Artistry of plaster makes a comeback

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Human’s quest for elegant home design dates back more than 5,000 years when some creative soul discovered that a paste of mud and water looked pretty awesome on the walls of their hut.

Plaster has been a versatile and natural building material ever since and it’s making a big comeback in interior design, especially Venetian plasters. This type of plaster started out as a poor man’s marble, but it was soon discovered you could do a lot more with it than you could with marble.

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It provides a timeless, classic, luxurious look, says Janelle Webster of Luxury Wall Designs in Airdrie.

“It’s a good alternative to tile especially with fireplaces. A lot of our clients want a clean look without grout lines but with some interest. Plaster adds different levels of texture and is completely customizable,” she says.

Fireplaces, hood fans, backsplashes, architectural columns, ceilings and feature walls have been the primary applications for plaster. It can be custom tinted, and marble veining can be added to resemble the real deal. Webster says they seal the plaster with wax, with the type of wax they use dependent on the application.

“We can make sure it’s stain and water resistant. We have a completely waterproof system for wet rooms using micro cement so there are no seams,” she says.

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Esthetically, plaster adds depth and movement. As an organic product, alkaline in nature, it optimizes air quality and acts as a natural fungicide due to its high pH levels. The organic aspect of natural materials resonates with Patrick Allard, a former painting contractor who became stuck on plaster more than a decade ago. A client asked him to use dirt as a design element in an alternative medicine clinic, and he threw himself into research and development.

“She wasn’t as crazy as I thought she was. Earth is a very healthy material and that was part of her intent in bringing a certain esthetic and health properties into the space,” says Allard, who has travelled as far as Europe to learn more. He eventually left painting to open Ecowalls, which is located in southeast Calgary.

Plaster can change the acoustics in a space as well, depending on the type. The colour, which is added during the mixing process, doesn’t fade. Plaster is highly durable and lasts for years. There are acrylic plasters on the market, but Allard sticks to pure, unadulterated materials, adding natural pigments or tints to clay or lime plasters in his Calgary shop.

Plastering is a three-day process, and every job is bespoke. Ecowalls’ starting price for basic plaster starts at roughly $18 a square foot, while Webster compares her prices to that of tile.

“It takes a high level of artistry and training,” she says.

Ecowalls’ work can be seen on the store fronts of Lululemon outlets in Canada, while some of Luxury Wall’s work can be seen in select show homes around Calgary, including those by Morrison Homes, Brookfield Residential, Trico Homes, Broadview Homes, Shane Homes and RareBuilt Homes.

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