In this episode, I’m talking about decorative painting with David Walton.
David has been doing decorative painting for 30 years, creating specialty painting finishes in homes and businesses throughout the Southeast. Walls, cabinets, furniture, and architectural pieces have been his palettes, and he’s worked with many wonderful homeowners, interior designers/decorators and contractors over the years.
To see David’s work, follow him on Facebook and Instagram or go to www.VanGoFaux.com.
What inspired you to do decorative painting?
David: After I graduated from Bible college, I became a regular house painter. I had been painting for several years as a way to earn income, and I love painting, but I learned I’m much more of a creative person than just putting paint on. I’m also not a great boss — I love the solitude of working by myself.
I saw the trend of specialty painting and finishing happening on home shows and in magazines and thought, “I wonder if I can do that?” I thought by the time I learned it the trend will be over, but a couple of years later I learned the trend hadn’t hit my area yet. So I took a class in Mississippi for a week, learned the basics, and took it from there.
How has the popularity of faux finishes and different types of graining and glazing held up? Do people still want that in their homes?
David: Yes, in certain parts of their home. I will admit that in the very beginning when I got into this in 1993 there was real popularity in the DIY market.
You could learn how to do sponge painting and rag painting on your walls, and a lot of DIYers and housewives would do that. I was doing a lot of that in the beginning (they wanted a professional to do it). But it’s not quite as popular doing those kinds of effects anymore.
Now it’s specialized more in glazing and antiquing cabinets and furniture. I still do a lot of wood grains and marble — a very traditional European style that’s been around for centuries. There’s not a huge market for it, but I stay busy doing this kind of stuff.
What about cabinets, trim, and doors? What are some options that have worked well for your clients who have cabinets that are kind of tired and dreary?
David: The biggest thing when I’m working with older cabinets is that they’re usually very dark stained, and the client wants something brighter.
What I would do, and what I would recommend to anyone who wants to do this themselves, is to paint the cabinets a brighter color.
The most important part about this is to get the best primer first. Just putting regular latex paint on top of old oil-based paint or lacquer it’s not going to bond well. Do that first, then paint.
Also, a lot of times I’ll do a specialty glaze. Earlier on, it was a lot more of the shabby chic, but nowadays I do a lot of glazing, that’s clean, simple, and not as busy.
With all of the faux finishing on the walls and some of the options you have, it seems like the heavier textures on the walls have been minimized just like the darker finishes and paint on the cabinets.
David: You’re right. We’ve slowed down on that a lot. And though I still do some specialty finishes on walls, and even every now and then do something with rags, I tend to go with the more subtle combination and colors. I think when people put extreme colors together, which was really popular back in the early ‘90s, it doesn’t look as good. I think that was part of the trendy thing back then.
Now I do something very subtle, very soft, to where when you walk in the room you see it’s not a solid color. It’s very delicate and adds some charm to the room.
I still get some requests for effects like stripes, harlequin, and stone block.
Venetian plaster is big now. Rough texture plaster that’s not heavy and thick, but has a lot of character.
Many homeowners take on faux refinishing themselves. What are some of the biggest mistakes that they make? What are some of the common obstacles that they must overcome?
David: Not getting the color combinations to look good together. Color combinations are very important, as how they look together, and how they flow.
The way to approach that is to always work on a sample board first, and experiment before you get it on the wall. Get a poster board and paint it the base color. The base color should be an eggshell or satin finish, as opposed to a flat finish. Then, try the different colors. Use a glaze, which is just a clear medium, to help it soften out and get more translucent. Or use a watered-down color.
Also, sometimes a homeowner might take on a too big or too ambitious of a project. They might be able to handle a bathroom, but can they handle a 14-foot wall?
What is the most over-the-top decorative painting project a homeowner has had you take on?
David: The one that comes to my mind is one that I did when I was relatively new back in 2000. Not only were there a lot of finishes, but it was a lot timewise. I had billing hours of nine months on that one house. It stands today as the most hours I’ve spent on one particular house.
We did everything from soft hazy glazes on the ceiling to antique glazes on almost all the woodwork on the house — even the shutters! I even did a burl walnut effect on the kitchen cabinets.