Plaster detailing Help please

codex77January 30, 2005

Our 1925 Spanish Revival bungalow has intricate plasterwork throughout the house. On the ceiling, on the walls etc. It's one of the reasons we fell in love with the house. I've attached a picture as an example. We are creating a master bathroom out of a bedroom, and I'd like to add a few elements in there for continuity sake. Problem is, all the plaster work I've seen on the internet and in books is too fancy, not like ours. I've heard of this work referred to as "Wedding Cake" plaster detail, because it looks like the piping on a cake, but I have only seen it in one other Spanish Revival house we looked at. Does anyone know a more formal word for this work? Any idea where I'd go to get similar molds? Is it a true Spanish style, or is it more Italian? Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Here is a link that might be useful:

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    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 3:07PM
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Its been a while but I remember using some kind of brush on rubber stuff to make small molds to repair antique plaster frames. If you do a web search under "rubber mold" you will see some examples. Im pretty sure I got mine at the local craft store tho.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 4:41PM
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Sorry about that. I made the album public, I hope it works now!

Here is a link that might be useful: Plaster Detail

    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 9:26PM
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Yes, you can replace small missing elements by casting from existing pieces, but it might be very time consuming to do a whole ceiling. Perhaps you could paint some of elements on the bathroom ceiling. I'm not sure I'd like a delicate three-dimensional pattern to a bathroom ceiling - I like to be able to wash the ceilings and walls in bathrooms.

If I recall correctly in an issue of Fine Homebuilding during the last year there was an article about a craftsman who did the kind of work your are talking about. Perhaps if you went to their website you could look it up in the index and buy a back copy. Maybe, you'll get lucky and be near this worker. I imagine it's pretty expensive, though.

The rubber molding product that is often used to make negative molds of plaster details is made by Abatron. There is also a good, but highly techincal, book called Plastering Skills that may be of use to you. I check my copy and see if they have much to say about creating details like on your beautiful ceilings.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 9:53PM
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Very pretty, Codex77. Love the delicate pattern. Perhaps some plaster details around your ceiling fixtures in the bathroom would look nice. Not a full medallion look, tho.
How wonderful the plasterwork has survived.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 11:36PM
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That's a good idea, doing a medallion of sorts. I tried to find a ceramic tile liner to go along the wainscotting that was similar in flavor, but the only one I liked was from Waterworks and were 23 dollars apiece!!!
The sad thing is that in making the bathroom, we will have to destroy some of the plaster work, because the bedroom we're converting has it on the walls, like a frame from ceiling to floor, with decorative elements in the corners, and a curly line connecting them. I'm going to keep the details at the ceiling, but the floor will have to go because of the tile.
Does anyone know what STYLE this work is? The outside of my house is Spanish Revival, but the inside doesn't feel like that at all with all the vaulted ceilings and frilly accents. I'm asking for decorative purposes, what style would fit with the decorations?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 12:53PM
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I began a Google search, didn't get very far until I found this. It mentions vaulted ceilings. You'll have to cut and paste the link.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 1:18PM
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Very nice ceiling. Im jealous. Looks like lots of small details that would be hard to copy with a mold.

Heres an alternative to consider. There was an episode on Christopher Lowell where he used plaster in a pastry bag and to do decorative details. He even did roses. Think cake decorating only with plaster.

Also check out wood and/or composite appliques in and You could use the appliques for the fancy bits and use molding or the plaster for the straight bits.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 4:57PM
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I don't know if I get Discovery Channel Home, but I'm going to try and find it to watch Christopher Lowell and find that show. That's exactly how the detail was made, I think and that's why they call it "wedding cake" detail. It's too handmade looking to have been done as a casting. Hopefully I can catch that episode on repeats. Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 6:40PM
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Codex, did you check out that unrelated article link I posted? It mention that the house in discussion was in the French Renaissance style. Maybe you could do a search on French Renaissance.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 9:20PM
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That show was a long while ago. I just remember odd stuff. LOL. If I was you Id try out some plaster & pastry tips. Cake decorators dont pipe the fancy bits on the cake. They do them on wax paper first and only use the good ones. Didnt you say you saved some of the old stuff.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2005 at 10:52PM
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I'm going to an art and architecture book store today to look up that French revival period, that could be the key to the style, thanks! I was also thinking about the north of Spain, where the two cultures meet. Will do research and post pics if I find similar examples. And yes Stanlie, I'm going to do a molding of the plaster before they tear it up so that one day I might get someone to copy it.

Unfortunately, we just found out there's a drainage pipe someone put UNDER the house, moving water to the street. The inspector somehow FAILED to find this and with the heavy rains we've gotten, the pipe must be leaking because the structutral engineer just found it. So, chatastrophic old house problem might trump the plaster decor for a while. LOL.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2005 at 1:47PM
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This idea is so off the wall maybe I shouldn't even mention it - please don't y'all laugh at me. lol. I was thinking perhaps you could contact a cake decorator and have them do this decoration on waxed paper just like icing only using the plaster mixture. The waxed paper should keep it from adhering and "somehow" glue these pieces where you need them? I told you it was off the wall but since our society seems to no longer have the craftsmen of the past, it's just a thought on trying to reproduce the same look in the new bath.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2005 at 2:27PM
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Your house is terrific! Such great bones with all the arched windows and special details. The plasterwork is gorgeous.

I haven't seen too many Spanish Revival homes with that type of plasterwork. Almost too delicate for the style. BUT, I'd definitely want to keep it & copy it in other rooms.

BTW - I think we have the same "ugh" ceiling in the kitchen (1929 Spanish Revival). Our kitchen is pretty hideous.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2005 at 2:02AM
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Many colleges and craft stores offer classes in cake decoration. It might be worth it to take a few classes to learn to do the basics. Then apply it to your situation,using of course the plaster.
If nothing else maybe you can make a connection in class to someone who'd be willing to come over and help you do what you need done.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2005 at 1:20PM
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There was an article in my local paper several weeks ago about a former pastry chef who now does this and yes, she uses pastry bags. (So Nancy, that was not a nutty idea at all!)

    Bookmark   March 2, 2005 at 3:01PM
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Where do you live? I've been calling around and NO ONE has anyone who has done this. I'd like to read that article.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2005 at 12:16PM
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Hi! We are trying to help Starpooh update the Finished Kitchen Blog. The link to your kitchen pictures (10/05) isn't working. Would you please update so others can see pictures of your kitchen success story?? Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 11:11PM
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The plaster detailing is an old art called "Stucking" it originated in Ireland, and most of the work was a specialialty of plaster master crafts people. A trade commmonly learned in the old Master arts for building. I could not find a link for further information, but as an art historian, it was very prized in fine home building. Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 22, 2011 at 1:54PM
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Do a search on 'decorative plaster' and you may be able to find something

    Bookmark   March 26, 2011 at 1:27PM
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