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A pattern that's painted, not pasted

August 09, 2007|CRAIG NAKANO

AT a time when clean-lined and modern is the mantra in so many homes, the art of stenciling may not be top of mind. The idea alone sounds old-fashioned, and even its fans admit that if done poorly, the effect can look more like amateur craft than skilled art.

But in the Simpson house, interior designer Carolyn Oliver used stenciling to create a visual surprise in an oft-overlooked space: the guest bedroom. Oliver brought in Los Feliz artist Ken Moffatt, who pored over mid-19th century photos of homes in Mexico City, where European wallpaper was difficult to obtain and resourceful residents used stencils to mimic elaborate patterns in paint.

With those pictures as inspiration, Moffatt penciled his own intricate design, laid a thick plastic film on top, then cut the pattern into the film with an X-Acto knife. For paint color, he and Oliver decided on a custom mix that fell somewhere between the light cream walls and the darker hues in the room. "The draperies were this greeny gold, and the wood cabinets had an orange undertone, and I was marrying the colors together," says Moffatt, who ended up with what he describes as a very pale tangerine.

He applied the stenciling in 1 1/2 -by-2 1/2 -foot sections running from floor to ceiling -- a process that took 4 1/2 days to complete because the design was so detailed.

The finished look? It's a graphic treatment across a large space. In natural light, the stenciling lends the walls a complex texture that's subtle. But once the sun goes down and house lights come up, the artwork's delicate flourishes turn radiant.

"At night it just glows," Oliver says. "It's like hand-spun linen."

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CRAIG NAKANO

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