I’m always dreaming of houses that I can’t afford, of castles with thick stone walls, or tuscan villas with fading ancient frescos…

And I guess this is what first drew me to paint finishes – it was a way of having a glimpse of those interiors that I could afford.  You can have a grand effect on a tiny budget – especially if you do it yourself.  In a day’s work you can have marble walls, sandstone cladding or a view that’s out of this world!  A few coats of paint can transform a tired old piece of furniture into something that looks as though it’s had a grand and great history….

mural bedroom

Paint finishes were huge in the 1980’s – remember all that dragging and sponging?   I still recall coveting a neighbour’s house where she had sponged the living room in yellows – something my ‘boring’ parents would never have done.     

Well, paint finishes are about to have a resurgence, but this time the look is far more sophisticated than the brashness of the 80’s. 

One of the most popular new looks is the linen wall.  This is a paint effect that mimics the effect of linen fabric, without all the hassle and expense of applying linen-covered panels to your walls.  Although, it has to be said, that this is so popular that in London and parts of the US that painters are charging a huge amount to apply this finish.

I love this look.  Well, I love linen, so I guess that follows.. 

The colours should be as subtle as the weft of linen cloth, and as natural and soothing.  It’s a triple-layer technique as the base colour must be painted first – usually the paler shade.  Then the first layer of glaze is dragged vertically and allowed to dry.  Finally a second layer is dragged horizontally.  The glaze should be a deeper shade of the base coat, but not too far off (or it will lack the subtlety that the look relies on for success).

doing linen paint effect

Time consuming, but, with the right tools (you need a good wide brush to get a pleasing effect through the glaze) most of us could have a reasonable go.  I just love this – it adds enough texture and interest to a wall without being overwhelming.  I’m not sure if I’m brave enough to try this one yet.  Maybe I should do a small portion of a wall or an alcove to see if I can?

If you want to be sure that this is coming back into fashion…  Even Gwyneth Paltrow has a paint finish in her new apartment  – is this spectacular or what??  Silvery trees lining an otherwise featureless corridor – what opulence.  It would be like walking through a fairytale corridor to go to bed. 


Speaking of paint finishes, I met the most wonderful and talented person last week – Mayriel Luke.  She has her own business painting murals and wall finishes that are just spectacular.  She does work all around the world – for the immensely wealthy, for the imaginative, and for large hotels and casinos.

antique finish

This stunning antique finish is the result of over twenty years experience – what a luscious look.  It would add such provenance and importance to the most mundane of walls or furniture.  This is a great way of transforming something that you’re a little tired of… and making it look as though it came from a really expensive antique shop.

Some of her work features in public spaces so you can actually go and look.  The fabulously exotic mural below is in the Observatory Hotel in Sydney.

Observatory Hotel mural

She can take techniques that might seem a little 1980’s, such as stencilling – and re-energise it with the same elegance and beauty it had when used over 100 years ago – but with a modern twist.  The ceiling below is a great example.

ceiling stencilled

You can see more of her work on her website here.


She has some really simple effects that just add depth to walls – beautiful washes and stippling.  I’m so inspired – I’m going to have to have a go at my dining room….

I really want to do a moody wash to create an atmosphere for dining and parties.  Watch this space for how it turns out!