Now that the kids are gone, my wife and I want to really dress up the house. We saw examples of distressed painting in an Italian-style kitchen/dining room in an open house in nearby Long Beach. I don't want to overspend, but I love the effect. Can you suggest some cost-effective ideas and techniques?
Walter C. ~ Los Angeles, California
There are many beautiful wall finishes that can be accomplished using glazes, stains, and special painting techniques, and oftentimes these finishes are called faux painting or distressed painting. The costs of these artistic wall finishes range from "cheap and easy DIY" all the way to "time for another home equity loan". Some of these finishes can only be successfully created by highly skilled artisans who have spent years honing their craft.
Many of these artistic wall finishes are attempts to re-create the look of classic plaster walls, which were very common before the widespread use of sheetrock and interior paint. Oftentimes an integral color was added to the plaster mix before it was spread on the wall, resulting in a mottled finish that was rich in different color hues and visual textures. One wall finishing technique which replicates the look of plaster uses a base coat of semi-gloss off-white paint, which is then covered with an amber colored stain which is applied with a clumped up cotton rag. The stain is applied in quick splotchy patches, and when dried, it looks like an aged plaster wall.
I think you should investigate some of the specialized paints and faux painting techniques that are available at Sherwin Williams paint stores and Home Depot, which carries the Ralph Lauren line of paints . They are perfect for beginning painters, and if you produce something you like then you can try it on the walls of your home. Your other option is to talk to a professional painting contractor in the Los Angeles area who specializes in artistic finishes and see what type of budget and project is possible.