by Roberta Murphy

venetian plaster

Venetian Plaster Taken to New Level

When I first entered this newer San Diego luxury home, I was amazed by its wall and ceiling finishes. Walking slowly from room to room, I ran my fingers over the cool burnished walls and the gray stone door arches. Even the ceilings and dome gave the impression that we had indeed been transported to a Venetian villa.

Had I not known the responsible artisan for this masterpiece, I would never have guessed an underlying truth: These walls were nothing more than standard drywall that had been transformed by a clever Polish artist who specializes in exquisite surface finishes.

Greg Sieminski explains that European artisans have been creating beautiful walls for centuries utilizing limestone plasters softly colored with natural elements. He studied these walls in Mediterranean countries, and wondered how the rich, aged patina could be duplicated in fine San Diego homes. It took several years, but Greg was able to perfect his replications of fine Venetian plaster-to the delight and amazement of his clients.

How is Venetian plaster made? Greg explains that the 1300-year-old process starts with the selection of special limestone from Italian quarries and rivers. The limestone is then fired in a large and very hot kiln, which causes chemical changes within the limestone itself. The result? The super-heated stones turn to putty when placed in water. The painter goes on to describe how this putty is wet-seasoned for up to a year before being processed as a finishing plaster.

The end result, says Greg, is a finely milled limestone putty that is even finer than cosmetic face powder. This cultivated material can be further embellished with finely-ground marble, which yields an ancient building material that can be burnished to a low sheen-or rubbed to a high polish. Additionally, he will occasionally add granular material so that he can recreate stone finishes, as seen in the photo to the left.

Venetian plaster, he explains, is not “faux painting,” as hobbyists commonly refer to this style of painting. “The product is not paint. It is an old finishing technique that works well in both contemporary and older San Diego homes.” He adds that Venetian plaster is durable enough to be used outdoors as well, with few limitations.

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