The lure of Italian Plaster and how it can make your home a sanctuary.
For thousands of years, Europeans have used Italian Lime plaster as a wall covering—for the interiors of buildings and their exteriors, natural lime plaster still persists as a popular choice. Why? Given the technological advances that must have occurred in the field of wall décor, even since the heyday of the Italian city-states (only about 1,000 years ago), shouldn’t more “modern” materials—such as drywall and paint, veneers, paneling, or cement—be less expensive to install and look fresher and more contemporary on walls? It turns out that even in the United States, Italian Lime plaster is a very accessible medium for finishing walls: Italian refers the traditional, natural composition of the plaster; the qualities of the plaster allow it to achieve a variety of looks, fit for both the Old World and the new, and the cost per square foot is typically less than customers expect. Italian Lime plasters are not at all like, for example, Italian-leather shoes, where the Italian-ness of the shoes lends them a certain cachét but probably causes their price to be disproportionately higher than their quality.
If you’ve ever been to Europe, you probably recall walking among or within some of the many plastered buildings there, and the frustrating experience of trying to describe or pin down the “richness” of the walls of the buildings, of the colors, of the experience. It’s true that lime plaster has a feel to it: it seems to elicit a visceral and very alluring sensation of warmth and lightness. The rich texture, smoothness and tactile qualities of traditional lime plasters are impossible to imitate with paint or synthetic wall coverings. If you look closely at a plastered wall, you’ll see that the finish has a natural movement to it that’s partly a result of the traditional trowel-on application.
Italian Lime plasters are zero-VOC because they’re comprised of natural minerals taken from the streams and rivers formed by runoff from the Italian Alps (Dolomite Mountains). As accumulated winter snow melts, lime, minerals, and debris are collected and transported by the downhill flow of meltwater.
The rushing icy water acts as a kind of natural filtration process to sort and re-deposit the collected minerals, which become the pure and primary ingredients in lime plasters. Applied to walls in a series of layers, this material seems to have a sound-proofing effect and minimizes sound transfer, which may contribute to the way that in Europe, some spaces and even some street corners seem to have an unexpected feeling of tranquility and quiet.
On the west coast, Brush & Trowel is their exclusive dealer for FirmoLux Italian lime plasters. Used on the West Coast for over a decade, FirmoLux plasters are available in a variety of blends and thicknesses to help you achieve the lasting look you want for your home or business. From traditional smooth and shiny Grassello to the more literal plaster finishes of the Marmorino products, to the gentle effulgence of the metallic plasters—all of our range of lime plasters can be tinted to match any color swatch you bring in. They have numerous sample boards at their showroom that demonstrates the look of colored plasters and all the different finishes to help you achieve (or choose) the type of effect you are seeking.
When you visit their store seeking products and advice to best please their clients, interior designers, builders, remodelers and other professionals consistently surprised that Italian lime plasters cost much less per square foot than they expected—and that there is a thriving number of contractors in the area who are experts at troweling on the plaster and transforming walls into art and rooms into homes.
If you have any questions about products and application, or need extra advice on a project, please call FirmoLux or Adrienne at Brush & Trowel in Portland.
Adrienne can be reached directly via email at: email: Adrienne Wannamaker