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March 2008

The last lath: Walls of Steel

The earthy glow of Venetian plaster might seem out of place in a kitchen full of sleek steel appliances and bold red cabinets, but for artisan Kevin Walsh, owner of Walsh Decorative Finishes in Sarasota, Fla., that was just part of the challenge.

The clients were looking for a brushed-steel look that would complement their stainless steel appliances. Walsh's job was to make sure the finish colors were cool and neutral so as not to compete with the warm red of the cabinetry. To accomplish that, he turned to FirmoLux, an American importer of Italian plasters, and its Grasso di Calce plaster.

Grasso di Calce, also known as Grassello Veneziano, consists of 98 percent natural materials, including lime and marble, and is hand-applied over primer in two or three coats. To get the look of brushed steel, Walsh used three coats of Grasso di Calce, layering grays under a top coat of white.

"Because the Grassello provides such translucence, I lay in my darkest values first and then add lighter values," he says "I like showing some depth." After burnishing the plaster for a soft shine, Walsh applied a final wax coat.

Walsh says the most exciting part of the project was how easy it was using the FirmoLux plaster. Having tried many other plasters, most of them synthetic, Walsh found that the natural lime plaster was easier to work with and produced a more natural finish.

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