Paint effects introduce pattern to paint - the perfect medium if you are tired of plain walls but are not prepared to paper. Crafts such as - dragging, stenciling and trompe l'oeil have been part of the professional decorator's repertoire for centuries and now it is possible for amateurs to achieve the same effects, using traditional stumble glaze or paint alone.
Selecting a style
There is a paint effect to suit every setting. The luster of dragged walls and the watered silk appearance of rag-rolling have a formality which flatters traditional furnishings and provide a rich background for paintings and objects d' art. Sponging, stippling and ragging have a random broken colour effect which gives depth to walls and suits a cottage or smaller home. It is al 0 a means of combining colours in a subtle way.
More overtly decorative is stenciling, which was particularly popular in eighteenth-century America where a shortage of wood pulp limited the supply of wallpaper. Used as a border in place of architectural features like a cornice or dado rail, in regular designs to resemble wallpaper, or in single motifs to decorate furniture, stenciling never fails to charm whether the style is simple and reminiscent of folk art, or an elaborate botanical or architectural design.
Other paint effects were originally designed to imitate scarce or expensive natural materials. Marbling is perhaps the best known but malachite and tortoiseshell finish, bamboo and wood graining are all examples of this decorative sleight of hand.
As they need a fair degree of time and skill, these techniques are best reserved for decorative areas like table tops and chimney pieces. More elaborate still is trompe l' oeil whose convincing vistas and architectural effects are purely illusory. Still widely practiced in northern Italy where painted cornerstones, shutters and pediments adorn the simplest terraced house, this exuberant technique has become an art form.