One of our NYC designers commissioned my company, Grand Illusion Decorative Painting, Inc., to paint faux marble on all molding in a newly renovated living space. The Spanish, mission-style house is nestled in the hills of northern LA in a well-known part of town. The designer was going for an Italian-French 18th century interior, right up my alley. The 23-foot, livingroom was reworked to include pilasters, intricate millwork, and grand baseboard and crown. The 2-story walls were to be upholstered in a delicate blue-green silk fabric, which I kept in mind when making the sample. The original sample had light veining, but the marble that I ended up choosing was close to a Breccia Sevenzia.
Since the job was so big, I decided I needed some expert help. I called on my friend, Jean Sable from Versailles, France. Jean is a long-time colleague who I admire. We both graduated from the same school in Brussels and won the “Best Craftsman of France” award for decorative painting. But most of all, I knew that Jean’s style was close to my own and he works fast. We worked feverishly on the many elements of casing, baseboard, pilasters, and door panels.
The designer came to the shop many months before the job and picked out a subtle marble sample from my stock. The bad luck of it when I bid on the job, the blueprints were not detailed to judge the immensity of the room. I did get a chance to visit the jobsite, but it was still in the early stages of construction. Upon arriving at the jobsite, I immediately felt like the approved sample needed to have much more visual drama. The room is grand with large, chunky millwork. The pilasters went from floor to ceiling, the mid crown was almost 2 feet tall, and the doors and windows had deep recesses. A subtle veining system would have been a poor design.
For the first time ever, I specified a Sherwin-Williams water/oil basecoat product because of California VOC laws. This water borne alykd product lays down evenly like oil and sands to a powder.
I knew the sample the designers chose at my shop, was not the best choice, so I immediately made a new sample for approval.
Quickly, our crew took over the space. We set up a nice shop and started taping off sections. You’ll see in this next picture how we made the cut lines horizontal instead of a diagonal cut as it would be made out of real marble.
Layer 1 (background):
The main goal of the background step to this marble, is to create directional movements with the glazes and to give visual texture.
Originally, I entertained the idea of using oil for glazing, but I did not want any yellowing to occur over time (especially on a white marble). So, we used Proceed glazes and Slow-dry fluids, which worked out great.
For the background glazes (mixed with Proceed glaze and slow-dry fluid colors), here are the colors I chose:
Main glaze: earthy light glaze with a blue tone
Secondary tone: earthy paynes grey with white
Tertiary tone: earthy ochre
Start by glazing the surface with the main glaze, thinly. “Sketch” directional veins with the secondary and add accents of the tertiary tone. Normally I would add the 2 tones with a chiqueteur ON, but in this case, after sketching in the tones with a glazing brush and then used a chiqueteur OFF to blend and diffuse the tones. Finally, I used a badger to quickly soften.
Layer 2 (veining/breccia):
I practiced my brush techniques on a sample first. I start with big veins to finer, more transparent veins. I make a conscious effort to make the breccia, “bottom heavy” in design, to show the weight of the marble. And I emphasized the cuts with louder and lightly veined areas.
I came up with a good system of whipping out the breche- I had to make it fast. Using several veining brushes: pointed samina, single head brecher, 2- headed brecher, a pointed samina liner, and other smaller veining brushes. I mixed a medium blue-grey tint, which determined a base color to use with my palette. On my palette, I had: white, yellow ochre, burnt sienna, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue, chromium oxide green, phthalo green, and burnt umber. All of the colors I used were Proceed slow-dry acrylics. I loved using them because I could paint all day and my brushes wouldn’t cake up. I used plastic palettes with little cups to keep the colors from running. On my palette, I also have a little cup of the medium sauce and a cup of clear glaze to dilute the colors. Jean Sable and I worked very hard to vein the many areas and the profiles made the work tedious, but we powered through it.
I knew the designer was coming to the jobsite. I didn’t get a chance to get my new sample approved, so I was nervous about their reaction. Luckily, as the group came through the space, they absolutely loved it and the client was ecstatic. I don’t recommend making a habit of this sort of job risk. I took a huge level of artistic license knowing that the designer knows my work and we had reached a level of trust. I gave them more visual impact than they asked for and the risk paid off.
Layer 3 (overglazing):
The final step uses a white glaze to create the final addition of visual depth of faux marble.
First, I like to give a light sanding before the overglazing step. I mix a mother glaze with Low Viscosity Proceed glaze and pure white, First, glaze the entire surface with the glaze and then chiqueteur OFF. Then, chiqueteur ON this mixture plus straight white inside big fragments. Then, I add almond shapes on the breccia (crystallization), flames across big breccia, and fissure veins. This really helped knock down the overall look of the veining and created the final look.
We used a low VOC lacquer varnish that we sprayed with airless sprayer. We were able to spray 2 coats back to back without sanding. I chose an eggshell sheen.