Our latest obsession has taken us beyond homeware, however, to full room schemes and those feeling the love for all things lustrous should follow American interior gurus, such as Steven Gambrel and Suzanne Kasler, who have been using lacquer on walls for years. With British design doyenne Nina Campbell also successfully installing these uber-glam, reflective surfaces to throw light back in to a room, this is a trend firmly on our radar.Our latest obsession has taken us beyond homeware, however, to full room schemes and those feeling the love for all things lustrous should follow American interior gurus, such as Steven Gambrel and Suzanne Kasler, who have been using lacquer on walls for years. With British design doyenne Nina Campbell also successfully installing these uber-glam, reflective surfaces to throw light back in to a room, this is a trend firmly on our radar.
Create Instant Glamour
Model Poppy Delevingne was keen to adopt the look when she worked with British interior designer Joanna Plant on her West London home. Utilising the dark shades that work so brilliantly on lacquer walls, Poppy has a couple of rooms in her home in this shiny finish, allowing dramatic schemes to gleam, but she’s also used a pale shade in the hallway. “Glossy walls can be used to great effect in many differing ways,” says Joanna. “For instance, in a narrow corridor where space is limited, the effect of light being bounced around expands the space and adds glamour.” In Poppy’s house, Joanna applied an inky bluey-black in the sitting room and a bright red in a reception room, capitalising on the jewel tones that are the perfect match for this wall treatment. “The finish lends itself to saturated colour – petrol blue, crimson and emerald green look very beautiful in gloss when in flat, chalky paint perhaps they don’t work so well,” Joanna explains.
Be Wary Of Lighting
How you light a space that has lacquer walls is important, as conventional downlighting won’t showcase the paint’s properties. “In this kitchen I used lacquer paint under a sky light in order to reflect light and expose the deep luminous quality of the colour,” explains interior designer Rachel Chudley. “The reflective qualities of high gloss paint add instant drama and a deep luminosity, and the lacquer is contrasted with the matt wood of the counter tops and the tarnished metal copper cabinet fronts.” Similarly, Kate Watson-Smyth, author of Mad About The House, used high-gloss paint in a compact bathroom (Farrow & Ball Hague Blue) – now daylight streams in the skylight and bounces off the walls. When considering artificial sources, low level lighting that is sympathetic to the dark, dramatic look will work best. Even better is candle light!
Apply With Care
Originally used in East Asian countries to decorate objects and furniture, traditional lacquer comes from tree resin and is hard to work with. Modern manufacturing methods might have made production easier, but it is a complicated and time-consuming process, especially on walls. A specialist decorator is key and preparation is everything. Hughie Turner is a decorative painter and the go-to creator of lacquer walls, working with London’s top designers. “The secret is many, many layers of paint, so you end up with a surface like a mirror,” says Hughie. “Preparation is paramount – surfaces need to be rubbed back with sanding paper before you start. Then I mix my own paints to create the right medium. It needs to move around the wall and I use special brushes to get the effect and soften it so there are no brush strokes.” It’s a method that has taken Hughie years to perfect, but now he can expect to lacquer a small room in five days.
Give A Subtle Nod
If the idea of a whole room is a too daunting, there are other options, such as treating only the ceiling or woodwork. Interior designer Laura Stephens lacquered a ceiling on a recent project in South London. “I love the polished feel a lacquer finish gives to a room. It reflects light and bounces it around the room, giving depth and different dimension. I think a lacquer style works really well in a smart, traditional room, but equally in a mid-century-style space, such as in the study in my recently completed project in Dulwich. You can achieve this look with gloss paint, although it can be very unforgiving. So, if you’re going to have a go yourself be prepared for lots of preparation and sanding to ensure a completely smooth surface before applying the paint.”
If you do want to go DIY, many paint brands do high gloss paint, but remember it won’t deliver knock-out shine like the real thing. If you have any bumps on your walls, a gloss finish will highlight them all so you might need to re-plaster or sand, plus you’ll need to sand between coats once it’s dry. Also consider using a varnish at the end.
Get The Look
If you love the look but can’t commit to a full lacquer room scheme, try these home accessories to bring a touch of high-shine glamour in to your home...