Thursday, November 5, 2009


We are often asked to paint Chinoiserie. Chinoiserie is a French word which refers to an imitation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, especially in 17th and 18th cenury Europe. We have traveled to Sweden several times to study original works in the Chinese Pavillion of Drottningholm.

The panel above was done for Honey Collins Design to hang in the Wenham Museum's Designer Show House. It sold immediately and we have since reprocuced it digitally. These archival ink on canvas reproductions have been very well received.

Cupboard doors or panel insets are another popular use of the style.


We have painted numerous murals in assorted Chinoiserie styles all over the USA, but none has been more successful, in our minds, than the one where we were asked to make it really look like silk paper. Spending extra time on the base coat made all the difference.

Friday, October 30, 2009


This past spring, Zoë Design was hired to transform the entry hall of a large (23,000 sq. ft.) house in Weston, MA. Our client wanted the feel of a 16th century palazzo. After several meetings, armed with stacks of books, we chose reference from many sources but the bulk of the landscapes & drapery came from the Villa Di Vicobello and, of course, the angels and putti are Tiepelo.

The project was daunting as the entryway was quite imposing with its double curving staircase and rotunda-style center with a staggering crystal chandelier. There was a soaring geometric dome that ended in a cupola far above the ground floor. It was decided to leave the ground floor walls white (the client has a fondness for white) and to focus on the second level. There were four large curved walls, which needed grand vistas. Thus, the Italianate landscapes with classical ruins. We softened the edges of each wall with painted drapery in whites and creams, embellished with tassels and yellow-gold roping. A personal touch was added by placing something in each
scene (a musical instrument, etc.) to allude to each of the client's four children. The kids really liked having a piece of themselves in the mural.

The dome was difficult in that it was geometric (sharp angles) and felt modern. We decided that a soft blue sky with clouds would help disguise the edges and draw one's eye upward. Borrowing
from Tiepolo, we painted some rather magnificent angels and putti amongst the clouds. The idea to paint the woodwork came part way
through the project. We felt that the white was still overwhelming so it was decided to bring a brushed gold feel into the woodwork. The change was amazing. The landscapes leapt to life and were "framed" by a soft gold. The same idea was carried around the edges of the dome to tie in visually to the walls.

The project was an enormous undertaking, requiring the building of a "floor" across the top of the upstairs banister in order to set up the scaffolding needed to reach the dome and the top of the cupola. This "floor" alone was an accomplishment but thanks tothe builder, Bob Morini of Remco & Co., it happened like clockwork. Luckily, the client was willing to do it right and gave us the leeway to spend the hours needed to create a finished, polished mural. It's a nice feeling to walk away from something that you feel proud of having helped create.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Zoe Design in Boston Globe Magazine

The Boston Globe Magazine September 20, 2009 features a cover story on a house in Manchester, MA which we worked on earlier this summer.

In the article are photos of the mural that Lena Fransioli, Brooke Sheldon and Natalie Gardner painted in the dining room and glaze that Doug Garrabrants and Kasia Mirowska did in the living room.

What is not pictured is the kitchen floor that we all worked on.

The interior designer was Honey Collins of Lenora Collins Design. What follows is what Brooke wrote about the "process".

Recently, Lena, Natalie and I created a mural in the dining room of a lovely old home in Manchester by the Sea, MA. The room had "nice bones", which means that the lines and proportions were elegant. There was a chair rail so our mural was confined to the upper portion of the wall. The designer had two starting points of reference. One was a picture of an antique primitive panel in very pale tones… a landscape with a figure and a small structure in it. The other reference was a magazine clipping of a mural done in a show house, a landscape in pale greens and blues. The key words used in forming an idea of our project were "bucolic landscape " and " pale sepias, creams and blues." The designer wanted the mural to sit back on the walls and the color scheme to flow from the other rooms in the house.

We brought out our reference material…..books of classical landscape painters (Claude Lorraine, Corot, Constable….) and tear sheets from a variety of magazines (I cannot stress enough the importance of good reference). The designer and client looked through the books and, together, we started to form a cohesive idea as to the feel and color palette of the project.

Our first step was to color wash the walls in a creamy yellow-white to "kill" the stark white walls. Then we took artist's chalk and, deciding our horizon line, began to lay out the landscape. Chalk is great because it's easy to sponge off lines you don't want. Just make sure you are using a color that is not too dark. In this instance, we wanted the feel of an artist's sketch, with bits of drawing showing through.
Once the landscape was about 90% drawn in, we began to wash in thin layers of acrylic in sepia tones to get a sense of the lights and darks and to see how the landscape was sitting. We ended up scrubbing out areas that felt wrong and redrawing them. It's very difficult to get the drawing down pat before you paint but you will save yourself a lot of stress if you can start with a good framework. Otherwise, you will spend a lot of time "redrawing" with paint. The layering of color came next… pale blues in the sky and water and deeper grey-browns and grey-greens in the landscape. The overall effect was soft and elegant. We decided to leave out human figures but put some Mediterranean-style buildings in the background.

See more at

Sunday, September 27, 2009


OK I haven't added to the blog in ages, but, I will try to be more consistant.

We are planning a job in Palm Desert for December. We will be doing Marmorino plaster on the walls, glazing walls, painting a mural and many hundreds of square feet of stenciled ceilings.

For the "Casita" or Guest Living Room ceiling I came up with a stencil pattern based on the fabric & wallpaper the designer, Jessup Design Inc, supplied. The lighter color in the graphic represents copper. This will go between rough wood beams.

The Living Room, Great Room and Kitchen share a ceiling, also with rough wood beams. Based on the fabrics in the room we chose a pattern from a 15th century Montefeltro wood inlaid ceiling. The ceiling is now on display in the Met. NYC. I created a stencil and Lena added some oil paint shading & highlighting on top. I then photographed it and created a repeat. We can now have it printed on canvas and hung like wallpaper. This will greatly reduce the time and cost of hand painting over 1000 square feet of ceiling.

I will write more & post photos in December. Christmas in Southern California again, sounds good. Though I spent 28 years of my life in SoCal it has been 14 years since I was there for Dec. 25th. I think we will spend the day on the beach.