May 2008« SAA Home
School of Applied Arts -- News

Classical French Design Comes to Colorado


Students Dip Brushes to Decorate Cherry Hills Home

In the 18th century, classical French decorations were all the rage. Visitors to Frances Chateau de Versailles, featured in the Hollywood movie The Man in the Iron Mask, showcase this ornamental style. Recently, Cherry Hills resident Craig Johnson decided to turn a passion for French decoration into reality.

It starts with a plan

For help, Johnson turned to Kimberly Timmons Interiors (KTI) to help bring the project to fruition. Craig wanted the remodeling to reflect a classical French style, said Ann Perry, ASID, project manger/senior designer for KTI. So we sat down to discuss his vision and created a design that met those criteria.

With a solid design in hand Perry set out to find a faux artisan who could implement her clients wishes. Because this project had so much painting to be done, I talked to a lot of people. We hired André Martinez because he was the best out there. He has done an excellent job of articulating the style concepts in his painting.


Bringing the plan to life

The Cherry Hills project is huge, said Andre Martinez, principle instructor and director for the School of Applied Arts (SAA) in Denver. It encompasses 11 rooms covering 12,000 square feet of space. I put together a 17-person team to complete 4,700 square feet of Venetian-plaster walls and 3,000 linear feet of antique and gold-leaf trim molding among other painting tasks.

Martinez notes that the project has been a great opportunity for past and present SAA students to apply what they have learned in a real-world setting. One of the benefits is that everyone will get to use the job photographs and film we shot for their portfolios, explained Martinez. This has been a great career-builder project for them.


School of Applied Arts Students Get Real-World Experience

Bob Cagley, owner of Signature Finishes agrees. I have been doing a lot of the molding work, using a distressed crackle finish to give it an antique look. Everything thats being done on this remodeling project, Andre has taught in his classes.

For Cagley, working with other faux painters has been a great learning experience. Generally, I work alone, so it has been nice to see how other painters apply the finishes. A house like the Johnsons incorporates a lot of aspects of decorative painting. It could take years for me to see that many different applications in my business. Its been helpful to me to see how they all fit together into an integrated design.

Kelly Whetstone has taken classes from the SAA and is now a decorative painter. I have been doing a lot of prep work on the project in addition to painting and glazing doors and window trim. I have been using what I learned about glazing techniques in school here. Its been fun doing something creative and seeing the results of our work.

For more challenging work in the kitchen, Andre called upon former student Molly Snider, president of MW Wall Designs. All the molding and wall plaster needed to match the expensive cabinets, explained Snider. I spent days just trying to match the colors. When I finally got the color scheme right, I used a four-step process to complete the distressed plaster, old-world finish and molding work there.

One of the things Snider liked about the project was being able to get experience as a manager. I have never had a crew work for me before, so that was a great opportunity to learn to lead a team of decorative painters.

And that is one of the goals Martinez had when he assembled his student crew. I wanted to provide them with a real-time learning experience on a job scenario. Doing work of this sort in the context of a client job helps things click for them. It gives them a chance work on their weaknesses and I get to witness their strengths. I have really enjoyed painting with everyone.

french mural

Advanced decorative techniques make an appearance

Some of the decorative work went beyond plastering and the painting of molding. For example, Martinez flew in master painter and SAA instructor Pascal Amblard from France to help out. We completed a 17 by eight-foot mural of Cape Ferrate in France, said Martinez. It took us six days painting on a canvas in our studio. We used water-borne, slow-drying paint and created the mural in Pascals style. Then we hung it the Johnsons living room.


Project catches the eye of the Do-it-yourself Network

The DIY Network soon caught wind of the Johnson project and joined the team for eight full days of shooting to add to an episode to air in 2007.

The content featured me training Gary Gomez, a student and apprentice of mine,  said Martinez. They captured some great footage of us doing some Venetian plaster, marbling and crown molding painting. It was satisfying to see our Apprenticeship Program in action like that.