Did you know that decorative finish referred to as Venetian Plaster has been around since early Egyptian times? They used it to protect the surfaces of their buildings. But it was those talented Italians that mastered this elegant finish and perfected it into the plaster that we know today. They expanded its function as a decorative finish by tinting and manipulating the plaster in creative new ways. Marmorino, scagliola, and sgraffito are application techniques used to get diverse layering effects with Venetian plaster. Venetian plaster gets its name from the city of Venice, of course. Venetians used this plaster on the interiors and exterior surfaces of palaces and homes. Their marshy soil couldn’t handle the weight of heavier materials so the Venetians applied thin veneers of this light weight material that would mimic the look of limestone, travertine, or marble without the weight of these building materials. Pretty clever, right?
True Venetian plaster consists of slacked lime, marble dust and marble chips. Newer technology has given us an acrylic version that’s a little more user friendly and found at DIY hardware retailers like Home Depot and some paint stores. These cheaper versions tend to look less dimensional and more "plastic-y". There are better quality products (by vendors such as Texstone, Firenze, and Faux Effects) that can give you a professional-grade finish quality desired by interior designers and high-end homeowners around the world.
True to tradition, Venetian plasters consist of many layers hand-applied by trowel and then burnished. It’s the burnishing that gives the surface a shine and an illusion of depth and texture. This also explains the higher cost of the finished product. When burnished, it is rock hard and looks like marble. In the hands of a skilled professional artist or applicator, it is simply stunning and is a useful substitute when marble cannot be installed or the cost of marble is prohibitive.
We have used Venetian plaster on wooden and plastic columns, walls, and even ceilings all to great effect. Take a look at a few of our rooms.
Janie Ellis, RID, ASID-IP, CF,