Selecting the perfect paint color for a home is a challenging task. Homeowners can work with tiny paint chips, or they can splash sample colors onto their walls.
Neither approach produced satisfactory results for Julie Boney, a stay-at-home-mom and DIY enthusiast from Nashville, Tenn.
"I started playing around with ideas in my basement," says Boney. "I finally came up with the Small Wall."
The Small Wall is a lightweight, adhesive-backed panel made of a closed-cell material that Boney invented. It comes in two sizes, 12-by-12-inches and 16-by-24-inches. Custom sizes are also available.
It requires no primer or other surface treatments, Boney explains. "You simply paint your sample color onto the panel, peel off the adhesive strip and position it on the wall."
Thanks to the no-mark adhesive backing, the panel can be moved and repositioned, allowing the color to be viewed in a variety of locations and lighting conditions.
Her slogan: "Paint it, peel it, preview it."
The ability to see color in different light is critical to choosing the right paint color and finish, says interior designer Kevin Sharkey. On a recent episode of "The Martha Stewart Show," he painted vertical stripes of color on multiple walls to allow viewers to see the colors in different lights.
But when Boney started painting bands of color on the walls of her family's home, her husband was not impressed.
"He said I was ruining the walls. He told me to go buy some drywall and paint that," she says. "But I told him drywall has a different finish from our walls, it's difficult to dispose of, and it's heavy.
"I asked him: 'Will you hold it up and move it around the room for me?'"
She tried poster board, foam board, cardboard and styrene, but all absorbed the paint differently, subtly altering the colors. The posterboard also curled up, the styrene surface was too slick, and all four materials had to be held in place by a second person so Boney could view the effect.
"We've moved a lot," says Boney. "Since my husband and I were married, we've never lived in a home longer than four years. We've moved from New York to L.A. to Chicago to Nashville. And every time we moved into a new house, I'd paint it."
Each time, she would try to describe to the hardware-store staff what she needed: a fairly large, portable, self-adhesive board on which sample paint colors would remain true. Their best suggestion was always the same: "Lady, try drywall."
After a lot of trial and error, Boney found what she was looking for -- a light, stiff board with a closed-cell surface.
"The color sits on top of the surface, so it looks the same on the board as it will on your walls," she says.
Small Walls also are ideal for practicing faux-finish techniques before attempting them on walls, where mistakes are hard to correct, she says.
Once Boney was able to find no-mark adhesive strips for her boards, she started marketing her invention. ACE hardware and Sherwin-Williams now carry the smaller-size Small Walls, which sell in a two-pack for $7.99. The larger-size panels are sold in bulk to commercial painters and designers through her website, mysmallwall.com.
She named her company Knicava, for her son Nick, 14, and daughter, Ava, 11.
"All the time I was experimenting, I knew I couldn't fail because my kids were watching," she says. "They learned lessons in perseverance from my efforts. That's my pay."
Decorators and paint contractors love the panels because they can get them painted then mail them to clients, she says.
"I love them because finally I can paint walls without destroying my marriage."