Monday, March 7, 2011

Anatomy of a Wall

A shimmery, crystally, classically-modern Master Bedroom Accent Wall
(Private Residence, Brooklyn, NY)

All hand-painted walls with subtle depth and rich finishes require many, many layers of work to achieve.  The artist has to actually create a "formula" to achieve these results.  The invention process takes place off-site, in a studio, on sample boards.  I'm not sure how everyone else works, but for me, this is the most special part of the process.  I love playing around with different products, mixing up colors and experimenting with new things.  The most important part of this process is keeping good records (or "recipes," as I call them).  You have to be able to reproduce your creations!

Here's a glimpse of a work in progress in the studio.  I have kept
test cards, recipes and records of every color, every finish and
every project ever accomplished in my 14 years of painting!

Before I get to the design studio, the genesis of all new projects really begins with a Consultation.  This is a no-charge, initial meeting where I travel to a client's home, view the space to be painted and discuss ideas and designs.  Measurements are taken, samples and photos are shown, colors are debated and a preliminary budget is discussed.  This is, in essence, a "first date" of sorts.

I have a pretty good sixth sense at these meetings.  I seem to have the ability to pick up on a client's creative vibe.  Sometimes, I intuitively know what they would like and then attempt to translate that into what would work in the space.  Sometimes, it's not that easy.  I have to ask lots of questions and dig a little to get those answers.  Once in awhile, I show photos of previous work or tear-sheets from magazines... and as soon as I see a client's eyes light up, bingo!  There's a clue.  Other times, I get lucky, the walls just speak to me and I "see" something in my mind's eye.  Mostly, I just absorb what is already in the space that inspires me... and then I take that to the next level: selecting colors and patterns that will enhance the prettiest things already in the room.

There was a little bit of everything happening on this consultation, for a Master Bed Room.  The clients were a fun and friendly couple with three young children.  They were extremely good communicators, very receptive to different ideas, willing to take a design risk and supportive and understanding about the creative process.  I kept envisioning a "boutique hotel look" for them, and imagined a luxe, tranquil space for them to sink into at the end of a long day.  They commissioned me to make them a few samples based upon a few ideas discussed, and loved what I presented to them a few weeks later.

I was really attracted to the smoky mirrors and silvery accents already existing in the Master Bedroom.  Silver, glass and mirror always lend such understated elegance to a space.  They suggest a little romance, a hint of mystery and a sexy, old Hollywood vibe.

This gorgeous piece in the room inspired me with it's
shimmery silver-leaf and classic, geometric lines.
I also really liked this smoky, oversized mirror with beaded trim
The other accent pieces were of mirrored finish and all of the
artwork was framed in a silvery-hue.
To compliment all of the existing elements in the space, I specified a sophisticated indigo for the room.  The perfect cool hue to ground the light and sparkle of the rest.  The headboard wall would be the wall for my special hand-painted creation.

I started out on a pale grey, flat painted "canvas" that was prepared for me by another painter.  My first step was painting the wall metallic silver.

Always apply a metallic over a base of paint in similar color.
It will give a richer over-all hue to the finished product.
In this case I used a base of flat grey for a silver top coat.
Next up was a troweled-on layer of ShimmerStone tinted silver.
ShimmerStone is just like Venetian Plaster, except it has a
"pearlized" finish as opposed to a "glossy shine."
I love working with it!
Note: This is what it looks like while it's "setting up."
I know, scary right?
And you thought airplane pilots had nerves of steel?
Next up was a custom sized stencil from Wallovers.  The entire wall needed
to be stenciled with flat white paint as a "backing" for the glassbead gel
that I would be applying. The glass bead product dries to a clear and
would get totally lost on the wall if I didn't back it with something.  
So, here is the wall, now completely stencilled in white and ready
for the lovely glass bead gel application.  As I was working, the
wife just happened to mention that her hubby has OCD.
I could tell he was kind of a perfectionist, but... seriously?
Um, Great! Thanks for mentioning that!
Better knowing late than never!  That level never left my side.
....and.... I called in the Reserves...
Here's my clean-freak, slightly neurotic (in a good way) friend,
dear Robin. I hired her to clean up after me and keep the stencils
SPOTLESS, thereby insuring the crispest lines on the wall.
Fighting fire with fire!
I applied the final layer, Golden's Glass Bead Gel, with a rubber
spatula. It was pretty simple, like icing a cake, but a little tedious
because it added weight to the stencil and required scraping of
the excess and cleaning the stencil after every pass. Oy.
So here is the wall half-way stenciled with glass bead gel.
You have to wait until one area dries to the touch before
stenciling the area next to it, as the stencil must overlap
the previous area to form a continuous pattern.
The gel goes on white but will dry clear.
So there you have it.  The wall is really beautiful and looks different
from every angle of the room, depending on how light hits it.
Silver, pearl and glass beads all reflect and glow differently!
Here's another view...
Note: the white spots is where the glass bead gel is still setting up

Here is a detail close-up of the glass beaded stencil pattern
And one more shot of how the wall works in the space...
The clients were ecstatic over the finished product... and Mr. OCD was relieved that he could now sleep in the room.  Mission accomplished.  Beauty, custom art and... comfort to those afflicted with anxiety disorders.  Can I now add this special skill to my promotional materials?!



    I want to paint stripes on to two of bedroom walls. The existing color is oyster and I am thinking of a just a shade darker with a little accent of linen so it is not bold. I also want to fully drape the wall with the window and exit door to the deck in a a little deeper hue.
    What does the expert say?

  2. How about horizontal (yes, HORIZONTAL) 8" tone on tone (really subtle) stripes?! Totally South Beach. So you.

  3. Having done allover stencilling and used glass bead gel (not at the same time) I just want to say that you have huge amounts of courage, or a lot of time on your hands or they paid you a lot. Great job, it's fantastic.

  4. Haha... Hi Karen... I love that your comment was posted at 11:11. I'll have to go with "courage" being the motivating factor on this one. Or temporary insanity. (They're pretty much the same thing, aren't they?)

  5. Wow what a lot of work but the end results.... Amazing!

  6. Wow, this is amazing. Magazine quality!

  7. Thanks so much, Ladies! Your kind words of support and praise make the hard work worth it. Every. Single. Time. :)

  8. You definitely have a talent for this. Not just the art, but in your ability to instinctively read your clients and make the best/correct recommendations based on said instinct. I can see that while a person can be a wonderful artist/designer, if the work doesn't resonate with the client, the project will ultimately fail. The challenge, I presume, is in getting the client out of their existing comfort zones and opening them up to funky/interesting styles they never imagined they would like or want to live with.

  9. what a great project -- I love the shimmer and shape of the design. Looking forward to more of your posts on decorative painting. best, TAmara

  10. Hi Matt... wow, you really hit the nail on the head. I can't believe you "got it" after reading only one post? You are brilliant! I hope to Divine something for you one day. Did I mention I will work for food? Damn, those are some amazing photos being posted on FB! Hi Tamara... so lovely meeting you yesterday. I LOVE your home. So excited to add my hand-painted touches to your Master Bed Room. And (dare I admit it) I am already dreaming about future collaborations out in the Hamptons...

  11. Oh. my. goodness! Beautiful! You are so talented. (Visiting from today's SITS roll call!)

  12. We'll make this deal: my wife and I plan to make the crazy jump of moving to Florence, Italy in 3 years or so to open a bistro. If we (as we hope) stumble upon an older property on the hills outside of town begging for a return to past glory, I will give you a call. : )

  13. *GASP*.... THUD... SWOOSH... (that was me hitting the ground running... looking for my suitcase and grabbing my passport!)