This section provides a list of techniques, materials, and common references that are frequently used in the design and decorative painting profession.

Acrylic paint

A thick body of water borne odorless paint commercially sold in art stores in tubes or in jars. It serves small artistic projects such as canvas and furniture paintings. It can be diluted with a water-based thinner to make it easier to handle, and it is very resilient.

Aerosol spray

For some projects the use of a brush is quasi impossible, such as, for painting an ornate or twisted piece, wicker furniture or a surface that cannot show the slightest brush mark. It is also the fastest way to paint. You may order in a paint store a custom made color, oil or water-borne, if you have not found the shade readily available on the shelf. You will need to apply several coats, since the film left by the spray is very thin. Most importantly, you need to know that everything surrounding your project must be covered with a drop cloth, because sprayed paint travels very far! The alternative solution is to buy a spraying container on which you can attach a can of compressed air. It will make less mess around you and you can mix and adjust your own color for indefinite use. The drawback remains the frequent cleaning of the aerosol head that clogs up all the more quickly depending on the thickness of your paint solution.

Alkyd-based paint

An oil-borne commercial paint, to be thinned or cleaned with paint thinner or turpentine. It is employed less and less frequently, with a view to protect the environment. However, on some projects, such as exterior painting of trims and floors, it is more resilient than latex paint. It carries a strong odor.


In order to age a wall, furniture or an object, many techniques and tools are possible. The idea is to apply one or several coats of stain or paint; you will need to sand or remove them partly with various tools, paint them again then repeat the distressing process. Now, to do it with serendipity, you have to apply the right shade of stain or paint, remove it just enough for your purpose, and cover it again with another pleasing color. Several layers may need to be applied until you are satisfied. You need to wait between each coat until the last one is thoroughly dryto avoid reactivating the last layer with the new coat.

Architectural effect

whether you design a room, execute a mural or devise a color scheme, you need to envision the global impact of your work and the final arrangement of the wall, the room, or the succession of rooms that are tied together. The eye grasps the whole picture of a decor, its balance, its imperfections, its constraints; it needs to flow, and you have to ensure that your intervention will contribute to emphasize the existing positive features of the site and alleviate or erase its defaults.

Artist oil

Mostly used for artist paintings and to tint fine glazes for faux finishes. For the latter use, you do not need to buy the most expensive brand, however, to paint on canvas, you want to use a top quality oil containing more pigment (or chroma), finely ground, with a good light fastness to avoid color fading with exposure to light, and less yellowing oil or thick medium.


Faking bamboo reflects the '50s and '60s period. It is an attractive decor for a small piece of furniture, a screen, and the inside of a cabinet or shelves. Since it is time consuming to complete, it is destined to small surfaces. It needs to be done with a water based glaze and fine brushes to achieve a refined and fresh look. Isabel O'Neil made splendid renderings of this modest plant.

Beer and vinegar glazes

These are used to create very fine and transparent glazes, ideal for imitating wood or marble, for instance. Nowadays, they are less popular with the availability of readymade acrylic glazes. Also, they need to be sealed with an oil-based finish that may yellow with time. You cannot use water borne varnish that would reactivate the glaze and smear your finish.


In order to whiten wood on a piece of furniture or a floor, sometimes bleach mixed with water is used. However the generic term "bleached" more often means whitened, faded or colorless. This look can be achieved through various possible methods, and, depending on the effect obtained, it will also be referred to as "pickled", "distressed" or "ceruse". The easiest way to proceed for a neophyte is to stain the wood to a medium dark shade, especially if it is new, followed by an application and vigorous rub of a very diluted coat of paint, similar to a wash. The bleach solution may reap wonderful results but you need to know the essence of the wood you are working with. The ensuing result will vary depending on the wood's color and grain density. And generally speaking, water is the enemy of wood! Ready mixed solutions are available from stores, but again, be wary of marring the wood. Bleached wood, truly tinted within the grain, offers a unique advantage: it is maintenance free: you will never have to repaint it or repair a ding to it.

Boulle (style)

Charles Andre Boulle was an eighteenth century French cabinet maker well known for his exceptional ebonized pieces of furniture, inlaid with a decor created mostly from brass, ivory and tortoise shell. His skills and taste were exceptional in the making of the furniture as well as in its design. Thousands of hours would be employed to complete each piece; the wood was darkened to an ebony shade with a view to enhance the gold from the brass and the red and yellow of the tortoise shell. The ornaments alone were carefully thought out and researched, to fit the proportions of the piece ideally. Many reproductions were made in the nineteen-century, with more or less serendipity. A manufactured production could not rival an artistic handmade creation. These ebonized furniture pieces are sought after for their sober lines that suit a well-appointed traditional interior as well as an ultra-modern space.


Several factors must be considered when buying brushes. The quality of a brush is of utmost importance; pulling on the hairs of your prospective brushes before purchasing will ensure that they will not detach onto your project and ruin it. This is the only valuable test, since many expensive brushes are as disappointing as cheap ones. Once you have sunken half your money into them, you need to neatly groom them after each job, which will add to their life expectancy. Another important factor is the type of brush to use. For oil painting, use only brushes with a natural bristle. Generally, you must carry thin and thick brushes, as well as firm and supple ones, depending on the medium used or the type of painting you are executing.

Burl graining

This is a very ornamental wood graining derived from an irregular growth of the tree. It differs drastically from the usual wood patterns defined by lines and pores. Burl displays small circles or mottled patterns; it can be stippled with dark dots or flamed with lighter shades. There are many varieties of burl. Because of its moderately rare occurrence it is expensive, and its veneer has been reserved to line interior of upright desks, embellish front or top panels of furniture or doors, to make precious boxes and so forth. It is not very difficult to reproduce burl effects; water borne glaze will be better suited to achieve a finer result. Less is more: you need to stay simple in the execution of the pattern and work quickly, avoiding a heavy rendition of it.


It is a generally dull white or grayish surface awaiting some treatment to be embellished! Whether your walls or floor are available for a decor or not, why no focus on your ceiling and try: a tenting effect, a sky with birds, a small lattice work running along the border displaying flowers on a summer sky background, a checkered pattern, a fake coffered ceiling, or a strie finish gathering in the center of the ceiling? If this is overwhelming, you may limit yourself to painted palm leaves, stars, or a garland around your ceiling suspension. This will add character to the room and a dash of fantasy. Now for a grander scheme, you may go for a gold or silver coating, bringing a different light to the room. If you choose gold, before purchasing the metallic paint, sample some shades on a board and affix it to the ceiling to insure that it is not too dark. Any color on the ceiling will look twice or three times darker than on the sample you are holding; metallic paints in particular can look very dark against the light. Remember that a dark color lowers a ceiling, a light one raises it, and a painted sky expands and opens it.


these are decors copied from Asian art and objects, or original ones, imported by merchants and embassies more abundantly during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The high demand period for such decors crested during the eighteen century. China and Japan produced large quantities of porcelain wares, silk paintings, lacquered furniture, and so on, ornate with paintings that seduced occidentals by their compositions and refined exotic themes. There were no such traditions in the Occident of geometrical and sketched paintings, free of perspective, with similar underlying philosophical themes. Europeans started to copy these Asian artistic pieces, and modulated their orders with specific designs, such as the beautiful porcelain wares imported by the West Indies Company. Patrons and kings of Europe commissioned decors on walls and entire rooms, with fantasy gardens and mythical creatures, playful monkeys, with audacious colors. The sobriety of the Asian design often gave way to the Occidental arrangement, yet, eventually, the two different cultures met to coexist harmoniously and complete each other.

Color wash

a highly diluted paint, in water or oil, that leaves an uneven pastel tone on a wall or a piece of furniture. The goal is to create a pale powdery effect. To reach a satisfactory result, your medium must be very liquid and you need to work quickly since it will be absorbed by the surface almost instantaneously; you do not want to leave unsightly dragging marks on the surface.


Everyone has a favorite color, or an ideal combination of colors. You cannot help reacting to certain colors and being aware of those colors with whichyou cannot live without It happens that often we pick a color for our home that, to our amazement, reveals to be disappointing. This is tied to the fact that the lighting and size of the room were occulted. In addition, the Light Reflective Value that measures the degree of light reflected back by the surface, coupled to the quasi absence of light in a room may accentuate immensely its darkness: to your dismay, the radiant blue that you had selected has turned into an unnamable grey; your pale yellow has become a grey off-white, and so on. This transformation is called metamerism; it finds its explanation in the proportion of black added to paint, and/or the selection of a mat sheen, and/or of course, the absence of natural daylight. We did not even mention the effect of electric or fluorescent lighting on the color. Metamerism is another phenomenon to take into consideration since we spendhalf of our lives under electric light. The fairy electricity will turn colors into bright and yellowier tints, pumping out of the color all of its yellow. In light of these observations we need to recourse to samples, and compare them at different times of the days, in sunny or overcast days. For your well being you need to admit that you feel ill at ease with some colors that, even if trendy, should not pass your threshold. This is a color therapy rule, to be followed. Your home is your sanctuary, and eternal place of gratification not mortification. Your senses have to be visually gratified because you are rarely able to work on and transform your tastes. Apart from these observations, it is obvious that for most of us, white is an extremely satisfactory color that comes often equal with our favorite non-white color. A plus is obtained by white's quality of cleanliness and widening surfaces. Consequently, when selling a house, one is better advised to stay with white.


on some used ceramics or porcelain wares, one may notice tiny cracks in the top enamel finish of the ware. One may seek to reproduce this crackling to age a small object, such as a lamp base or a box. There are numerous readymade solutions to this end. You need to practice and try out your product and your hand: the size and occurrence of the cracks may vary, depending on the chemical reaction between the surface receiving the solution and the ingredients of the product.


This refers to the superb silk or cotton fabrics weaved in Damascus that offer lustrous patterns on a mat background. With the help of stencils, you can recreate on your walls the same contrast between a shiny stenciled design and a mat or satin background. As an additional choice, paint may be replaced by gesso to create a raised pattern. The stenciled design may be stretched with the brush to create a moire or Ikat variation of the damask.

Decorative painting

it designates everything beyond a straight coat of paint. It could be a juxtaposition of varied straight coats of paint, diluted paints applied with different tools, artistic paintings covering walls, imitations of materials, metallic paints, uses of plaster mixed with pigments, friezes, stencils, anything that will convey an artistic touch, or simply a detail that will modify the rigor of bare walls, or the enclosed feeling that a cubic room can suggest. Nowadays, art has changed and people are not necessarily seeking beauty but a different look, or an escape to their routine, or to lay a question in an environment where they are ill at ease or unable to deal with.


a technique aimed at aging an object or a surface. There are degrees in this process, ranging from a ravaged look to a soft patina. Most people are fond of this finish because of memories they kept of older and used surroundings of their childhood, in a world where consumerism was absent and where keeping a bare threaded rug or a chipped mug was not a crime but a common choice. Also, when you live in an apartment in the city, a distressed finish is reminiscent of the country look, and brings the reassuring look of nature into your home. Some finishing techniques tend to stage a theatrical and pompous look to impress, whereas distressing leans toward a calming environmental therapy.


They may be the forgotten trump card of your game. Many treatments can embellish them, make them interesting, indeed surprising, with the help of a painted "trompe l'oeil" or a fabric covering. Traditionally, they receive the same treatment as the baseboards, the chair rail and the ceiling cornice or other moldings. However, in a room that counts several, they should have an existence of their own. They can be turned into an art prop, such as a framed print or an object. When a faux wood finish is applied on them, typically it will be flamed mahogany or oak. Frequently they are painted in a "camaieu" of the same shaded color that brings sophistication and softness to them. A geometrical design or ornament can structure the surface and add a visually satisfactory element. Doors should be replaced when a glass door can bring light in, or where a mirror door will widen a space and bring many reflections. If walls are upholstered or faux finished with a silk effect, the doors on the walls could carry the same treatment, for a more refined touch.


this is a faux finish effect obtained by dragging vertically or horizontally a brush, through a wet glaze, from ceiling to floor or wall to wall. The brush imprints regular streaks on the wall, and the finish is similar to a delicate combing of the color on the wall. The base color of the walls still shows through the finish that compliments it by bringing its own hue. It is a rather precious looking finish that goes well with classical or modern interiors. It could be more or less regular; for a more rustic look, you could leave irregular and washed dragging marks. This technique works beautifully with paneled walls.

Eglomise glass

glass backed by a gold or silver leaf, and engraved through this backing if a painted decor is added. This proceeding was revived in France by a framer by the name of Glomy, in the eighteenth century, hence its appellation. However, Italy keeps samples of eglomise tumbles and goblets backed with gold, dating from the Roman Empire. It is an old technique used on frames, glassware and candlesticks to name a few. Eglomise candlesticks were considered the pauper's silver sterling candlesticks.

Enamel paint

As we said earlier, oil paint is a disappearing product because of concerns over its effect on the environment. Unfortunately, it is irreplaceable in many cases, because it is highly resilient. We have to mention here a wonderful European brand: Fine Paints of Europe. It is a highly durable paint that comes in many colors, and if you want a high gloss for your exterior front door or a piece of furniture, its high gloss is unmatched for its brilliance, durability and its toughness.

Fantasy finishes

they encompass malachite faux finish, wood graining, marbling, bronzing, faux stone, basket weaving, tortoise shell, and many more anonymous glazes that do not bare a resemblance to natural materials or patterns. When opting for a faux finish, you should always consider the possibility of growing tired of the artwork after a while. Unless you own a restaurant or a commercial space, it is safer to stay with a muted and more discreet glaze that will accommodate the widest range of decorative elements.


It means false, unreal, and describes the artistic work that simulates a real material with the help of paint or glaze. Almost any natural or man-made material can be imitated. It is not always the exact rendition that is sought by the artist, or that measures its success. In some instances it can be sketchy yet sufficient to bring the flair of the replicated material. But the true material needs imperatively to be studied and from there, the artist will derive his/her interpretation. On Early American specimens of furniture, colonial chests or armoires for instance, you see samples of rustic graining that have a naivety and beauty of their own. The creativity and intention of the artist is visible in the imitation; what drives him is the artistic impact and serendipity, in situ or not.

Flat paint

Many decorators favor a flat sheen; it offers a soft aspect, yet has a tendency to look quickly dull and dirty. It is also hard if not impossible to clean although new mat finishes have improved on this register; their sheen however leans towards a satin finish. Ceilings are ideal surfaces for a flat paint: it hides imperfections better than any glossy paint. For murals, flat paint is also a favorite; the eye is not distracted by any glare on the surface of the wall that compromises the painted decor.


painted floors can improve a room tremendously. From a design covering the entire surface to a simple border, one can tie up an elegant decor with a simple jar of paint and a sense of perspective. It is also a solution to hide damaged or cheap floorboards or other materials. Before embarking on this project however, keep in mind that removing a dark stain or paint covering the whole floor, will imply seriously sanding down the floorboards, which will compromise their already meager thickness; this is especially true of modern ones. When you sell your house or become tired of your choice, you may be confronted to this drawback. Always question the invasiveness of staining or of a painted design. Hard wood floors need to be protected by varnish or paint. Acrylic as well as oil-based varnish will suit this purpose. The advantage of the acrylic varnish over the oil one is its non-yellowing property. This default is occulted with a dark colored wood, however a light painted floor, the yellowing, that may turn even to orange, can be unsightly. A pattern can be applied over an already varnished floor, on the condition that you sand the varnish enough to give some tooth to receive the paint. Acrylic or latex paint is ideal for this type of work, for its quick drying time that allows the application of several coats on the same day. To protect the painted pattern, you may want to apply up to six or seven coats of acrylic varnish, and wait one week for the layers to be cured until you can walk freely on it. Remember that large patterns enlarge volumes, and that furniture must be accounted in the scheming of the floor design, not only for their position in the room but in consideration for their style. Floors that are "bleached" with a solution that leaves an ivory film on the wood are quite delicate and will easily show dark streaks, from chairs, rubber soles or wheels. Ebonized floors will show every spec of dust and require daily cleaning to fight this inconvenience.


it is a repeated pattern that typically appears on the top of walls to accentuate the ceiling line, to follow chair rails, to mark the perimeter of floors, and so forth. This is an easy way to personalize a room and give it, according to the theme of the frieze, a classical, rustic or modern feel. It is less invasive than a mural, and very effective in a room encumbered by furniture and paintings. You can choose between floral patterns, geometric ones, letters, mottos, and period designs such as Art Deco art or one of ethnic reference.


it is a material similar in appearance to plaster or lime that leaves a very smooth finish to the wall, visually and to the touch. Of course it can be mixed with any shade of pigment, and the final tint looks powdery and washed out. It is beautiful, and natural, yet carries several drawbacks. It takes several coats to apply it, therefore it is costly since it is labor intensive and the products alone are expensive. In addition, if the surface is later on damaged, it needs to be reworked with the gesso. It is not possible to clean a serious mark with a sponge, and in a bathroom, it needs to be protected with protective finish that will somewhat alter the look of the gesso. I do however recommend looking into this wall-surfacing product that gives them the airy beauty of chalk. Amicus, in Kensington, MD, carries this line of products as well as other beautiful and original green building supplies.


It is an art reserved for professionals. You can attempt to gild small projects with a gilding kit, yet only an experienced professional can achieve perfect gilding. Often, a simple mixture of pigments neighboring the color of gold for instance, may repair the damages of time, particularly on old pieces. In Europe, we favor antiques that show a patina, the mark of time, and this preference leads us to perform the least invasive repair. A flamboyant new gold would destroy forever the value of an old frame; you need to concern yourself with the surrounding patina that gives character to the antique. Metal paints are available in paint supplies stores and even though they do not compete with the real thing, achieve satisfactory results where you create a decor that requires gold or another metal. The Modern Master brand for instance is excellent. A slight touch of silver or gold brings light and elegance to an interior without looking too gauche.


This is the magic medium whereby you imitate material or invent patterns or impressions on walls. It contains a medium called megilp that allows an imprint to stay imbedded in the glaze instead of disappearing after few seconds. It is a translucent film made from oil or water-borne paint medium. The oil-based glaze may slightly yellow, but it gives more open time to work with toward achieving the desired pattern. In light of this, when you mix your own glaze, you need to be careful about the amount of oil added to your mixture, especially if you work in a pale color or wish to cut the sheen down to its minimum. A water-based glaze is suitable for smaller projects by reason of its short drying time. It does not yellow, allows you to progress quickly on imitations that require layers and layers of glaze, such as faux wood or faux marble, and it is environment friendly. Glaze is generally faster and easier to apply than gesso. The surface destined to be glazed needs to be painted with a satin or semi-gloss paint, never a flat sheen, and to be free of dust. The room must be clean and preferably with no running air conditioning or forced heat, due to the innumerable debris stationed in the ducts; thisreduces the open time to work the glaze and project everywhere in the room. Glazes dry a little glossy; if you wish to have a dull finish, a dead flat finish applied as topcoat will achieve this goal. The caveat here is that an acrylic varnish, in our case the flat finish, laid on top of an oil-based glaze may grow yellow; this might be barely noticeable if your glaze is in the brown family or dark, however, in the case of a light shade, for instance blue, the glaze will turn green very quickly. Glazes are very resilient once fully cured, and easy to maintain. Once you start using them, it is hard to revert to plain paint that, by comparison, looks dull and outdated.


It refers to the art of reproducing wood grain; it is also called Faux wood. Each tree has a different grain pattern distinguishing one essence from the other, and inside the same tree you find also various patterns. Wood is imitated to recreate its soft warmth, its rusticity (pine grain) or its elegance (oak grain), the delicate patterns of a crotch, the flamboyance of a flame (mahogany grain) or the magic of burl. Many tints exist in wood grain, varying from off-white to brown/black, through violet, cherry, purple, green, or yellow. Similarly, grain can be straight, with curved, or convoluted, twisted, spotted, or smoky, offering contrasts of colors within the grain. Historically, each period favored an essence of wood corresponding to the prevailing taste and design of the time. The Art Deco period privileged mahogany and ebony; walnut was typical of the thirties and forties. The eighteenth century mixed many varieties of noble wood, such as rosewood, pear tree wood, walnut, palisander, satinwood, birch and so forth. The marquetry, or assembly of small wood pieces organized to create an inlaid decor, highly in fashion at this time, demanded a large choice of wood patterns and colors. Nowadays, oak mahogany and pine are the most popular faux woods. They guarantee an untiring classical backdrop that suits modern or classical interiors. As discussed previously, the imitation does not need to be contrived and exact to be satisfactory. A study of wood can inspire a modern simulation; by preserving the main characteristics of a wood, an artist can be more faithful to its true artistic depiction. This works well for pine or oak but not in the case of mahogany graining, where a bad or fantasy rendition is unforgiving. Wood graining is a lengthy process that does not suffer strong colors and thick glazes. When using this technique, it is best to proceed slowly with nuance, and using several layers of glaze.


This refers to a monochromatic painting, typically executed in gray color. These are incredibly decorative and easy to blend into a decor, due to their discreet colors. For instance, they are ideally suited for surmounting doors or passageways, or for fitting within wall or door panels. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries show spectacular examples of rooms entirely adorned with grisaille murals. Alternatively, you may replace the gray hues by one that is sepia, blue, green or pink.


The term refers to a shiny and deep finish that is thick and durable, and wraps the treated object with a flawless coating. Lacquer is obtained with a tree-produced gummy substance that is diluted and tinted. It is mostly in Asia, Japan, China, Viet Nam and Korea that artisans produce small lacquered objects and furniture, generally in black, brown, burgundy and red. One could compare the high quality of lacquer to the French "vernis Martin" in terms of perfection of the execution and finish. The beauty of the lacquer comes not from the gloss, which is not particularly high, but from the unequaled smoothness of the finish and the decor on top of it. On a piece of furniture or an object, a feasible and rewarding method to imitate this effect is to spread a diluted coat of oil paint from the brand "Fine paints of Europe" on a well-prepared, flat, waterproof, and flawless surface. It is an oil-based paint that stretches and leaves a brilliance that no American paint shares. You will need to apply several coats with a very fine sanding in-between, and you must dilute the paint that would otherwise be too thick to spread. It will not need to be sealed with a finish, except if you create a design on the outer coat that you wish to seal. In this case, you will have been well advised to use a spray finish. On walls, varnish on top of glaze or tinted varnish will give you a high glossy surface; the quality of the result will be tied to the surface preparation andthe malleability of the varnish. Remember that many oil-based varnishes yellow and are often thick, hence hard to apply. Water-borne varnishes are runny and tend to deliver an uneven final gloss. Sampling the future work will give you a better idea of what type of lacquer to use, the dilution needed, and the quality of the gloss. In a small room, such as a powder room, defects may be less visible; otherwise, natural or electric light will magnify every wall or surface imperfection.

Latex paint

It is environmentally friendly, easy to clean, and dries quickly. The modern latex paints are of better quality and aremore resilient. Latex paint can be used as a base-coat before glazing walls. Diluting latex paint with water or Floetrol or an acrylic glaze will give more transparence to the color and a less grainy finish. For more durability, you may apply an acrylic finish to seal it.


This quarried stone offers a sense of privilege to entrances or foyer walls because it brings with it the classicism of the centuries where it was in use as a bare wall decor. Limestone, Caen stone, travertine or tuffeau have been selected indifferently for this purpose. Trompe l'oeil of these stones are very popular; they display colors ranging from champagne to dark grey beige, with a mortar line visible between the blocks in white, grey or brown, accompanied by a shadow line. The stone decor creates a strict and elegant decor that needs minimum accessories and furniture to enliven it. It is remarkably easy to simulate, although time consuming.


A two-toned, patterned stone displaying ribbons of black undulations over a bright medium green background. It was extracted in abundance in Russia, and we can still admire many samples of tables, pedestal, statues, and columns in this country. It is highly attractive because of its unusually bright color and intricate design. Customarily it was set in gilded bronze and reserved to luxurious interiors that displayed equally unique accessories and furniture. The ideal destination of this faux would be for urns, lamp bases, inlaid panels or again a tabletop. You may also find it in combination with many other decorative stones, to create inlaid decors embellishing tops of tables or consoles for instance; these are named pietre dure.


As with many other faux finishes, artfulness and sobriety play important roles in affecting the observer's credibility of the imitated material. A Faux needs to evoke the natural material with its characteristic beauty; in the case of faux marble, only a careful study of marble with its graphic map will lead to success. For instance, a simulated Breccia marble asks for a well-proportioned distribution of the large fragments, or breches, to avoid visual heaviness. As a wall finish, organized slabs or panels will make the faux more credible; you will need to rely on real examples of cemented marble to imitate the joinery and the proportions of the sections. To avoid dullness of a repetitive pattern or color, using a combination of different types of marbles of different colors will create a surprise effect and achieve a refined look. There are many specimens of marbles or assimilated stones, and it is a pity that only a small handful of these are repeatedly reproduced.

Metallic paints

A wide variety of metallic paints are readily available in stores, such as the Modern Masters brand. Metallic paints are viscous, medium, clear or opaque depending on the tints, bonding very well to metal or wood. Mixing metallic paints allows you to reach a more realistic effect and a less painted look. You can dilute the paint with an acrylic glaze, or Floetrol, and go over with different shades; however the dilution may cause a dullness in the color. To age a shiny gold, you may either slightly cover it with a pale brown glaze or a diluted bronze metallic paint. Instead of using a brush, gently dab a rag dipped into your dark medium. Metallic paint used as a background to a translucent glaze, gold, silver or bronze yields wonderful results. Also, in combination with a leopard or tortoise shell faux finish, they add a luxurious exotic and fun touch. These finishes are ideal for and work well on metal, and they prove to be very durable. To better protect a coat of metallic paint, you may seal it with an acrylic varnish.


Renzo Mongiardino was an exceedingly talented Italian architect, designer and painter, active in the sixties and seventies. He set interiors adorned with exuberant murals of gardens and Roman ruins, or rich oriental tented walls, lavishly furnished with plush furniture and first class accessories. His rooms are reminiscent of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge's homes, of the lavish and cozy Rothschild style, or again, of Nureyev's apartment. He owed his exquisite taste and erudition to his success, coupled with his thoroughly researched designs and impeccable execution. Nowadays, in a more exuberant vein, another Italian painter and designer, Carlo Marchiori, enlivens walls in California with Titanic murals and ravishing staged decors reflecting the furniture in fashion at the time of the mural's subject.


this tree variety is sought after for its tight grain and its durability. It best serves floors, stair boards, sculpted woods and so forth. It is as sturdy as walnut, but more popular due to its more frequent occurrence in nature. Its grain pattern has a subtle and modest appearance; it can be faux finished with all of its wood details, or, offering a equally nice result, its tight grain can be replicated by flogging a wet glaze, bringing a more classically inspired modern rendition. It is still in fashion to ceruse oak: after a light staining of the oak, a white wash, a former ceruse white, is rubbed into the grain and soaked into the soft parts to leave the true color of the wood showing only through the hard fibers. The ceruse white mixed with an oil base is extremely resilient, hence its popularity. Such whitening process is now achieved with other whites, for ceruse comes from the highly toxic lead.


It is a glossy decorative stone with a pattern reminiscent of the malachite one, albeit it is not showing the typical circular designs of the latter. Depending on is origin, its appearance varies, showing a complex formation of angles and breccia, floating ribbons, with milky and slightly blurred colors of caramel, off white, yellow, grey and burgundy, for the most common specimen of the Algerian onyx. However it also comes in green, bluish grey and so on. Its most common destination is small boxes, tabletops, lamp bases, shower stalls, slabs, small columns, walls or door panels and so on. Because of the difficulty to simulate it, it is reserved for small surfaces.


In Europe, oak paneling represents the nec plus ultra of wall coverings. In the United States you may find in some homes the traditional British pine paneling, more or less ornate, depending on the status of the house. The nobler version provides a backdrop of timeless warmth and elegance to a room; unfortunately, oak paneling is out of the reach of most people's purses. The alternative is to copy these woods, resorting to faux wood technique. This can reach wonderful results assuming that the selected wood variety is replicated with subtlety. A poor technique or vision is particularly unkind to this bravura finish, and it is better to use instead a strie technique or the sketchy look donned by Christian Berard. To complete a balance paneling, measure will rule your drawing. You need to keep the style and dimensions of the space in mind and the location of the furniture to determine an appropriate design for the panels. In regards to painted panels, as opposed to grained panels, the most remarkable ones were produced during the Roman Empire during the reign of Louis XIII, in sixteenth and seventeenth century Italy, and in Sweden and Russia. Paneling a room with a simple strike of paint sets a mood and a refinement satisfying those in search of structure and neatness. It also distracts the eye from defects and compensates for a nondescript room.


To color a glaze, a wash, a varnish or paint, powdered pigments are used to impart a brighter and more concentrated tint. The finer the work the more refined they ought to be. To mix a gesso or a glaze destined to walls, you need to crush the pigments with a pestle in water or oil, depending on the medium that will carry them. To tint a varnish, you want to buy a highly ground pigment from a reliable brand such as Sennelier. Even after a serious grinding, a fine pigment may leave occasional lumps that will explode on your surface leaving unsightly and hard to remove streaks; for this reason, a mixed medium must always and repeatedly be strained to catch lumps or debris. For the neophyte, mixing with fine oil or gouache, already ground, is safer. Many professionals use Universal tints, sold in paint stores. They offer most of the time a quality result, yet, they do not yield the deepness of a natural pigment nor do they bring fun in the execution of the work.


It is an Italian town buried in 79AD, following a volcanic eruption. It was unearthed then rediscovered by the public in the early 18th century. We distinguish three different style periods. Pompei is the epitome of mural paintings and faux paintings. Their themes are picked among scenes from the daily life, narratives of the Gods' accomplishments, nature, landscapes, etc. The wall surfaces are geometrically divided into panels, sometimes including three dimensional effects and perspectives, with symbols set into cartridges, or imitations of precious materials and so forth. Similar frescoes were found in other surrounding towns, such as Stabiae, Oplontis, Boscoreale, and in Rome, just to mention the Doma Aurea. The Pompeian reference generally designates this Roman art period that remained unrivaled for its visionary designs allied to their quality of execution: freshness, poetry, sense of perspective, freedom of expression, and colors. These frescoes and their surroundings are breathtaking. They have inspired many a painter: Raphael recreated an aspect of this grand art in the Vatican lodges, with a display of Grotesque art. The latter derives from the Roman mythology intertwined with exuberant nature, animals, monsters and symbolism. It bears the Etruscan and Greek influences. The best painters were hired by rich families to decorate their homes, yet if possible, Stabiae frescoed paintings surpass them all in beauty. Italian artists as well as diplomats and Heads of Statesbrought back from Italy and spread the vision of these exceptional paintings. Artists were commissioned to replicate them. The Adam style, or the Swedish style that we know, stemmed from this marvelous art. There was not one court in Europe that was not subjugated by this discovered art. Nowadays, Pompeian style is more synonymous with pale or decayed paintings, but this is a short cut through this art and a biased view. Today, washed out colors are in fashion, therefore this is the vision that we like to retain of these frescoes, obscuring the fact that they once were bright, and that few people can appreciate their quality, much less afford their imitation.


A sturdy base coat must be underlain before attempting to paint a wall, a piece of furniture or almost anything else. The idea behind it is to protect and isolate the material to be painted, whereby allowing the topcoat to last longer. Primer is granted a hiding power that helps conceal stains, such as pine knots for instance. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to hide fresh pine knots that will keep sipping through the paint and discoloring it. Similarly, furniture that was previously stained, particularly with a mahogany shade, and sanded will keep exuding the tenacious red stain that was once abundantly poured into its grain. In this case, a more drastic remedy would be to seal the wood with a finish before priming it. Some primers, like the Uma brand, adhere to almost any surface.

Putman, Andree

She is the French queen of modern design, saluted for her sartorial and pure lines of design, sober hues, measured and well balanced architectural input. Her signature is reminiscent of Japanese interiors, with a more futuristic vision.


A technique that involves the use of a rag to manipulate or remove glaze off the wall, after having brushed or rolled it onto the wall. Either you decide on heavily imprinting the rag into the glaze for a more rustic look, or you use the rag as a buffer to crush the glaze and leave a soft film on the wall bearing a soft mottled effect. Ragging is a technique also used to prepare a background for faux stone, or faux burl. It allows you as well to mix several colors together. It is possible to obtain a shading away effect, or ombre, by removing more and more glaze as you work your way from the floor up to the ceiling, exposing almost, at the level of the ceiling, the basecoat.


Before starting on a project, a special attention must be given to the walls, to insure that their surface is smooth and free of the so-called orange peel effect -- an unsightly bumpy look caused by a crude application of paint: too much paint was applied at the same time or a coarse roller sleeve was used. To go faster, many painters are tempted to use wooly rollers that carry more paint and sometimes save an extra coat. The result is cheap looking, distracting, with this orange peel effect that will show under the new glaze. However, time is always an issue, and many customers will pass on a much needed sanding for monetary reasons. If you try to achieve a faux marble or faux wood, for instance, your surface needs to be totally smooth, otherwise the bumps will give away your faux finish and detract a great deal from it. The same applies to lacquer or metal paint finishes.


Also called Galluchat, Shagreen is the tanned skin of a variety of fish: such as spotted dogfish for the small grain specimens, stingray or shark among others for the larger and harder grains. It appears as a dotted skin, with regular dots parted around a center, ranging from small circles to tiny dots. The center shows five or six larger irregular dots resembling mini pebbles. Shagreen comes in blue gray or blue green, or sand/coffee color. It is a ravishing pattern that will be used on small surfaces, and presented in small rectangles to be more believable. During the Art Deco period, starting at the end of the First World War and ending just before the beginning of WWII, the vogue for these skins equaled the vogue for leather in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Fish skins sheathed furniture, armchairs, armoires, cabinets, boxes, lighters and small accessories.


Refers to a gleaming or glistening brightness. Some like it to be shiny, others prefer it to be flat. Obviously, a flat paint will have little Light Reflective Value and will be less easy to maintain. A flat finish provides for a more elegant backgroundand hides walls defects; however, in a shaded room, you want some gloss, a satin for instance, to animate the walls. The higher the gloss, the smoother the receiving surface must be; gloss will enhance every imperfection and poor paint application. The natural light commands to your choice, all the more as paint does not offer the variety of hues provided by a glazed or gesso covered wall, which brings diverse intensities of hues or colors. Utilitarian rooms such as bathrooms and kitchens will also require a minimum of sheen to withstand steam, humidity and frequent cleanings. Ceilings in excellent condition will look beautiful with a satin or semi-gloss sheen, and will cast down light to the room.


Projection of minuscule flecks of paint or stain to age a finish, or to imitate the tiny holes in stones for instance. It adds to distressed looks by providing a more realistic and soft touch. Gold spattering adds freshness and light.


It was the fad of the eighties: diluted paint or tinted glaze was sponged onto walls with a natural marine sponge, imprinting a soft stone-like pattern. Unfortunately, too often the results were blotchy marks all over the surface. It can however look wonderful and discreet when it leaves a warm mottled finish, with one or several colors. This is the base technique for stone or marble faking. You need to rinse your sponge often to go over the imprint and soften it. This is the same approach as using a crumbled rag or paper or a plastic bag. The more you manipulate the imprint, the lighter and softer it becomes. The two types of marine sponges work best, although synthetic ones also yield excellent results.

Stains and staining

Some stains do not resist repeated sun exposure and consequently whiten. I find that oil-based stain resists better than vinegar or water-borne ones. For a darker tint you may need to mix your own natural pigment powder, straining it even if the pigment was well ground. It is always advisable to sample your tint, for its shade will vary depending on the essence of wood on which it is applied. Also, it is safer to dilute the stain and apply several coats to better control the final tint. It is spread with a pad made of a cotton fabric, for instance an old T-shirt; you need to move very fast, working from one extremity of the piece all the way to the opposite one, to avoid leaving blotches of stain in some areas. If it occurs, you can remedy it by quickly rubbing diluents on it, then waiting for the stain to dry and adding another coat. Once wood has been stained it needs to be protected by several coats of finish.


There is whole range of stencils available on line, from cutesy flowers to spectacular William Morris frieze or Ikat patterns. You could make your own stencil, cutting it with an Exacto knife or an electrical hot blade. Stencil always looks better when executed or finished by hand, by comparison to solely resorting to a sprayer. Their use is infinite: on ceiling, walls, doors, above chair-rails, floors, furniture, children's rooms and so forth. It often proves less costly than doing a mural or a faux finish on the wall, yet will surely transform it. You want to use a latex paint that dries fast and allows you to move on quickly. You may also be tempted to do a raised stencil, using gesso or plaster instead of paint to achieve a tone on tone brocade pattern for instance, or to replicate embossed leather. The most important thing to remember is to not overload your brush and to wipe it on a rag, to prevent paint from running under the stencil.


A stipple brush will crush the glaze and reduce it to a fine powdery layer with minuscule dots, similar to the skin. For some faux technique such as wood graining, stone, bronze, grisaille, as well as for a fading away look, you need to stipple the background. It provides a grainier look than a regular application of glaze followed by ragging.


They are heavily toxic, yet you need them sometimes to strip varnish or paint. You have to decide if you prefer using a hot gun, that will soften paint to be ultimately removed with a spatula, or if you prefer sanding down to the wood the paint or varnish to be eliminated. In either case, these methods require that you wear a mask, or work in a highly ventilated area or outside. Sanding and using a hot gun will atomize paint or varnish and project them all over the surrounding area; the paint stripper is smellier yet containable in terms of side effects. If you can hook your sanding machine to your vacuum cleaner with a special attachment, it may be the safest removal technique to operate indoors. Anything done outdoors is less health hazardous and messy. Green strippers lack efficiency; some would say they lack efficacy as well. They are reliable only for small projects, assuming that you have time to apply countless coats of strippers. To clean the wood once it has been stripped, you need to use different steel wools, from coarse to fine, to obtain a smooth and bare wood.


It can be a necessary evil, to be done outside or in a very well ventilated area using a mask. When furniture has lost its appeal due to a damaged paint or too many layers of it, or a varnish that has turn opaque with an orange or green shade, it is time to strip it. With imagination and some work, lackluster furniture may get a vibrant second life well worth a messy exercise. To complete this operation, you need a strong stripping solution: unfortunately, the low environmental impact versions that I have tried so far are absolutely useless and very expensive. The product has to rest roughly 10 to 15 minutes on top of the wood, depending on the thickness of the paint or the hardness of the varnish. It is removed with a plastic spatula, not a metal one, to avoid scarring the wood. You have to repeat the process several times until you see the bare wood. When this is done, you remove the excess of this waxy solution with steel wool. The steel wool (#1) should be unrolled then folded again in a loose square pad, and you may stretch it and fold it again until it is soaked with stripper. When the surface is free of any debris and dry, sand it with a medium or fine grade sand paper. If you intend to repaint the piece, use a good quality primer that will hide knots, remaining wood stain or water damages, and you may want to have it colored like the topcoat to save one extra layer of paint. The UMA primer is excellent and adheres to any surface. For varnish, I favor a water-based choice: it is environmentally friendly, odorless, dries quickly and does not yellow, unless applied on top of an oil-borne paint. If you opt to leave the grain visible and need a sturdy finish, to protect for instance a vanity top, you may want to use the Sikkens brand that stays more or less clear with a tad of a purple tinge to it. It can be used for exterior projects as well. In this renovation project, it is important to sand with fine grade sand paper between each coat to guarantee a smooth finish.

Tortoise shell

It is forbidden for sale but we have enough available samples to copy it with more or less fantasy, and at a larger scale than what is observed in nature. It looks gorgeous in any color: orange, red, yellow, sienna, blue or green. It is a bravura finish that requires a good eye to reach realism and credibility more than any particular technical dexterity. It brings a grand and wild look, on mirrors or walls, and an expensive touch on objects. On a large surface it is recommended to faux squares or rectangles of this substance and to display them in a geometrical pattern, a star-like pattern for example. It should be sealed with a gloss varnish.

Trompe l’oeil

It is not a decor, similar to a theater decor or a mural; it is a painting that fools the eye by the realism of the subject and its execution. It can be a fake window or door, a dog waiting for you at the foot of your steps, or birds perched on a cornice. It is supposed to surprise you and trick you into believing that it is real. To achieve this illusion, the location and perspective of the subject, its colors and size must have been thought out carefully in conjunction with the surrounding architecture. If it is not believable, it has lost its interest. Sometimes artists even fake the presence of doors or windows (such as the famous doors painted by Christian Berard), headboards or furniture; this time, it does not fool the eye, yet it contributes to an elaborate fantasy decor that is original, fresh and visually pleasant. A large Trompe l'oeil expands a room to a pluri-dimensional space. The walls are no longer the limit, and the furniture is organized around the design. Floor patterns as well can make wonderful Trompe l'oeil when furniture and paintings make walls unavailable for a special treatment. Indeed, the sole artifice of a small Trompe l'oeil can achieve the transformation of a room.


A vivid green/turquoise color that is almost fluorescent. Verdigris is a copper hydro carbonate formed on copper because of humidity; this typical green ranging from dark to pastel green must be accompanied by any shade of copper to look more realistic. The ideal destination of this faux finish would be a fountain, a plant urn or metal candlestick. Again, this chemical occurrence has to be delicately realized in order to be credible.

Wall preparation or ground

Unprepared walls can ruin the best design or faux work. One needs to verify the stability of the wall substrate, patch and repair cracks, holes, buckling drywall tapes and so forth. Your finish will make up no default, unless you have selected a pattern as busy as an Oriental rug. Otherwise, they will be magnified by a new application of paint. Also, the wall ground has to be clean, free of grease and dust, to insure a better bond to the new coat. In addition, the base coat has to be thoroughly dry before coating it with a glaze. In a bathroom project, one needs to be twice as vigilant because of the ambient humidity that will remain behind the fresh latex paint (if latex is used) until it is completely cured; a premature glazing may cause the base coat to bubble.


It has fallen into disgrace for many years, yet it seems to be back in style, with modern and hip patterns. It is a wonderful way to treat walls with a handsome or original specimen. Old elegant wallpapers are worth being cleaned and re-pasted where needed. Zuber wallpapers for instance, Chinese hand painted ones, and historical products are ageless and should be preserved. You may fall upon rare finds at auction, and these same rolls can be pasted with special glue allowing an easy removal from the walls if you decide to take them with you or sell them. If hung in a bathroom or a kitchen, finish can protect them against humidity and allow their cleaning. Wallpapers introduce diversity into your premises and respond more adequately to the function of the room. Since their pattern is often available in the matching fabric, it is easy to recreate a cozy and visually relaxing ambiance.


This includes doors, windows, architraves, wainscots, pillars, baseboards, cornices, sills and so forth.: anything made of wood that finishes a space. Woodwork is the poor parent of the decor, because priority is often given to walls. If your design scheme is to create a neutral room, the woodwork will be understated; on the contrary, to organize a decor, the woodwork will structure your project. To this effect you may select strong colors that will set the walls, as a frame enhances a painting. Or you may have recourse to a frieze on the ceiling molding, around double doors or passageways, or else, marbling or graining part or all of the trims. Trim colors can team up with the furniture upholstery and draperies, giving more character to a room and allow it to take on life.