Monday, August 24, 2015

The Beauty of Venetian Plaster

In Venice, Italy in the 1500s, builders began to use a very special material to finish the walls and ceilings of the dwellings in this magical city on the sea. They mixed plaster and colored tints with limestone and marble dust--and sometimes chips of marble--to create a finish that is quite dazzling. On my last trip to Venice, the finish was indeed everywhere, even in my Hotel Rialto, right next to the Ponte Rialto.

Venetian plaster is still done in this ancient method. In this time- and labor-intensive process, multiple layers of the plaster, infused with slaked limestone, are applied by hand. Once on, the layers are then burnished either to a satin or a very high gloss, glass-like texture and appearance. A more matte texture is also possible, but the hallmark of Venetian plaster is the gloss.

Once burnished, the plaster hardens and dries to stone...which makes sense since it is basically wet stone that is being troweled on to the surface. It is incredibly hard and durable. It can even stand up to water and is acceptable to use in bathrooms...and even in showers!

Walls look fantastic in Venetian plaster. Because of the multiple layers of plaster and limestone, the material has a startling and alluring depth. It can look like suede but the gloss brings out the depth even more.

But real luxury is a Venetian plastered ceiling. Below we see a bedroom with walls and ceiling in the same tone of Venetian plaster. Additionally, it appears that the walls are satin but the ceiling is high gloss.

Here are some more examples of Venetian plastered ceilings. The look is gorgeous--and is especially attractive on tray ceilings or barrel vaulted ceilings.

And Venetian plaster can be very versatile in terms of style: it may have originated in Venice in the sixteenth century, but the look is very at home in a modern setting. The "stone" texture and sensibility bring a contemporary edge to any space.

Happy designing!

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