Venetian Plaster is all I hear about lately. Clients ask if I “do” venetian plaster when what they really want is any decorative treatment that looks pleasing. The term has become synonymous with whatever the decorative artist shows a client. I have shown clients a glazed faux finish, only to have the client tell me “yes I want that venetian plaster”.
So quickly and succinctly this is what venetian plaster or more accurately named, Italian plaster is. Presumably named after the city of Venice, traditional venetian plaster is a wall treatment that is composed of a viscous combination of slaked limestone, pigment and marble dust. It is applied in layers to create a finish that hopefully resembles slabs of marble. If executed properly, and that term is open to interpretation, the end result of a venetian plaster wall is to give the appearance of an highly polished wall of stone or marble.
Many venetian plaster applicators take exception to the term faux finish when it is applied to their craft. Faux finish, however, is exactly what a venetian plaster technique is. Several hundred years ago, only the very wealthy could afford actual slabs of marble to be quarried, honed, polished and installed into their homes. The decorative painters or faux finishers of the time created a process using the marble dust residue left over to create a plaster that when applied thinly, would simulate marble slabs. That is what faux finishing is all about, creating an illusion.
There are certain distinct benefits of lime based venetian plaster. Lime plasters inhibits the growth of mold and mildew because they are made with lime and because they allow moisture to flow in and out. Venetian plaster will also resist fading and cracking.
In San Diego there are several sources of authentic Italian plasters and several good and many not so good applicators. Each applicator will have his or her own style. Be prepared, however, to spend substantially more for authentic venetian plaster than you would for other decorative wall treatments.