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Lacquered Walls: A Maximalist's Dream

Now that I've blogged for a while, I've started to see trends emerge in my tastes and interests that I don't think I would've noticed without the virtual paper trail. One of the biggest things that I've come to realize about myself is that I tend towards maximalism -- not just in design, but in life. I'm a big believer that bigger is often better, just as more is often more. I've long been a fan of lacquered furniture and accessories. The glossy, almost liquid-like sheen is such a wonderful counterpoint to wood, fabric and other earthier elements. It's also supremely glamorous, and I can't help but love a little bit of sparkle and sheen in just about any room.

So why not take this love of lacquer, that I can only assume many of my fellow design enthusiasts share as the trend seems to show no sign of slowing down, and take it one step further? Let's maximize it and lacquer the walls. Sure, a true lacquer finish on your walls is time and labor-intensive -- and expensive. But the look can be approximated with high gloss paint (though to get a truly smooth finish you'd be best advised to skim coat your walls first unless they're already in pristine condition). High gloss or lacquered walls are particularly appealing in darker, more intense colors, like this gorgeous cobalt blue, which is incredibly striking against the black and white fireplace.

If there is a true king of lacquer (do you think he'd mind if I dubbed him the "King of Shellac"?), then it has to be Miles Redd, the designer whose maximalist take on traditional decor has been incredibly influential in the resurgence of high style, color and Chinoiserie in interior design. And I think this hallway is a tremendous example of that. All the individual elements of this entry are incredibly traditional, from the black and white marble floors, to the blue and white porcelain to the intricate moldings and yet it feels so modern because the volume on everything is turned way up. The bold blue lacquered walls pop against the graphic floor and the hits of red in the lampshades and door (oh that door!) are such a strong, primary contrast to the blue.

Miles Redd

This room is a quieter, softer version of Miles' style, but it illustrates how you don't need a really bold color to make lacquered walls feel like a statement. This medium blue-gray, taken all the way up to the ceiling, creates an underwater, lagoon-like effect in this salon, while the larger white double sofa floats softly in the center of the room, like a cloud. Miles' signature zebra rugs, however, keep this room from putting you to sleep.

Miles Redd

Another great living room from Miles. The sophisticated, rich color of Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue is really at its best in a high gloss. Where the light hits it, the color reads as a peacock blue, while in shadow the gray undertones give it a quieter elegance.

Decorator Nick Olsen has a very similar decorating style to his mentor Miles Redd, but with a bit of English granny thrown in for good measure. In the most recent issue of Lonny, Nick talks about wanting his small one-bedroom Nolita apartment to feel like an Opium den. Well, mission accomplished. The red glossy walls, black chintz sofa and bold painted floors are a wonderfully modern spin on a 19th century London opium den.

Melissa Rufty of MMR Interiors via Matters of Style

In my opinion, eclecticism (of the type heralded and popularized by domino) is just another type of maximalism, and this room does it beautifully. I adore all the colors, patterns and layers; it feels curated more than decorated.

Canadian House & Home, January 2010

When this house was featured in Canadian House & Home back in January, I had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it was colorful, original and had some very fun elements (like that wallpapered ceiling) on the other hand, it would date quickly and had a few tacky moments. But ultimately, I appreciate the risk taking of shellacking your walls in orange and papering your ceiling in metallic paper. It's bold and not to everyone's taste, but it's fun and I always respect a sense of humor in design.

"But Averill," you say, "maximalism just isn't my speed. Can lacquered walls work in a more minimalist interior?" The answer is an resounding "yes!". In fact, just follow Steven Gambrel's lead (never a bad idea) and incorporate lacquered walls into quieter, more masculine interiors for an unexpected bit of shine and glamour.

Steven Gambrel

This kelly green feels like an unexpected choice for a hallway, but it's such a great contrast to the otherwise neutral palette and traditional architecture. It also creates a certain moodiness that Gambrel so often displays in his work that I find very appealing.

Steven Gambrel

I love a dark, cozy den and you can't get cozier than this one. The goldenrod colored ceiling is a great touch here. It's both dark and warm enough to keep the black walls from feeling too stark and it ties in beautifully with the carpet and leather sofa. While I like the chalkiness of a matte black wall (especially if you're using an off-black or deep charcoal instead of a true black), I really do love a glossy, true black wall. The sheen reflects so light while the dark walls recede into the background. It's a wonderful way to make a room feel larger and cozier at the same time.

Studies seem to be the frequent beneficiaries of lacquered walls. Perhaps it's because they're often smaller, less frequently used rooms that can handle the high sheen and bold color. This coral color is such an unusual choice for a study, but in high gloss it reads as more sophisticated than beachy. I particularly love how Katie picks up on the color in the suzani print throw pillows, which ties the white couch in with the chairs and walls.

Elle Decor

I love the raisin-colored walls in this study. It's the perfect backdrop for the salon-style art hanging and looks wonderfully fresh with the black and gold writing desk and the animal print fabrics.

I love the contrast of the shiny walls with the velvet upholstery. Textural juxtapositions are a great way to create interest without making bold color or pattern statements. The acrylic coffee table brings in the smooth, polished finish on the walls into the furniture grouping and helps tie everything together.

Rob Southern

While this Houston entryway (featured last year in House Beautiful) looks like it has black lacquered walls, it's actually a glossy vinyl wallpaper (Phillip Jeffries' "lacquered walls" wallcovering in eyeliner), which is a quicker (and cheaper) solution to a true lacquer finish. According to the designer, it's also more kid-friendly.

And finally, another photograph that I wish I could credit to the talented designer but can't (anyone? Bueller?..Bueller?). You don't frequently see white lacquered walls (furniture and accessories, yes, but not walls) but I think they really work well here in this more modern interior. And I absolutely love the finish allows the light from the wall sconces to positively glow. The touches of turquoise in the cushions on the dining chairs (which are a beautiful shape in their own right) and in the equine statue on the coffee table add a hit of fun and color to the otherwise neutral and more grown-up space.

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