How to Create a Tuscan Bath Retreat

Tips on how to add an Old World feel to a bathroom.
By: Matt Fox
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There are times when the best way to add warmth and character to a room is through the aging process, and one of the best ways to do that is to decorate in the Tuscan style.

Tuscan style which tends to be quite rustic; cracked or crumbling plaster and stucco walls are the norm. A variety of color washing and faux wall techniques are used in Tuscan décor, and a rich color palette, including brown, gold, yellow and terra cotta, creates a warm and inviting atmosphere. Accent colors include deep blue, black, olive green and rust.

To create the Old World charm of Tuscany in a bathroom, use the following painting techniques:

  • Apply a latex satin base coat to the walls in a neutral color, allowing it to dry for 24 hours. To create texture, add some of the base-coat paint to joint compound and mix until it’s the consistency of brownie batter. Then, using a 4-inch flat-edge brush, create soft fan shapes to imitate a stucco finish. For an uneven texture, apply lots of joint compound in some areas and less in others. Allow the joint compound to dry for 24 hours before moving on to the next step.
  • To add depth to the wall treatment, thin some latex paint—I like deep yellow—with a bit of water. Using a 2½-inch sash brush almost dripping with the paint, create uneven lines on the walls.
  • To blend the lines into the wall color, dab the lines and drips with a damp cloth. This creates a beautiful mottled finish, with about the same amounts of base coat and top coat showing through.
  • To add veins to the walls, start with a deep moss-green latex paint. Water it down to the point where it’s very runny, allowing the color to appear translucent rather than solid. Then, using a flat-edge brush, fashion diagonal veins, dabbing them with a damp cloth to soften the lines. Once dry, repeat the process with a brick-red latex paint. You want the veins to look irregular, as if these “imperfections” simply appeared over years and years of natural aging and water damage.
  • If some parts of the wall look too dark, add more of the lighter color until you like it. After allowing the walls to dry for 24 hours, apply two coats of sealer for protection and enhancement of the colors.
  • To add a faux touch to cabinets, start by lightly sanding the surface of the vanity and removing the dust with a tack cloth. Then apply a coat of primer and let it dry. Then apply a coat of the base color—tan works well—and let dry.
  • To create the aged effect, apply small patches of ivory paint with a fairly heavy hand, covering about 25 percent of the surface. After it dries, go back over it with thick patches of the base coat, overlapping the ivory a bit and adding more texture to the piece. If the paint is fairly thick, let it cure for 48 hours.
  • Dip a damp rag into raw umber and apply it by following the grain of the wood. Wipe off the excess with another damp rag and immediately add raw-umber highlights with a small artist brush to the door corners and any cracks or crevices.
  • Once the cupboard is dry, wipe a light layer of white paint on a damp rag over the entire surface to brighten it up. Let it cure for 24 hours and then apply a coat of sealer to protect the finish and enhance the coloration.
  • In keeping with the Tuscan theme, add some greenery, a variety of wrought-iron pieces and a few well-chosen accessories.

(Matt Fox is co-author with Shari Hiller of Real Decorating for Real People.)

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