Monday, October 17, 2011

Knox Hill Project : Weekly Update: Let the painting begin

After weeks of wall prep, coats of primer and sanding in between. We finally laid color to the walls. Working with the strength of Victorian era colors is always tough. In this case  with a formal dining room which has a Neo Grec theme. The Neo Grec style calls upon the images of Ancient Greece and Roman Empire images. The colors tend to be strong with the use of colors like bright earthen clay, rich reds like Pompeii and crimson, blue green that evoke the mediterranian and the use of bronze and gold gilt..

One of the original designs uncovered in the dining room
If you have ever had the opportunity to travel in Europe and see ancient ruins, one knows the 'look' I am talking about. The Victorian , who considered them selves 'wordly' , even if they had never been to the continent, wanted to convey to their peers that they appreciated the great culture of earlier times and the Neo Grec style brought those elements to design with a Victorina exuberance. Even with extensive research we still do not know the artist who was commissioned to do the Neo Grec patterns found throughout the house, although the elements seem to be based on classic Greek and Roman designs found on pottery and urns of the era , yet they are unique in their stylistic interpretation.

The designs were carefully recreated for new stencils
When I look at my rather unassuming neighborhood that the city wrote off years ago and I look at the beauty of these finely detailed cottages and homes, I am struck by the effort the wealthy put into them. Bringing in an artist to paint every room in the house used as a weekend getaway was to say the least an exercises in extravegance. Imagine the dinner parties in this room as the servants brought in the food from the summer kitchen and the dinner guest spoke of travels basked in the glow from candle and oil lamps reflected by the shellac applied over the walls to impart depth.

That depth is also a challenge to achieve. We know the original colors had great depth. The colors are what we now call 'saturated' colors. Originally these colors were done in Milkpaint and the colors were mixed as 'strong' as possible. These were the base colors. Over the base colors several thinner paint 'washes' were applied over that were several coats of shellac were brushed in a haphazard manner so light would reflect. The goal was to recreate the splendor of the old Greek temples and of course it was interpretative as the only reference were ruins and surviving buildings which of course has faded after centuries.

As a restorer my goal is to recreate this as well as possible within the restraints of modern material available to me.The two 'base' colors we are using is a color called Red Brick (BEHR S-H-170) , below the chair rail and a color called "clay pot" (BEHR  UL120-6) above the chair rail. Both these colors were mixed as flats. There will be two coats applied in this flat. Then there will need to be two more coats applied using a brush with the color 'tinted slightly with some cream and thinned to 'wash coats'. This will impart a certain depth. I will be adding some glaze medium with these coats. The stencil designs will be executed in a semi gloss. Once everything is done it all will be coated with a glass glaze. Sound complicated? It is, but the end result should be well worth the effort.


Dale from Avon said...

With your house being their "summer" house, did you ever find an address for their primary house? Is it still standing??
Just curious.

Paul Wilham said...

Yes, the freeway went through it. The original owner of this house D. Kinsey owned a 20 acre tract which had an older house (Long Demolished) on it up in Knox Hill. He started construction of our house 1870 and was finished in 1871. It is also the reason why our house sits so far back from the street compared to others on the block which were built later 1885-1890.

Dale from Avon said...

Interesting to know.
Thank you.