plate.
    I love the overall seamless look to minimize the white blotches. And it takes so little time to do.
    Great idea to color match the STIX.

    Everything is looking great!!!!

    Reply
  10. Addie

    Whenever I see painted over with switch plates I think: lazy. Never thought anyone would want it that way.
    Yes…when wallpapering…not paint.

    Reply
    • Joy in the Heartland

      I used to own investment properties. Some lazy landlords paint the covers while they are STILL on the wall and do a rush job, leaving runs and paint globs in their wake. THAT creates a tacky look and then the covers are hard to remove in the future. Miss Mustard Seed took the time to take the covers off and carefully paint them. I think they look great! I’ve always painted my a/c vent/returns the same paint as the wall color, using a near dry brush to avoid paint runs. Nobody wants to see that! 😉

      Reply
      • Linda

        That’s a definite NO, NO for me!!! Yes …it screams, I’m just slapping this paint on because I’m lazy. I’m too lazy to remove switch plates!😤😴🥴

        Reply
    • Peter Gomez

      This article struck a nerve of interest since I’ve been painting and remodeling, and one of the after effects for completeness are the wall outlets. I like your results, to repaint, and matching color. But I did the opposite and purchased either metal plates in bronze or some stucco coated mocha or tan blend, and the results were complimentary.
      Great topic!

      Reply
  11. Sandy

    It’s all coming together so nicely, including painting your plate/vent covers. Thanks for making your posts so enjoyable and fun!
    Bless you and your day.

    Reply
  12. Elizabeth Spradley

    I paint switch plates and the electrical sockets (with a small brush) if the paint is a darker hue. I ALWAYS cover with wallpaper if that’s the case. I even blended paint and used marble veining to cover the plates on y Carrara marble backsplash. Used a sealer and it’s still perfect 15 years later.

    Reply
  13. Jen

    I have painted the covers before, but also do you remember the covers that you could put a piece of wallpaper in? And then there was a clear plastic piece that acted as the cover over the wallpaper. I’ve done that before also!

    Reply
  14. Connie

    Really just wanted to say how much I love the antique books & your styling of the not-totally-yet-finished mantel! That & the Green Bay pennant on the wall & the chair/pillow below really show your vision for the space. I’ve never painted light switch covers, I always just replace the plastic ones with brass covers – they blend in with any color or style!

    Reply
  15. Gayle Stewart

    I’ve always painted or papered light switch covers and outlet covers. But not the “innards”! I’m currently working on painting all my floor vent covers to match my bamboo laminate floors. After 20 years they are looking much worse for the wear. Of course, so am I!

    Reply
  16. Mary

    When I had a deep green grass cloth in the dining room, I couldn’t cover the switch plates with that paper so I opted for brass because the plastic whit or tan looked so distracting.

    Reply
  17. Suzette

    My husband would never agree to paint the switch plates. It’s going to be interesting to see how they look with with the switch piece white.
    I know that you’ve work hard to make this room fit the gentleman look. Can’t wait to see it finished!!!
    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  18. Mary S

    I always paint my switch plates…. makes them blend in with the walls.

    Reply
  19. SueA

    I have all white switch plates and trim except for the wallpapered ones. And speaking of wallpaper, it’s a great joy to use the wallpaper as drawer liners too. A nice custom touch. Also to meticulously blend the pattern so there is no seam where the two “ends” meet at an inconspicuous corner. I love the gray and white style but the all blue is fabulous. It’s a great contrast. I have a library in the basement and that might be an excellent way to refresh that area.

    Reply
  20. Margot

    I almost always paint or wallpaper the switch plates and vent covers to match – but not the toggles. I’ve even faux painted switch plates to match my backsplash tile. It just looks so much better! The only thing I do differently from you is that I leave the screws in the switch half. I don’t lose them and they don’t stick to the plate that way.

    Reply
  21. MJ Suruda

    I’m a professional painter and designer. My pet peeve has been unpainted vents. There is absolutely no reason to leave them white, except for a lazy painter who’s very old fashioned. This also goes for switch plates and speaker covers. Stix is a great primer, almost magical. Use a low nap 3 inch roller for an even coat, no brush marks, fast. I don’t recommend leaving the screws in the outlet holes. The paint can crack when they separate and leave the white showing, just paint them separately. Really not so hard. This also opens up the world of plastic and resin that should also be primed and painted. The doorbell box, one thing that should never been left in its birthday suit. Whether it’s white or metallic, nobody needs to be distracted by it, Paint it the wall color.

    Most painters are technicians, not designers. They have habits that have nothing to do with aesthetics. They want to get in and out and paid. It could be a challenge to get one to do this, but I wouldn’t let them get away without doing it. Details make a difference.

    Reply
    • Susan

      I am a painter. I’m a technician AND a designer. Please don’t make the assumption that most painters are I only technicians. I can’t tell you how many near disasters I’ve talked a homeowner out of making with their paint choices. I am also never in a hurry to just get out and get paid. My utmost goal is for the homeowner to love their space

      Reply
  22. Christy Keyton

    This is so funny. We are renovating a 1957 ranch house right now. Today I had a conversation with my decorator and contractor about the switch plate covers and the outlet covers! We are going with wood sprayed to match the wall paint. In the master bath I am ordering egg and dart pattern covers to match the cabinet knobs.

    Reply
    • Susan

      Surprised no one had mentioned getting brass switch plates. They aren’t that expensive and the classy ones would fit in well with this space.

      Reply
  23. monique odman

    I have painted hundreds of light switches for clients, vent screens and all the very visible items that left unpainted stare you in the face. Some had to continue the pattern of the surrounding surfaces, being wood, marble, patterns of wallpaper and imitation of grass cloth, leather, Venitian plaster, you name it. I always lightly sanded the surface of these objects, the pirmer you mention is good. I apply 2 coats of paint. For the little screws, I stand their pointy ends into a block of Fimo so the screws do not have to be pinched between your fingers and paint won’t be under your finger nails. Some pieces were finished with a clear coat of water base varnish.

    Reply
  24. Sue P.

    We bought a magnetic vent cover with a decorative design cut into it from an Etsy Vendor (Medallion ReVent Cover – Decorative Vent Covers) and it looks great! We didn’t paint ours as the walls are a very light gray and the white looks nice against the light gray. However, these covers are paintable.

    Reply
  25. mary m

    I too am a fan of painted outlet covers but they can get grimy. I use a magic eraser
    on them and does not disturb the painted finish.

    Reply
  26. Mary

    Ha, who’s looking at switches? I’m eyeing that chandelier!!!

    Reply
  27. Melissa

    I’ve both papered and wallpapered outlet covers to blend into the walls. Back in the day I even sponge painted (cringe) to match my daughter’s bedroom walls.

    Reply
    • Courtney S.

      Stix is magical! Painting vents, outlet and switchplate covers is such an easy way to add polish to a painted room’s appearance. But one should NEVER paint the actual toggles and electrical receptacles. Apart from the obvious practical implications already mentioned in comments, clients (or your own household) find it frustrating when they can’t readily FIND where to turn on the lights or plug in their appliances. There is such a thing as too much camouflage! 😉

      Reply
  28. jenw

    It might not be the juicy part, but I really appreciate this post! It’s these types of finishing projects that are “boring” that can really elevate or pull your design down…and no one talks about them because they’re boring! I appreciate you addressing the topic and showing pics clearly showing how you address switches and plugs in your room.

    Reply
  29. Carol

    Rather than painting the light switches themselves, we simply changed the ivory colored original switches with gray or brown ones depending on which best matched the dark paint color we using.

    And YES– I’ve always painted the switch plates!

    Reply
  30. Eileen

    We had hand painted plates in my home growing up. Beautiful landscapes done by my aunt. My 17 yo loves drawing and painting and she’s painted her plates with beach scenes.
    Your beautiful art would look awesome!

    Reply

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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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