Reading Patina

As painters and embellishers, we are obsessed with making all things looking old and worn. Trying to figure out  how to get that look with our tools in our paint box. We love looking at pictures like the one below and saying “ Sigh… I want that look” or “Get the look by mixing or layering this color or that.

But…Have you ever looked at a door and wondered how did it get that way? Let’s take this one picture and makeup, a believable story, about how the door got to look like this.

Today the door is a lovely interior decoration for a dining room. You can bet this door did not get all those lovely colors and age sitting indoors with that gorgeous chandelier.

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Born of hand hewn hardwood this door was built by master craftsmen.  Initially, this door was most likely stained and or varnished showing off the lovely wood. Being hand made, there would be  differences in the grain between the styles and the panels.  Lots of sanding occurred but by hand and never enough to make the entire surface exactly the same. It is these differences (not imperfections) that allow the patina process to begin.

Doors are exposed to all weather elements. Water pools at the bottom and drips off of the building above, the sun destroys the varnish and then the weather works it’s magic on those bare parts of the door.

The door and the inside panels contract and expand causing the paint on the edges to crack and peel. Water gets under the paint then freezes and thaws causing cracks, then the paint starts to chip and peel. Then the wood gets wet and starts to split.

Finally, a person paints the door. Most likely the next coat was the grey green shade. This coat of paint  by now is all over different surfaces, old stain, raw wood, old scraped varnish. So it adheres differently.

As soon as the painting is done the weathering begins again, with a twist. Rain and snow and sun not only crack and peel but the paint starts to fade. Based on how much weather and what the subsurface is the paint fades differently over time.

Finally, a new coat of paint is applied, my guess is the white. Yet,over time the chemistry of the paint changes and it may or may not stick as well. I think the white on this might be relatively new: a failed coat of latex. When this door was moved inside to become decoration she had that white coat scraped off completely showing the grey green underneath.

Am I correct in this story? Maybe… but if  not 100% accurate the process is still the same.


The trick question is…how many colors do you see in this door? Even though many of them are related (probably the second grey green coat that has faded) to imitate it you need more than three colors.

For more about patina we have a special treat on the blog. Over the next few weeks my friend Stacey of Faux Studio Designs will be sharing her trip to Florence where she is studing patina. For now…ponder how to imitate this door.

Quick and Easy

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