Using Magnetic Paint To Make A New Home For Our 3D Wallflowers

I never pictured myself painting a wall in our house black, let alone doing it at 5am. But that’s what I found myself doing two weeks ago. Allow me to explain.

When our postcard wall moved into place last week, it meant our much loved wallflowers above the desk had to be relocated…

… well, some stayed in place when we decided we liked leaning a few on the shelves of our postcard wall– but the rest needed a new home.

Well, they didn’t go far. We decided to move them just one wall over to the small space under the office/guest room/playroom’s one and only big window.

Why? That’s probably best explained by answering the “how” first. Instead of relying on the special nails that came with our magnetic wallflower kit- which firmly affix the arrangement in one spot thanks to the magnet-backed flowers which stick to the magnetized nail heads- we decided to try something new: magnetic paint (note: some of the new wallflower kits snap instead of being magnetized). We thought magnetic paint would be just the thing for this project since we’d been dying to try it for years and were just waiting for the right project. We often wondered if the rumors were true- did it really work? We were about to find out.

See, by creating a large magnetic canvas we could design a spot where the wallflowers could be displayed, but instead of being limited to the fixed spots where we placed the magnetic pins in the wall, this time the wallflowers (along with any other magnets) could easily be moved around into an infinite number of fun formations, adding a nice element of “play” to our office/guest room/playroom- especially once Clara becomes mobile enough to move them around. And they’re definitely at a kid-friendly height!

Luckily the magnetic paint rumors were true. Well, mostly – it’s actually magnetic primer. We found this $21 quart of Rust-oleum Magnetic Latex Primer at Home Depot (next to things like chalkboard paint, dry erase paint, and glow-in-the-dark paint). Update: Here’s an affiliate link to it over on Amazon if you can’t find it in stores. 

Oh and before heading home we noticed the instructions actually suggested having it shaken by the store’s paint department to help keep the iron particles from settling on the bottom – so don’t forget to shake yours like crazy! The instructions also suggested two or three thin coats to achieve the best results as opposed to one or two thick and gloppy ones. Good to know.

Well… we did seven.

And we made sure they were all extremely thin so there wasn’t any bump or delineation where the magnetic paint started or ended. Maybe four extra applications were overkill, but we were determined to make this stuff work. Plus I realized only after coat number two or three that I was supposed to be vigorously stirring between each application. Oops. But since the coats dried really fast it only took me an evening, a morning, and one random 5am painting session to apply all seven (Clara had woken us up for a surprise feeding- she usually sleeps from around 10pm to 9am!- so I figured I’d be productive while Sherry sleepily nursed her). And ultimately… drumroll please… it worked. Woo hoo!

Well, it mostly worked. After each coat I tested variously sized wallflowers to see if they would stay up. The smallest sizes stuck almost immediately but despite my persistence I never could get the larger ones to stay in one spot (they’d just slide down the wall, hit the baseboard, and fall off). So we’d say that magnetic primer works, but not with anything terribly heavy. Now you know why some ended up on the postcard shelves. Oh well – happy accident.

But in the good news category, despite the fact that we had just painted a huge black spot on our wall – it barely took two coats to cover it up completely with the original wall color (Glidden’s Sand White). Phew. Heart attack averted. And it didn’t seem to lose any of the magnetic attraction when covered with other non-magnetic paint. It’s also 100% non-toxic and kid-safe when dry (obviously it’s not safe for a kid to drink it in liquid form). We did keep Clara out of the room with the windows open and a fan on for the full drying period (and about three days after that since we happened to be out of town for the weekend anyway) just to be safe.

Even though we couldn’t get all of the wallflowers to stick, we’re actually really happy with how it turned out. And we can’t wait to find some other fun magnets to put up there so Clara can play with them when she’s a bit older. Speaking of which – does anyone know where we could find an all-white set of those alphabet magnets? We googled around for a while with no luck- and we think they would be a fun and educational addition to the little slices of “playroom” that we’re trying to squeeze into this small space for our favorite little girl.

Has anyone else tried magnetic primer? Or any of those other wacky chalkboard/dry erase/glow-in-the-dark paints? We’d love to know what you guys thought about using those newfangled products. Did they work? Were they messy or hard to apply? Spill the beans.

Psst- Wanna follow the entire office/guest bedroom/playroom makeover? Click here for the intro post, here to read about the big sleeper sofa hunt, here for the DIY desk play-by-play, here for the homemade light fixture project, here for our hacked Ikea bookcase, here for the file storage we built, here for how we squeezed in some toy storage, here for how we picked out some DIY art that we could agree on, here for how we wrangled our wires, and here for the play-by-play of creating our postcard art wall.


  1. keri says

    magnet letters are an obsession at our lake house…don’t ask me why, but “kids” 18-25 get more excited about them than the 2-5 year olds that come to visit.
    Target’s $1 spot had the (of course, primary colored) letters and numbers – I picked them up about 2 weeks ago. Nothing a little paint can’t cure?

  2. Shaunda Harris says

    It looks great but I’m still stuck on how you got Clara to sleep through the night!?! What’s the secret? I just found out I’m pregnant with my second and I’d love to know how to get a breast fed baby to sleep through the night.

    • says

      Hey Shaunda,

      We really think that every baby is different! All throughout my pregnancy Clara was super active during the day and virtually undetectable at night (she slept when I slept- no 3am kicks like my friends mentioned) so I think she’s always just been a sleep-at-night baby. Even in the nursery at the hospital the nurses had to wake her up at feeding time and they’d bring her to me all groggy (she often tried to sleep through those feedings and I struggled to tickle her and keep her awake). Our only advice, other than just seeing what kind of baby you end up with and embracing that, would be differentiating night sleep and daytime naps (ex: make sure the room is extremely dark overnight, play a sound machine for the baby, create a bedtime routine to wind the baby down the same way every day). Doing these things quickly had Clara going longer and longer stretches even though she’s breastfed (she does feed extremely frequently at night before we put her to bed – like nearly every hour from 7-10). Hope it helps!


  3. Meredith Leigh says

    Funny story; my sister has TERRIBLE vision (she’s had glasses since age 2) and remembers “learning” the letters but not being able to actually distinguish them, only the blobs of color (e.g. “A” is red, “B” is orange, etc.). To this day she can tell you which letters are which colors in the standard alphabet magnets. Not that Clara won’t be able to learn from the white ones. :)

  4. Kari says

    As cool as all white alphabet magnets would look (they’d be awesome), you might think about colored ones not just because they are more stimulating, but because colored ones may help your daughter learn them better–distinguishing one from the other, organizing them by colors, creating patterns (red, blue, green, etc.). I’m really not one to jump on your parenting style (after having 3 of my own, I’m totally understanding that different families, and even different kids in each family, need different things), but from an educator point of view, it’s something to consider.

    Nevertheless, love, love, love the idea of a magnet board right at kid-height in a regular room!

    • says

      Thanks for the tip, Kari. We’ve actually thought about that but we plan to teach her colors in another way by bringing in flash cards and colorful childrens blocks. Stay tuned for those details sometime soon!


  5. Lauren says

    You could definitely make letters yourself! Maybe you could paint them to coordinate with some of the other colors you’re using in the room? That way it go with the room and still provides some stimulation for little Clara. You could also make a magnet in the shape of Burger!! :-)

  6. Bryanna S says

    I think blue and green and white letters would be a LOT more fun for a little one than just white :D Of course, right now is the time to play with stark contrast of black and white. My kiddo was absolutely enthralled with bathroom door signs bahah

    • says

      Thanks for all the DIY-ideas for white magnetic letters! We figured we could make something ourselves if we couldn’t find ‘em, we’d just have to be sure to use kid-safe things (no toxic spray paint, etc). We do love a challenge though!


  7. Jamie says

    Why not get some chipboard letters from the scrapbook section and glue a magnet to the back? That way you can have pretty and colorful letters to match your room?



    • says

      Thanks for all the DIY-ideas for white magnetic letters! We figured we could make something ourselves if we couldn’t find ‘em, we’d just have to be sure to use kid-safe things (no toxic spray paint, etc). We do love a challenge though!


  8. Tiffini S. says

    Along the same line: I have an awesome ceiling o’ stars trick, from my teenage years, no less.

    I bought some of those large, plastic, glow-in-the-dark stars as a way to personalize my room. My Mom said “NO WAY” when I asked to paint the ceiling black, so I had to improvise. Plus the stars kept falling off the ceiling when I’d tacked them up there with the sticky stuff that came with them.

    I bought a huge amount of black tulle. I hot glued the stars to the tulle (process: Lay out the stars upside down on your driveway (or other large, clear surface), lay the tulle over the stars, put a dab of hot glue on the tulle over the star then smoosh it around, when the glue cools, it should be pretty solid). Then I used cup hooks in my ceiling to hang the ‘sky’ in a billowy mass over my bed.

    That was, erm, a while back, and I recently found my ‘sky’ in a box and hung it in my sons room. Only a few stars had gone missing over the, erm, while since my high school days (oh, OK, my 20 year reunion is next month) so I just replaced them with a little more hot glue. The stars even still glow for about 20 minutes after you shut off the lights. He even has a ceiling fan in his room, so we just hung the sky off to one side and down a wall.

    Last week, my sons daycare had a camp out with s’mores and all, so I took the whole ‘sky’ down and let them use it for the day. It was a huge hit and several of the Moms asked me how to make it.

  9. says

    This is such a fabulous idea. I am definitely going to try it at some point in my house days. My roommate is the student body president at our college and she is planning on using chalkboard paint in her office! She figured it would allow for easy communication among her staff. I want her to bring some home!

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