How to Texture Tuscan Walls

Transform your flat, boring walls into an Italian symphony of swirling plaster with a simple faux finish.

Your bucket list says Tuscany, but your reality is trapped in the 'burbs. So add a theatrical trick to your repertoire; plaster your walls in the style of a Mediterranean villa; and -- problem solved. Well, solved for now at least, and you've made the move over a single industrious weekend. Faux Tuscan plaster is messy and a bit time-consuming, but fairly straightforward and convincing. The kitchen, dining room, entry, or any area of your house, gets a richer, warmer finish with a little joint compound and a lot of elbow grease.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

You're going to make a mess, so dump everything you'll need in your workspace and keep the rest of the house dust- and plaster-free.

  • Bucket of joint compound
  • Drywall knife
  • Painter's tape (optional)
  • Dropcloths
  • Filter mask (for plaster dust)
  • Vacuum, damp sponge or clean cloths (to wipe down walls)
  • Tuscan color paint
  • Natural sponge
  • Paintbrush (optional)
  • Tinted glaze (sprayer optional) 

Step 2: Clean the Work Surface

Wipe down, vacuum or sponge the walls to be plastered to create a clean surface for the new plaster to adhere. It's best to do an entire room in the faux finish, and adjacent areas that are plainly visible will seem more harmonious if they are finished in the same Tuscan look. Set out your drop cloths to protect the floors, and tape any areas that should not get plaster on them. Painter's tape is safe for baseboards, trim and ceiling edges -- it pulls away without taking the paint with it.

Step 3: Apply the Plaster

Begin in a top corner of the room and work an entire wall at a time. Set aside time to do the whole room in one go because your design rhythm tends to change from session to session. Definitely finish a wall at a time, even if you can't complete the room. Take some wet joint compound on the edge of the drywall knife and smear the compound on the wall. Smear in a random pattern -- swirls, Vs, Xs -- you don't want a uniform design. Keep your freeform plastering light and loose; thick globs of plaster tend to crack as they dry -- slowly -- and add unnecessary work and a lumpy appearance to your finish. Apply varying pressure to the drywall knife as you smear the compound on the wall. The plaster will go on with skips and spaces; that's the look you want.

Tip: Use a painter's mask to prevent inhaling the plaster dust as you work.

Step 3: Fix Flaws as You Go

Scan continuously for areas that are too flat or too thick and repair them before you move on. Adjusting wet joint compound is a lot easier than sanding and re-finishing once the wall is dry -- and it looks better, too. If you've left a long, flat smear that has no texture, simply sink the sharp edge of the drywall knife into the soft compound to create a hill and a gouge mark; then lightly go over that area with the flat of the knife. Rework any too-thick sections with a bare drywall knife, removing and redistributing the wet compound.

Step 4: Sponge and Glaze

"Pounce" your paint color on the walls with a natural sponge while the uneven plaster is still damp. The paint soaks into the plaster, and the sponge gives a typical mottled effect to the color. Let the paint dry before spraying or brushing on tinted glaze. The glaze should be colored with a hint of brown -- like tea -- and brushed on every-which-way, or sprayed on and then blotted with a natural sponge. Glaze will collect in the uneven swirls of plaster and show up darker, creating an aged effect. A low-gloss or matte glaze looks most authentic.

Things You Will Need

  • 400-grit sandpaper
  • Moist rags
  • Plaster
  • Trowel
  • Butter knife
  • Fork
  • Rollers
  • Flat amber paint
  • Chocolate glaze

About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .