How Faux Marbleizing and Sponge Painting Got a Bad Rap
When I started painting 25 years ago, faux marbleizing, using layers of paint to realistically imitate the look of marble, was the hottest thing in decorative paint finishes. In time, marbleizing went out of style and until recently, I had very few requests for it. Lately, however, faux marble is making a comeback.
Sponge painting has gone through the same transition. Sponging became very popular but then in time was so far out of vogue that we needed to be careful not to refer to a sponge in front of our customers. We would sneak in our sea sponges in a bucket.
The problem is not the sponge. A sea sponge is a wonderful tool and I would not leave home with out one. Why did the humble sponge get such a bad rap?
My theory is that when a decorative paint finish is first introduced to the public, it is within a high end setting, applied by accomplished artists and introduced by fashion forward designers. What is seen is the very best that a skilled craftsman can provide and of course, people want it for their own. Like a snowball rolling downhill, the popularity grows.
Many professionally executed paint finishes, like subtractive sponge painting, look beautiful. The next step to its demise in popularity is a proliferation of kits and "How to" books which promise the amateur professional results. Many "do it yourself" homeowners begin to sponge paint everywhere.
Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against the "DIY-er" and the many talented weekend warriors who produce respectable results. But unfortunately, many homeowners' best attempts end up with a faux finish that is less than desirable. Worse yet, people start to associate the technique with that BAD finish they saw at the neighbor's house and think that marbleizing is garish and that sponge painting is synonymous with mud painting. And there you have it – the poor sea sponge is banned and blamed for every decorative paint disaster.
Time does heal all wounds and the old becomes new once more. Artists and designers who appreciate the elegance of the faux marble finish and the subtle sophistication of a subtractive sponge finish have reintroduced these decorative paint techniques in very design-savvy interiors. Once more, the finishes regain popularity as more customers see the possibilities of an artistically applied faux finish.
What I have learned as I watch these recurring waves of popularity and disfavor is this: Trends aren't what really matters. An artistically and professionally rendered finish is classic and is never out of style.
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