Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pompeii No.3: Starting To Paint
As I looked at images of Pompeian-style rooms, I wanted to pick authentic colors that went beyond the typical Pompeian red and black. I also wanted a painted wainscoting, and I spent a lot of time studying the room pictured below.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel  |  Bergdoll  |  Rizzoli  |  photograph by Erich Lessing
I like that deep red color and how it's combined with green, and I like the illusion of panels on the wainscoting. You might be wondering which monarch occupied this room. It was designed between 1829 and 1833 by the great German architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and it was actually part of the Court Gardener's House, in Prussia.

Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin   |   Spring 2010
The colors that I finally settled on are a nod to the Pompeian villa of P. Fannius Synistor. This particular panel can now be viewed in the Louvre. Part of my attraction to this image is the paneling delineated by fine lines of highlighting and shadow. a typical Pompeian style. I'll definitely incorporate that look.

My colors are Sherwin Williams Paints, and they break down as follows:

  • Vast Sky (for the top of the mural and ceiling)
  • Insightful Rose (for architectural elements)
  • Arresting Auburn (for the top of panels)
  • Alaea (for the bottom of panels)
  • Butternut (as the base color for golden ornamentation)
  • Lounge Green (for the top border of the wainscoting)
  • Ablaze (for the wainscoting)
The colors will be combined to look like the simplified layout below. Of course there will be many layers of decoration overlaying this scheme!

I began by determining the top edge of the wainscoting, and I drew that line with a level. Experience has taught me the hard way not to measure up from the floor, or down from the ceiling. By establishing a level line and working from that, [almost] everything will be nicely squared.

My living room has two walls of bookcases with cabinets beneath, so it makes sense to have the top edge of the wainscoting be level with the top of the cabinets.

As you can see, there is some texture to the wall, but it is regular enough so that I didn't feel the need to resurface the wall. (The walls of Pompeian murals, however, were very smooth.)

I'll have you know I painted those lines by hand! For a long time I've had an aversion to taping because the paint always seemed to bleed, or I'd pull up the paint that was already down. But after painting that green line, I realized that not using tape was an exercise in madness.

It pays to ask experts for advice, and I was directed to this green Frog Tape, which is made especially for taping rougher surfaces like stucco, concrete and brick. The only thing I did that isn't covered in the instructions was to burnish about 1/8" along the very edge of the tape. It's been working like a charm.

Here's a slightly blurred photo of the room at the very beginning of the project. Not to worry, I'll be showing lots of clear details as we go along.

That white baseboard doesn't look good sandwiched between the red paint and the gray carpeting, does it? If I paint it a slightly darker gray, it should look nicely tailored.

In my next posting, I'll concentrate on painting around that window. I have an idea for it that's been tucked away in my memory banks for a long time.


  1. I love the name of the owner of the Pompeian villa! Gosh, you have taken on a monumental task, but you obviously have the skills and the patience to see it through to its conclusion. Thanks for sharing your journey!

    1. Dear Columnist,

      I'm hoping that the first name in P. Fannius Synistor was Phineas.

      Thank you for the vote of confidence! When my mother tackled a formidable project, she would often say that all it took was a strong back and a weak mind, and I can hear her saying that now!

    2. Oh, yes I hope it was Phineas too!

  2. This is going to be great fun to watch!

    1. Hi, Steve,

      I'm excited to be sharing this project because, as you will soon see, it's going to have many stages and layers.

  3. Hello Mark, You painted those lines by hand? I think you just passed the boundary that separates talented from super-human.

    Chinese decoration makes much use of panels, often to a different effect, although one sometimes sees a rather Pompeian-like use of jeweled background colors, toned down through the years.

    Are you planning to use some sort of glaze to further blend and subdue these hues, or are you just planning to wait 2000 years and see how they age naturally?

    1. Hello, Jim,

      Regarding those straight lines, what I didn't say, of course, was how long each line took. Which is why I realized that taping was the only way to go, because there will be many, many straight lines in the project.

      Carlo Marchiori, whom I referenced in the past two postings, has done a number of Pompeian rooms that have patina finishes of scratching and wearing-away, but my own room will be a newly minted Pompeii.

      I live in a very small house, comfortable for one person and cozy for two. I bought it with a water view when such places in Florida were still reasonably priced, and in the intervening years, I've seen McMansions spring up all around me. So I have no illusions that my house will survive beyond me. There's a moral in all that to do things for your own happiness, and to live in the Now.

  4. Hello Mark,

    This is all very exciting-- I love the colors and layout you've chosen! You're off to a wonderful start!

    Warm regards,

    1. Hello, Erika,

      Thanks for the encouragement! You should be seeing all those base colors on the wall by the end of the month. Then the real fun will start!

      Best wishes,


  5. Good morning, Ruffnerius. The colors you've chosen are so gorgeous. Just perfect. It is so inspiring to watch the progress of this project. And your mother was absolutely right -- not that any project around here was ever stopped by own "weak mind!"

    1. Good afternoon, silverinthebarn!

      One of the things that's going to make this project flow more smoothly for me is that the basic scheme is essentially a grid. I'll be showing how that works for the whole room in the next posting.

  6. Dear Mark, this is going to be so gorgeous I can hardly stand it. Of course you will be having an Official Open House once you're done - RIGHT??? :)

    1. Dear Yvette,

      You are right that there should be an official opening for the room. My friend Sandy has threatened a toga party, but I can't think of a better way to celebrate than to finally use the room for a sit-down meal!