Venetian plaster is a popular type of plaster that has been around for centuries. It is characterised by the intricate patterns that are visible when done correctly and is often a decorative centrepiece in its own right, rather than merely a finish to be painted over.
This method requires a higher degree of skill and patience than regular plastering, but the results are undeniably more striking. The plaster is applied in multiple thin layers, which is the primary reason it is sought after over, for example, painting a similar pattern. These multiple layers give the plasters pattern a subtle depth that cannot be recreated by merely painting.
We will take a closer look at what is involved in applying Venetian plaster shortly, as well as the differences between that and regular plaster, but first, let’s get into the different types of Venetian plaster since there are a few different styles, each with their own distinct appearance.
Different Types of Venetian Plaster
When we talk about the different types, we are referring to the finish. The ingredients of the plaster can also differ between types; however, it is the way that the plaster is applied that makes the most significant difference.
Marmorino features a polished finish that is both glossy and smooth to the touch. It can appear mineral-like in the pattern, often imitating the appearance of naturally occurring materials such as marble.
There are sub-types of Marmorino, such as Marmorino Naturale, which is very marble-like in appearance and can look great in both classical or modern settings. There is also Marmorino Carrara plaster, which is entirely smooth but has depth to its textured pattern. The effect is a little more subtle than Marmorino Naturale but no less appealing as an overall style.
The primary difference between polished stucco and Marmorino is the finish. Polished stucco requires an extra step that involves layering a special wax polish over the top of the plaster.
This wax not only produces a luxuriously smooth, glass-like finish to the touch, but it also enhances the colours of the plaster itself, giving them a rich, vibrant sheen.
Following on from polished stucco, concrete stucco is very similar in principle with the difference being that the finished result resembles polished concrete, rather than something like marble.
Concrete stucco is ideal for contemporary spaces and gives a distinctly urban look to any room.
Tonachino is a little like the practical offering in the world of Venetian Plaster. While still very attractive to look at, it is exceptionally durable, water-resistant, and has excellent filling power. This kind of plaster is an almost velvet-like feel to it.
What is Venetian Plaster Made From?
The exact ingredients differ from plaster to plaster, primarily dictated by the desired finish. That being said, slaked lime is often a key ingredient, and will be mixed with others to achieve the desired look. Examples of those other ingredients include marble dust and river sand.
Beyond the plaster itself, a number of waxes and oils are used to create the smooth, polished finish that is characteristic of some of the styles. Beeswax, in particular, is popular for this.
Why is Venetian Plaster Special Compared to Regular Plaster?
The primary purpose of regular plaster is to cover over something to provide a clean, smooth finish on which you can paint, wallpaper, tile, or any number of other options. The critical aspect is that the plaster itself will not be the finish.
Because the plaster is not the finish, there is less of a requirement that it looks aesthetically pleasing, and so it tends just to be a nondescript pastel shade of pink. Similarly, the tactile texture of the plaster does not need to be refined. The surface should be smooth, of course, as that is the whole point of plastering, but there is no need to polish it, as it will not be exposed once it has been papered or painted.
Conversely, Venetian Plaster is the finish. While it may serve some of the same purposes as regular plaster in terms of smoothing over rough surfaces and filling small cracks and holes, the finished result is what will be on show. For this reason, a great deal of care goes into applying this kind of plaster, including things like polishing after the fact to get the desired feel.
This higher degree of care when applying Venetian Plaster necessitates a greater degree of skill from the plasterer doing the work. Achieving the pleasing patterns takes a certain artistic flair which is not necessary when applying regular plaster. Granted, we are not talking about world-class artistry, but there is a skill to it.
Similarly, more patience is required than with regular plaster due to the additional layers that are necessary to get the full effect. Regular plaster also needs multiple layers, of course, but not usually as many, and they don’t each require meticulous concentration from the plasterer. With regular plaster, being sloppy with the first layer of plaster can make the job harder, but it can be fixed. With Venetian Plaster, sloppy work on the first layer may be visible in the finished product.
Are There Disadvantages to Venetian Plaster?
There are two main downsides to Venetian Plaster, the first of which being price. Granted, it is considerably cheaper to have Venetian Plaster rendered on your walls than it is to have real marble—or marble cladding—but is still more expensive than regular plaster and a tin of paint. Of course, a tin of paint is unlikely to look as nice as Venetian Plaster, but the cost difference is still there.
The other disadvantage is that it limits your ability to change your mind about the decor of the space at a later date. Of course, nothing is stopping you from painting over Venetian Plaster, or putting cabinets up, or doing anything else that covers the plaster up. But if you have gone to the trouble of getting that plaster rendered, you are going to be far less likely to want to cover it up, even if you are no longer enamoured with the style.