Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marbeling Prefabricated Fireplace Mantels and Surrounds

When working with today’s generic fireplace mantels and surrounds, many of us long for the decades past architectural elements. With production costs what they are and well….let’s just say, nothing is made in the same fashion as they fabricated in the past. Solid wood is obsolete. In fact, it is as though we live in “faux” houses with hefty price tags…everything is wood framed and plywood coated. Stuffed with insulation and boarded with gypsum, skim coated with mud, sprayed with knock-down, then mist primed and two coat sprayed….fascinating!

So, that is where we come in. The faux finishers or decorative painters of the world unite! We are able to take something hum drum, fabricated out of inexpensive material and transform it into a fabulous look! Let us focus on the generic fireplace. In order for this finish to work, we must work with an architectural base that offers some pleasing aesthetic lines. Most of today’s fireplace mantels or surrounds are fabricated out of resins or a lite concrete substrate combination. Many of these elements are offered with superb design.

This surround and mantel are from the company Lite Stone Concrete located in El Cajon, California. These elements are pre-cast and then shipped to your destination.

Once these elements are installed, many times, the designer needs to tweak the color or tone of the piece. I am going to discuss the simple basics in transforming a prefabricated mantel and or surround into a marbled look.

First, apply base coat and allow to cure for 24 hours with water base (latex) or 72 for oil base (alkyd). Select a base paint which is correct for your marble objective, i.e., cream for yellow sienna marble, white for carrara marble, and if going with a port’oro marble….then base in black.

From this point on, we will utilize only oil paints to render our marbling. It is only in this medium that we are able to achieve the true marbling effect. Pour approximately 2 to 3 Tbsp of pigment into a tray or cup, add japan drier. Add a bit of white, yellow ochre, and raw sienna onto your palette for most marbles except white marbles. (In creating carrara marble, statuario, arabescato vagli, or any other white based and gray veined marble….the same practices apply only different colors will be utilized. In some of the white and black marbles, some yellow veining does occur. Examine your sample and select pigments accordingly.)

Using a chip brush (an inexpensive brush located at any hardware and paint store) pick up some of each color and lightly mix onto your palette. Now, dip your chip brush into the oil glaze and pick up some of the mixed color. With a criss cross pattern, sporadically apply to the fireplace surround and mantel working in small areas at a time. Vary your depth of application. In some areas, apply darker shades and in others, apply lighter shades.

Next step is to soften your area with either the same brush or another unused chip. Gently sweep and blend the paint on the fireplace surround and mantel area until you have achieved the look you want.

Immediately following, take another chip brush and dip into the oil glaze then into the white and work into the lighter areas on the fireplace mantel and surround. Take your more saturated brush and work into the newly applied white area creating billowy cloud like effects. In this effort, you are to define a vein directional pattern.

Next, using an 3/8 inch round white bristle artist brush, dip into the glazing medium and then into the white, yellow ochre, and raw sienna mixture. Loosely paint in veins outlining the darker and lighter based areas. Along the darker areas, define with thicker and deeper or darker veins. The best way to achieve a light hand is to hold your brush down low on the handle caressing the handle with finger tips and a light grasp. While moving down in the same directional vein pattern that you have selected, you will create a wiggly effect and a soft wave effect. *Using oil, you really never make a mistake. If you do not like your veins, then erase them with a soft brush over.

Next, using a 19/64 or smaller round brush, repeat the paint application, but this time, run your veins off the main veins. You may run at opposing angles in various directions. Step back to regard your efforts.

Next, soften your veins with the more saturated chip brush using a sweep and stipple method. In areas of which you would like to establish more depth, use the chip brush and dip into the darker pigment. Take the coated brush and stipple into the surface area desiring the darker pigment. Again, softly brush the area blending into the surrounding pigment.

Again, using a smaller sized round brush, apply darker and more irregular veins. You could add a bit of black mixed with the raw umber and glazing medium. Add as many veins as you wish. After each application of veins, always soften with the chip brush.

For the last vein application, I always like to place some white veins on top. At this stage, I paint in some white areas and then vein over them. *Remember: Vein, soften, paint and stipple, vein, soften, paint and stipple….as many times as you like until you achieve the desired look.

Lastly, take a clean chip brush and dip into the white pigment and glazing medium. With this brush loaded, spatter paint onto your surface. Follow with a soft blending on the fireplace surround and mantel. Next, replicate the same method only this time using the darker pigment for spattering. Again soften and allow to dry completely.

Once completely cured, varnish your entire mantel and surround selecting what sheen best compliments the room’s décor. Personally, I enjoy a satin sheen. This offers a soft glow with low light.

And VOILA! You have now mastered the art of transforming a prefabricated façade into looking like a extremely expensive hand carved marble mantel and surround.

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