Feb

13

Posted by : schoolhouse | On : February 13, 2017

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I was sooooooo excited!!! Over the Moon elated!!! One of those phone calls that makes your heart pound and inspiration swell. Out of the blue – Two One Two Design, a renown firm from New York City, called to inquire if I would be interested in collaborating to create a series of custom, hand-painted ceiling medallions for a new Starbucks Coffee shop. Much gratitude to the most excellent customer service staff at Modello Designs for referring me as a New York based decorative artist well-versed in ornamental ceilings, particularly large scale designs that involve using the custom decorative masking patterns the company creates.

Of course I would be thrilled to do so. My bread and butter clients have typically been high-end residential. Always a pleasure to whittle away the hours creating one of a kind finishes in some of the most beautiful homes throughout the Central New York Finger Lakes Region. Sprinkle in a few fine restaurants, boutique hotels and special project stints like the Larkefield Manor Ballroom, North Shore of Long Island. The Starbucks gig would be my first major corporate commission.

As the dialogue ensued, I was delighted to gather that the new Starbucks cafe was to be built within the exchange of the Fort Myers Joint Military Base. Located next to Arlington National Cemetery in the heart of our nation’s Capitol region.

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Blessings appear nearly every year with a special project that results in a travel adventure.  I dub them “working vacations.”  Always happy for the chance to leap outside my usual terra to work and explore elsewhere….to partner with new contacts, network and grow creating in tandem with talented designers, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, fellow artists and the like.

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I was awestruck when I received the blueprints depicting the scale, layout and design for the scope of my work.  Not only with the concept and how beautiful it would be, but for the respectful nod to the Military symbolized by the ornament.  The series of four ceiling medallions were inspired by the Medal of Honor.

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Each measuring eight foot in diameter, my calling was to hand-paint the medallions on the ceiling in metallic gold.  After which, lit chandeliers would be hung from the center of each.   It was especially poignant considering my beloved grandfathers Leslie Crandall and Robert Bruno, and my great-grandfater Edward McNeil were dutiful military men….who were proud to serve their country.

My beloved grandfather, Leslie Gene Crandall - World War II - stationed in the Philippines

My beloved grandfather, Leslie Gene Crandall – World War II – stationed in the Philippines

My beloved great-grandfather, Edward McNeil - World War I - stationed in France

My beloved great-grandfather, Edward McNeil – World War I – stationed in France

Beloved grandfather, Robert Bruno with grandmother, Virgina.  World War II - stationed on the Corporal's ship in the San Fransisco Harbor, as a member of the military band (trombone) on December 7, 1941

My beloved grandfather, Robert Bruno, with grandmother, Virgina. World War II – stationed on the Corporal’s ship in the San Fransisco Harbor, as a member of the military band (trombone) on December 7, 1941

I loved the concept, and ran with it back to Modello Designs to create the custom templates required to work large-scale overhead, and a smaller maquette version to create a series of samples for Two One Two Design and the Starbucks executives to approve…it had to be just the right gold.  I planned to offer a range of light bright gold, medium but richly glowing gold, and even richer antique gold hues created using the Modern Masters line of metallic paints.  Priority expressed the package to New York City for review.  Medium gold is perfect, which was my favorite too….considering the basecoat flat paint ceiling color was a creamy soft tan vs. the ‘usual’ stark white.

Tillie supervising...the range of maquette samples to depict various hues of gold.

Tillie supervising…the range of maquette samples to depict various hues of gold.

I was on que for weeks, which turned into months, while the construction began. I kept shimmying my existing clients forward and back to prioritize being able to leave town at moments notice for the Starbucks gig.  The construction schedule was extremely tight to open on time – prior to July 4th festivities.  Throw in a few setbacks like having to reopen the entire finished sheetrock ceiling to reinspect fire sprinklers – the pressure would amp even more to work as due diligently as possible to stay on track.  I guesstimated I could render one medallion per day – make that per long super-focused day.  Upon our pleasant meet and greet in person the morning I arrived General Contractor, Harman Ranger – owner of Constructure, inquired if I could finish all four medallions in two days.  I smiled politely and said that would be above and beyond a super human feat.  “It is what it is to work through the production process.”  You cannot rush the perfection I was aiming for, and was expected to deliver.  I offered to work through the weekend instead – which panned out well having the space to myself to work and think in peace for at least two days.  Being a bit of an introvert my nature, I work best in silence and solitude.  The other two days of working amongst other trades was a frantic do-si-do of skirting in, out, around each other…and the deafening “STOMP” like clammer of saws, hammers, screwguns, crash, boom, bang, you name it.

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Template application after I assured perfect layout via measurements

Once template was centered and adhered, I finessed any seams and began applying the metallic gold paint

Once centered & adhered w/ finessed seams – I applied metallic gold paint

Each of the eight foot circular medallion templates had to be cut/produced in twelve separate parts at Modello Designs. Shipped from California to my home in Skaneateles, New York – I laid them out in my studio to sketch, number, and study them well in advance. Measure four times if not six, and adhere to the ceiling once to line up seams. A little wiggle room not preferred, but inevitable = safe release painters tape to the rescue and the ultimate back up of hand-retouching to perfect edges.

Averaged one medallion per day.  Final step; finessing with hand-wrought detail to perfect edges and seams.

Final step; finessing with hand-wrought detail to perfect edges and seams.

Aside from rendering the ornament I had to insure perfect placement, which was crucial for the overall effect. Crunching measurement math end to end, side to side through the expanse of ceiling, I noted two of the four light boxes were off by 1 1/2″. Unfortunately, in turn, this seemingly slight variation would bump the medallions off from being perfectly centered in a row. Deep breath….and step back for two days for Harman’s crew to open the prepped ready-to-go sheetrocked ceiling to move the two light boxes accordingly. Fresh tape, joint compound repair, and paint is always a cringe when using the adhesive backed decorative masking patterns. The essential proper prep process should never be rushed, as it always requires proper cure time. But with looming deadline – this was not the luxury of an option. Pray….bring in fans, and thank God for the super product Binz 123 primer. After researching and speaking to tech reps, this product did in fact live up to its promise of being a super-sealing super-gripping primer. I was relieved that my insistence to use Binz resulted in minimal ‘blisters’ (areas where the adhesive template may pull off the barely cured repaired areas of the basecoat).

I made the most of the two-day setback, and struck out from my hotel to explore.  WOW!!!  I had no idea how beautiful, powerful, and majestic our country’s Capitol region was.

The grand architecture of our Capitol region....awe inspiring

The grand architecture of our Capitol region….awe inspiring

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Spent a day walking through Arlington National Cemetery, the monuments, and historical sights associated with it.

Arlington National Cemetery - located next to Fort Myers Military Base

Arlington National Cemetery next to Fort Myers

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

It’s hallow ground.  Gave me a lump in my throat, and deepened respect for the centuries of sacrifices made on behalf of forging our great nation.  There was so much to take in and learn about our country’s rich history.  I studied an ornate display showcasing the various Military awards for valor and bravery – especially the Medal of Honor.  Talk about feeling inspired…

 

The next day, I explored the entire National Mall.  I meandered everywhere, weaving on foot through all the magnificent memorials representing poignant points and milestones in our commitment to Democracy and pursuit of Freedom.  I paused at each to really absorb their meaning, and the difference all the military sacrifices made – for all of us and the quality of life we enjoy today.  Our government buildings are the finest examples of stunning architecture, symbolic ornament and power.  You could just feel it in the air.

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Couldn’t help acting like a star-struck tourist when I pressed my face through the wrought iron fence to stare at the stately White House.

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Those two days were really a blessing in disguise to rev me up with a super charged surge of inspiration for the hard, labor intensive physical work that lay ahead – now that I was ‘back in the saddle’ with a green light to proceed.

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The work went swimmingly well, and the days became a blur of my hands dancing nonstop in a flurry of gold detailing overhead.  It was quite the work-out, but my adrenaline and aspirin helped me to rally.  I finished on point and in the nick of time.  Drove home dreamy eyed on July 4th to my beloved Tillie, family, and schoolhouse sanctuary.  Took the entire following week off to let my body rest and repair itself.

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Everyone was wonderful to work with, and as always, I made new friends.  It was truly an honor to be involved, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to lend a hand with this inspiring project.  Even more so, for the opportunity to explore and experience the the heart of our Nation’s Capitol region and stoic Military memorials.

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The Starbucks commission was testament to my great faith that I can accomplish anything I try hard at, or set my mind to, no matter how daunting the task.  The end result was a huge hit – everyone loved the Medal of Honor medallion accent. The new Starbucks Coffee shop at Fort Myer’s is suitably a unique and beautiful variation from the usual cafe in honor of the soldiers who will be served there.

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With respectful gratitude,

Heather

“We are stars wrapped in skin, the light you are seeking has always been within”            – Rumi

Apr

30

Posted by : schoolhouse | On : April 30, 2015

 

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Enjoying an ocean side respite…finally, a chance to rest, reminisce and write! It’s been a whirlwind year full of inspiring projects, and whittling away on my circa 1814 schoolhouse renovation every ‘spare’ moment. Time goes by in a blink!

A recent career highlight was the fortunate opportunity to paint and play with my dear friend and muse, Melanie Royals. Melanie is the creative super nova founder of my favorite ornament resources; Modello Designs and Royal Design Studio. She’s a renown decorative arts industry leader. I’ve travelled often to her studio headquarters in California for classes – mastering methods and mediums to create exquisite finishes for all sorts of hand-wrought surface design applications.

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November 2014 – to celebrate my 15 year milestone of being self-employed, I joined Melanie and friends for another epic painting adventure in Marrakech, Morocco. Like the 2009 project we worked on at internationally famous blogger Maryam Montague’s estate home and hotel boutique Peacock Pavilions, I knew this would be an incredibly inspiring experience and trip of a lifetime…

Like other painting adventures Melanie has coordinated for projects in Morocco, Italy, and France – the team she gathered was an eclectic ensemble of personalities, professions, and experience…unified by creative spirit and longing for adventure.

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We flew from New York City to Casablanca to Marrakech to get acquainted via a savory Moroccan fare dinner at our home base, Maison Du Tresor. The Maison (French for ‘home’) is an elegant, peaceful riad (traditional Moroccan style home with an open inner courtyard) in the heart of the old city near the famed Djemaa-el-Fna square.

Sprawling mysteriously behind an unassuming gated entrance door…

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The hotel has been renovated by it’s Italian owner in the tradition of discreet luxury and intimate hospitality.

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I loved the the roof-top terrace with cozy nooks offering sweeping views of the ancient fortified city and snow-capped Atlas Mountain range in the distance. Above the bustling maze of streets, the roof terrace is a surround sound stage for the daily calls to prayer which resonate from the Muslim minaret towers punctuating the landscape.

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Melanie has travelled to Morocco over a dozen times, paving the path for numerous collaborative projects. For this particular painting excursion, she partnered with her dear friend and gallery owner, Hadia Temli, to design beautiful wall finishes for Hadia’s up-and-coming space in Guelez (the newer, more cosmopolitan city facet of Marrakech). Hadia hails from a well connected family with a great appreciation for art – from antiquities to contemporary.

Melanie and Hadia worked months in advance to conceptualize the project, fine-tune design details and prepare logistics for our arrival to execute the decorative painting.

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With great camaraderie and teamwork, we were thrilled to work on the walls of Hadia’s new gallery.

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We painted two feature walls in a tone-on-tone white paint with metallic pearl stencil creme to create a subtle, but eye-catching backdrop. Melanie designed the Moroccan Key and African Protea Flower allover stencil patterns used, which are available via the Royal Design Studio collection.

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The piece de resistance was a room dedicated to the rendering of a ‘Haiti’ wall mural. Haiti’s are ceremonial wall hangings created from pieced and embroidered silk. The original, an early 20th century vintage piece, which inspired the wall finish is from the Temli family art collection.

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After completing the paint project, we spent the rest of our stay savoring all the senses – experiencing the quintessential exotic nature of Morocco.

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The sights, sounds, smells, tastes and feel of the region is an eclectic mix of Middle Eastern, African, and European influences.

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As a decorative artist, I am in awe of the intricate detail, hand-wrought craftsmanship, vibrant color and geometric patterning of Islamic art.

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Everywhere I looked was a visual feast; from centuries old historical settings to swanky restaurants, to the souks in the medina teeming with food vendors, henna artists, musicians, snake charmers and artisans selling their handcrafted goods.

Our itinerary was thoughtfully planned to allow us the gamut of great experiences; fine dining, cooking classes, shopping, a hammam spa treatment, visiting historical sites, artist studios, cocktails at the Royal Mansour…

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Everything we did provided a deep sense of cultural appreciation, left us inspired and feeling rather privileged.

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The highlight for me was a day trip to the majestic Atlas Mountains.  Passing caravans as we wound our way through narrow mountain passes…listening to Berber music, was a wild ride to say the least.

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Landing in the village of Imlal, we hiked up to Kasbah du Toubkal for afternoon mint tea.

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Partway along a foot trail to reach the Kasbah, I stopped to hone in on a hauntingly beautiful sound…calls to prayer occur 5 times a day in the predominantly Muslim country of Morocco, and at that moment it was echoing through the mountain valley.

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Atop the Kasbah, I took the time to slowly turn 360 degrees studying the incredible raw beauty of it all…imagining the experience of daily life there. What if I had been born in that mountain village, rather than in Skaneateles, New York?

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Well…I surely would love to weave the amazing, one-of-a-kind Berber carpets which the region is famed for. It fascinates me how much ‘creativity’ is seeped in our nature as human beings.

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I feel blessed to love what I do and to do what I love. I feel blessed to live in a beautiful region…and to venture out for opportunities to explore our beautiful world. For me, inspiring friendships and the adventure of travel are what make life rich. I know when I’m old and gray and still painting away I’ll look back on this experience…and smile.

With much gratitude,
Heather

“You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop” – Rumi

Sep

02

Posted by : schoolhouse | On : September 2, 2014

The Genevieve Model Blueprints - courtesy of JMG Custom Homes...our seed of inspiration for the 2014 CNY Parade of Homes tour

The Genevieve model blueprints created by builder JMG Custom Homes – our model home and seed of inspiration for the 2014 Central New York Parade of Homes tour at The Farmstead in Clay, New York

So thrilled to have had the opportunity to partner with celebrated interior designer, Rene Settineri of Rene Designs and the Grosso Brothers of JMG Custom Homes for the 2014 Central New York Parade of Homes tour. I was commissioned to create custom decorative paint finishes for seven rooms and four ceilings in the beautiful, cleverly constructed “Genevieve” model.

One of the many meetings behind the scenes I had with celebrated Interior Designer, Rene Settineri of Rene Designs, to brainstorm colors, finishes, and overall game plan for approach for the interior accruements

One of the many meetings behind the scenes I had with celebrated Interior Designer, Rene Settineri of Rene Designs, to brainstorm colors, custom paint finishes, furnishings and our plan of approach for the model home interior decor

The Genevieve model home had a spacious floor plan with smooth elegant flow through all three floors of living space. Smartly situated dual stairwells flanking the east and west side of the home made for effortless access to every comfortably sized room. Heightened ceilings created loftiness, and large facets of windows balancing the facade flooded the home with light and softly glowing ambiance.  I loved the architectural bones of the home – it had a great mood and feel.
Second meeting on sight to review custom finish sample boards...progress being made early Spring 2014

Onsite meeting to walk through the Genevieve under construction – progress being made early Spring 2014

In addition to my muse, Rene Settineri, I grew to adore the newlywed couple who purchased the home to celebrate a happy start creating their family and life-long love.
Before shot of the Parade home master bedroom feature wall - with yours truly, Interior Designer Rene Settineri, and new home owners the lovely Lauren Marinelli and her fiancé, Ryan Geiger...a great team!

Before shot of the Parade home master bedroom feature wall…with yours truly, Interior Designer – Rene Settineri, and new home owners Lauren and Ryan Geiger.  A great team!

Ryan is as handsome as Lauren is beautiful. Rene worked closely with the dynamic duo every step of the way – winding thru the interior design process to reflect their tastes and personalities. Combining the Geiger’s input with Rene’s savvy and infinite resources, the interior evolved into a stylish design schematic with polished modern flare. A thoughtfully selected palette of neutral taupes, grays and warm whites with pops of color, like Tiffany Blue, resulted in a cohesive elegant feel.
Ahhh.....the Living Room (voted 'Best Living Room" via Post Standard's Peoples Choice award) after shot with my Muse, Rene Settineri of Rene Designs....Neutral color scheme with pops of Tiffany Blue...embracing ambient natural light

Ahhh…..the Living Room designed by Rene Settineri of Rene Designs – voted ‘Best Living Room” via Post Standard’s Peoples Choice award. Casual elegance enhanced by a neutral color scheme with pops of Tiffany Blue and softly glowing ambient natural light

All twelve homes in the 2014 Parade of Homes tour were beautiful and well appointed, but the Genevieve really stood out as a unique modern style statement with it’s sleek furnishings, fixtures, and floor plan.
The dining room featured hand-troweled Silver Taupe Lusterstone walls and Queen Anne's Lace Lusterstone ceiling finish, accentuated with an ornamental border on the tray ceiling

The dining room featured hand-troweled Silver Taupe Lusterstone walls and Queen Anne’s Lace Lusterstone ceiling finishes – accentuated with an ornamental border on the tray ceiling

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Par for the course with the Parade of Homes projects – it’s all hands on deck and a flurry of construction activity leading right up to the opening night. It was an intensely busy Spring preparing for the tour at The Farmstead in Clay. I put in long hours, worked evenings and weekends in synch with other trades to stay on track for completion.  It was all very exciting… The Central New York Parade of Homes tour highlights the latest and best in home design and construction. The annual event is always a great place to glean ideas and inspiration.
The study featured a coffered ceiling with custom Champagne metallic finish...

The study featured a coffered ceiling with custom Champagne metallic finish…

...a lovely complement to the custom stenciled wall medallions with pops of Tiffany Blue accent color

…a lovely complement to the stenciled wall medallions, which layered Champagne metallic paint with a pop of Tiffany Blue accent color

Lauren checks on my progress - creating a pewter bronze foil finish with silvery color-washed ceiling in the powder room. Many guests thought the hand-wrought finish was high-end wallpaper until we pointed out "There are no seams - one of the many perks of custom faux finishes!"

Lauren checking in on my progress – creating an antique pewter bronze dappled finish with color-washed ceiling in the powder room. Many guests thought the hand-wrought work might be a wallpaper application until we pointed out “There are no seams – one of the many perks of custom faux finishes!”

Adding gilded silver leaf accents to the master bedroom feature wall

Adding gilded silver leaf accents to the master bedroom feature wall

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Master bedroom hand-painted trellis feature wall with gilded silver leaf accents to catch the light, add depth and interest

Master bedroom painted trellis feature wall with gilded silver leaf accents to catch the light, add depth and interest

Coordinating master bath wall finish, a spin-off inspired by the master bedroom feature wall

Coordinating master bath wall finish, a spin-off design inspired by the master bedroom feature wall

Rene Designs, JMG Custom homes, their affiliated realtors and I helped host the home through the June 7nd – 22nd tour duration to meet and greet a flood of guests. The tremendous amount of time, planning and hard-work that went into the home was rewarded when the Genevieve was voted “Best Interior Design” by the Syracuse Post Standard, which covered the tour extensively. The longstanding partnership between Rene Designs and JMG Custom Homes has earned this accolade several times in the past – and it’s always a thrill…a huge complement considering the caliber of every home featured. I’m grateful to be part of this stellar team, and to have ‘a hand in the mix’ via my custom faux finishes and decorative painting techniques.

Stippling Mother of Pearl glaze base coat to create soft glowing opulence...

Stippling Mother of Pearl glaze base coat to create soft glowing opulence…

Pinstripes layered over Mother of Pearl stippled base coat in the girl's bedroom

over which to layer Playful Pink pinstripes for a whimsical girl’s bedroom wall finish

Fantasy sky ceiling painted especially for the children's bath

Fantasy sky ceiling painted especially for the children’s bath

It was a wonderful opportunity to present our professional skill-sets, hob-nob and meet new prospective clients.  Sure enough – I’ve been non-stop busy with back to back projects the past few months as a result of referrals from the Parade of Homes project. There’s something tremendously gratifying about answering a phone call that starts with “I saw your work…”
Interior Designer, Rene Settineri of Rene Designs, Joe Grosso of JMG Custom Homes & yours truly...celebrating the laurels of great teamwork

Interior Designer, Rene Settineri of Rene Designs, Joe Grosso of JMG Custom Homes & yours truly…celebrating the laurels of great teamwork

We look forward to seeing you next September – enjoying the 2015 Central New York Parade of Homes tour at the Crane Brook development in Manlius!
With great joy,
Heather
“Let the beauty we love be what we do.  There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” – Rumi

Jun

11

Posted by : schoolhouse | On : June 11, 2014

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An embossed leather feature wall I tucked into an entrance alcove to complement the 'Old World' design scheme.

An embossed leather feature wall I tucked into an entrance alcove to complement the ‘Old World’ design scheme.

Make a statement and celebrate the art of living with a custom painted feature wall accent to personalize your home sanctuary. Feature wall concepts are a clever, quick and easy way to inject color, add mood or enhance a room without redoing the entire color scheme that exists. Give any room in your home a lift by accentuating one wall, essentially creating a feature wall, whose design differs from the other walls in the room. As a Decorative Artist, custom feature wall finishes are one of my favorite means to create an original, stylish reflection of a client’s personality, tastes and interests. Aside from adding excitement to a room, feature wall finishes may also serve an aesthetic purpose to highlight an architectural element or frame a design nuance like artwork, a headboard, or fireplace mantle.

I faux finished this entire entranceway in Brown Suede Lusterstone. A niche alcove with bench seating served as a perfect place to accentuate a feature wall with gold Pompeian ornament...highlighted by the filtered light coming through the front door window.

I faux finished this entire entranceway in Brown Suede Lusterstone. A niche alcove with bench seating served as a perfect place to create a feature wall with stenciled gold Pompeian ornament…highlighted by filtered light shining through the front door window.

When entering a room, intuitively feel which wall facet naturally falls as a focal point. There’s always a logical reason why a wall invites special treatment and deserves attention to draw the eye. Elements to consider include balancing color and design with existing features and planned furnishings. Also, the quality of light entering the room during the day, and ambiance created by sconces, chandeliers or table lamps in the evening hours. Selecting colors and faux finish treatments is always a collaborative venture with designers and clients. Creating sample boards allows me to work through the brainstorming process to determine what looks and feels right for the home and client.

I put countless hours in behind the scenes...working in my studio to brainstorm different finishes, color and ornament options to create the 'perfect' finish for each project.

I put countless hours in behind the scenes…working in my studio to brainstorm different finishes, color and ornament options to create the ‘perfect’ finish for each project.

Color palette may be layered in the same color-way to keep the look coordinated with tone-on-tone lighter/darker variations of a hue. Often times I’ll play off the tone-on-tone effect by leaving 3 walls flat painted in a favorite color, and create a feature wall in a similar shade but differentiated with a faux finish medium such as venetian plaster or glazed color washing.

Before shot of Family Room feature wall...

Before shot of Family Room feature wall…

After shot of Family Room feature wall with subtle tone-on-tone Lusterstone finish - which added a layer of coziness, warmth, and interest to the room.

After shot of Family Room feature wall with subtle tone-on-tone Lusterstone finish – which added a layer of coziness, warmth, and interest to the room.

The tone-on-tone hand troweled Lusterstone feature wall was embellished with very subtle damask accents.

The tone-on-tone hand troweled Lusterstone feature wall was embellished with very subtle damask accents.

When working in a particular color scheme – sometimes it’s fun to inject a pop of color and/or ornament that adds personality and excitement without overpowering the room. For ornamental decorative paint finishes, seeds of inspiration are often found in window treatment, pillow, and upholstered chair fabrics. A recent commission highlights the process of gleaning inspiration directly from a fabric bolt used to upholster two armchairs.

Client requested a family room feature wall inspired by upholstered armchair fabric. I traced the ornament on a sheet of mylar and hand-cut a template to lay the design out on a 30' expanse of wall.

Client requested a Family Room feature wall inspired by upholstered armchair fabric. I traced the ornament on a sheet of mylar and hand-cut a template to lay the design out on a 30′ expanse of wall.

With the family room walls base-coated a rich shade of Sailboat Blue, I began stenciling the basic layout of the ornamental fabric pattern.

With the Family Room walls base-coated a rich shade of Behr Sailboat Blue, I began stenciling the basic layout of the ornamental fabric pattern.

After the ornament was mapped out, I reworked the entire design with a 1/2" brush to richen the design with hand-wrought flare. Most guests thought the finish was wallpaper, until upon closer inspection, the painted gesture marks were apparent...and there were no seams.

After the ornament was mapped out, I reworked the entire motif with a 1/2″ brush to richen the design with hand-wrought flare. Most guests thought the finish was wallpaper at first glance. Upon closer inspection, the wall is seamless (unlike wallpaper) and the quality of painted gesture marks are apparent.

The fabric inspired ornament perfectly fit the expanse of feature wall, and was a lovely complement to the bold, elaborate woodwork.

The fabric inspired ornament perfectly fit the expanse of feature wall, and was a lovely complement to the bold, elaborate woodwork.

The seed of inspiration found in design accents...that tie it all together into a beautiful package.

The seed of inspiration found in design accents…that tie it all together into a beautiful package.

Most recently, I partnered with celebrated Interior Designer – Rene Settineri of Rene Designs to create a ‘very special’ feature wall for the 2014 Central New York Parade of Homes Tour. Rene is a lovely Muse and a delightful professional patron to work with…kind, generous, devoted, inspiring. There’s a natural fluidity, bounce back and forth to our brainstorming process and creative partnership.

A glimpse into one of the many brainstorming and sample review sessions I had with Rene Settineri...the celebrated Interior Designer who commissioned my work for the 2014 Central New York Parade of Homes.

A glimpse into one of the many brainstorming and sample review sessions I had with Rene Settineri…the celebrated Interior Designer who commissioned my work for the 2014 Central New York Parade of Homes.

Before shot of the Parade home master bedroom feature wall - with yours truly, Interior Designer Rene Settineri, and new home owners the lovely Lauren Marinelli and her fiancé, Ryan Geiger...a great team!

Before shot – the Master Bedroom feature wall base coated in Benjamin Moore Covington Grey.  Project group portrait with yours truly, Interior Designer Rene Settineri of Rene Designs, new home owners – the lovely Lauren Marinelli and her fiancé, Ryan Geiger…a great team!

The Harden bed with uber cool headboard Rene selected for the soon to be newlyweds Master Bedroom commanded a backdrop – which the feature wall concept was well suited for. Rene preferred our feature wall palette range to be in shades of soft grey, silver, and black – which coordinated with the headboard and bedding fabric design. I pulled the part of selecting ornament and the best mediums to work with to create a stellar effect – opting for the elegant glow of Ebony Frost Lusterstone with gilded silver leaf to ad visual interest, depth to the ornament, and a clever means of catching the light cast from a large window during the day and ambient chandelier in the eve.

Starting the creative process...while a gentle breeze through an open bedroom window swirls about the delicate silver leaf to be used as eye-catching accent

Starting the creative process…with a gentle breeze from the bedroom window swirling about the delicate silver leaf I intend to use as an eye-catcher.

Stenciling Ebony Frost Lusterstone to layout trellis ornament across expanse of wall

Stenciling Ebony Frost Lusterstone to layout trellis ornament across the feature wall.

Applying the sizing medium, which comes to tack for the gilding process of silver leaf application...

Applying the sizing medium, which comes to tack for the gilding process of silver leaf application.

Applying the silver leaf accents in a random manner to create interest and an abstract modern art feel to the feature wall

Applying the silver leaf accents in a random manner to create interest and an abstract modern art feel.

The master bedroom feature wall custom painted and gilded design element upon completion

The Master Bedroom feature wall – custom painted and gilded design element upon completion.

Our desired effect of 'catching the light'...adding depth and interest to the wall selected to frame the newlyweds Harden bed

We achieved our desired effect of catching the light, adding depth and interest to the feature wall selected to frame the Harden bed in a newlyweds Master Bedroom.

Our joint collaboration to create an interesting and unique feature wall with modern flare has been a huge hit with the new homeowners Ryan and Lauren, colleagues who observed our work process behind the scenes, and guests who’ve been flocking in to admire the finished, well-appointed home for inspiration.

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We’re geared up to host the show home, and are so thrilled to celebrating the fruits of hardwork and great teamwork. Please join us at The Farmstead in the Town of Clay, New York. The 2014 Parade of Homes Tour runs from June 7th – 22nd. Hours are Monday – Friday from 1:00pm to 8:00pm, Saturday – Sunday 11:00am to 6:00pm.

Rene and I will be happy to greet you in the JMG Custom Homes ‘Genevieve’ model…hope to see you there!!

With great joy,

Heather

“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.”  — Rumi

 

 

 

Mar

25

Posted by : schoolhouse | On : March 25, 2014

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I’m in the process of wrapping up the largest project of 2014 – to date; faux finished 13 rooms, hand painted a myriad of furniture pieces, created custom works on glass and a Skimstone decorative concrete floor. Feeling truly blessed to have devoted over 3 months worth of time, labor and love to creating non-stop for a lovely grand patron. I’ll tell you more about the slew of faux painted rooms, fun furniture finishes, and how I transformed an entrance vestibule tile floor via Skimstone decorative concrete to look like a ‘slab of antique leather…’ a little later. All that work is a whole other story! For now, I thought it would be fun to share the creative process of our deft custom glass treatments.

Backdrop; the dining room walls were finished to look like hand-wrought wallpaper by stenciling a Moroccan trellis motif in metallic Sage Green over eggshell Navajo White. This fun visual layer was set to stage a splendid spread of MacKenzie-Childs furniture, ceramic and glass serving ware.

Stenciling Modern Masters Metallic Sage Green over eggshell Benjamin Moore Navajo White; Custom Dining Room Finish. Took 4 days to complete, as I averaged 1 wall per day production time.

Custom Dining Room Finish. Took 4 days to complete, as I averaged 1 wall per day production time.

Hand carved and upholstered thistle chairs looked dashing saddled up to four sculptural thistle pedestal bases for the dining room table. In comparison, the large piece of custom cut glass intended for the table top looked blasé. The large glass facet was in need of ‘something’ to make it more interesting – to carry it’s weight with the layering and layering of visual eye-candy surrounding it.

Custom Glass Finish for Suzanne's Music Room Featuring Ornamental Metallic Foil Grillwork.

Custom Glass Finish for Suzanne’s Music Room Featuring Ornamental Metallic Foil Grillwork.

My client recalled how much she loved the series of custom glass panels I created years ago for her music room entertainment center, and inquired if I could render a similar effect to snazz up the glass table top. For that project I combined etched glass backing with ornamental metallic foil on the face-side to create a grillwork effect – which was a catchy look for cabinet install. Considering the scenario of how a dining room table top would be used and cleaned frequently, I advised we tweak the finish application for the glass treatment to make it extremely durable and long lasting. This assignment was a last minute add-on prior to a big photo shoot – I had less than 24 hrs to execute a clever solution. I opted to create a faux reverse gilded and etched look by working from the back (or underside of the glass), which would leave the top clear and smooth for regular use. Lusterstone, an architectural coating with superb bonding properties and a subtle shimmery glow, was the medium I had on hand and considered ideal to create the desired effect. Brown Suede Lusterstone, when stenciled through my Royal Design Studio Endless Vine template, read coppery gold from the reverse or top side of the glass.

Carte Blanche Glass - Working from the underside, as the top side was bevelled, I positioned the Endless Vine template to begin the creative process.

Carte Blanche Glass – Working from the underside, as the top side was bevelled, I positioned the Endless Vine template to begin the creative process.

Prior to applying the Lusterstone vine ornament, I chinked a dappling of metallic silver paint through the stencil to add a subtle and varied glint of interest.

Dappled Modern Masters Metallic Silver, then stenciled Faux Effects Brown Suede Lusterstone to the underside of the glass.

When the ornament dried, I stippled the entire back with a couple layers of Queen Anne’s Lace Lusterstone to mimic an etched, creamy white translucence. ‘Hot off the press’…as soon as the paint dried the heavy, large glass top was carefully placed upon the thistle pedestal bases.

"Seriously Lady?!" the look on Pelligra movers faces when I pleaded that they "be careful" transporting the glass from a garage workspace

The “Seriously Lady?!” look on Pelligra Movers faces when I pleaded that they “be careful” transporting the glass from a garage workspace…I gathered they knew what they were doing.

After winding through several rooms, the glass table top makes its way the Dining Room thistle pedestal bases created by my alma mater, MacKenzie-Childs Ltd. My first job out of college, I served as their Quality Control Mgr. & Company Archivist from 1993-1999.

After winding through several rooms, the glass table top makes its way to be placed on the thistle pedestal bases created by my alma mater, MacKenzie-Childs Ltd. My first job out of college, I served as their Quality Control Mgr. & Company Archivist from 1993-1999. Brings me great joy to have many clients who collect the ware.

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A quick wipe with Windex to clean the top, and I passed the plate to my friend Sasha Lancia, current head of the MacKenzie-Childs Visuals Department. Sasha, who we were lucky to have assisting us with arrangements to prep for the photo shoot, set a beautiful table placement. Everything was orchestrated in the nick of time as the photographer, whose clients include the New York Yankees, was en route from New York City.

The end result was exactly as we had hoped for & envisioned.  This deft custom glass finish tied everything together beautifully, compared to the effect (or lack thereof) the clear glass would have had.

The end result was exactly as we had hoped for & envisioned. This custom glass finish tied everything together beautifully, compared to the effect (or lack thereof) of clear glass!

The relatively simple, 3-step technique resulted in a stunning and unique finish.

Victoria & Richard MacKenzie-Childs were my mentors fresh out of college. I cherished the time I worked for them, full of fond memories and invaluable experiences. It brings me great joy to see my work juxtaposed with their design creations...an eternal source of inspiration and delight.

Victoria & Richard MacKenzie-Childs were my mentors early on my career path.  Cherished the time I worked for them, full of fond memories and invaluable experiences. It brings me great joy to see my work juxtaposed with their design creations…an eternal source of inspiration and delight.

In the midst of this decorating flurry, I worked simultaneously on a series of 8 glass paneled doors from 4 large, ornate armoires with a distressed black heirloom paint finish…again layering interest and accents to complement the visually rich decor.

A cozy nook to play chess in the entrance foyer...with rich Cobalt Blue Lusterstone walls I had finished via trowel.

A cozy nook to play chess in the entrance foyer…with rich Cobalt Blue Lusterstone walls which I faux finished via trowel.

The armoires are massive. I love the ornate carved octagonal fretwork, which frame the tall glass panels. The client wished to make the interior, as seen through the glass, a tad more intimate. She bounced the idea of accentuating the center panels and leaving the surround clear. Again, one of my favorite Royal Design Studio stencils came into play – the Micah furniture stencil fit perfectly.  The Royal Design Stencil collection is one of my regular ‘go-to’ sources when I’m in need of beautiful ornament templates. Created by my longtime friend, Melanie Royals, a renown leader in the decorative arts industry whom I studied Master Methods with in San Diego, California.

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Working from the reverse, or interior side, I stenciled the ornament with Brown Suede Lusterstone. To accommodate a back-lit interior, I opted for silky smooth Krylon Frosted Glass spray to create the effect of an etched facet within the fretwork.

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The foyer, where the armoires stand sentry, is adjacent to the dining room. Thus the custom glass treatments are in view of each other, and relate well.

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I’m still whittling away at the to-do list with my trowel and artist’s brushes. We’re in ‘all hands on deck’ mode at the moment. I’m truly thrilled for the opportunity to collaborate with talented comrades, which varies from project to project…

Sacha Lancia, with her knack for visuals, displays, and accessory placement...

Sasha Lancia, with her knack for visuals, displays, and accessory placement…

David Cortese, expert at window treatment installations...

David Cortese, expert at window treatment installations…

Neil Chowdhury, with an eye for photography, is an ace at artwork placement...

Neil Chowdhury, with an eye for photography, is an ace at artwork placement…

Will share more details and inspiring images from current projects the next time I have a ‘wee hours of the morning’ quiet opportunity to write…

“Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.” – Rumi

With great joy,
Heather

Jan

23

Posted by : schoolhouse | On : January 23, 2014

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It’s amazing what a little paint can do!  I’ve had a lot of fun over the years creating clever visual effects for a myriad of interior scenarios…with a little paint.

Paint, in it’s infinite hues, can communicate so much…mood, feeling, style, and spirit. A painted surface is beautiful in and of itself…but, I’ve never been one to leave well enough alone. It’s blissful to play in the studio, push the envelope to explore and experiment with the spectrum of possibilities. Always striving to create one-of-a-kind hand-wrought finishes, I’ve been absorbed for hours, days, weeks, months, years rendering sample board after sample board of …”what if.” Working in my studio is a soul searching of sorts – a yearning to create something resplendent, admirable, exquisite, alluring, or interesting at the very least!

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Ideally, your home should be a sanctuary. My patrons truly appreciate custom tailored design elements that are a reflection of their unique personality. I’m always up for a challenge, and am happy to execute the ‘exact look’ a client has in mind, or brainstorm 101 ideas for them to pick and choose their favorite.

T’was over the moon delighted when Freeman Interiors of Fayetteville, New York called to inquire if I was available to paint a hand-wrought wallpaper effect inspired by floral fabric. Ellie Freeman is a social grand dame in Central New York, and her daughter Beth is next generation to carry on the family tradition of top-notch full service interior design. We’ve had a rapport for over a decade and I absolutely adore them. Ellie and Beth are brilliant, exacting, savvy professionals who are warm, personable and always make me feel like ‘part of the family.’

imageThe client, Mrs. Meyers, loved her custom master bedroom window treatments and bedding; designed, tailored and installed by Freeman Interiors. Originally, she requested a matching floral wallpaper for the adjoining master bath. Mrs. Meyers had her heart set on this, and was disappointed to discover a wallpaper to match the fabric simply did not exist. Her disappointment turned to delight when Interior Designer, Beth Freeman pitched an even better idea; “We can hire an artist to hand-paint the master bath walls to mimic the fabric, and complement your bedroom as you wish.”

A bouquet of flowers were selected from the fabric design. I sketched several & made copies to assist with composition layout on the master bath walls.

A bouquet of flowers were selected from the fabric design. I sketched several & made copies to assist with composition layout on the master bath walls.

 

Layout complete...taking a deep breath before custom mixing colors on my palette.

Layout complete…taking a deep breath before custom mixing colors on my palette.

There were many benefits to hand-painting vs. wallpapering the master bath walls. We kept the flowers sized to original scale, but chose to space them apart more than the fabric.  This insured the intimate room would not feel ‘too busy.’   Authentic in nature, there was a truly hand-wrought painterly look to the flowers – soft brush strokes were evident upon close inspection.  But, my favorite pitch was the fact that there were no seams and the finish would be everlasting. Unlike wallpaper, my faux finishes and decorative painted walls are easy to retouch. Custom finishes are a good investment, that can be maintained and enjoyed for a lifetime.  Furthermore, wallpaper is mass produced. This hand-painted finish, being one-of-a-kind, was unique to the Meyers home…created especially for them.

Making progress! Intently worked on one flower at a time - a meditative study on form and color. Kept the fabric swatch handy as reference.

In the midst of progress. I intently worked on one flower at a time, over the span of three days to completion. It was a pleasant meditative study on form and color. The fabric swatch was always handy for reference.

A lovely retired couple, Mr. & Mrs. Meyers, were thoroughly entertained by the creative process of bringing this concept to fruition. They brought tea, lemonade and snacks with frequent peeks to check on my progress…pausing a while in the threshold to observe the leaves-n-petals being painted.

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The eve I finished, the Meyers insisted I join them for a delicious home-made dinner. During our delightful, animated dinner conversation I discovered this seemingly modest couple led a very blessed, fascinating life…with a beautiful family, worldly travels and a successful office supply business that evolved to become Staples. Upon parting, they gave me a huge hug – gushing how much they loved their master bath. Of course, this made me happy ten-fold.

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“Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.” – Rumi

With much gratitude to Freeman Interiors for another fun project collaboration!

Heather

Dec

08

Posted by : schoolhouse | On : December 8, 2013

"If you love what you do...you never work a day in your life!"

“If you love what you do…you never work a day in your life!”

Reflecting back on my favorite project of the year, and how it all began with an ‘out of the blue’ phone call…

Sally Darish of Painted Pieces, Long Island’s premier mural and decorative painting company, reached out to inquire if I would consider joining her team of talented artists to collaborate on a large scale ceiling project downstate. Modello Designs of Chula Vista, California – a company I frequently partner with to create custom decorative masking patterns for ornamental finishes, had kindly referred me as ‘an artist in New York who has extensive experience working with large scale Modellos.’ I was flattered to be referred from California to work in the greater New York City area, and of course…wanted to be involved. I assured Sally how much I enjoyed the physical and technical challenges of decorative ceiling projects, and am always grateful for the opportunity to network with designers or fellow decorative artists. The offer sounded intriguing, exciting…and proved to be so much more.

A scenic vista overlook, en route via the Hudson Valley region, venturing from upstate to downstate New York...have brush, will travel!

A scenic vista overlook, en route through the Hudson Valley region…venturing from upstate New York to downstate Long Island.  Have brush, will travel!

With a great leap of faith, I bid adieu to my home in the beautiful Finger Lakes region …packed my portfolio, painters pants, favorite brushes-n-trowels, and embarked on the 5 hour drive to Huntington Station, Long Island. Sally and I had negotiated a fair daily rate, that included staying at her home as ‘artist-in-residence’ for three weeks while on assignment. Generous and gracious hospitality aplomb – it also included dining together most evenings at many fine restaurants, several of which featured murals and faux finishes by Painted Pieces. We became fast friends, and enjoyed lively conversation sprinkled with abundant laughter. Business savvy, Sally’s company celebrated over a million dollars in decorative art and mural commissions on a good year. The scope of which is quiet impressive; entails a lot of hard work, hustling, tremendous tenacity and creative spirit. All of which she possesses in abundance – supported by a dedicated and highly skilled team of artists.

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Our first day on assignment; digesting the scope of the Grand Ballroom and logistics for setting up scaffolding, scissor lifts, templates, and teamwork approach.

The assignment entailed working on series of sixteen ornamental barrel ceilings in the Grand Ballroom of Larkfield Manor, an estate in the process of being completely renovated to serve high-end weddings and special events. The coffered ballroom barrel ceilings measured 16′ x 13′ each and were poised at a substantial height, which required working on tiers of scaffolding and scissor-lifts. The decorative pattern to be applied was one of my favorite Modello motifs – an allover Moroccan Trellis, enlarged appropriately to accommodate the scale and scope of the space. Years ago, I had the pleasure of accompanying Melanie Royals, the creative genius behind Modello Designs, on a magical painting adventure in Marrakech, Morocco. Thus, the visual we were aiming for on this project had a familiarity and great sentiment…adding to my joy of bringing the concept to fruition.   Aside from working overhead 15′ – 20′ in height, the dome of the barrel added an extra layer of challenge to the task. It was definitely not a one-person job!!!

Centering the initial panel - perfectly squared was essential for everything else to fall seamlessly into place.

Centering the initial panel – perfectly squared was essential for everything else to fall seamlessly into place.

As a group we worked in teams of two, and often four at a time per barrel to determine the center of each side in order to calculate dead-center of the dome. We used a combination of measurements (double and triple checked) and laser levels to adhere the first section of panel to the center…from which all other panels were adjoined until the entire ceiling was masked out in ornament. There was no wiggle room for error in ‘assembling this puzzle’, as one skewed panel would result in the pattern repeat and other panels not lining up properly.

Working in harmony and unison...with great comradery

Working in harmony and unison…with great comradery

Once adhered, we troweled in a creamy taupe plaster to create an elegant tone-on-tone pattern. When that dried, carefully removing the masking template revealed the beauty and grandeur of the completed finish. T’was a happy moment and sense of gratification ten-fold for all the hard work that went into it. Took a solid 8 days to work through the ballroom assignment, all the while in the midst of full-bore construction whirling around us like a Tasmanian devil. It was a constant dosey doe of skirting around other trades, especially when balanced on scaffolding, operating and maneuvering the scissor lift. Not only were we in deep concentration on what was above, but had to have a constant awareness of others working in, around, and underneath us.

As soon as we finished each barrel ceiling...electrical contractors hung chandeliers, installed vents, rope accent lighting, and other details on the 'to-do' list for the looming grand opening celebration.

As soon as we finished each barrel ceiling…electrical contractors hung chandeliers, installed vents, rope accent lighting, and other details on the ‘to-do’ list for the looming grand opening celebration.

As we finished barrel by barrel, the electricians swooped in without hesitation to hang elegant chandeliers in the center of each. Everyone was feeling the pressure of the looming grand opening deadline. Like walking down the streets of New York City…the job site had a sense of adrenaline and organized, orchestrated chaos!

Larkfield Manor...Grand Foyer Ceiling

Larkfield Manor…Grand Foyer Ceiling

Next on the agenda was polishing off the Grand Foyer. Even taller scissor lifts were brought in to work…as we were 30′-35′ high. My team-mates had already tackled the ornament layout, but the enormous groin ceiling needed another pass to finesse. We applied an antique glaze to tone the background field to a deeper, richer glow…which greatly added to the elegant effect and striking impact of the ceiling in such a grand space.

My friend, Marianne Ward, applying a hand-wrought antique glaze to the Grand Foyer ceiling...increasing the degree of rich, elegant impact.

My friend, Marianne Ward, applying a hand-wrought antique glaze to the Grand Foyer ceiling…increasing the degree of rich, elegant impact.

Then, it was all hands on deck to apply a skip-troweled ‘Old World Plaster’ finish to the great expanse of foyer walls. The Faux Effects Plaster-Tex mix was inherently a rich, rustic-finish product…thick, creamy and embodied with ground walnut shells.

Old World Plaster finish sample for the Grand Foyer

Old World Plaster finish sample for the Grand Foyer

We worked here, there, and everywhere on a hodgepodge of ladders, scaffolding, and lifts… in synch, unison, and with great comradery.

imageI truly adored my fellow finishers…and had mixed feelings of melancholy-tinged elation upon completing the project. Principal artists Marianne Ward, Pip Muscarello, Marianne DeQuette-Cuozzo, and Kevin Clark … and a host of others who pitched in a day or two here and there when they could.

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Upon completion...the grand ballroom of Larkfield Manor

Upon completion…the grand ballroom of Larkfield Manor

Working with everyone involved in the project was so inspiring…and too much fun! Individually very gifted in their own way, each had a unique forte, and worked hard to get to where they are today. We worked seamlessly together, laughed a lot, and forged lasting friendships. I’m happy to still keep in touch, and keep tabs on their ongoing ventures…to this day, we’re cheering each other on.

With fond regards,

Heather