Decorative painting techniques add texture, warmth and flair
March 26, 2018
The 1980s introduced plenty of trends to the decorating world. But while chintz and track lighting have nearly disappeared from sight, faux painting was just beginning its steady rise. Back then, wallpaper was considered outdated and old-fashioned, and decorators and homeowners were keen to embrace the idea of using paint to replicate the look of another material, such as stone, leather, marble, wood, brick, or granite.
Glazing prevailed back in those early days of faux. It provided an illusion of depth and texture, and it lent warmth to rooms, much like wallpaper previously had. Many people—professionals and amateurs—applied glaze with sponges, which resulted in a variety of effects. Some ended up looking sophisticated. Others, not so much.
Since then, faux painting has evolved, as professionals honed their skills and started exploring products and techniques from around the world. The result is a rich library of refined finishes from which to choose, for aesthetics that range from ultra-modern to cabin rustic.
Starting in the early 2000s, Venetian plaster emerged as a favored faux technique in the U.S. It wasn't a new concept: Venetian plastering dates back to Roman times, coming into its own during the Italian Renaissance, when artists and architects embellished palazzos and churches with polished plasters. A mixture of marble dust and lime putty produces the plaster, which experts trowel on walls—and in some cases, countertops and floors. Professionals often use true lime plaster, which can create matte, satin, glossy, or mirror-like finishes, and whose depth of color guarantees incredible richness.
Today, Venetian plaster techniques contribute to the contemporary interior design trends so popular in Park City. To create mountain contemporary styles, local designers mix warm and cool tones. They also add natural elements and inspired textures to marry the sleekness of contemporary architecture with the warmth of nature.
Texture, the main component of successful interior design, is another reason to go faux. Stock wallpaper can create dimension but comes with negatives: color choice, price point, visible seams. An alternative is a subtle natural wall finish such as American Clay. The sustainable and environmentally friendly clay and plaster mix provide a healthy alternative to paint. It has the lowest carbon footprint of any interior wall finish, and it's made in the USA.
After the client chooses a color, the artist mixes up the plaster. The base is prepared with a sanded primer to add tooth to the wall. The artist trowels the plaster on in two coats, in random sweeps or a linear pattern. The final layer consists of a compress to bond everything together and creates a matte or polished result.
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Metallics and Mica
Designers love introducing surface interest to interiors, and collaborating with faux artists is a sophisticated solution. One way to make a space pop is by applying metallic paints and plasters; faux artists adjust the metallic-to-matte blend to achieve just the right amount of bling.
Another option involves using natural materials on accent walls. For example, a faux artist might use actual mica pieces from Madagascar, placed on the wall for a one-of-a-kind finish.
Bas-relief and Beyond
Bas-relief is another decorative application. This three-dimensional art involves building up layers of plaster and meticulously sculpting the material to form a scene. Artists can create bas-reliefs directly on the wall to bring outdoor scenes into your home—aspens, firs, and mountains are natural Park City themes.
Like bas-relief, murals and hand-painted elements are another way to personalize a space. Using ombré shading to replicate a summer sky, for example, can add unexpected charm to a dining room wall. It's the sort of one-of-a-kind feature that gives a space fresh, fun impact.