If the rooms of your house are beginning to resemble the pages of your favorite home-furnishings catalog, perhaps it's time to inject some personal style into your environment...
If the rooms of your house are beginning to resemble the pages of your favorite home-furnishings catalog, perhaps it’s time to inject some personal style into your environment.
One of the easiest ways to jazz things up is to coat your walls with color. Go one step further and adorn the walls of your home with a painted mural, pattern or wallpaper-like design.
“We need to get away from the off-the-shelf lives we live, where we’re buying things manufactured a zillion miles away,” said Edmonds mural artist Michael Rohani of Michael Rohani Design. “Why not paint a mural on your wall, like those in the homes of England or Italy?”
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Local artists and interior designers say many clients are ready formore adventurous interiors — ones that begin with turning ordinary white walls into artistic canvasses.
“You can have boring beige walls, or you can be more confident with walls that have visual depth,” said Seattle designer Carleen Cafferty.
When clients Frannie and Robert Hohman wanted to bring the look and feel of an Italian villa into their remodeled Bellevue home, Cafferty introduced them to decorative artist Melissa Koch.
Koch, who trained as an architect and painter in Europe, uses stylized paint finishes to embellish walls, ceilings and canvases.
“Color imbues our living interiors with a sense of well-being,” Koch said. “Frannie and I talked a lot about color. We looked at the fabrics and finishes that Carleen had integrated into the room. I asked her questions like, ‘What makes you happy?’ ”
To help the Hohmans choose their wall finishes, Koch painted sample boards showing faux sandstone surfaces, vibrant glazing techniques and trompe-l’oeil, a method that replicates three-dimensional architectural elements onto two-dimensional surfaces. It translates as “trick the eye.”
For Frannie Hohman, the idea of treating her walls like works of art was appealing.
“When I was younger, I was so afraid to paint the walls,” Hohman said. “But this time, we had just come back from Europe, and I knew I wanted color.”
Researching magazines and drawing from interiors she had admired during her travels, Hohman gave Koch and Cafferty the go-ahead to finish almost every wall surface of her just-remodeled home.
With a 24-karat gold-leaf ceiling in her dining room, Italian plaster-like finishes on the foyer walls and small alcoves embellished with trompe-l’oeil detailing, each room of the Hohman residence is personalized.
Hohman equates the techniques to buying fine art. “There is a stigma when you say ‘faux’ that it just means ‘sponged,’ ” Hohman said, referring to a popular 1980s do-it-yourself method. “But this is like adding jewelry to your house.”
Custom wall finishes can be like buying expensive baubles, although artists and designers say the investment is well worth it. Melissa Koch says her work varies by the project’s complexity. Her prices begin at about $6 a square foot for a one- or two-color glaze, about $22 to $35 a square-foot for trompe-l’oeil finishes, and about $150 or more a square-foot for murals.
“For most clients, it’s not about the money, but about what is the right and appropriate solution to the room,” Koch said.
For Michael and Mushka Rohani, of Edmonds, the idea of living with eggshell or ivory walls was inconceivable. Thanks to his penchant — and talent — for painting landscapes, Michael Rohani, a graphic designer and illustrator, has turned the couple’s cozy ranch house into a European-inspired home with ceiling-to-floor murals.
“Everybody considers the 1959 rambler to be the most soulless, hopeless type of architecture,” he said. “But with the power of art, you can transform anything.”
Inspired by his studies of classical art and literature, Michael Rohani has infused their home with art, custom-built and -painted furniture, colorful fabrics and Old World scenes on the walls.
Bringing outside indoors
The dining-room mural depicts sun-drenched vineyards and lavender fields suggestive of Eastern Washington’s landscape. A wall in the living room displays a panoramic scene of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains that the Rohanis can see from their backyard.
Like Koch, Rohani draws his technique from the decorative arts of Europe, incorporating vistas, focal points and other classical landscape elements into his murals. His ceiling-to-floor landscapes appeal to clients who want to turn an ordinary room into a special destination.
A Palm Beach homeowner recently commissioned Rohani to create two murals for his dream home. During the two-week project, Rohani and the client brainstormed ideas for the finished murals.
“I painted scenes that really meant something to the client,” Rohani said. “We created an exotic lagoon-like setting for a meditation room, and we painted the night sky on the domed ceiling of another room.”
Michael Rohani typically begins a mural by painting the scene as a small watercolor, which gives the client a good idea of how the landscape will look. His prices depend on the level of detail the works involve, he says, but one of his custom murals costs about the same as a high-end kitchen appliance.
“Putting a mural in your home is like buying custom artwork,” Rohani said. “And as more people want homes with character, people are moving in this direction.”
Sometimes the best solution for an unadorned room is to hide its flaws with wallpaper. But as anyone who has struggled with expensive paper, tricky adhesives and — not to mention lining up patterns — knows, it’s not always a fun weekend project.
That’s why Seattle interior designer Robyne Curry created her “painted wallpaper” system.
“Wallpaper is back, and people are hungering for something beautiful on their walls,” Curry said. “But most people who have lived in older homes have memories of all the work involved with scraping off old wallpaper.”
Curry’s technique mimics high-end wallpaper patterns with paint and without the hassle of glues or matching seams.
Curry first helps her clients select an appropriate base color that fits with the room’s furnishings. They look through countless sample boards of wallpaper-style designs Curry has created, or they show her a favorite wallpaper swatch they want replicated. Patterns range from the Audrey Hepburn-like 1950s boudoir to romantic damask treatments with swag borders.
Once the walls are painted, Curry arrives with her ladders, paintbrushes, stencils and stamps to transform a solid-colored wall into a decorative wallpaper-like pattern. She often uses metallic paints to add shimmer to an otherwise dark room or to give a dining room some elegance.
Like Beacon Hill residents Lisa Caylor and Robert Colbert, many of Curry’s clients live in older homes. Caylor and Colbert hired the designer to adorn the entry room and hall foyer of their 1901 Victorian after they realized it was impractical to invest in expensive reproduction wallpaper, Caylor said.
“We could have spent $5,000 alone on the wallpaper I liked,” Caylor said. “But I have a 2-year-old, and I figured I would have never let him — or anyone — touch the walls if we spent that much.”
In contrast, she paid Curry about $1,500 to embellish the foyer walls and add a detailed border above picture molding. The floral design incorporates a coppery-champagne metallic paint over a tan background color.
“She really encouraged us to be more adventurous than we might have been,” Caylor said.
Curry says her painted method is comparable to having wallpaper professionally hung. Her prices begin at $400 to adorn the walls of a 10-by-10 foot room. Detailed patterns or multiple colors will increase the price.
“This is one way for people to add different textures and interest to their walls,” Curry said. “It can be big, bold, graphic and fun.”
Debra Prinzing is a Seattle-based garden and design writer.