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Venetian Plaster, A Diy Way To A Cozy Tuscan Villa

Reviewing: Behr Premium Plus With Style Venetian Plaster No. 770  |  Rating:
Clover Bee By Clover Bee on
Badge: Publisher | Level: 8 | Renovating Expertise:
Image for Venetian Plaster, a DIY way to a cozy Tuscan Villa

My husband and I went through a massive remodeling effort a few years ago. We wanted more space in our home, but didn't want to give up our land that was on a small mountain. Our views are spectacular, it isn't far from where we both work, but our small 900 sq ft cabin wasn't cutting it. Instead of moving, we transformed the footprint of our home to create a unique habitat, reminiscent of the stone villas found in Italy. To afford it, we had to do almost everything by ourselves.

(ok before we go further, yes, I know. But we actually didn't kill each other OR get divorced, we had a LOTA rules about who got to decide what early on - I would highly recommend that) :)

To get the outside construction the way we wanted it, our budget was stretched really thin and didn't leave a lot of extra $$ for interior finishes. I had wanted beautifull textured wallpaper but ended up with matte paint. And to add insult to injury, our small cabin had shifted in places and that made the tie-in to the new addition painfully obvious when they placed sheetrock on the walls. The sheetrock installers weren't very good and the fact that it was a difficult tie-in made the walls almost impossible to work with.

The painful news - When sunlight hit the walls and ceiling - You could see every sheetrock seam, even through 2 coats of paint! I was devastated! I couldn't afford to wallpaper to fix it and not sure it would have worked anyway. I thought about ceiling tiles, but they looked really bad to me except those beautiful tin and copper ones, which obviously I couldn't afford. So I was stuck looking at these ghastly seams on the walls and ceilings every day after working soo hard for 3 years to build our "dream home".

Venetian Plaster saved my walls - While prowling through Lowe's paint aisle one day, I noticed the Venetian Plaster demo board. I swear it was like "ding ding ding" - I immediately knew that was my answer. I could tell by the way the paint was applied to the swatch board, that it would break the light AND it would make the walls (and ceilings) beautifully warm and cozy.

I grabbed me a few gallons and dug in.

I started in a very small bathroom that had a woodland forest theme. I chose a lovely dark cypress green color from the venetial plaster color chips (later I found out that you can have it tinted to any color in the Behr line, you are not tied to the colors in the demo board). The official color name was Italian Cypress.

Venetian Plaster - the product's look and feel. This paint is very different than any other paint. In fact, it isn't called paint at all - it truely is a plaster and has the viscosity and look of it. It reminds me of sheetrock putty or thick oil paint that you spread on canvas with a palette knife (for you artists out there). You don't apply it with a roller you apply it to the wall with a trowel - just like sheetrock putty, plaster or the analogy above about oil paint and a palette knife. They suggested a steel trowel, but I found that it scratched the sheetrock on the corners. I filed it down a bit and it worked ok. But I found the small plastic ones were easier to use and lighter in my hand.

Step 1. Priming (it'll save you money). To get the most of your gallon of VP, you should always buy a good sealer for the area you are painting. Your salesperson can help you choose one. If you have chosen your VP color, have them tint the primer to that color. It'll allow you to get more sq ft coverage out of the gallon. Especially if you are painting a very dark color on a light wall.

Step 2. First coat. You pick up a small amount of the VP, which is very very thick (do NOT thin it) and apply it to the walls scraping down with the trowel at an angle. Use a varied stroke, both long and short, vertically and horizontally and diagonally. I found a cross-hatch method worked well for me and varied the strokes in length. But let me say this - DON'T WORRY - you can't mess it up.

Step 3. Second coat. When you finish the first coat - you will look at it and say"

OMG! What have I just done to my wall???!??

Yes you will. Accept it before you start. You will think you have royally messed your wall up beyond all comprehension. I did, even after I'd painted with it twice!!

But trust me, it'll be ok. It requres a second coat to begin to 'see' the plaster effect and the beautiful shading. When you have let the first coat dry at least 4 hours, Begin the process again (yep, this takes a LOT longer than a typical paint job) using the same type of strokes. You will begin to see the venetian plaster take on a distinctive and magical appearance. Some of it will be dark and some will be light. That is due to the mixture of marble dust in the paint and as you apply heat (from the friction of the trowel). This is referred to as "burnish". You will begin to see more and more of it as you move across the wall retouching certain areas a lot and leaving other areas with only a few passes of the trowel. Now your blood pressure will have returned to normal and you will fall in love with the finish.

Finishing. You will be amazed at how beautiful it is. At this point you have a lot of options. You can leave it as is, which will be kind of rough and have a lot of texture. You can apply a top coat or not. I chose not to. for my downstairs main living and dining areas, I didn't use a color chip from the VP line. I asked them to mix me a beautiful ecru from their normal interior paint chips and it worked beautifully on the walls and on the ceilings.

You can also "burnish" the second coat. You do this by sanding the with extra fine sand paper and wiping with a damp cloth. You then use a clean trowel and scrape the wall at a 30 degree angle in short fast strokes (applying a lot of heat). This will bring out all the light/dark places and buff the marble dust in the paint. I used this technique in both of my guest bedrooms. I chose the color Florence, a sea foam green for one, Italian Cypress for another and Sicilian Sea, which is the color in the picture above. For our master bedroom and hall, I used a combination of color "Grecian Gold" and "Grecian Urn". Since then, I've painted my Mom's kitchen with Grecian Urn. Everyone who sees it loves it. It definitely has that Tuscany look.

Summary. I can't begin to describe the beauty of the walls and the picture doesn't do it justice. I have had people come in and simply rub their hands all over the walls amazed at the finish. I've had so many compliments on the walls and no one believes me when I tell them it is sheetrock with paint. I will try to take some pictures of the walls in the house tomorrow and show you the colors I chose.

I'm very proud that we were able to disguise the uneven sheetrock in such a beautiful method for a decent price (I got the paint when it was on sale). Thank goodness for this product - I'm not aware of any others on the market and certainly not at that price. Sure, it is more than regular paint, but considering that "real" venetian plaster is a mixture of marble dust and lye and takes decades of craftsmen to learn to apply it correctly Italy, this is a great alternative for the look.

Clover's secret way of getting this done with minimial effort. As you have probably realized by now - this is not a quick paint job. It takes longer than simply painting with a roller, especially if you are doing a wide span of wall. Here's the secret - get all your kids, neices and nephews to help! Troweling on paint is fun for us grownups for, oh say, about 30 minutes MAX. But kids - kids LOVE it. I had some nieces and nephews helping me and we flew through it and they loved to use the trowel and paint on the walls - and they did a great job once they got the hang of it. I mostly asked them to do the base coats, but a few of the older ones were so good at it, they helped me with the second coat and burnishing. I hired an older nephew to do the ceilings since there was no way in you-know-where I was going to trowel on paint lying back on a scaffold a la Michaelango. But he was agile and quick and it didn't cost very much.

Coverage: One gallon covers about 145 sq feet (using 2 coats). If you prime in the same color, I could stretch mine to about 170 sq feet. It's acrylic based which cleans in water and since you have no brushes or rollers to wash, wiping the trowels off is all the clean up you have to do!

So, obviously I love the stuff because every wall and ceiling in my home has VP on it. Some have been there five years - some rooms I only painted a year ago. And my husband and I still love it. But don't dispair, if you burnish it after sanding - it is nothing but a smooth coat of pain and you could paint right over it with regular interior paint. It's matte and the texture is just an effect of the light. This isn't true for a lot of faux finishes on the market that actually add sand and other textural materials to the paint.

And I still can't resist running my hands along the wall as I walk to bed every night. :)

Thanks for reading and if you have any questions - don't hesitate to drop me a line!

Update On May 04, 2008: I've added some more pictures. The third picture is the wall in my master bathroom - The color is "Grecian urn". The flash of the camera makes it look shiny-but it isn't. It has been "burnished".

The 4th pic is the "woodland theme" bathroom, color "Italian Cypress". Once again, t isn't shiny-it's matte. It has been burnished.

The 5th & 6th pics are the 'Grecian Gold' color in my master BR. I dug up a pic of in process" to show you how horrible it looks during the first coat-(pic 4). Pic 5 is the second coat, without burnishing. If anyone wants to see more pics - let me know and I'll put them on Flicker.