Decorative Painting & Finishes

Restoring and creating period decoration requires the in-depth knowledge and skill that John Canning & Co. is known for.

Decorative Painting & FinishesDecorative paint and finishes are commonly found in many historic structures throughout the world. Murals, friezes, frescoes, and other decorative elements can be found in churches, courthouses, libraries, private homes; virtually any structure with a ceiling or wall has the potential to house artwork.

Unfortunately, these brilliant and unique masterpieces can often become damaged or otherwise lost to the passage of time. Paint chips or peels away; finishes dull with the accumulation of soot and debris; artwork is covered over with fresh paint, which is then itself covered over with fresh paint; and so on.

Often owners can be unaware that these decorative elements even exist in their structures until a historic paint and finishes investigation takes place and reveals the truth. At that moment, the owner, architect, and anyone else involved with the project must determine the best path forward. What portions of the artwork can and should be conserved? What can be restored? And what must be recreated from scratch?

At John Canning & Co., we have decades of experience and expertise preserving, restoring, and recreating original historical works, and can guide you in determining the best pathway forward for your structure.

Our decorative painting and finishing skills include:

  • Complex Stenciling
  • Trompe L'oeil
  • Gilding
  • Glazing
  • Simulated Stone (Marbleizing)
  • Wood Graining (Faux Bois)
  • Conservation of Existing Decorative Finishes

Our knowledge of traditional materials and how they interact is also a key element when conserving existing original decoration and replicating original work. When new period design must be created, we reference past masterpieces like the 1st-century decoration of Santa Maria Maggiore Basilica in Rome and the fine detail of 19th-century Herter Brothers to ensure that the new artwork matches the historic fabric of your building.

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Testimonials

“The firm’s knowledge of historic finishes, their attention to the minute detail of every feature, the consideration they give to all documentation of original features, from historic photographs to paint sampling, and their dedication to appropriate restoration are impressive.”

— ANDREA F. SCHOENFELD, VICE PRESIDENT, COSMOS CLUB HISTORIC PRESERVATION FOUNDATION, WASHINGTON DC

“Canning’s thorough knowledge of period decoration and methodology, as well as traditional materials, was a valuable contribution to the project team.”

— AMANDA EDWARDS, PA-AIC, LEED GREEN ASSOC., JOHN MILNER ASSOCIATES, INC. ARCHITECTS, ARCHEOLOGISTS, PLANNERS, ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA

“Finding remnants of original decorative patterns that had been whitewashed for 75 years. [John Canning Co.] restored them to their splendor and created a beautiful worship space for the present day community.”

— JOHN I. MEYER, AIA, MEYER & MEYER ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIORS OUR LADY HELP OF CHRISTIANS CHURCH, NEWTON, MASSACHUSETTS

decorative painting and finishes processOur Process

The process of preserving, restoring, and recreating decorative paint and finishes varies from project to project. That being said, certain steps (as outlined below) are fairly typical and expected of most projects.

At the beginning of each engagement, our first aim is to understand the history of the interior. This includes gathering as much information as possible about the original purpose of the building, the architect, and the style and period that the structure represents. It also involves understanding whether or not there are decorative elements elsewhere in the structure that can and should be referenced. It is not uncommon for the process to begin with a historic paint and finishes investigation.

Simultaneously, we seek to understand what the owner desires from the engagement. Understanding the budget and scope of the project alongside the owner’s intentions allows us to make the best possible recommendations in terms of what can and should be preserved, restored, or recreated.

Once we have all of the required information, the next step is to create a mockup of the work, which will allow the owner and other stakeholders to better visualize the completed artwork, and allows for a better understanding of how colors and design elements will interact with the existing setting.

After the mockup is complete and all parties are satisfied, final implementation can begin.


Cost Factors

The exact cost of a decorative painting and finishing project will naturally depend upon a number of factors. Some of these include:

  • Whether or not the process begins with a historic paint and finishes investigation
  • The size of the work
  • The complexity of the work
  • Required access and logistics (for example, whether the work requires scaffolding or if the building needs to incorporate public egress)
  • Whether preservation of any existing components is feasible
  • Special materials costs

For this reason, it is difficult for us to say what is a typical cost may be. The surest way to get an accurate picture of what the costs may entail would be to contact us directly.


Our Specialties

In addition to decorative painting and finishing, we specialize in a number of other complementary services, including:

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SELECTED PROJECTS

Our team of artists provided the Rhode Island State House conservation, cleaning, and restoration of the dome murals, painting, and architectural gilding.

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The Philadelphia Academy of Music restoration involved analysis of up to 16 layers of paint aggressive exposure methods to reveal faintly ghosted patterns.

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Our conservation team restored the interior decoration painting, architectural gilding, and plaster at Rackham Auditorium, University of Michigan.

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Our team of artists provided decorative painting replication services for both wood and plaster surfaces at a private residence in New Hampshire.

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We were privileged to serve as a specialty contractor for the Metropolitan Theatre to conducted research and hands-on investigation of the historic finishes.

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Our conservation artists refinished the historic woodwork throughout the house, plaster restoration, and reproduced wallpaper of the Mark Twain House.

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Specialty contractor John Canning Co. investigated and restored the original decorative treatments and motifs of the historic Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

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John Canning Co. recreated the original Louis Kahn mural design executed directly on cinder block at the Trenton, New Jersey bath house.

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Canning Co. served as the prime specialty contractor and conservator for Independence Hall, researching, defining, and restoring the courtroom and entrance hall’s original historic decoration

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The John Canning Co. restored the interior decoration at the University of Michigan Hill Auditorium using decorative painting techniques, transparent glazes, and gilding.

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Canning Co. formulated the cleaning agent and process for the thorough and harmless conservation cleaning and restoration of the Grand Central Terminal ceiling mural

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At Gasson Hall, Boston College, Canning Co. provided the historic finishes investigation and analysis needed to restore the interior to its original design scheme.

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This elegant Fifth Avenue Italianate residence became home to the French Consulate in 1942. Great care has been taken to preserve the historic decoration and ornamental plaster details.

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New design schemes and murals were created by Canning Co. for this opulent private home in Brookline, Massachusetts.

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Canning Co. combined preservation research, restoration, and conservation of the original Jesuit chapel sacred design with new decoration elements designed to adapt the space for secular events and student dining.

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John Canning Co. traveled to Hawaii to restore the phenomenally intricate, historic Islamic stencil decoration at Doris Duke’s Shangri La, Center for Islamic Arts and Cultures where protecting against the environmental stresses of oceanfront moisture, salt, and wind were factored into our solutions.

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Canning Co. applied traditional gold leaf and gilding on the Charles Bulfinch dome and Lady Justice statue atop Connecticut's Old State House.

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We carefully conserved and restored all aspects of the Luzerne County Courthouses historic fabric: marble, metal, plaster, paint, and mural artwork.

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Our team of artists collaborated with Governor and Mrs. Manchin to create new designs and scenic paintings for multiple rooms in the Governor's residence.

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Our team carefully restored the decorative paint of the patinated railings in public stairwells and ornately gilded surfaces in the Main Treasury Building.

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Our team coordinated all work and trades, responsible for the restoration of all designs for the Art Deco movie theatre built by Warner Brothers.

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Our artisans were entrusted with the restoration and conservation of historic decorative painting and gilding originally designed by Thomas Jefferson.

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Our team of artisans provided the decorative finishes on the coffered ceiling at the Union League of Philadelphia based on a historical sketch by Trumbauer.

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Our team conducted archival research, hands-on investigation, and interpretation to inform the restoration of plaster, wood, and decorative finishes.

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Our team's historic paint analysis and interpretation defined the original colors and finishes of the State Theatre in Bay City, Michigan,

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We carefully conserved and restored all aspects of the Luzerne County Courthouses historic fabric: marble, metal, plaster, paint, and mural artwork.

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Our skilled artisans provided ornamental plastering for the ceilings and walls at a private Boston residence by creating plaster molds and castings.

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We carefully conserved and restored all aspects of the Luzerne County Courthouses historic fabric: marble, metal, plaster, paint, and mural artwork.

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