Thursday, February 18, 2010

Victorian Ceiling Medallions: The Art of Decorative Ornamentation

The Victorians believed in the art of ornamentation. They painted, gilded, stenciled, faux finished, marbleized or grained in an effort to get just the right look. Ceiling medallions were no exception.

If you are lucky enough to still have the original plaster ceiling medallions they are painted the same color as your ceiling, probably white. White was a color reserved for linens but not Victorian ceilings.

As part of our restoration we have light that will be over the stair hallway. Because it is a cottage we do not have grand entry hall to play off of, nor do we have a huge ceiling space. Because it is a cottage it is more intimate and was originally just a way to get upstairs at night to the bedrooms, However because we will often use the side entrance this stairway and as a result it will take on greater significance. So we are taking some tricks from the typical Victorian bag of decorating tricks and adding in details. Things like fretwork, stained glass windows elaborate staircase details and of course a proper ceiling medallion. All things Victorians could buy through the mail order catalogs or at their local lumberyard.

Our ceiling where this will be is small, about 3 feet wide and perhaps 6 feet long. We elected on a small scale medallion but in an elongated form which will make the ceiling space appear longer than it actually is. This ceiling will be painted and have a stenciled border. Our desire is to that this small space as almost a 'jewelry box' a small space with details and treasures. Our ceiling medallion selection is actually a reproduction made of fypon and is 18x25 inches in dimensions. It comes of course in "plain jane white".
If you will be painting a medallion it is important to prep it. These factory made medallions often have imperfections and will need minor sanding. I do not use white for base coat but rather a terra cotta color. I find the darker base allows for 'richness of color especially with the gilding.
Color selection is based on variety of factors including other colors and stencils being used in the space . For this project in addition to the gold we used a green (slightly sponged), a red (alizarine crimson), and a dark Thalo Purple. The purple reads as black in most cases in normal light except in the center where we gave it a marble veined look with some additional gold veining. The center section of this will be drilled for the metal rod that will hold the small scale electro-gasolier that will hang here.

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