Regina Garay, of the awesome Fauxology blog, posts daily about all things related to decorative art and inspiration. One of her regular features is “Fauxcus on the Pros“, and I am proud to now be included on that list with a two-part post that ran yesterday and today.


One of the questions that Regina posed to me related to how I got started in this business *cough* 20-something-something years ago. That led ME on a mind trip down memory lane.


One of the things I share there is what an influence the book, The Art of Decorative Stenciling by Adele Bishop and Cile Lord, had on igniting the interest passion that I have had for stencils for the better part of my life now.

This book by these two women literally put modern American stenciling on the map in 1976 (coinciding with the bicentennial), and their commercial work in the 60′s and early 70′s elevated stenciling to an artform that is rarely matched to this day.


As I spoke of in the Fauxology profile, it’s sad that their body of work occurred before the digital age and so little is known of them or can be found through normal online channels.


The book, however, remains-though out of print. I suggest you snatch one today on Amazon!

May 5th, 2011

Stenciled Walls!

All it took was one look at the cover of this book  Walls-The Best of Decorative Treatments by Florence De Dampierre to get me to rush to Amazon and click “yes please!” There has been SUCH a long, tortuous drought of new books on decorative painting, it was such a relief to see some renewed interest and the possibility of some new inspiration. I saw the word “stencil” on the cover and imagined a few pages might be focusing on stenciled images.  What I was NOT expecting was a full 48-page chapter contained the most detailed history of stenciling that I’ve ever seen documented in one place, plus eye candy photos galore!


The chapter begins with a rundown of stenciling through the ages, hitting the Paleolithic caves at Lascaux, stenciling in ancient Egypt, Rome, China, and the Middle East, and it just gets better and better from there. I am just sharing some tidbits and highlights here to give you a taste of this delicious volume. So, come with me (and dear Florence) on a brief tour of stencils and stencil art through the ages….


The photo above shows 15th century stenciling on plaster walls from the King’s Room of the Treasurer’s house in Yorkshire, England.Stenciled pattern became an integral part of wall decoration throughout Europe, beginning in the 14th century after being introduced in England in the Middle Ages. Stenciling was used extensively along with handpainted accents and to frame murals in castles and churches throughout England, France, and Italy during this time.

Alas, stenciling has always been prone to getting “a bad rap”, even in the 16th century. Stenciling on walls nearly disappeared for awhile after a trade group, the Painter-Stainers Company of London declared stencils as

“a deceitful work and destructive of creative painting, being a great hinderer of ingenuousness, a cherisher of idleness and laziness in all the said art”.

I respectfully beg to differ….I have heard sentiments along these lines over the years, but have always viewed stenciled as an amazing tool for creativity and artistic expression. And besides, even if they are used just to bang out printed pattern on a wall, the end result is a product of hand crafting and self-expression. So there!


The photo above shows restored stenciling from a former 1780′s  inn and tavern in New England. This quintessential type of stenciled pattern was common throughout colonial America. More economical than wallpaper, it was also “sold” as a more sanitary way to decorate walls; wallpaper at the time could be a breeding ground for bugs and other vermin. Eewwwww. The stenciling was typically done by travelling, itinerant painters who would work in exchange for room and board. They mixed their paint from skimmed milk, lime, oil and whiting (finely ground chalk) and tinted it with pigments taken from their environment. The color red could come from iron filings, brick dust, or berry juice. Yellow came from clay, black from soot, and green could come from the green rust of copper (verdigris). Most of these artists remain nameless. However, the discovery of Moses Eaton’s stencil kit containing 78 stencils in the 1930′s allowed for the match of his hand cut patterns to a large body of remaining stenciled walls throughout New England. It was exactly THIS type of stenciling that drew me in to this artform back in the 80′s during a trip to New England, and I must say that this is looking rather lovely to me all over again!


Rufus Porter was another well-known stencil artist of the time, whose specialty was stencil enhanced fresco murals depicting villages and landscapes. With the help of stencils, Porter could paint a whole room with a fanciful scene in about 5 hours. Not only was this more economical than mass-produced wallpaper of the time, it was also considered to be more stylish and less impersonal. The same could be said of stencils vs. wallpaper today-and I just said it!


After falling out of favor yet again, stenciling made a somewhat brief comeback in the United States during the Victorian era of the late 1800′s, with an emphasis on “elaborate”. None other than Louis Comfort Tiffany (yes, the lamps!) designed stencils for Mark Twain’s New England home and for his own mansion on Long Island, where he filled his walls with stenciled canvases filled with Islamic, Indian, and Mediterranean motifs. Another artist of the time, Frederic Edwin Church, also shared a love of “Orientalism”, and the beauty and abilities of stenciled pattern after traveling through the Middle East and Europe. A well-known fine artist of The Hudson River School of Painters, Church filled the walls and surfaces of HIS Hudson River mansion, Olana (which one can VISIT today!) with gorgeous color combinations and arabesque motifs.




There are also many rich examples of stenciling throughout Mexico, and most prominently in the town of San Miquel de Allende. Stencil patterns in Mexico represent a blend of native indian, conquering Spanish, and even 19th century french design-all of which are on gorgeous display in the three photos above.


Moving on to more contemporary applications, there are some very well-known designers who appreciate the beauty, flexibility, and artistry that stenciled patterns can add to an interior design scheme. Sometime they are used as subtle accents, and sometimes they MAKE the statement, as is the case of this Moroccan stenciled pattern as used by designer Martyn Lawrence-Bullard in a Los Angeles dining room. I shared some more of Mr. Lawrence-Bullard’s work recently in this blog post. He certainly DOES have an elegant way with stencils.


And lastly, and speaking of elegant, this has to be one of my favorite stencil applications ever: gilded wall and ceiling stenciling by Joseph Shoskovitch in the New York City apartment of fashion designer Mary McFadden. This aesthetic is a true reflection of the designer’s tastes and creations, which pull heavily from ancient civilizations and exotic locations.

If you are miraculously NOT yet convinced that you NEED this book, check out this post on Katiedid which give a great overview on all the contents of the book. You see, it wasn’t ALL about stenciling; there are sections on the history of mural, wood panels, and wallpaper as well!

March 7th, 2011

The Finest Rooms

Last month, our local Borders book store shut its doors forever. I know….bummer!! The only bright spot for me is that I was able to pick up a fantastic, recently published book, The Finest Rooms in America, for 40% off.

Finest Rooms in America book

This compilation of 50 gorgeous rooms, selected by interior decorator Thomas Jayne, celebrates the most elegantly designed rooms in America, dating back 200 years, beginning with George Washington’s Mount Vernon and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. I highly recommend adding this book to your shelf, even at full price! Here are some of my favorites, though I could have easily share dozens more….


Winter Garden Room: New York City
This room, which overlooks Central Park, was designed by Henri Samuel around 18th century painted Chinoiserie panels taken from a Belgium chateau. Notice how the lovely raised trellis pattern on the shutters is echoed in the plant stand and gold chair trim. The other photo in the book shows that the room is filled with an abundance of potted plants and flowers, as well as being bathed in natural light.


Sitting Room: New York City
I simply adore this blue color accented with gold and “framed” in the black and white mini-print wallpaper. Simply stunning and stunningly simple-by the legendary Albert Hadley.


Living Room: San Francisco
This Nob Hill living room, owned and designed by Jeffry Weisman, features many elements that were gifts from the great Tony Duquette, as well as amazing and expansive mirrored walls. Mirror and more mirror. My kind of place!


Dining Room: Palm Beach
Designer Thad Hayes had commissioned Gracie to replicate the original Chinoiserie hand-painted wallpaper for this 1938 home designed by Marion Sims Wyeth. Lynne Rutter has written a fab article on Chinoiserie for the new Artisphere Online magazine, BTW!


Reception Room: Portland, Maine
What is now the Victoria Mansion began as a stately brownstone villa decorated in the mid 1850′s by Gustave Herter (of the Herter Brothers firm) and saved from demolition (thankfully!) in the 1940′s. The extensive and inspiring decorative painting was done by a leading decorative painter of Herter’s time, Guisseppe Guidicini.


Bedroom: New York City
Designed by the late Mark Hampton, this bedroom in his family apartment’s prominent feature is the Chinese wallpaper hand painted on a silver ground. Hampton took the risk to roll the paper into tight balls to crease it before installation to give it some “age” and surface texture to reflect the light inevenly. Way to roll! It’s super lovely.


Dressing Room: Vizcaya
If you ever, EVER find yourself in South Florida don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of this country’s great historical houses, Vizcaya. I’ve been there twice now, and would easily go back in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, they do not allow you to photograph in the house, so seeing this dressing in this book was a special thrill. The fully restored linen canopy is completely hand-embroidered. I did a post several years ago on my now abandoned blog, The Art of Living, if you’d like to see more of Vizcaya.

This book is full of many beautiful examples on Chinoiserie, antique mirrors, tasteful interiors, and tasty design ideas. I hope you enjoyed a little peek!

June 16th, 2010

Cover Girl

I am very happy to report that the long-awaited followup book to Modello by Design-Inspiring Interiors, from Artist’ Portfolios Vol. 1 is at the printers and will be available for shipping in a few weeks time. This latest version, Vol. 2, features some amazing work by 68 professional decorative artisans from around the country. Three different artisans were chosen as “featured artists” based on the depth and range of their work, as well as the beautiful photography that they submitted. First and foremost in the book is Gracie Reed of Grace Designs in Dallas. Her work is featured on the book’s cover.


Gracie brings a special quality to her decorative work. Her amazing attention to detail is evident in the way that she blends patterns, colors, textures and finishes. Also outstanding is the way that she carefully styles each room. The barrel ceiling shown above features our popular Chambord carpet and panel pattern.


Here, a patinated and patterned mirror, using Flourish969,  rests atop an elegantly stenciled furniture piece.


Embedded pattern on Venetian plaster walls, FlorentineGrille705,  is beautifully accented with more patinated and patterned mirror. Here,  OrnTile137  is repeated in custom shutters.

Modello-stencil 5

One of our tribal panel patterns, IndPan105 , was cut small to create a custom art piece that seems perfectly balanced with an entry table.


Our Prajna concrete carpet pattern anchors this rich Victorian-style parlor with a complimentary punch of color.

You can see much more of Gracie’s work, and many more inspirational interior shots (175 in all!) in this new book. Due to the high cost of printing, we are offering a very limited amount of these books for sale. You can pre-order the book until July 15 at a $3 savings. Additionally, we will deduct the U.S. ground shipping charges upon invoicing for a total savings of $17. Book sales are brisk! Don’t miss the opportunity to reserve your limited-edition copy of Modello by Design-Inspiring Interiors from Artists’ Portfolios, Vol. 2!

January 26th, 2010

House Proud


Can you imagine commissioning a watercolor painting of your living room-or should I say parlor?? I would for sure want to do some serious redecorating first!!


In the 19th century in Europe particularly, it was highly fashionable to aristocratic and upper-class homeowners to commission such paintings of their homes interiors.


These would be collected in albums to be passed on to future generations, given as gifts to visiting royalty, and proudly displayed in drawing rooms.



Of course, now we can just whip out our digital cameras. …


…but this is so much more incredibly charming!!!


Loving all the pattern and decoration on the walls and ceilings, of course.


Images from the delightful book,  House Proud-Nineteenth Century Watercolor Interiors from the Thaw Collection, published by the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum.

January 5th, 2010

Off the Shelf

I have been on another MAJOR book buying bender lately. I have talked about my book collection here before…..well, in the last two years it’s grown considerably. As I write, I am literally surrounded by stacks of beautiful books that are not going to fit on my already groaning bookshelves. Luckily, today I got an email from featuring these inexpensive and super cool book shelf hanger concealer thingies. I think it would be so cool to do a whole wall with  books this way…..though I’ve just ordered two to start….




October 25th, 2009

Ready, Set, Photo-Part Two

Here are some more inspiring images from the forthcoming Modello by Design-Inspiring Images from Artist’s Portfolios, Part 2. These are all from a talented single artist-Rita Melnick.



A beautiful frieze using TransBor116


Modified panels.


Lovely Art Deco, lined leaves with ModAll111


A simple architectural frame pulled from our Chambord Carpet and Panel pattern.


An interesting wall “bump-out” that looks like a 3-panel screen using OrnTile162

Pssst! Don’t be shy-don’t forget-submit YOUR project photos by October 31…..get the details here….

June 5th, 2009

Call for Entries

Last June we published our very first Modello by Design book, Inspiring Interiors from Artist’s Portfolios, Volume 1. When I put the call out for our customers to submit professional quality photos of their decorative painting projects using our Modello Decorative Masking patterns, I didn’t know what to expect…..Well, we got an amazing response and amazing photos from 80 different artisans and were able to create a beautiful and inspirational resource book that artists turn to for ideas and for a super sales tool for future projects. They say, “a picture is worth a thousand words” and it’s true! Being able to share visual proof of how custom decorative treatments can transform a room can make the difference when it comes to making decorating decisions for designers and homeowners.

Now, it’s time for Volume 2! We plan to publish the next edition in the early part of 2010 and are seeking entries of professional quality photography Modello projects. To “inspire” you, I’d like to share some of the lovely work we’ve received so far, from….


Barbara Wurden of Long Beach, CA….


Tricia George of San Rafeal, CA, and….


Angela Monk of Louisville, MS.

You can imagine the thrill and pride I feel when I see what amazing things these talented artists have done with our pattern products!! I think that this next book is to be off the charts with inspiring art and architecture. If you’re considering submitting some of YOUR projects for our next book, please go here and download the submission forms and read the guidelines carefully. I can’t wait to see what you come up with!!

July 12th, 2008

Hot off the press!


Modello by Design book

The new book Modello by Design-Inspiring Interiors from Artist’s Portfolios is HERE! I’ve told you about it before-remember this?  And this? It is SOOOO beautiful and I am so proud of the work that our fabulous customers do and also need to give a special thanks to Lauren for helping me lay out this book in record time-under two weeks! I just finished writing a press release for an industry message board for the book, so I’ll be lazy and just repost it here-

Modello Designs was launched in the fall of 2003, introducing the concept of Decorative Masking Patterns to the decorative finishing industry.  Since that time, thousands of decorative finishers worldwide have discovered the benefits of using custom-sized, cut to order vinyl masking patterns for their decorative painting projects.

The exciting and inspirational new book features the creative Modello work of 80 different artists in beautifully photographed interior settings.  Various chapters highlight the use of Modello patterns on floors, walls, ceilings and furniture. Special chapters highlight the body of work of three featured artists: Terri Reisenman of Palm Desert, CA., Robbie Calvo of Nashville, TN.,  and Gina Wolfrum of Hicksville, OH.  Their varied styles of decoration really help to highlight the many styles of surface ornamentation that can be more easily achieved with this versatile medium!

This book, the first in a series, will provide an invaluable resource of design ideas for decorative finishers, designers, and their potential customers alike. For an industry that revolves around a highly visual and tactile experience, it helps to fill the current void of inspiring images of painted decoration that used to be so common in books and magazines.

Modello by Design book

We mailed out complimentary, signed copies to all the 80 contributing artists this week. Yeah, that was tiring! Thank you, thank  you everyone! If you didn’t get a chance to submit a project for the book, you can buy it here, and…..there’s always next year!

May 14th, 2008

Two More for the Shelf


As I’ve mentioned here before, I loaded up my bookshelf back in the 80′s and 90′s with a plethora, (yes, a plethora) of books on stenciling and decorative painting. This century has been a bit of a disappointment so far, if only for a lack of new material on my favorite subjects. Well, I’m happy to report that there are suddenly two whole new books on the market, and I was fortunate to be involved in both.Art-of-Living.jpg
Decorative Finishes Inspired by the South of France offers 12 step-by-step finishes that Barb Skivington and I created, taught and applied (we DO climb the occasional ladder) at our Brandywine project for the Art of Living series. Check out some good project photos here and here. I have to give Barb and her staff all the credit for pulling this book together, and GUESS WHAT?? We are going to announce the NEXT Art of Living project later this week. It will be A-mazing.Mural-Painting-X.jpg
Mural Painting Secrets for Success is the latest book by my best bud, Gary Lord. He asked some of the best mural artists in the world to contribute and somehow slipped me in there with them. I like to think that at least my project, with NO hand painting involved, is achievable by anyone! This is really a beautiful book with lots of sage business advice to go along with the eye candy projects.