Make your home your palette with custom murals and faux finishes

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Real Estate,Susan Wittman

A custom mural or faux finish can bring to life one's creative vision and make a space unique and personal.

Washington designer lisavandenburgh.com">Katina Megas helped Old Town Alexandria boaters chronicle their jaunts from Alexandria past Washington Harbor by wrapping a mural of the places they had visited around their dining room.

Megas, who works with lisavandenburgh.com">Lisa Vandenburgh Ltd., shot waterfront photos from Georgetown to opposite Hains Point then erased all monuments and buildings, leaving only the landscape, the view as pristine as the day settlers arrived. Purcellville artist robertamarovellistudio.com">Roberta Marovelli used "ombre grisaille," a mix of light and dark shades of a single color, to imbue the scene with the feel of an old sepia print.

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lisavandenburgh.com">Katina Megas
lisavandenburgh.com">Lisa Vandenburgh Ltd.
lisavandenburgh.com
thestudio33.com">Edward M. Williams
thestudio33.com
robertamarovellistudio.com">Roberta Marovelli
robertamarovellistudio.com

"Only the clients knew where it was," she said.

Megas has also created ringside views of high-energy basketball games for an exercise room and scenes of drama for a theater-loving family. One family's hall was too narrow for a grandfather clock, so the artist painted one on the wall.

The range of topics and styles is limited only by the homeowner's imagination and the artist's skill. Catonsville muralist Edward Williams' most difficult task was his encounter with a 15-foot great white shark a client wanted painted at the bottom of his pool for his grandchildren to enjoy. To do the job he mixed viscous pool paint a cup at a time and waited 25 minutes per cup for it to harden in the July heat.

"All they needed was red dye in the water," Williams quipped.

He worked his magic for a set of globe-trotting clients who asked him to paint a door for their exotic "Moroccan Room." They had a hand-carved door with an intricate pattern of camel-bone and tin inlays -- but only on one side. Williams faux-finished the plain side of the door with inlays and tinted the room's trim a light charcoal, adding a subtle black glaze for visual texture. A metallic gold glaze imparts a shimmery texture to the room's pale ochre walls, complementing the fabrics.

While Marovelli uses techniques that are hundreds of years old and prefers the rich color depth and slow-drying quality of oils, Williams imports photos of clients' walls into Photoshop and uses flatter, but fast-drying, environmentally friendly latex and acrylic paint.

"I'm pretty old-school," said Marovelli, who mostly works by hand. "It's labor-intensive and takes longer to dry, but the results are wonderful."

A complex mural in oils can take a month, whereas fast-drying paints require three to four days. Murals in oil can be cleaned with a damp cloth, but water-based paints cannot be scrubbed too hard, Megas noted.

Some murals must be painted on site due to room layouts and design continuity. But many can be done on canvas in the studio. This gives homeowners more privacy and reduces the need for ventilation while the oils dry.

An added benefit is that homeowners can take a canvas mural with them and resize it when they move, Megas said.

Costs vary with the complexity and size of a project. A wrap-around room mural starts at $10,000, Megas said. An 8-by-10-foot, one-wall mural is $2,000 to $6,000, Williams said.

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