Looking Up: Griffith Observatory Murals

Looking Up: Griffith Observatory Murals

20130317_144158Heaven may be right there on the ceiling…or a bit of it, anyway!

A trip into LA’s  Griffith Park, with the express intent of seeing the Hugo Ballin Murals in the W. M. Keck Foundation Central Rotunda  of the amazing Griffith Observatory  yields immediate results.  If you would like to do this yourself…here are the instructions:

Walk into the W. M. Keck Foundation Central Rotunda  of the  Griffith Observatory, stand still, and look up.  This is what you will see…

20130317_142353Turn your head slightly, and you will see a whole new view, and details that may have escaped your initial glance!

20130317_142411No delayed gratification here!

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“On the vaulted ceiling and upper walls of the W. M. Keck Foundation Central Rotunda are Griffith Observatory’s greatest artistic treasure: the Hugo Ballin Murals. Workers have carefully and completely restored the murals so that they appear as they did when first painted by muralist, film producer, and author Hugo Ballin (1879-1956) in 1934-35.

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Medieval cathedrals told stories in stone. The Ballin ceiling mural celebrates classical celestial mythology, with images of Atlas, the four winds, the planets as gods, and the twelve constellations of the zodiac. The eight rectangular Ballin wall murals depict the “Advancement of Science” with panels on astronomy, aeronautics, navigation, civil engineering, metallurgy and electricity, time, geology and biology, and mathematics and physics.

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In addition to Griffith Observatory, Hugo Ballin’s murals also appear throughout Los Angeles in such noted buildings as the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, the Los Angeles Times Building, and Los Angeles City Hall Council Chambers.” —http://www.griffithobservatory.org/exhibits/brotunda.html

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The joy is in the soft range of hues used, and the details, which combine to create a harmonious, yet thrilling whole, and complete the narrative.

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The nearby fluidly shaped recessed ceiling is also highly ornamental, treated to what looks to be meticulously applied painted texture, or “paint effects“, a magnificent central floral/sunburst style image,

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bands of architectural details gracing its curves, gold surfaced “dentils” , and repeated lines and shapes which, in concert with the color palette, tie it all together.

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If all things Griffith fascinate you,  may enjoy seeing this video on the Park, the Observatory, the Murals, and the man who started it all, Griffith J. Griffith.

Enjoy the view!

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Color: A Balancing Act 2

Color: A Balancing Act 2

What is the “emotional loading of a space”?

Says Helen Gurura,  an internationally accredited colour design consultant,  and executive vice-president of the International Association of Color Consultants (IACC). “Feelings can be evoked through colour at even an unconscious level and this gives rise to the term “colour emotion”, defined as “an associated feeling or emotion induced in the brain during the colour perception process”. In architectural psychology terminology this is called “the emotional loading of a space”.  Achieving balance in colour design clearly remains a challenge though.”

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In last week’s post, we looked at a variety of exterior architectural color schemes through the lens of visual “unity” and “complexity”, exploring what creates both over and under-stimulation,  and ways of creating balance between these extremes.  The goal is to  avoid both extreme unity/monotony/sensory deprivation which results in under-stimulation, and extreme complexity/variety which can over-stimulate the senses.  As Ms. Gurura states, “The balance between unity and complexity is the first and most important rule in the design of user-supportive architectural environments.”

Essentially, we expect, and I extrapolate from  this want and need  our senses to be moderately stimulated at all times.  I must assume that  dreaming accomplishes this when sleeping…even when mediating, we are often instructed to concentrate on the breath, a sensory experience.

The built environment is a place where we may posit our dreams, our imaginations, even our breath.  When we have been “doing battle”, even if that means fighting the good fight, out there in the world, we may need our homes to return to, relax, recharge, regroup  and  catch our breath in.

Let’s relax now, take a deep breath, and enjoy looking at some interiors that were designed through placement of color, pattern, texture, and more, to not only meet the functional needs and wants of those who live and breath there, but also to express their innermost hopes, dreams, wishes and desires…and perhaps even fantasies about themselves and their lives.

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The owner of a charming home in  Berkeley, Ca, wanted to transform his son’s old bedroom into a guest room, that his fiance would claim as her own special space in the house. His love of strong color, bold artwork, rich, layered patterns and textures  is mitigated to accommodate  her taste for beige by the choice of a neutral wall color and creamy trim.

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The wall color is taken to the bookcases, which frame not only scores of colorful books, but also his son’s powerful painting. By keeping the bookcases “color neutral”, what is contained within and between them is kept front and center, and the multitude of colors and patterns do not overwhelm.

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Warmth, richness, depth,and elegance reign in this master bedroom, where the deep earthy golden-brown-with hints of persimmon wall color compliments the multi-hued wood floor, the heavy dark wood furniture, and fresh white trim.  The trim is needed to relieve the strength of the other colors, and because the room is spacious, filled with strong lines and architectural details, and  large pieces.

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Although this room doesn’t have the plethora of  color, pattern and texture in its details like the Berkeley guest room above, the complexity of its space, containing recesses, alcoves and a window seat, the variance in the texture and light reflectance of its surfaces, and the expanse of textiles on bed and chair, give it just as much visual variety and interest. The room is beautifully balanced and filled with light, comfort and calm, with enough accent to engage the senses.

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Here again pale “neutral” (read, “beige” ) walls and tile, and white ceiling contain,  frame and unify strong color and bursts of pattern,  just as the streamlined silver frames contain but do not restrain the beautiful, bright  watercolor paintings created by the owners’ children. The effect of the paintings and blue-patterned vase is amplified by their reflection in the mirror, which adds a sense of space to a smaller room. The varying colors and patterns are also on different planes: the paintings on the wall parallel to our line of sight, the counter top perpendicular to it,  the vase parallel, but below the paintings, creating a layered effect, adding complexity and variety to the space.

spear_bspear_cThe serenity of this bedroom is achieved not only with soothing neutrals on wall and ceiling, but carrying that over into large swathes of textiles such as the bedspread, pillows and throw. Layers of texture and intricacy are created  through the “distressed” mirror frame which adds a painted and reflected scene to the visual mix, and intricately detailed and tasseled window treatment which adds sheen, pattern, and a whole other level of visual interest, as well as framing the window.  Who couldn’t relax in this room?  R & R is exactly what it is for…and as unbroken as possible. As opposed to…

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the “boudoir”, in the same unit!  This room will keep you awake, though it does share the element of faux fur pillows with the bedroom. Needless to say, the owners are style Franophiles, at least with this space, which is a second dwelling for them, an urban “get-away” from their home in Napa County, CA. In this alcove, they had big  fun “papering’ the walls with a  fabulous, French-feeling fabric, placing a gold “sunburst” above the divan ( covered in the same pattern), and “peppering” it with black fur pillows.  Isn’t it wonderful to have a room where you can just go wild with the design and decor? Shouldn’t we all have that?  This room is just a little jewel box of color and pattern, and we found exactly the right paint color for the ceiling, to pull out the rich cream hue  in the fabric, and soften the pinky-red surrounding it.  Because the fabric is so all-encompassing, the walls, curtain, divan and pillows covered in it merge into one, and the complexity and visual variety is contained in that one pattern. The room is small, the room is warm, the room is happy, and the room sings…a totally different song then the bedroom,  and  another example of “securing unity in the midst of variety….”, and achieving balance, as Helen Gurura would say!

Color: A Balancing Act

Color: A Balancing Act

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We have all had the experience of sensory overload..as well as sensory deprivation.  We may experience overload when entering an environment filled with loud sounds, bright colors, an array of patterns,  and a variety of textures…to say nothing of what we may be sniffing, tasting or touching there.

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We may experience sense of deprivation when a space is too quiet, neutral, bland, uninteresting, and feels just plain boring.  We know something is “wrong”, but we may not be able to put our finger on it, literally speaking, especially if there is a dearth of textures, colors, patterns, and other visual stimuli.

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Although our tolerance for visual complexity and variety, as well as unity and coherency varies from person to person, we do expect, and maybe even need, our senses to be stimulated to some extent at all times. Perhaps we are experiencing this through dreams while we are sleeping!

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Not surprisingly, even our health and physical well-being can be affected by exposure to over or under-stimulation. Extreme unity, or monotony, can result in restlessness, irritation, a lowered ability to concentrate, wandering attention, and an overly strong emotional response.  Extreme complexity/variety can result in higher blood pressure, pulse rate, and muscle tension.  Not a good thing, as we can probably all agree.

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Knowing this, our job as color consultants/designers becomes charged with even greater purpose and meaning…how to create environments of balance (which doesn’t mean symmetry or the sum of equal parts, which might become monotonous), which support both our physical and our emotional well-being, as well as the function of the spaces themselves, and even our life’s purpose!

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Before we get either too lofty, or too weighty about all this, lets look at some color designs and palettes that achieve balance in a variety of different ways. I hope to continue to investigate, explore and disseminate the subject of color balance in further posts. Have fun!

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A nearly monochrome palette relieved by creamy white trim can be stately and restful, especially when enlivened by a multitude of decorative detail.

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Even a deep, rich, dominating hue such as a  burgundy purple can be set off by accents of an even deeper value. The dramatic shift to white in the trim frames a building that the owner wanted to simplify and streamline, while still acknowledging  its details.

B4A slight amplification in field color from the original,

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 makes this building more satisfying to look at, as it is more “complex”(contains more color) . The addition of a dark accent color on the window sashes, and a more intense door color add variety, which also increases complexity, and protects against visual monotony.

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The temptation to “go color crazy” on this magnificent Queen Anne Victorian could have created so much complexity, that our attention may have been distracted from actually seeing and enjoying its beautiful period details, such as the shift in shingle pattern, decorative insets, and dentils.

clay_cInstead, by limiting the colors to a set of resonant neutrals (field color, field color 200% formula and off white trim color), and adding accents in earthy hues of complimentary sage green and brick-red with just a touch of gold leaf,

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we are not so overstimulated by too much variety, and can actually take in and enjoy the details, colors and shapes that integrate to create a unified whole.

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The complex but neutral beige body color, and white trim are punctuated by a rich red service door, a singular detail on this building, which has very little embellishment, or even trim.

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As the owner wanted to reduce the possibility of visual complexity, subtle interest is brought in by the use of a slightly darker and more intense foundation color, which grounds and visually supports the structure. Thus both over and under-stimulation are avoided, and we experience enough visual simulation to provide a pleasing experience physically and emotionally.

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The size, style,, “stateliness” and foliage around a structure can influence color design choices, as well as how much its body is broken up  by its trim. Here the deep blue-green color of the house body is significantly relieved by the crisp white trim and garage door, as well as bright green foliage, which becomes a color accent or counterpoint to the dominating blue and white. As the building reads  tall and thin, our eye is drawn upward to the sky, which completes the picture. Not seen here is the warm brown accent color used on the planters in both the entry way and back patio, which provide  contrast to the blue and green, and complete the triad of blue, green and brown “nature’ colors.

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A unified palette can make a building stand out…even if it doesn’t contain an extreme shift in accent color. Our richly hued “old  burgundy” beauty commands the street view here.  All  the more regal for being contained and restrained in color variety, the palette is retrained yet fun, making a statement without overwhelming our senses. The building itself serves as an accent for a block dominated by pale, nondescript and rather unimaginative hues.  Maybe, stimulated, but not overstimulated by our royal example, the neighbors will be inspired to follow suite and add more local color!

If You are feeling either over, or under-stimulated in your environment, try experimenting with adding or subtracting color, pattern, texture,  changing the value (light to dark), or intensity/saturation (brightness) of the colors, changing your accent color to the compliment of the dominant color in the space, or if there is no dominant color, creating one.

You may just find yourself feeling better on all fronts!

Until next time…wishing you balance, variation, complexity, unity and coherence in your Life!

Standing Our Color Ground IV

Standing Our Color Ground IV

Having completed a rather large and multifaceted color consultation for a set of two buildings anchoring opposite corners of a block in the “The Valley”, I decided to disseminate the experience, and its results through a series of blog posts.

I am completing the process with this post..which highlights some of my favorite details, architectural and otherwise, of  two buildings, one on either end of a median-sized block in Canoga Park, a district in the San Fernando Valley, about 25 miles northwest of Downtown LA.

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Doors….the cool elegance of a front door, web4

verses the brighter warmth of unit doors.

web3   The personal statement of a windowsill-scape adds whimsey.

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 Shifts of  color pull out window and balcony details.

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A strong hue on a service door offers  visual way-finding, and pleasing accent,

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wb1 while the softness of integrated colors is  accented by a hue less saturated.

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The sides of a building flow with the colors and lines of trees, and bursts of foliage.

wb8 Variety in building materials and plants  creates layers of texture, sheen and hue,

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bringing  it all together.

Harmony…that’s what we’re after..isn’t it?

Here’s wishing You harmony, beauty, peace, and prosperity…for the still New Year!

Blessings from Artissima…the blog of ArtiFactory Studio.

Standing our Color Ground I

Standing our Color Ground I

Having completed a rather large and multifaceted color consultation for a set of two buildings anchoring opposite corners of a block in the “The Valley”, I decided to disseminate the experience, and its results through a series of blog posts.

Decorative Painting and Color can be all about sumptuousness…but it can also be about streamlining, revealing the lines, and getting down to the bones.

Taking a cue from marketing guru Seth Godin, and his concise, pith, and enormously popular blog, (called, pithily enough, “Seth’s Blog“), I am going to make these posts short, succinct, and see if I can let the images do the talking. (Well, Seth doesn’t use many images, but he is a model of succinctness, and easy to read and take in.

As I explore, express and evaluate this consultation over the course of several posts…there will be the time to contrast the colors that were to the colors that became, look at details, and compare the two buildings, one on either end of a median-sized block in Canoga Park, a district in the San Fernando Valley, about 25 miles northwest of Downtown LA.

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The entry of  the building called “ARIA”…made smoother and sleeker with addition of glass, a dark, grounding foundation, and lights that ass a bit of character. Notice the integration of the brown color in the tree branches which reach out to “touch” the building, with the brown of the foundation color. not the same, but related.

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“ARIA” en totale….pops of color in the bump-outs, or balconies, both accent and tie together the sandy body or field color, and the chocolatey “grounding”  foundation color. The door is painted in a 200% formula of the balcony color,  (meaning that the amount of tint added to create the paint color is doubled, increasing the intensity of the resulting hue.)

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Streamlined greenery provides another accent hue…even more so in complementary contrast to the red in the balcony color.

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The foundation color on the balconies, and strong door color add livable accent and interest to ARIA’s inner courtyard.   If the red-toned color on the exterior balconies was carried to all of the inner balconies here, it would have been too much: over-stimulating, and underwhelming. Instead, the doors punctuate the long walls, and reflect light from their semi-gloss surfaces.  The concrete floor is deeper, with a grey cast, making it easier on the eyes then a brighter hue.

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The contrast in colors, and the textures of the smooth, semi-gloss surfaces of the doors, and the flat sheen, rough texture of the stucco walls create a pleasing visual tension.  The proper amount of tension, paradoxically creates balance…though not necessarily symmetry.

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The sun’s white light transforms how we perceive the painted color, making it appear warm and earthy,

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as opposed to cooler and grayer when not in direct sunlight.  The window profiles are painted in 200% formula of the field color, bumping it up just slightly, adding interest without visual clutter.  The metal color of the sconces is reflected in the railings and other ironwork.

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Each resident adds their personal touch…above we have a grouping of three black “sculls’…and they fit right in!

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“Windowscape”?  “Curated” grouping?  Just plain fun?  Halloween leftovers?

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Portrait of a side door….resplendent  in its Rosewood hue, framed by the Teabag– colored foundation, flanked by Weathered Brown-painted iron railings, and shining below a 100%  Hickory house body color.

Next up…a romp through the “perfect palette” of ARIA’s sister property, SONATA…a very different building situated at the other end of the block.  Their color schemes are interrelated, but not the same…because no two buildings are the same.  Even if they claim the same blueprint parents, the  way a building sits on the earth, the way its surface reflects the light, the effect of its surroundings, whether they be flat or foliage, profoundly affects the color we see.  It  is an endlessly fascinating subject, and study

Well Seth, I am not sure if I truly stayed simple…but I h  expressed my passion for color, architecture, design, and the human spirit’s quest for beauty, joy, and perfection.  That last one will always elude us, but at least we can have fun trying!

Until the next…Be Well…

Love Haight Victorian Color

Love Haight Victorian Color

Last summer, the summer of 2011 that is,  I was called upon to assist some very bright Clients  in assembling a color palette for their Victorian near Haight Street, in San Francisco.

The building had a lighter (creamy-white) body, with darker (pale greeny-blue) trim, and the Client wanted to reverse the value  (lights and darks) emphasis…and perhaps create a value-added proposition in the process.

The house boasts a variety of architectural details, and the two porch “roofs” or overhangs provided a particular color placement challenge.

Once we had determined that the house body would become darker in value, and the trim lighter (a more common approach in the area), the next step was to choose the body or field color, which would go pretty much everywhere on the house, except for its multitude of trim, decorative detailing, doors and roof.

I looked at a number of houses suggested by the Client, and we narrowed the body color down to three hues in the green to gray range. The Client’s painter put them up, I.E., painted out large sample swatches on the house’s exterior siding surface, which made the final choice much easier!

Extension ladders were used to reach the high-up areas. Wow. That’s high. Intrepid painter.  Better he then me!

Many details and textural surfaces up at the very top! We needed to take each of these into careful consideration when creating the color design, as the Clients wanted to both highlight the details through accent colors, and unify, integrate and streamline the building’s total look, at the same time.

In order to minimize the detail and make it more visually subtle, and the color design, building and architecture more elegant and streamlined, an interlocking palette of closely related colors from both the Benjamin Moore, and Sherwin Williams pantheons was chosen for the trim and accent colors.

Benjamin Moore HC (Historical Colors palette) 108, “Sandy Hook Gray” was selected for the house body color. Its gray-green hue has a dimension of warmth, and a quiet complexity, suited to the feeling the Clients wanted to create. Sherwin Williams “Shoji White”  (SW7042) in semi-gloss (?) was chosen for the multitude of trim, as its undertone works well with the body color.

The porch overhangs were done in the body color, at 50% formula. The same ratio of tints were used, but in half the amount, creating a barely perceptible shift in value and intensity. The overhangs are also in shadow, not being exposed to direct light, thus making them read slightly darker.

SW7046, Sherwin Williams  “Anonymous”   in a satin sheen was used on the window sashes “outlining”, or highlighting the windows),  as well as on the garage door, the inside of and around the decorative , detail-filled triangles  on either side of the top of the house, and the central cross detail just below the roof’s tip.

The service door tot he right of the entry stairs was done in : Benjamin Moore HC 107, “Gettysburg Gray”, in a satin sheen, while the same spec in eggshell adorns a high-up “stripe” (architectural detail running horizontally across the upper part of the facade).

To add a touch of elegance, and “punch”, Sherwin Williams “Urbane Bronze’ SW7048 in a semi-gloss sheen was painted on the front door, leading the eye to this main entry, and providing a nice contrast to both the garage and service doors.

The deep color of the front door picks up on the dark bronze hue of the overhanging entry light fixture, packing the visual “punch”.

As a final detail, Modern Masters ME238 “Blackened Bronze” metallic paint (and accompanying varnish)  was added to the ball ornaments, and carved ornamental details within the smaller,  lower triangles.

The result is a color scheme which unifies the structure, and adds elegance and dignity to the home, while still celebrating the fun and fancy of its multitude of Victorian details, while taking every visual aspect of its front exterior into consideration.

The Clients, a bright couple with a fine eye for detail and  design, participated fully in our color collaboration, and, with their two young daughters, will hopefully enjoy their carefully colored, harmoniously hued home, for many years to come.

What color joys and challenges have YOU had lately?

If you feel so inclined, please share about them with us here.

We love to hear from You.

Remember, we are all coloring in our Lives  in this world, together.

Happy Hue to You!

HeARTfull Stone

HeARTfull Stone

In a recent article published in the  Bay Area Women’s Journal called  “Faux Finishing…Get the Look of Marble and Stone“, I discuss the “faux” finishes of stone and marble (a kind of  rock).  I created this “sister” post to show more painted and glazed stone and marble faux (fake!) finishes, and to share a bit more about the process.

Stone blocking is a technique in which individual “blocks” of stone are depicted, as well as the grout between them. Below, the lower part of an exterior shed door is painted (stippled and pounced) to look like the actual stone blocks on either side of it.  The grout, of course, is also painted. The painted door meets the real flagstones underneath it.  Underfoot, as it were.

Careful match of color helps create the illusion, despite the obviousness of hinges.  The “Trompe L’Oeil” (‘tricking the eye”- to make us think something is there that actually isn’t) effect is broken when…

 the door is opened, which adds to the fun. The treatment satisfied the aesthetic yearning of the homeowner to have the eye perceive  a line of stone blocks  unmarred by the more prosaic brown-painted door.

Below we have an ornately detailed fireplace, with a lot of carved character.  It sits resplendent in its prepped glory, primed but not even base painted yet.  Looking white white, it is set off by a new marble surround and hearth.

Voila, here we have the same fireplace with a stippled “limestone look”  finish, which draws out its ornate detail, and works with the colors of the marble.

The carving plays with the light, both reflecting and absorbing it.  It is highlighted by the glazes (semi-transparent veils of color) that are stippled across its surface.  Details like  this can be coaxed out and showcased through the addition of color and texture!

The same “limestone-like” stippled technique can be used to add character to a one-of-a-kind table that already has plenty,  (again, the technique pulls out the carving),

or, a smooth, plastered, rather standard issue stove hood, which needs to be brought into line with the other splendid details of its Spanish Revival architectural setting.

Stone finishes can also be used in tandem with their sometimes showier cousin, marble finishes, also known as marbling, or marbleizing.  On the fireplace below, semi-transparent glazes were used to create the marble finish, and opaque paints in equivalent colors for the stone.  The marble and stone treatments are both set off by the classical detailing, which is in turn set off by the treatments!  At their best, architecture, decorative treatments and detailing work hand in hand, each strengthening the other.

The pillar below is treated in a subtle limestone finish, with the same glaze colors employed in a marble finish on its base.


In the same room and colors, the hearth below is marbled through the combination and simultaneous manipulation of several glaze colors over its smooth, base painted surface.

The same technique is employed on the fireplace mantel and pillars, unifying the piece.  The Clients wanted to enhance the architectural details of their white-walled living room in an elegant yet subtle way, and the paint and glaze colorways were designed accordingly.

The fanciful marble treatment designed for the white, latex-painted built-in below is enhanced by the addition of gold, not only in the veining, but also on the inset frames on the cabinet doors. The diamonds are created by a second application of marbleizing.

  The fantasy marble finish employing pink, gold, and antique white glazes adds sumptuousness. The marbleized diamond offsets the rectangular shapes that comprise the cabinets.

Whether the goal is to integrate, enhance, create elegance, luxury or history, the application of stone and marble faux finishes can add depth, character, mystery, and even fun and fantasy to a space. Take a look around your environment, and imagine the addition of finishes true to nature, to the imagination, or both! Consider drawing out classical or whimsical details,  harmonizing your color scheme, or adding a bit of eye trickery to where you live, work and play.  You’ll soon feel the benefit of the Magic of Decorative Painting.

Have YOU used Stone and Marble finishes in your Home, Business, or Community Spaces?

If so, please share about it with us here. We love to hear from you!

Remember, we are all designing this thing called Life, together.  Cheers!