Paint by Numbers Is a Throwback Trend to Try

Collect them, or make your own. One local designer says, 'they’re so tacky, they're fun.'


Photo provided by Kristina Crestin

With adult coloring books topping bestseller lists, one similar vintage design trend is poised for a reappearance. Originally marketed in 1950, paint by numbers add whimsy and a touch of nostalgia to any space. Recently, designer Kristina Crestin showed off her new bathroom gallery wall, an inspired collection of paint by numbers backed by muted green. “I love the kitsch of it,” says Crestin.

Crestin started her collection at a flea market one Sunday. “I walked by a pair of flamingo paint by numbers and almost dismissed them, then I stopped, took a few steps back, and thought: Maybe they’re so tacky they’re fun?” She snapped up the pair and was inspired to start collecting for her bathroom renovation. “That was a few years ago, and I’ve been scouring flea markets trying to find paint by numbers ever since,” says Crestin.

The finished result is the highlight of her small bathroom space, a personal conversation piece with the statement-making power of a bold wallpaper. 

If you’re inspired, buy vintage or paint your own, and follow these tips:

Come up with a theme. Or stick to a color palette, says Crestin, who stuck to birds and landscapes in her collection, and who’s seen themes around boating or coastal landscapes work beautifully.

Build the collection over time. If you don’t happen upon them at your local flea market, Crestin says that EBay and Etsy are the best bet. 

The frame can make all the difference. With her collection, Crestin hoped to keep the vintage vibe, but wanted to get rid of the dated red oak framing. She painted the original frames charcoal gray for a modern, consistent look.

Hang pieces together. Scatter these pieces around your home, and they may look like garage sale leftovers. Together, however, they make a statement. “The idea of go big, or go home became really fun for me,” says Crestin. “The thrill of the hunt was an integral piece, too. I remember where I got each one and the story that goes with it.”