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This is one of the most difficult marbling jobs I’ve ever completed. I’ve never done such a large amount of marbling that required matching a stone that was already in the room, not to mention that I was painting a stone that had an extremely complex pattern.

In this case, two thirds of the stone in the bathroom was real; one third of it was to be painted. The floor, the base boards, the sink’s countertop, the tub exterior and the shower enclosure were all marble. I was asked to paint the wainscoting (short wall), chair rail and cupboard below the sink to match. Below is the approved sample board. The marble is similar to Verde Rameggiato, an Italian stone.

Here’s a before photo. The surfaces to be marbled are taped off in blue tape and painted black; the fabric wall covering is protected with plastic. I’ve applied the first glaze coat to the wall, a mottled green. You can see the real marble on the floor.

As usual, I forgot to document my progress. This is the after photo.

Here’s a better look at the short wall. I built up the finish with five or six coats of green glaze, using a sponge and damp cheesecloth to create irregular patterns. Several layers of veining came next before I came back into the pattern with black paint on a small brush to open up the marks so they would match the real stone. The final varnish is high gloss.

Almost all of the marble you’re seeing below is real. The only painted portion is the short wall and chair rail on the right.

When painting finishes like this, which are called trompe l’oeil, (“fool the eye”), it’s helpful to remember that your brain wants to believe that those painted surfaces are stone. One way to fool the eye is to continue any pattern or veining in the real marble onto the painted surface. That’s why the painted walls look like they’re connected to the real base board.

This little section is next to the mirror above the sink. The wide band of marble on the right is real stone. The narrow band that butts against it is the wall, painted to match. This is a good example of how the marble pattern continues from the real stone to the painted surface.

The bathroom took five days to complete. I had never painted this particular marble before I did this job. Most stone and wood can be broken down into layers of color and pattern. If you can look at a material and reconstruct it in your mind in this way, you can paint it. I figured out the general plan at home by painting a bunch of samples, then was able to fine tune the look when I did the job. Although it’s a bit nerve-wracking to work this way, it’s also quite satisfying to solve a puzzle like this and to see it all come together in the end.

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