The back bedroom has always been the children’s room. When our building got its certificate of occupancy and we were cleared to move in, Camelia was a toddler. I’d just learned how to do stucco veneziano (venetian plaster) and the room was one of my first projects in the apartment. The first color for Camelia’s brand new bedroom was a beautiful peachy pink, very soft and not all at sugary. A perfect color for a little girl. The walls gave off a rosy light at night. In the morning, the room glowed golden from the sunlight coming in from the eastern facing window.
When we were homesteading our building in the 1980’s, there was a lot of drug dealing in the neighborhood (see my Pigeon Wars post for the backstory). Junkies broke into the squatter’s buildings and stole tools and pipes and anything that they could rip out to sell. It was near impossible to completely fortify the entire building against theft, there were too many spots where crumbling brick or boards could be pried loose. All you could do was to make it harder for them. During that time, the back bedroom became our tool room. We framed it out and created temporary walls of double thick plywood. The door was locked with a fat metal chain. That was the secure room, the place where we kept anything the junkies might want to walk off with.
Homesteader Jay Goodson at the tool room which became our back bedroom
The room grew up with the girls. After the babyish pink came a sophisticated light royal blue when the girls were in elementary school. Then came a rich green right before Camelia left for college. Now, at the time of Oona’s going to college, I decided to re-do the stucco in a pale greyish lavender. Oona said “Mom, you always want to re-do the room when we are leaving for college”. Maybe it is my way of trying to entice them to stay home.
Oona applying stucco veneziano
The old green being covered
This is a work-in-progress, stay tuned for updates.
I’ve finished the plastering and the blue color is beautiful against the brick wall (see part 1 for an inexpensive DIY venetian plaster recipe). The complementary color makes the brick pop. The final step is the coating that you put over the plaster. When you see photos of venetian plaster walls, you often see walls that are very shiny – Vegas looking. I don’t like that look. I apply a top coat to my plaster using one very simple ingredient – Ivory soap. I’ve never tried this with any other brand of soap. I’ve not felt the need to experiment because it works so perfectly. The Ivory soap does not change the color of the plaster and it lasts. I have venetian plaster walls in my home that are twelve years old and the soap finish looks like it was put on yesterday. Here is how to do it yourself:
Soak a bar or two of Ivory soap overnight.
Put the soap with some of the water into a food processor and blend it (adding water if needed) until it is the consistency of whipped cream.
The whipped soap should be thick and not runny or watery. Apply it with a small spatula as if it were a wax.
The soap coating brings out the luster of the plaster and the layers of color.
When it drys, it gives the plaster a silky matte finish. A beautiful luster.
The hallways in our building are welcoming and warm. The walls are butter yellow venetian plaster and we have bluish grey apartment doors. When we were rebuilding, one of my fellow homesteaders made apprentices of a few of us and taught us the ancient technique of venetian plaster so that we could help her to do the hallways. She called it Stucco Veneziano and gave us all “stucco knives” imported from Italy. We “stucco’ed” all six stories of our building’s halls in this happy yellow. Our hallway stucco is 20 years old and it looks new. We’ve only refreshed it once in all that time. I will use Stucco Veneziano in my own entryway and share the plaster recipe that you can make yourself.