Posts tagged interior design
Interior decorating has a long and storied history. The innumerable techniques, styles, and science involving painting treatments has changed.
We take house paint for granted as a way to decorate our homes and protect surfaces against drying, rot, and the elements. But this unassuming product does in fact have a long and interesting history which cannot be easily summarized. However, a short history of paint can be just as fascinating as the long version. In that spirit, we present a few snapshots of house paint’s evolution in order to heighten your appreciation of it, and to provide some perspective on humans’ need to secure and beautify their dwelling places.
Forty millennia ago, cave inhabitants combined various substances with animal fat to make paint, which they used to add pictures and colors to the walls of their crude homes. Hematite, manganese oxide, red and yellow ochre, and charcoal were used as “paint”. Ancient Egyptian painters mixed an oil or fat base with color elements like semiprecious stones, ground glass, earth, animal blood, or lead around 3150 B.C. White, black, blue, red, yellow, and green were their hues of choice. In England, around the turn of the 14th century, house painters started guilds that established standards for their profession and kept trade secrets secret. By the 17th century, new practices and technologies were shaking up the world of house paint even more.
In this time of constantly documented celebrity misconduct, some may not even remember what modesty was. For the Pilgrims, who populated the American colonies in the 17th century, modesty meant avoiding all displays of joy, wealth, or vanity. Painting one’s house was considered highly immodest and even sacrilegious. In 1630, a Charlestown preacher ran afoul of the growing society’s mores by decorating his home’s interior with paint; he was brought up on criminal charges of sacrilege.
This colonial Puritanism could not stop the demand for house paint, though. Unknown authors published “cookbooks” that had recipes for different paints. One oft-used process, called the “Dutch method,” mixed ground oyster shells and lime which made a white wash; iron or copper oxide for red or green color, respectively could then be added to the mix. Colonial paint “cooks” also used items from the pantry, including milk, egg whites, coffee, and rice, to turn out their illegal product.
From the 17th century until the 19th, oil and water were the primary bases for paint production. Each held certain colors better than others, and there were differences in cost and durability between them, too. Water-based paints were used for ceilings and plaster walls, and oils were used for joinery. Some homeowners wanted walls that looked like wood, marble, or bronze and ceilings that resembled a blue sky with puffy white clouds. Painters of this period would fulfill these requests. In 1638, a historic home known as Ham House, located in Surrey, England, was renovated.The multi-step process involved the application of primer, an undercoat or two, and a finishing coat of paint to elaborate paneling and cornices throughout the house. At this point in paint’s evolution, pigment and oil were mixed by hand to make a stiff paste – a practice still employed today. If a pigment is well-ground, it should disperse almost entirely in oil. Before the 18th century, hand-grinding often exposed painters to an excess of white-lead powder, which could bring about lead poisoning. Despite its toxicity, lead paint was popular at the time due to its durability, which remains difficult to equal. Fortunately, painters eventually added air extraction systems to their workshops, thus reducing the health risks of grinding lead-based pigment. Not until 1978 did the U.S. finally ban the sale of lead house paint.
Paint production transformed dramatically during the 1700s. In 1700 in Boston, MA, the first American paint mill opened its doors. The Englishman Marshall Smith in 1718, created a “Machine or Engine for the Grinding of Colours,” which created a competition between countries to grind pigment more effectively. In 1741, the English company Emerton and Manby publicized the “Horse-Mills” that it used to grind its pigment, thus allowing them to sell paint at unbeatable prices. Elizabeth Emerton, one of the owners, said, “One Pound of Colour ground in a Horse-Mill will paint twelve Yards of Work, whereas Colour ground any other Way, will not do half that Quantity .”
The turn of the 19th century brought about the reign of steam power. Paint mills were no exception; at this point in time, most of them ran on steam. Nontoxic zinc oxide became a usable base for white pigment, thanks to the Europeans, during this time; it came to the US in 1855.
Roller mills had begun to grind pigment and grain by the end of the 1800s, and the guild system begun in England became a trade union network. Mass production of paint was once only a dream, but the production of linseed oil, a cheap binding agent that protected wood as well, made that dream come true.
It was in the 19th century that decorating a home with paint became the norm rather than an outlier. After all, paint made surfaces washable and, by sealing in wood’s natural oils, kept walls from becoming either too moist or too dry.
Sherwin Williams, a giant behemoth in the paint world today, was founded in 1866. Sherwin Williams was the first manufacturer of ready-to-use paint, and its original product, raw umber in oil, came onto the market in 1873. Shortly after, cofounder Henry Sherwin invented a resealable tin can.
Another current industry heavyweight, Benjamin Moore, began operations in 1883. Twenty-four years later, it added a research department powered by a single, lonely chemist. Since then, Benjamin Moore Paint has contributed a great deal to paint technology, but the company’s color-matching system, unveiled in 1982 and entirely computer-based, is still considered by many to be its most noteworthy achievement in the 21st century, paint remains a formidable moneymaker; roughly $20.9 billion of the stuff was sold in 2006 alone.
Though house paint is most frequently applied to the surfaces of a home, many artists have used it to bring their canvases to life. John Frost, an American painter who began his career in 1919, employed the use of house paint to paint the history of his hometown, a tiny village called Marblehead in Massachusetts. Picasso and many of his contemporaries used it as well. Even contemporary artists, like Nik Ehm, use house paint on occasion.
Mid-20th century is when necessity became the mother of invention. World War II led to a dearth of linseed oil, so chemists combined alcohols and acids to make alkyds, artificial resins that could substitute for natural oil.
Today, most house painting paints is acrylic, or water-based, although milk paint, popular in the 19th century for its subtle hues, has become the darling of the sustainability movement thanks to its minimal environmental impact.
commercial painting has origins dating to the industrial revolution.
Specifically, milk paint doesn’t have any volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. Conventional latex paint, on the other hand, does contain them, which makes it potentially hazardous to humans and pets. If you’re exposed to VOCs for an extended period of time, it could lead to nerve or organ damage, and it may even cause cancer. Luckily, many paint companies produce low- or even zero-VOC paints. By EPA standards, the term, “zero-VOC,” means that each liter of paint has less than 5 grams of VOCs. Other non-VOC options include clay- and water-based paints. If you have allergies and/or chemical sensitivity, Low VOC Paint are a must. In fact, they offer practical advantages no matter what your circumstances, since their lack of strong odor lets you occupy freshly painted rooms relatively soon.
While paint is seemingly simplistic, it has evolved over the centuries to our financial, health, and aesthetic needs. While paint may seem basic, it’s almost miraculous that it can elevate our mood so drastically. Whenever you next pop open a paint can, think about the journey it made to add more beauty and quality to your life.
Don’t underestimate the degree to which painted furniture can establish a beautiful alternative to traditional stained furniture, especially if you live in a contemporary house. The inspiration for the many examples on sale today comes primarily from the centuries-old designs that originated in parts of Europe and provide some striking examples of style and grace. The origins of hand painted furniture are much earlier than that, however, and it is thought that the Chinese used resin lacquers several millenium ago. Germans and Poles were also early practitioners of furniture painting and these communities, after immigrating into the United States, started the many Shaker communities. This is the reason why much of the Shaker style of furniture is unfinished.
A clear selling point of painted furniture is the incredible variety of distinct colors and shades that can be achieved. No matter what your desire, you can conceive a particular color or shade and there is a good chance that it can be made. This versatility means that you can do so many different things with furniture and the right paint and skills – you can stencil it, age it, decorate it and use it to obtain almost any desired effect. Artists have also chosen furniture as a canvas on which to express their skill and individuality.