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My decorative painting clients are obsessed with details. They examine every square inch of a room to make sure it’s exactly how they’d like it to be.

Switch plates are usually ugly, a piece of plastic or metal marring a beautifully finished wall. I paint them to match the background, whether it’s a painted finish, plaster, wallpaper, fabric, wood, stone, leather or tile.

In this case, the Powder Room walls are straw marquetry and the switch plate must follow the pattern. I forgot to take a photo before I started, so here’s the plate already in progress.

First, I used a flexible steel ruler to draw the lines of the marquetry across the plate, then painted the pattern with acrylics, followed by a coat of matte varnish. Voila! 90 minutes in all.

Sometimes I think about what the most important skills are for a decorative painter, and after “100% dependable” and “meticulously tidy” comes color matching. It doesn’t matter how well I can mimic a texture; if I can’t match the color, the work will be considered unacceptable.

I’m not sure how a switch plate for a tiny Powder Room has eight control buttons; did I mention detail-oriented clients? These rough labels are replaced with properly printed ones when the lighting controls are resolved.

Here’s a portion of the Powder Room walls between the marble wainscoting and the ceiling.

I had never seen straw marquetry before I worked in this room. It’s similar to wood marquetry, except instead of using wood, the craftsperson is using wheat, rye or oat straw which is split, soaked in water, dyed, ironed and then glued to the wall. It took two weeks for the artist to to painstakingly glue down the straws one at a time to create these beautiful patterns.

Here’s a site highlighting straw marquetry artists, who work with a variety of straws to embellish walls, furniture and objects. I thought painting required patience… it’s nothing compared to this crowd!

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