Carey Karlan: If These Walls Could Talk—Tips on Different Finishes

If these walls could talk—they would be shouting from the rooftops about all of the decorative wall treatment options available today. A good wall treatment can add architectural interest, disguise awkward angles, absorb sound, make the house feel more substantial, make a space seem larger or cozier, create an exciting vibe or a serene mood, provide a focal point and add texture. Truly, the selection for the walls provides the foundation for the room.

Painted faux finishes got a bad name in the era of crudely sponged clouds wafting across so many surfaces. However, a quality faux finish is expensive but well worth it. An expertly applied Venetian plaster or lacquer allows us to use colors that would otherwise look heavy and coarse if applied with plain old paint.

purple powder room

All photos courtesy of The Last Detail

Photography by Paul Johnson

Note the reflective quality of the black Venetian plaster in the sitting room – it simply glows, and the rich, intriguing surface begs to be touched.

black venetian plaster

Some faux finish artists are creating works that rival the techniques of old world masters. For example, Heidi Holzer of Heidi Holzer Design, created these “paneled walls” for me for a ladies sitting room. Here, the ballet pink Venetian plaster with mica powders is inlaid with custom colored abalone shell, but it can also be done in tortoise shell. If you’re looking to create a rarified jewel-box interior, this is the way to go.

heidi holzer pink room

Other interesting faux finishes include ombre, embossed plasters (crocodile anyone?) and textural “stone.” These looks can be duplicated in paper, but painting allows us to alter the scale and eliminate seams.

Choosing wallpaper is like drinking from a fire hydrant on a hot day – refreshing and fabulous!  Some of the more interesting options are three-dimensional papers, such as Tracy Kendall’s puzzle pieces or pearl buttons, Maya Romanoff’s jeweled papers and Weitzner’s pressed bark material. A little can go a long way with these very striking materials, and they may be best for a feature wall.

master bedroom

Likewise, grass cloth has come a long way since the Mad Men era when it was confined to the office, and is now available with rivets, painted scenes, and metallic backgrounds. Mica, gravel, granite, slate and silk are all available as papers.

grasscloth walls

So go forth and be bold! There is no wall too small or insignificant that could not be improved by a thoughtful treatment. Powder rooms and dining rooms are good places to experiment and eschew the usual safe pale gray wall for something really unique.  Let your walls have their say!

Carey Karlan is principal of the award winning interior design firm Last Detail, based in Stamford, Connecticut. Her work has been published in a variety of magazines including New England Home Connecticut. Carey’s mission is to focus on the needs and desires of her clients, and design interiors that exceed their expectations, and suit their lifestyle. 

You can read all about Carey’s own home on here.

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