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Bringing Back Venetian Plaster

Brett Rouse
Owner, Fine Finishes Hawaii

Please tell us about your business. I offer a professional painting service, and my specialty is Venetian plaster.

What is Venetian plaster? It’s a lime-based plaster that’s mostly famous from long ago in Europe that is still around today.

It’s a wall finish, and the nice thing about Venetian plaster is it’s very artistic. You can add colors, you can add texture — you can add other materials, which gives it dimension. The application for plaster is a little more technical and creative compared to straight painting.

It’s very popular for kitchens, bathrooms, accent walls for living rooms, bedrooms and for business office spaces such as hotels, spas, banks, recording studios and restaurants. The technique is a bit of a lost art, done in two layers of plaster, all hand-troweled, to create a soft, light, seamless, marble-like finish.

What are some of its benefits? It’s an organic material. There are no chemicals like most paints, so it’s good for people who are chemically sensitive. It’s also sound reinforcing, so it’s an insulator for sound and temperature, which is really helpful for renters who need quieter rooms or music studios. In addition, it’s a very luxurious finish — you can just feel the difference. It’s like clay or marble.

How did you start this business? I was an apprentice for a company called Real Illusions, which did these huge jobs for spas and courtyards. For example, we did work for the St. Regis. I got involved with that group about seven years ago. I realized there wasn’t anybody really doing Venetian plaster on Kauai other than big, commercial bids from the Mainland. I started doing it for my friends who had businesses, basically just for the cost of materials, just to get my name out there. I currently still do small businesses, but I also do small residences and remodels as well.

Why did you start this business? I’ve been painting since the hurricane. When it hit, I volunteered with construction because people needed roofs rebuilt. One thing led to another, and I started painting houses. At the time, I also was a kayak guide on Na Pali Coast during the summer months. But that’s a seasonal job, so I needed something to keep me going through the winter. I became an independent painter.

When did you move to Kauai and why? I moved to Kauai in 1986 — I had family here. I came for a summer vacation after I finished school in Colorado and I fell in love with the island lifestyle.

Why do you do what you do? I really love doing this. Out of all the construction trades, painting gives me a lot of pleasure. It’s instant, obvious results.

After I got quite good at painting, I wanted to do something more exotic, so I studied glazes and faux finishes. Plaster was a natural evolution. Because it’s creative and you’re working with designers, colors and different textures, it applied to my artistic sensibility. Then I even started painting fine art with plaster.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? It’s a lost art. There are not many people who know how to do it. So, it’s a technique that’s in demand, and I’m among few on the list. Secondly, it’s really fulfilling to me because it’s actually an art installment rather than just putting paint on the walls. This is just one of many skills that I can contribute to the island and make it more beautiful.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business? It’s heavy and it’s hard work.

What makes you get up every day and go to work? My two boys, Jacob (16) and Bodhi (10).

Do you have a business motto? “It’s going to be OK.” When people are remodeling or building a home, it can get stressful. I like to add a laid-back vibe that’s attentive to details. I’m always right on time, and I do my job until it’s done. I try to take some of the stress out of working.

If you could do anything, what would it be? Continue my musical pursuits. I’m a songwriter and musician in a band called Goats with Headlamps. Also, just to be able to continue to live here.

barstone7@yahoo.com 631-9549 finefinisheshawaii.com

—Coco Zickos
cocomidweek@ gmail.com