September 10th, 2007

Pretty Coccio Pesto!

In my La la la Lobby post I shared the inspiration photo for our new lobby walls. After conferring with Linda Self from the School of Italian Plasters, we came up with a cool technique using an Italian lime plaster, Coccio Pesto, that REALLY captures the look. Lucky me, I have even maneuvered Linda into coming here to teach a class on how to actually DO this on a wall-with the help of a small group of students.

Modello Coccio Pesto

Coccio Pesto contains tiny bits of terra cotta that break apart as the plaster is compressed, imparting a really cool organic look and a slightly peachy color if left untinted. I did this small sample board shown above using a “negative weed” Modello pattern that allows you to create an imbedded design. If you run your hand across the surface it feels smooth and wonderful. Now, working with true lime plasters is an acquired skill and I could never find the time to attend the class. Fortunately for me, Linda and Doyle Self have now created a great series of educational CDs and after watching several (several times) I felt confident enough in my troweling skills to attempt this. Linda will be here the first week in October to guide us through putting a large Acanthus Damask pattern on the walls with this technique, as well as doing walls with some of the other beautiful plasters from the Safra line, including a metallic plaster, Metallo. Oh, my lobby is going to be fabulous!!

September 9th, 2007

Bob Harris in the House

I am beyond thrilled that we are finally beginning the decorative phase on the new building. We actually begin troweling a decorative finish in one of the offices tomorrow! Even better, next week we have Bob Harris, decorative concrete master, coming in to teach a class that will be decorating our large lobby floor with Colormaker’s concrete system of overlays, stains and dyes.

Bob Harris at work

Bob and his team from the Decorative Concrete Institute are super people and super knowledgeable, so I know that it will be in good hands. Troweling concrete IS something that I have done, and really have no desire to do again, LOL. I DO like to design though and think that I have come up with a pretty cool idea.

Modello Lobby Layout

The lobby will be done in what I am calling “New” Old World. We will be working with classic, Italianate patterns but applying them in more contemporary and “less predictable” ways. The floor will feature scattered and “layered” tiles that will be done with a combination of embossing, stains, dyes and acid etching-all in subtle earth tones. The artwork above shows the rough layout and to give you an idea of scale, the large tile in the middle measures 9′ x 9′.

September 7th, 2007

In Love with Lime

Wow! I have been SO busy in the studio. I have so much to share and so little time! I was just reworking some of the samples for our Italy trip and feeling very happy with the results so I want to share! One of the finishes we will do is meant to replicate some of the gorgeousl woven silk fabrics found at Antico Setificio Fiorentino.

Royal Design Silk Damask

This one is done with Oikos’ Kreos material, which is much like a really thick, somewhat gritty paint. It’s fabulous for creating highly textured looks. For this I troweled on the lighter color and then stria’d it with their Corduroy tool (which resembles really cheap Astroturf). It works better than anything I’ve tried before for creating a slightly irregular stria with lots of nice “nubs”. Once dry I used a stencil and was actually able to roll on the darker color through the stencil and stria through it with a brush without pushing the product under the stencil-even over a textured surface. You really can’t see it well in the photo, but the finishing touch is using two different colors of mica-tinted Bee’s Wax (from Kathy Carroll) and manipulating them a bit.

Modello Sgraffito

I wanted to rework the Sgraffito finish done earlier for another room and found that the combination of using a 10mil Modello for the main pattern and just a bit of “scratching” with a sharp tool for the vein details makes it look like I was scratching and carving all day-not! I LOVE the Oikos Travertino texture on the background on this one.

Melanie Royals Lime Wash

Most of the finishes we will be doing in Alison’s studio need to be kept fairly simple and neutral, as they will serve as backdrops for her own beautiful handpainted and gilded furniture pieces. This Oikos Lime Wash (actually it’s called Pittura Calce Verona) with some handpainted accents will hopefully fill that bill. All of these products can be ordered through Kathy’s site here.

Modello Cartouche

This one uses Safra lime plasters from the School of Italian Plasters and is a sample to test the technique for some cartouche designs what will go around a door and as a frame for artwork. It is a Marmorino base with Calcenova Arredo through the Modello. I have not done much personally with lime plasters in the past, but after the last week, I think I am hooked! Now, to tackle some real walls…..

September 1st, 2007

Operation Decoration

When you are planning an assault or military campaign it’s a good thing to have a really good icon and/or catchy slogan to get people to rally ’round your cause. You know, “Uncle Sam Wants You!” and all that jazz. Well, I am in the final planning stages of a full-blown assault on my new building and it’s freshly primed and painted walls, ceilings, concrete floors, cork tiles, hollow core doors and sheet vinyl. AND I have the icon. Lauren designed this great logo for us and I added the camo because that’s the kind of mindset I’m quickly developing.


We like it so much we are going to have it silkscreened on Alternative Apparel’s Ivory colored “Destroyed” tee. The shirt is all worn out around the collar and hem. Just the kind of tee shirt we USED to turn into a dustrag. Now we LOVE it. Cracks me up. So, we are going to put the logo on the front and a slogan on the back. I am thinking of “Waging war on white walls and boring surfaces”. Does that grab anyone?!?!

I am putting together an extensive series of low-cost, study/work classes that will allow participants to learn the techniques, create samples and then immediately apply them to real-world situations-that just happen to be available in my new and needy building. I am also bringing in some special guest instructors. We will be emailing the workshop schedule to our student database next week, so be on the look out for incoming information if you have taken classes here. If you have studied with me at other locations and wish to consider enlisting, please email me. I promise you a really cool tee shirt….

August 29th, 2007

Kimono Obsession Continued

Lest you think I have abandoned my kimono and Japanese design obsession, fear not! I have written previously about being asked to participate in an upcoming mural compilation book that my friend Gary Lord is doing. Well, seems I promised the editor some “new” mural photos for the gallery section a few months ago and she suddenly surprised me by wanting to collect on that commitment!?!? If the sign of a true artistic soul is to produce under pressure, then my hand is held high. Sign me up!

Stenciled Kimono Mural Inspiration

I decided to try a different kind of “mural”. This one is on canvas (typically) but the Roclon canvas is cut into the shape of a hanging kimono. Everytime I have picked it up I have always gone back to this one page in the book,Kimono, Vanishing Tradition, to look at this lovely wedding kimono shown above.

Kimono Mural by Melanie Royals

The crunch-time mural commitment finally gave me the opportunity to reinterpret it using a series of stencils from our Royal Design Studio Kimono Collection.

Kimono Mural Detail by Melanie Royals

I used Shimmerstone (a metallic plaster) as the base and to do the embossed stenciling over the glazed green area. I then simply used different colors of Modern Masters Metallic paints to add the colors through the stencils to the dried embossed designs. It is a much softer look than the original, and not quite as detailed, but I was pretty pleased with the outcome and now have something new to hang on the walls at the new building. The photography is by Gary Conaughton.


August 26th, 2007

Ibiza Carpet Complete

In every SkimStone class I teach we do a Modello/SkimStone Concrete Carpet design together. We should all be so lucky to have this many sets of hands working on one project! Imagine how much design could get done. This class worked especially well together!

Modello SkimStone Class Photo

This photo dramatically shows the effect of the final toning layer, troweled on VERY tight and thin,  to create a beautiful unifying and aging effect in the Ibiza Carpet design.

Modello Ibiza Carpet in SkimStone

The toning layer enhances the look of really old Encaustic tiles, which is something that I have been searching all over the web about and drooling over all the possible color and design combinations. We have so many patterns that work well for that look, I can’t wait to get into the new building and get to troweling!

August 24th, 2007

Italian Tile Design Times 4

I am trying to catch up a bit here after teaching back to back classes. They were both full of great and fun students. We had 6 that stayed the week and came to both sessions. I wanted to share some sample from the SkimStone class because they are just so darn cool. SkimStone is concrete and countertop resurfacing product that I have been using quite a bit for the last few year. You can see more examples of it in the Floor Gallery and some of the posts I’ve done on my patio projects. It is super easy to use and to create great decorative effects as sit trowels much like a Venetian plaster and you can layer the colors, make them more opaque, more translucent, more textured, etc.

Modello Tile Samples

I shot photos of 4 samples done by different students of the Italian allover tile design (OrnAll 107) sample that we did. These are 2′ x 2′ boards. Each one shows a little different use of color. The one on the lower left started as a “mistake” because she removed the wrong part of the pattern on one step, but it actually turned out the prettiest. In art, and life I suppose, mistakes can be huge opportunities to take you in a much better direction!

August 19th, 2007

La la la Lobby

A lovely customer, Dey Kyper, recently gifted me with an equally lovely book, Alberto Pinto Classics This man is a designer for the uber-rich: royalty, heads of state and such. Raised in Casablanca, his designing reflects his Moroccan roots along with an amalgamation of British Chic, French elegance and American rationalism. OK that last sentence was lifted right from the book jacket, but this book is scrumptious. I’ll share more later, but right now I need to show what idea I am planning on taking from Alberto and translating to my new lobby walls.

Alberto Pinto Wall Inspiration

We won’t do this exact design, of course, but there WILL be an overscaled, ornate pattern on the walls over a Coccio Pesto plaster finish. Coccio Pesto is an Italian lime plaster that contains small bits of terra cotta that get crushed in to the burnished plaster, providing a slightly pinky cast if left untinted. Linda Self, from the School of Italian Plasters will be coming in and we will actually be doing a hands on class while completing the walls. More on “Operation Decoration” and our “Up Against the Wall Workshops”  later on this blog channel.

August 18th, 2007

Exotic Style-I want it!

If you like to decorate with a global vision in mind I have a really good book recommendation for you! Exotic Style features decorating ideas from around the world. Now that the new building we will be moving the buisinesses into is mine all mine and they are winding down on the construction, it’s time to get serious about some decorating decisions. I am pouring though books and this one has some VERY cool stuff to share and show.

Exotic Style Japanese

I love everything about this wall: The use of pattern and paint finishes, the different patterns, the contemporary look with traditional motifs. Everything. Going to translate it somewhere…

Exotic Style Tiles

We have one large wall at the end of the studio that could be the ideal candidate for a tile pattern cut out of an ornate silhouette shape. This one’s a keeper.

Exotic Style 1

We have I don’t know how many 8′high doors going in around the building. The stenciling on these panels combined with the relief arch shape is very, very interesting. Hmmmm. Back to browsing…. 


August 15th, 2007

Sample Sampler

When I wrote earlier on this blog about the amazing examples of Sgraffito that can be seen on facades around Florence I was amazed at the level of detail and craftsmanship. After attempting this technique at Kathy Carroll’s place in Chicago for a sample for our Italy project at Alison’s Florence studio I am completely humbled and ever more awestruck!

Sgraffito Sample Royal Design

I kid you not, it took over an hour to scratch out the small amount of design you see on each of these boards. Each! The lime plasters were applied over a Travertino basecoat. While still wet, we stenciled the design lightly to provide the pattern and then removed it in those areas to reveal the basecoat using a sharp pick and clay carving tools. I DO like the effect of the one on the right where we did the Sgraffito technique on the lower half and used the stencil to emboss the plaster on the upper part. I am certain we will take the easy way out on this and to a “faux” sgraffito finish using a Modello masking pattern for the positive/negative effect!

Sgraffito Sample Modello Designs

This one is just stenciled. A pretty look as well!