Decorative Finishes and Fooling the Eye

By P. Allen Smith

While designing my home at Moss Mountain Farm, my vision was to build a greek revival home that looked as if it had been built in the 1840’s. However, I wanted it to utilize modern, green technology so the home would be environmentally-friendly. We faced the unique challenge of building something that was new, but looked convincingly old.

One important element of this design was the front door of the home. For this task, I brought in David Zoellner, and amazingly talented artisan who specializes in the ancient art of decorative finishes.

We started with an ordinary Spanish Cedar door, and by using an incredibly detailed graining technique, David was able to completely transform the door into what looks exactly like Cuban Mahogany.

Using his unique skillset, David can take ordinary materials and transform them into something extraordinary. He uses graining, marbleizing, and gilding techniques to create finishes that are virtually impossible to distinguish as faux.

This art form has been around for ages. Great painters of Europe used marbleizing techniques on wood to create the appearance of marble with great detail. These techniques were often used throughout the 1840’s in homes and other buildings, since materials like marble and fine wood were difficult to come by, and were often expensive.

Unfortunately, like many great forms of art, these techniques have been nearly lost in the modern age. Thankfully, David is passing his considerable knowledge to the next generation, his son and protege Jesse Zoellner. David and Jesse travel the country with their ancient skill set of creating decorative finishes.

To contact or see more of David Zoellner’s work, visit his website.

To learn more about decorative finishes, check out the video below!