Re-creating the Dining Room (Historic Paint)
Underneath one of the sconces was a small area of original wall treatment that had been protected and was only slightly tarnished. It hinted at how dramatic the entire room once looked.
By the middle of the twentieth century the walls in this room had become dark brown. The bronze powder in the paint was badly tarnished, completely losing its gold appearance. In order to brighten the room, the family painted the walls pale blue. Through microscopic paint analysis of the original finish found beneath the modern paint, Historic New England determined the original technique used to create the highly textured and reflective walls.
Paint analysis revealed that a base coat of dark green oil paint mixed with sharp-edged grains of coarse sand was first applied to the plaster walls. A bright gold-colored bronze powder was then overlaid to create a surface that reflected light off tens of thousands of tiny facets on the grains of sand. The broad arch framing the exterior bay windows was a less textured, more shimmering surface. The ceiling was a smooth surface composed of silver-colored tin powder on white paint overlaid with an amber toning varnish. It glowed warmly in the light of the room’s gasolier and sconces.
This cross-section image shows each layer. On the bottom is the base layer of green paint with large, coarse sand mixed in. On top of that is a thin layer of the bronze powder paint, tarnished to dark brown. The top layer is the modern light blue paint that covered the tarnished bronze paint.