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Category: Mirrors & Glass

02 Jun

Faux-cus on the Pros: Melanie Royals – Part 1

Melanie Royals has been showcasing her considerable passion for pattern and design since 1983.  She is a self-taught artist who, in 1994, established Royal Design Studio, her signature stencil line, and followed that with 2003′s Modello Designs, a decorative masking pattern company.  She is also an accomplished author, releasing books on subjects such as decorative finishes, stenciled murals and travel-inspired finishes, among others.  An international instructor, she plans and leads painting trips abroad to locations in France, Italy, Spain and Morocco as well as teaching in her California studio, online webinars and studios nationwide.

The above is the shortened bio of one of the most prolific artists in our industry.  Chances are high that you know the name Melanie Royals, or at the very least, her incredible businesses.  A few years ago, I met her when I took a class in her lovely studio.  We’ve kept in touch since then, from e-mailing to showcasing at trade shows to attending a blog conference together.  She has been blessed with an almost otherworldly creative sense as well as keen business and marketing insights — a rare combination.  In person?  Witty, insightful and a girl’s girl — plus, one of the most fun people you could possibly spend time with.  Seriously — I’ve had tears streaming down my eyes in laughter from her stories!  We had an e-chat recently for Fauxology and I hope you enjoy both her story and insights over the next two days. We start today with her beginnings and inspirations and conclude tomorrow with all that’s coming up for her (and for us!).  Let’s dig in…

It’s been said that all incredible journeys start with one step.  How did yours begin?

I actually started on this journey with a trip to New England in 1983. We went to some historic places, like Sturbridge Village where I saw examples of historic New England stenciling. It wasn’t until we hit the Boston Museum of Art, though, where I picked up the book The Art of Decorative Stenciling by Adele Bishop and Cile Lord that the whole thing clicked for me. That book was filled with stenciled images that made me HAVE to learn how to stencil!

There were some more simplistic designs for sure, but it was the photos of intricately detailed and shaded furniture and floor screens that I kept going back to. They just looked so magical to me! I discovered that they were achieved with “theorem-style” stencils, where different parts of the design are cut on different layers. When all of the layers are completed, you end up with an image that looks as if it could have been hand painted, because there are no bridges or broken areas in the design.

I poured over the book, and spent many hours at my dining room table drawing and redrawing designs and then cutting them by hand with a Stanley knife! Unfortunately, these amazing artistic and pioneering women worked long before the digital age, and all that I can now find about them online is a photo of a very “now” stenciled graphic floor by Cile Lord in a House Beautiful magazine spread from 1970 and Adele’s obituary from 1996. It’s sad to think that two women who truly had a great affect on the resurgence of stenciling in this country and a lot of what we do today are not being properly honored, remembered or respected as they deserve to be.

In the late 80’s I was contacted by a very eccentric retired interior designer who had just move from Connecticut, named Evelyn Tasch. Evelyn had actually worked quite a bit with Adele Bishop and Cile Lord (Bishop & Lord) on residential and commercial projects in and around New York City. She even had some of their original pieces in her home, which amazed and intimidated me to no end! She had a vision and style like no other, and working with her over two of her houses fortunately pushed me to think outside the box along with her. I think that the challenges she presented me with (and she WAS challenging) had a huge effect on shaping my approach to pattern to this day.

What are some misconceptions about stencils and stenciling that you encounter?

Ha! I could write a whole book on that subject alone. Sadly, it seems that classic, oft-repeated misconception about stencils (that it’s all about crafty ducks and bunnies) has existed for almost 30 years now. Seriously! Those types of designs were popular for about 1 year back in the 80’s and people either overlook, or don’t have the knowledge, that stencils have been used elegantly and artistically for 1,000’s of years by both primitive and advanced cultures all over the world! I wrote a blog post on Design Amour just recently about a wonderful new book, Walls: The Best of Decorative Treatments, by Florence de Dampierre. Amazingly, it has a WHOLE chapter devoted to the extensive history of decorative painting. I was thrilled to see the poor, lowly stencil get its just due, finally! I highly recommend it as required reading. Of course, the stenciling photos are divine as well.

Another misconception I’ve heard over the years is that using stencils is “cheating” somehow. As if it’s an art “test”?! Of course, there are all kinds of mechanical means for transferring pattern, such as pounce patterns (used by the Renaissance artists), tracing, and projecting. Stencils are just a different, friendly tool for pattern transferring-with benefits, as you can create the transfer with paint in one fell swoop, or swirl, of the brush.

I don’t think that misconception is as common now as it was back in the day before stencils and decorative finishes became as integrated as they are now. There WAS a time when people drew lines in the sand as to whether they were stencilers, faux finishers or muralists. I am really proud to have been involved in that line blurring. I took one of The Finishing School’s first classes here in San Diego using the “new” finishing line from Faux Effects back in the 90’s. I took my activated glaze samples home and applied my new Damask and Free Form Fruits stencils to them. When I took them back to class the next day everyone went crazy over them. Bob Marx then asked me to develop a class to teach at TFS in New York and Extraordinary Stenciled Effects was born! Some notable students from that first class were Sean Crosby and Randy Ingram. After that I traveled extensively, teaching stenciled finishes at Faux Effects schools until I finally developed The Extraordinary Stenciled Effects home study program of videos, technique manual, and recipe cards.

One special thing that I have seen over the years is that stencils can be a gateway for beginning budding artists to grow and blossom in their skills. Stenciling can help ignite a passion for color, form, pattern and design.  I have seen many decorative painters start with stencils, and then go on to become highly skilled trompe l’oeil or mural artists once they discover their own innate skills and enthusiasm for decorative art.

Where do you see pattern and design headed in the future?

Well, the good news is that pattern is currently BACK in a big way and a whole new generation of young, trend-setting decoristas are discovering stencils as the hottest, “newest” thing! Can decorative finishes be far behind? I see the whole “glaze craze”, crackled finishes, distressing, etc. cycling through again-but with twists!  I think that this is a really important time for our industry to seize the moment and the conversation in this amazing digital Web 2.0 environment.

Unfortunately, many decorative painters, companies and organizations are on their heels with their backs to the wall from the housing bust and the ongoing recession, but I think that there is going to be a lot of opportunity in the future for artisans and companies who are willing and able to hang on and to rethink, re-strategize, and reposition themselves.

Beyond stenciling and decorative painting, I am most pleased with what we have been able to accomplish and offer with the introduction of our Modello decorative masking patterns 8 years ago. Trying to convince people to consider a one-time-use, custom pattern over a reusable, mylar stencil was a super tough sell for several years, but they have now become an industry standard. It’s been really gratifying to see the amazing work, artistic work our customers have done with our patterns. It was such a thrill to be able to honor THEM with our two Modello by Design books.

From flooring to walls to ceilings…Modellos make an impact.  Artists (clockwise from top left): Utah’s Metamorphosis, Nancy Jones, Jason Lucas and Lynn Smith

(cont.)  I think where Modello patterns continue to shine is for taking complex patterns and making them “doable” in a way that is time efficient, yet allows for over the top artistry and execution. I think a great, classic painted ceiling or wood floor can be an “heirloom” that gets passed down through generations of homeowners. Heirloom decorative painting. Now, there’s a nice thought!

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

Heirloom decorative painting — I’ll always like the sound of that!  I hope you’ve enjoyed Part 1 of our 2-part interview.  Tomorrow, we talk a bit more about her design leanings, her affinity for “historical reinterpretation” and see what is coming up (Hearst Castle, anyone?).  Please come back to read more — and of course, see more gorgeous images.  Have a wonderful day!

27 May

Verre Eglomisé

I thought I would follow up the post on inspired antique mirror images with the beautiful art of Verre Eglomisé.  Verre Eglomisé is a French term which means “glass gilded” and refers to the technique of gilding on glass to create veritable works of art with mirror-like surfaces.  My brother, Jason, recently took a class with a Master in the field, Miriam Ellner, during the latest conference of the Society of Gilders.


Verre Eglomisé Ceiling

Speaking of Miriam Ellner, she recently created the above masterpiece at the behest of famed designer, Celerie Kemble.  To read more about the work and see in-depth pictures, please do click on the lovely post by Ann Onusko of the PlumSiena blog. Another of my fave blogs frequently features Verre Eglomisé — it’s written by Christine McInnes of London Gilding.

Here are a few more images in various styles and uses…

verre eglomiseInterior Design by Kelly Wearstler

verre eglomise panelsVerre Eglomisé panels in a casual restaurant featured in Interior Design magazine.

verre eglomise cabinet

A Chinese cabinet with Verre Eglomisé doors as featured in Architectural Digest.  The (too bright?) wallpaper is by Florence Broadhurst, a designer with a fascinating history.

verre eglomise mural jean dupas

This is the 1935 gold, silver and palladium leaf Verre Eglomisé mural entitled “The Navigation of History”.  At a little over 20′ high, it was created by artist Jean Dupas for the ill-fated ocean liner, Normandie.  It currently resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and they have even better pics and its history.  Incredible.

I also found another wonderful artist, California’s Maria Apelo Cruz.  Please do see her site — such beautiful works.  A short video below gives you even more inspired images of her Verre Eglomisé artistry.

YouTube Preview Image

Hope you enjoyed today’s works — isn’t the art sublime?  We will not be here on Monday but we do wish you all a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend!

26 May

Mirror Images

It’s no secret that I love antique mirrors — heck, we even have a studio for mirror patinas.  I think it’s because they’re not as “bright” as a regular mirror and can showcase a little or a lot of personality.  I found the following images which I thought were inspiring.

antique mirror screen

antique mirror antique octagon mirror

antique mirror dining room antique mirror bedroom

antique mirror panels

antique mirror art

antique mirror with typography

What’d you think?  Do you have a fave image?  If my arm was twisted, I would have to pick the last two but they are all just the right amount of gorgeous. Tomorrow is a treat — hope to see you here!

References:  Shimmer Like Gold blog, Southern Accents, Elle Decor, Architectural Digest and El Mundo.

23 May

Decorative Painting Tour

I realized that in my travels, I rarely have the opportunity to visit the same place again.  Plus, I’m always discovering new places to visit.  Since I love  anything and everything related to decorative painting & design, I always fervently hope I didn’t miss anything related to that. Of course, if I find out later I missed something? Oof.

So, I  thought to start putting together a list of places around the world that one who thinks like me must see.  It’s a list that’s going to be  slowly built up by putting in all the destinations seen, found online and read about.

Hopefully, I’m not going to do this alone because I need YOUR help.

If you know of something (in your area or around the world) that one must see, please send it in to me or simply comment on this post. You can say a little bit about it or in the alternate, just point me to the link – having the link helps a lot. I’ll put it up on the list and credit/link to you for sharing it.  (Be sure to send me your web details!)  This way, we can all have an area to double-check right before we leave on our adventures.  Does that sound good?

Library of Congress

It would be a shame to miss the Library of Congress while in Washington, D.C.

20 May

Portrait of an Artist: Evangelia Kondilis

Evangelia Kondilis

Artist Evangelia Kondilis

I love coming upon great artists and their work while wandering on Facebook.  This is exactly what happened with Evangelia Kondilis.  Born in Greece, raised in Canada, trained in Italy and currently living in British Columbia, Evangelia is an incredible decorative artist who’s had quite the adventurous life.  “I started out at a young age in the Fashion industry, then went into Interior Design where I discovered the Decorative Arts.  I was hooked!  I had to try everything I could get my hands on and create.  I now love to create innovative, eco-friendly environments.  I’ve been in business for over 18 years and during that time we have done everything from residential, commercial, worked in the film industry, done guest appearances on Interior Design shows and gone on traveling working tours of Europe.”

Evangelia also has a teaching studio where she teaches both finishes and canvas artworks.  “We also mentor our students and give them the opportunity to have on site experience.  The Helm restaurant, which we did last Winter, was a great example of that.  We showed students how to create and install their own stencils, vinyl masking patterns, various textures, metallics and resurface the existing bartops with Aurastone. I used mostly recycled materials for the hanging art including torn up old canvas murals for the large silver piece with the blue branches, foils and glass beads.”

The Helm Restaurant Custom Canvas

This was all done while they were filming at The Helm for the Food Network TV show The Opener with chef David Adjey.

Epoxy Art

The epoxy art behind the The Helm’s bar and DJ booth is something I teach in one of my workshops.  It was done on plexiglass and I used lots and lots of crushed recycled glass in various colors, Aurastone’s epoxy and real earth ground pigments from Turkey.  It’s quite beautiful when backlit.

In addition to the custom and epoxy artworks, large graphic designs and unique finishes can also be found at The Helm Restaurant (Vancouver)

Images: 604 Foodtography

Q: Where do you see the decorative painting industry heading in the future?
Now with an abundance of amazing products out there, I see more emphasis on exquisite eco-friendly finishes.  I also see a new appreciation for the old and incorporating the new.

Q: How do you creatively approach every new commission? What jumpstarts your inspiration?
It starts with the client’s personality and tapping in to what inspires them. For example, we had a client that loved to dive.  Using some of the photos he took underwater, we turned his elevator into a submersible.  Starting on the bottom floor you see the bottom of the ocean including seals and eels and as you go up you can see an octopus through the window, a school of fish and when you reach the top you’re on the beach shore. He can no longer dive anymore due to health reasons but this mural gives him great joy every time he uses the elevator.

underwanter mural

This mural was painted with artists Kristin Johnson and Lindsay Joy Hamilton. The are both very talented artists - we had so much fun on this project!

underwater mural close-up detail

Close-up detail of the underwater mural


Sometimes it can be an object, fashion, anything from nature.  Sometimes it could just be a specific color or feeling. Food also inspires me a lot as I like to think of myself as a chef creating just the right recipe of exotic ingredients. I always opt to choosing the most eco-friendly options for each project so I don’t compromise anyone’s health.

faux bois woodgraining

Faux Bois on a Doorway

gustav klimt

An homage to Gustav Klimt in a powder bath.

Q: In your travels, what have been some of the most inspiring spaces you’ve seen that had decorative painting?
I absolutely loved how seeing the old frescoed backrounds in Italy paired with very modern contemporary furniture, sculptures and art.

custom canvas art birds

Done on canvas, the hand-dyed tissue paper was applied on top which softened the image. It was used in a designer showhome.

Evangelia also teaches incredible workshops to share her techniques.  “People usually call for upcoming workshops. They can choose a workshop listed on the menu or we can create something custom for them.”  The menu of workshops also reflects her creativity — it literally is a menu, ranging from appetizers to desserts.

evangelia kondilis workshops

Some of the workshop samples...incredible, no?

Q: What’s the best piece of professional advice you have received?
I trained under my mentor, Valerie Skemp, years ago and she would tell me that as creative as I am in my artwork, I should be just as creative in my marketing and business skills.  Align yourself with people that are the best at what they do and keep positive.

* * * * * * *

I just love her work — it’s so creative and innovative! Please do visit her Evangelia studio site and do find your way to liking her studio’s Facebook Fan Page.  I really think she should teach more in the U.S. as well.  Her epoxy finishes alone are superb.  I hope you enjoyed today’s profile and that it was a nice introduction to the gorgeous weekend. Many thanks to Evangelia for sharing her talent and time! See you next week!

26 Apr

Embossed Allover Designs

When we were at the Design Bloggers Conference, designer extraordinaire Tobi Fairley took the stage.  She was giving great advice all over the place and then she said “Your blog should showcase your work about 70% of the time”.  You can imagine how I started cringing and sliding down my seat because that’s not this blog at all.  I’m lucky if I get to 15%, methinks.  I find comfort in that Fauxology was never meant to be a journal of my work — it’s more like the journal of my obsession with love of decorative painting.  I believe I will always continue down that road.

embossed stencil

Today, however, you get part of the 15%.  This project is one area of a beautiful home we spent a few months in.  Both the husband and wife were very involved in the design and wanted something out of the ordinary for the foyer-to-living-room entrance.  They loved the embossed stenciling we were doing in another area and wanted to incorporate it using an allover design.

We scoured stencil catalogs and Dover publications and our clients ended up finding designs they liked in a book. Since we had no time to order a custom Modello or stencil, we cut our own, created a grid and got to work mapping it out.

Here’s where I tell you that using single stencils to create an allover pattern is NOT something to recommend.  First, my brother came up with the idea to transfer the grid pattern to craft paper and make holes for where center elements would need to be…

craft grid

Then, we put pushpins in the centers of the design and drew out the pattern loosely on the wall to make the stencil placement easier…or so we thought.

mapping the allover stencil grid

Monica Arrache, patient team member

The drawn pattern didn’t make everything as easy as we’d hoped since we had to adjust time and time again when embossing.

allover stencil pattern

See the final embossed design as compared to the drawn pattern and level lines? It WAS good to have them, though, as a placement guide.

Of course, the stencil glue would lift some parts of the wall and the Venetian Plaster did seep under the stencil.  We would immediately clean up the seepage because you never want it to dry that way.

embossing with a stencil

Here’s the basic design layout coming around…

embossed stencil

Then we filled in the centers and the wall edges.  (I’d like to take a moment to say how much I now truly appreciate large production allover stencils with registrations marks that stencil companies offer.)

After the pattern was down and dry, we went to town with tiny artist brushes cleaning up all the background color.  Then we started overglazing.

glazing over embossing

Using an idea we spied on The Gilded Barn blog and with some tips from the writer, Tamra Cook, we outlined the edges of the finish with a chocolate Venetian Plaster, added metallic highlights over the top and tapped in decorative nail heads.  You can see it better in the second pic below.

embossed stenciling


embossed stenciling

Voila! You can also spy one of our antique mirrors over the fireplace.

I don’t even want to tell you how long it took — but our clients were SO happy and it really is a sight to see in person.  Our clients tell us that when guests walk in the first thing they do is walk right up to it, run their hands over it and ask about it in detail.  It was definitely enjoyable to have it all come together.  :)   Tomorrow we go back to the 85% — I’ll see you then!

15 Apr

An Ode to Digital Discoveries

I had a bit of a time giving a title to this post. It all began when I saw the premiere of the new TRADhome digital magazine — it’s the collaboration between Traditional Home, arguably the most popular print magazine, and Lonny, arguably the most popular digital magazine. I came upon the article Of Worldly Riches and stopped in my tracks. It featured a bit of the Criterion Restaurant in London.

I mean, seriously. What would you have done if you had been led to these images?

criterion restaurant

Neo-Byzantine Architecture and Design

gold mosaic ceiling criterion restaurant

Gold Mosaic Ceiling

criterion restaurant gold leaf ceiling

Gold Leaf & Ornamental Ceiling

marble and gold leaf columns criterion restaurant

Marble & Gold Leaf Columns

The Criterion building is blessed with neo-Byzantine architecture and descor. It’s here where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote of Dr. Watson first hearing of Sherlock Holmes. (I’m an avid Sherlock Holmes fan. Not of the latest Downey movie — but always the stories. The BBC version is phenomenal, though. Ahem.)  It is surrounded by gilding, mosaics, marble, dramatic arches and mirrored walls.  You can read more here, here and here.

These images made me think about all the yummy, delicious discoveries I’ve made online — and I’m so grateful we live in an age where this is possible.  How else would I have discovered such a glorious place without ever setting foot (yet) in London?  So, I could have called the post “The Criterion” but I did feel an overwhelming need to say thanks to TRADhome (and its parents) for introducing me to it.  If I’m going to say thanks to them, it also needs to be said to Rue Magazine, Adore Home, High Gloss and all the other online magazines that help fuel our imaginations.  So, today, I’m raising a glass to Digital Discoveries.  Have a great weekend, dear Readers!

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