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The Lacquered Wall

I’m addicted to all things shiny. I have a Pinterest board solely dedicated to the wonderful world of shine, mostly metallic, but let’s not forget that color too can be shiny—think nail polish, lip gloss, patent leather, and lacquered walls.

What? Excuse me, what was the last one?

The lacquered wall. It has only been around for like ever and has always been my obsession. It’s sleek and clean, and its versatility allows it to suit any aesthetic—traditional, transitional, uber modern, and yes, even shabby chic. Why? Because a well-designed space depends on a combination of textures and materials to create a well-balanced and dynamic atmosphere.

The lacquered wall, in all its shiny glory and reflective properties creates drama, depth, and can accentuate surrounding objects. A velvet aubergine chaise set against a very pale-lime painted wall is perfectly fine (It may be a bit much for some people’s taste—don’t be scared of color, and trust your designer). Now, imagine a very pale-lime colored lacquered wall against which sits a velvet aubergine chaise. Besides that sentence being more fun to say, you can already feel the difference. The watery walls glisten, bouncing light into the room and reflecting nuances of nearby objects, including the deep-colored chaise with its tufted back, scrolling arm, and tapered feet….

Purely decorative, the lacquered wall takes on the properties of a mirror, expanding space and increasing light, with the added benefit of color. And because of the durability of lacquer, it is ideal for high traffic areas.

So, what exactly is lacquer? It’s a liquid made of shellac dissolved in alcohol, or of synthetic substances or resin and solvents, that dries to create a hard, protective surface. Historically, it has been used to decorate and protect objects and furniture by the Chinese for over 7,000 years.[1] This practice spread to other parts of Asia, and "in 1924 the Ecole des Beaux Arts was established in Hanoi, Vietnam. This institution was to be the birthplace of the revitalized art of lacquer painting. It was the first generation of Vietnamese students of the Indochina School of Fine Art during the 1930s, who elevated the craft of lacquer painting to a truly fine art."[2] In the 17th century, on the other side of the world, lacquering peaked Western European interest. Imitations were popularized as Japanning and carried to great perfection in France.[3]

It's unclear when exactly lacquer jumped from decorative objects to the walls, but as the popularity of the medium increased from small vessels, to casegoods, then to larger display panels, it would seem appropriate that artists then sought out larger scale venues to display their craft, including walls and ceilings.

Although today's version of lacquer may not be as ornate as its carved wood or inlaid ancestors from centuries ago, it still remains a very popular decorative medium that requires skill and patience to create things of beauty.

I won’t go into detail of the extremely difficult process of lacquering a wall (like sanding then applying lacquer via spray, then sanding again...then applying lacquer again--up to 6 times), or how pricey it can be (your first born child), or that you will most definitely need a professional to do the labor (sandpaper blocks, an electric fan, and a face mask won't cut it this time, my DIY friends) (The complicated and tedious task of lacquering has been written about many times—here are some good resources: Luster Interiors and Rose et Lis.)--instead, I'll daydream about that awesome room with lacquered walls I just designed in my head.

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