Venetian plaster (aka Venetian stucco) is one of the most durable finishes a designer could make. When applied correctly, it looks elegant and extra neat.
Have you ever wondered why Venetian plaster even exists?
Long time ago, Venice had an important moisture issue that needed to be resolved. People had to find solutions to keep their furniture and walls from going moldy so they needed a good and durable solution.
Their idea was the Venetian plaster powder and the person who redid its formula sometime in the 1900s was architect Carlo Scarpa. At that point, limestone had been in use for thousand of years.
“Architects and interior designers, home-owners and artists, all have marveled at the distinctive beauty of this highly popular form of wall surfacing, and throughout the ages the artisans who were skilled at creating such beauty have been revered and sought after. “ (lifeinitaly.com)
Unlike frescoes, Venetian plaster is smooth surfaced and its uniqueness lies mostly within the making process and ingredients that have remained essentially the same since the first century AD. Throughout the years, the base has stayed more or less the same – limestone, with a stone or marble powder for later layers. However, the specifics have varied across generations and cultures.
The Venetian plaster we use – from a firm in California that makes their own – is made out of authentic marble powder and limestone. Our most popular finish is Almost Marble (pic above).
The subtle dark strings you see in our finish were inspired by the native American art, where black thin lines were put on pots using horse hair.
Controversy: Fake vs authentic Venetian plaster
Authentic Venetian plaster is not a fake (also referred to as faux) finish. It is actually the most authentic veneer wall finish we have access to. When natural, lime-based Venetian plaster will in time return to it’s original state, meaning lime and marble, meaning stone. Durability is the key word.
Most of the Venetian plasters you find in stores – at Lowes or Home Depot – are not authentic, meaning they are synthetic. Some might look similar for the ‘regular eye’ but they will behave completely different on the long run.
Instead of solidifying, the synthetic Venetian Plaster will fade and look old.
The real thing is a good choice for just about any surface that might get wet. Lime plasters do very well in wet climates because the water gets absorbed into the plaster and evaporates (that’s why it worked in Venice’s lagoons).
How to apply it?
Creating a finish of Venetian plaster is quite the process, one that involves time, patience and an eye for detail. Anyone might think this to be an easy DIY project, but applying it well is a different story.
We advise hiring a professional, but if that isn’t an option, please read a lot on the subject and do tryouts before applying it on your wall or other surfaces.
Note: the final shininess of this finish can be manipulated by the materials used and the way of application.
How to maintain it?
As we mentioned before, Venetian plaster is a lifetime finish, so by gently taking care of it, you will have saved a lot of money on the long run. All you have to do is wash it with soap and water.
For our latest project we used Venetian plaster to refurbish the kitchen cabinets of a large kitchen. I know, it’s not your usual use of this finish, but I like to experiment and I’ve talked to a number of people before deciding to go in this direction – including the firm that produces the powder.
It was a lot of work, but the results were very pleasing, both for us and our client. There’s still work to be done on the kitchen – backsplash, lighting and some wall painting – but we’re getting there. The biggest aspect of it, applying our Almost Marble finish (containing the Venetian plaster) is done.