Monday, September 30, 2013

Using a Mid-range Finish: A DIY for Mark's Kitchen

When did "being in the middle" become a bad thing?
Hey, it isn't so tough Jan.
 Every eldest (me) and baby (my sister)will tell you that.
I would ask our middle sibling what he thinks but I can't remember his name right now.

In finishing work, the middle is usually where we need to be. Remember, our work is often used to bring together colors already in a room like wood, granite, textiles, and paint colors.  Center is the safest place.
I recently had a nice conversation with a Finishing Acts reader about his kitchen project and it is the perfect example of using a mid-range finish to complete a room.  Like many homes now, Mark's Kitchen is part of an open floor plan which presents a challenge in transitioning from one room to another.  Mark and his wife Sheila did a great job transforming their cabinets from white to a rich dark brown with red tones. They also upgraded their countertops to this:
The backsplash and floor tile are both tumbled marble looks toward the lighter end of the spectrum.

The adjoining walls are painted in a neutral beige color, again leaning more to the lighter side.

Now for the common dilemma. What will balance the darkest element-in this case the cabinet-with the lighter stone, counter, and paint color in the kitchen?
Using the lighter paint color is a flat contrast to the cabinets.
The couple tried a red.
But this proved too close tonally to the cabinets and a sharp contrast to the adjoining rooms. The other option would be a color with a green base (think your color wheel compliments).

The above color works with the cabinets and tile but does nothing for the countertop.
This is when I pull out a paint deck and find the strips that most closely match the lightest and darkest elements in the room (for color range). Then I narrow the strips down to the few that match the piece with the most color (in this case the solid surface countertop) to get my color tones.

In general, concentrating on the middle 3 colors of a strip will give you a lot to work with.  I pulled the darkest brown fleck from the countertop to make my final 3 paint strip selections for Mark's kitchen.  But color is only part of balance.  The other consideration is texture.  Again, a middle layered finish (not too flat and not too chunky) is just right.

Finish Number One:

I started with Brown Sapphire Venetian Gem troweled in a high/low coat.  This is a warm red brown color that is two shades lighter then the cabinets and very similar to the darkest fleck in the counter sample.

The easiest way to get a high/low coat is to flat blade out some plaster and then butter your blade with more plaster and pop it on in connecting areas.  Then use your blade at a 45 degree angle to lightly smooth.  Put a thin amount of plaster on your trowel blade but spread it over the surface of your trowel.  Think of buttering a piece of toast.

Over the dried Venetian Gen, I applied a layer of Antique Parchment Lustersuede.  This shade is two shades down from the lighter colored stones/paint color and is also found in the countertop sample. The Lustersuede is left heavier in areas and pulled tighter in others.

 I use a damp cloth to soften the Antique Parchment as I trowel it over the surface.
When the Lustersuede dried, I mixed a tinted glaze of 3 parts Aquacreme and 1 part Asphaltum Trans-oxide color.  I brushed on my glaze and softened/removed some glaze with a damp cloth.  Spritzing the surface with water and blotting with the cloth will remove more of the glaze.
A pretty mid-range finish with enough texture and sheen to be interesting.
Finish Number Two:  This finish begins with a rolled coat of Brown Suede Lusterstone. Again, a color selected because it is close match to the darker colors in the solid surface.

For the next layer, I popped on more Brown Suede and some Antique Parchment Lusterstone.

This is called working "wet into wet" as the two colored are applied at the same time and lap on top of each other.  When a 2'x2' section is popped on, use the trowel at that 45 degree angle to gently flatten the tips and blend the plaster. 
Go for 60% Brown Suede to 40% of the Antique Parchment for 90% coverage over the base rolled coat.
This is the most important layer in a Lusterstone finish. You want some highs and lows. If you get the finish too flat then you will have a dead looking finish in the end with blade marks.  Plus a high/low coat will hide bad walls better.

For the final layer, I tightly blade Antique Parchment over the high/low coat.  I have the trowel blade more on the edge.  Spritzing the surface with water will allow you to spread this final layer more finely and show more of the under color.
This is a pretty mid-range finish that has less color and shine then the first finish. 
Either finish would be a great compliment to Mark's Kitchen and are easy DIY projects.  Both finishes are 3 steps working over a base of eggshell paint with a product price of about $122 - $110 (that is .61 cents a square foot for 200 square feet).
So don't dismiss the middle. Lots of good things happen there!


  1. For finish 2, why does the base look so gold?

  2. The base is Brown Suede. In photographs, I think it skews more toward gold with the flash bouncing off the mica. I would say the base is a warm antique gold similar to brass without the green and more brown.