Sunday, October 2, 2011


We were recently asked to look at a water damaged wallpaper. This is a well known but rare Joseph Dufour paper now called "Rives du Bosphore". It is a very detailed wood block printed “panoramique” which is thought to be pre- 1812. These panoramic wallpapers were produced with more than 200 individual hand carved blocks. The panels over the fire place were so damaged they could not be salvaged. There was also toxic mold, which had to be treated. In the initial meeting with the client and designer, Lisa Cunningham of Warner - Cunningham, we all agreed that we could improve the composition by rearranging the elements over the mantel. We were given license to reinterpret using details from the Rives du Bosphore in our own way. While there, we also repaired and touched up where necessary around the rest of the room.

Lena - touching up other parts of the wallpaper.

During the 200 years this wallpaper was in this house it had been changed. The white puffy clouds in the original had been painted out with a deeper gradated tone and the entire mural was varnished. Hence, even if the paper were still available, it could not be replaced. Below is a photo of the original paper from the Zuber archives (Z101).

The first picture below is the original Dufour wallpaper over the mantle, which was damaged. Take note of the fact that the imagery doesn't "wrap" the corner. The installer chose to raise the imagery over the fireplace to make best use of what he had. We were able to use elements of the original mural to create our own composition and make it continue around the corner. (See below)

This is what the wall looked like when we arrived. We chose to have our wallpaper installer, Greg Kahler, cover the wall with Dreamscape before we started so there would be a removable substrate, in case of future water infiltration.

Trying to save the original paper.

And so, we begin.

Doug - adding the first layers.

White chalk indicates where the "wood block" would have printed the paper. We painted each stroke with a brush.

The next few photos show details of the original.

Above is the original, used as reference for our reproduction - below.

The finished room.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mural Restoration in Milton, MA

The following "before and after" photos show a beautiful example of an early architectural mural, painted on the walls and ceilings of the foyer of the Dr. Amos Holbrook house, a Federalist style residence built in Milton, Massachusetts in 1800, and listed in the National Register. The mural was created by Italian artists brought to America by Dr. Holbrook to paint the entry hall of his new house with trompe l’oeil architectural motifs.

The couple that own the house, an architect and a teacher, asked us to repair and restore the murals while maintaining the marvelous patina acquired over its 200 years of existence. Our approach was to repair only where absolutely necessary and try to retouch rather than repaint when possible. However, some parts were so damaged as to require significant repair of cracked plaster as well as the recreating and repainting of water-damaged areas.

Water stains on the ceiling "before and after"

Lena at work.

The area over the entry door had severe water and or smoke damage and needed to be completely repainted.

You can see deep cracks in the faux molding, these cracks in the horsehair plaster needed to be repaired before we could restore the painting.

Project complete

Another "notch" in the belt of Zoe Design, we are now archivists.

Here is a note from the homeowner, "Your wonderful repair and restoration of the murals in our house brings us joy every day, and we thank you so much for your talent and skill in bringing back these beautiful images."

Our reply, "Thank you for trusting us with this delicate project."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Digital Wallpaper

Over the last few years we have produced several murals digitally. There were several reasons for this. First, the damage to our necks from painting large expanses of ceiling was costing us in medical bills far beyond the pain and suffering. Second, with these graphic designs, the repeating pattern allowed Lena to paint only a 4 foot square and the ceiling paper design is created with the help of a computer while retaining the look and feel of a hand painted mural. This saves the clients money and allows them the freedom to take the paper, should they move, or replace damaged panels.

This design is based on a panel that was taken from the Chicago Stock Exchange ceiling and auctioned off by Christie's (circa 1893)

This design was based on an antique Moroccan wood-inlaid ceiling, brought to us by the designer, Lucie Beauchemin of Beauchemin Grassi Design.

Based on the "Studiolo" wood-inlaid ceiling at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The studiolo was commissioned around 1476 by the duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro.

We have also reproduced panels digitally and are able to customize the print size to suit our clients' space. These panels can be framed and hung, applied to room-dividing screens or applied to the wall with a small molding to "frame" them. The "frame" can also be painted as a trompe-l'oeil. Our wallcoverings are available in many substrates from papers to canvas.

The original panel below was commissioned by Honey Collins of Honey Collins Design for her space in the Wenham Museum Designer Show House.

Date Palms, commissioned for Sue Williams Design. These original panels are in the Tryall club in Jamaica.

These French panels were commissioned by Lucie Beauchemin.

I hope you all will forgive me for posting so seldom. I have tons of material and little time. More to come soon. Sincerely, Doug