Sculptural Plasterwork in a Lake Front Home

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Overlooking a lake in New Jersey, a charming shingle style home is nestled on a hill.  From the outside, one may not expect the sculptural delights that await the eye across the interior elevations. Upon entry, the visitor is immediately drawn through a procession of spaces, each offering a new decorative discovery around the corner. With details inspired from antiquity, the Italian Renaissance, and 18th century Paris, this house offers a delicious taste of eclectic classical beauty. Though rich with sophisticated ornamentation, the spirit of the house is one of playfulness and whimsy. This inviting and fantastical setting acts as a retreat for the hot summer months, promising family fun and relaxation.

The creation of these interiors required exacting collaboration between architect, builder, millworkers, artisan plaster workers and sculptors. The scope of this plasterwork includes design collaboration with the architect, studio fabrication, and the onsite installation.

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The front doors open the main entry, looking up to see a unique sculpted ceiling.
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Detail view of ceiling relief and framing acanthus crown above the entry door stained glass.
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Looking up at the ceiling from one sees a central acanthus rosette with scrolling rinceau vines radiating outward.

A concept sketch was developed by the architect and sculptor. Based on the concept sketch developed with the architect, a pattern was drawn by the sculptor and laid out on a reflected ceiling plan. The pattern is directly inspired by the Ara Pacis Augustae, in Rome. Upon approval of the reflected ceiling plan, a more exact drawing was created. This drawing was enlarged to full scale and used as a pattern followed by the sculptor to create the three-dimensional relief.

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Before sculpting the entire panels, a sample 3D sketch was made to show the intended spirit, weight of relief, and surface texture. With the client’s approval of the sample, work could begin in the large sculpted panels.

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The clay model of the ceiling relief sits in the studio, bathed in dramatic morning light. These panels represent one half of the full ceiling. A rubber mold was made of this relief, and plaster castings were made. This entire relief was cast twice, and mirrored on itself to create the full ceiling. The large cast panels were shipped to the job site, and installed to a drywall ceiling.

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A detail of the clay relief along the center axis. Per the client’s request, local birds and flora were incorporated into the design.

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This is the clay model for the center rosette, which is a grouping of acanthus leaves radiating from the center point. A mold was made of the model, and a plaster casting was made. The outer leaves were cast twice and connected to each other to complete the full rosette.

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Passing through the entry, one enters the main stair hall. The focal point of this room is the grand pediment above the doorway. The geometry of the pediment is inspired by Michelangelo’s Porta Pia in Rome. The ornamental relief related the pediment to the adjacent ceiling. The pediment is crowned with a triumphant eagle spreading its wings. Behind the eagle’s head can be a seen a bas-relief panel of a sun rising over the lake, with striking rays of light. At the top of the landing we see two doorways, each capped with lunette reliefs of angels, allegories of Day and Night.

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Detailed view of plaster pediment.
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Detailed view of plaster pediment.
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Detailed view of plaster pediment.
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Stair hall elevation view of plaster door surround and pediment, looking out through entry doors.

This is an initial sketch provided by the architect and given to the plaster designer to develop into a drawing that a sculptor can follow, as shown. Before building the full scale model, a small clay sketch is made to help understand the relationships between the geometric and sculptural forms.

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The eagle is sculpted in clay at full scale. The drawing is mounted below the sculpture to demonstrate the relationship between the eagle and geometric members of the pediment.

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The finished clay model is laid down horizontally and a rubber mold is made. A wall is built around the clay sculpture to catch the liquid rubber as it is poured over the model. This image shows the first layer of rubber. Multiple layers are applied until the rubber is about 3/8” thick. From this mold, the plaster cast is made.

Concept sketches of the overdoor lunettes are drawn by the sculptor. The heavy light and dark contrast communicates the high relief desired by the client. 

These are the finished clay models of the lunette reliefs, Angels of Day (above) and Night (below). Rubber molds are made of the clay sculptures, and plaster casts are made. 

These are finished plaster casts of the over door lunettes, Day and Night. They are brought to the job site and installed above the doorways on the stair hall landing.

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A simple plaster profile cases the passageway into the kitchen. The plaster range hood, with simple and graceful lines, frames a floral plaster relief in Louis XVI style.

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Detail image of sculpted relief panel
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Side view of plaster range hood.
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Plaster relief flower garlands fill the recessed panels on the side of the wooden cabinets.
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A fresh plaster casting of the relief panel is removed from the soft rubber mold.
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The flower garland is first sculpted in tan clay. Multiple plaster castings are made from the same mold.
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The family room is a delight of ornamental plaster. Along the crown, a bracketed cove, a sculpted rose vine runs through lattice. A delicate ceiling medallion combines lattice, acanthus, and garland motifs. The curved corners of the walls are trees in low relief, each uniquely adorned with local fauna, and attributes of childhood pastimes. This room draws its inspiration from the Salon de Compagnie de l’Hôtel d’Uzès, at the Musée Carnavalet in Paris.

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Detail of plaster overdoor relief, ornament cove. Where the crown turns the corner, an HVAC grill is created behind two birds grasping a flower garland.

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A floor to ceiling detail of a corner tree relief, overdoor relief, and ornate crown.
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Detail of ceiling medallion. A contrast of low and high relief makes this ceiling relief a delicate gem.

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Before the medallion is sculpted, a preparatory drawing is made.

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The Master Bathroom. Above the his and her sink, a mirrors are framed by graceful plaster arches. Along the center is a three quarter engaged plaster Corinthian colonnette, with an acanthus base, and crowning urn

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The plaster/wood model is prepared for a rubber mold.

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Details of Corinthian colonnette
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Details of Corinthian colonnette

Photography by:
Emily Bedard
Michal Jaszewski

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