Friday, August 26, 2011


I am often asked how we come up with ideas for new products – “Does it come to you in the shower?”  In my experience, the ideas that come to me in the shower don’t pan out.  It’s the ones that come from the field, from our customers, that go the distance.  Our newest lime plaster, Rustico, is a perfect example.

Rustico is a straw plaster based on the same seasoned slaked lime that makes Antiqua and Epoca 800 so popular among applicators.  Applied in one thick coat, Rustico is crushed with a grinder after setting up to expose the straw fibers and rustic aggregate.  The look is rustic, as the name suggests, like a farm house that utilized local materials to keep the elements out.

So how did it happen?  Our customers were coming to us asking about straw plasters.  Their questions -- “Can you match this Japanese straw plaster?” and “Make me something like this” came up enough times that we took a closer look at it.  Straw plasters on the market were acrylic-based with artificial looks except for the straw.  This struck me as a sad state of affairs – that our industry was promoting straw plasters as green, when they were based on petroleum products.
This set us in motion.  For our first attempt, we tried hay from our salesman Larry Sunseri’s barn and put it in Antiqua lime plaster.  The hay absorbed the moisture from the plaster and darkened in an unpredictable way.  And the hay rolled under the trowel.  I obtained 5 other types of hay and straw from Bellflower Feed Store, and none of them worked either.

Our second attempt added a coarse marble aggregate to allow for a thicker one-coat application.  We realized we needed to grind the outer surface to expose all the natural goodness underneath, and this got us closer to the rustic farmhouse look we were shooting for.  But the straw was still darkening uncontrollably.

We heard at a trade show that rice straw behaves differently from other straws, but that it may need to be boiled to remove the oils before putting it in a plaster.  So we went searching for rice straw.  As luck would have it, plenty of rice is grown north of Sacramento, and an air-quality ordinance was just passed forcing farmers to resell the rice straw that is a waste product of farming operations, rather than the customary method of burning it.  So we waited a few months until harvest and obtained 2 bales from a helpful farmer named Ron in Willows, CA. 

That made all the difference and the Rustico formula was finished.  Glen Moore at Builders Plastering worked with us to refine the formulation and got the first job done with it (Thanks Glen!)  The rice straw didn’t darken like the alfalfa Larry feeds his horses.  And the coarse aggregate and seasoned slaked lime provided a rustic look with natural materials.  We’ve already done a restaurant (Ozumo at Santa Monica Place) and a yurt in Santa Fe with it.  That’s how a Vero product is born.

Ozumo Restaurant at Santa Monica Place

Sante Fe Yurt

Friday, April 22, 2011

Plaster as Art: New Uses for Old Products

These are my walls.  This is who I am.”

At Vero, we are in the business of making old products, used since antiquity, serve new purposes.  Just as these plasters add beauty to European landmarks, they can add beauty to a new custom home overlooking the Pacific Ocean or a sushi restaurant in Hollywood.  Increasingly, creative artisans are finding their most creative expressions on their interior jobs.

Interiors have to serve two purposes – they have to be the comfortable living spaces that people relax in and recharge their batteries.  And they have to provide that glimpse of the inner personality of the owner that tells friends and family, “These are my walls.  This is who I am.”  So it is no wonder that the most creative applications we have ever seen are happening on interiors.  Some of these creations are best described as works of art.  Others are textural wall treatments like nothing we’ve ever seen before.  And some artisans are using the unique capabilities of Vero products to restore old and discolored walls.

Works of Art

One of our first customers was Terri Riesenmann, of Faux You Designs of Riverside, CA (  She has taught us more over the years about creative applications for our plaster than anyone.  She did this stenciled lime plaster (Antiqua) treatment on a job when we were probably still selling out of our first container from Italy.  It made us see the plaster as part of the art on a wall.

                                          Palm Springs, CA

And as featured on the Vero website over the past few months, Hugo Rivera ( has literally taken up residence in the Vero studio, while he develops his feel for using authentic plasters for his art pieces.  Hugo counts himself a “post-modern frescoist”, and has chosen to use plasters over oils and acrylics because they feel and smell more natural, and can achieve more complex and rich textural effects.  Pictured below are a few examples of his work, currently on display at Townley Gallery in Laguna Beach, CA (

Longtime customer Chris Miller ( has recently completed this masterpiece on the walls of a home.  Making use of Antiqua lime plaster, he was able to interplay texture and color to create perspective and depth in this canopied roadway scene.

Textural Treatments

When Solution was first introduced, we envisioned it as a weather-resistant plaster that could take the look of Evolution (interior only) to the outside of a building.  What happened after we showed it to our customers was an explosion of interest, some of it for exteriors, but most of it for its high-gloss and ease of use.  As the product’s popularity almost ran us out of product several times in the first year, most customers were troweling it smooth.

Then came Dodger Stadium.  Ted Xentaras of Luxe Plaster (, added texture to their wall finish using Solution.  Paired with our silver metallic topcoat, Stucco Argento, the resulting finish is a stunning pewter-like treatment with a texture reminiscent of bamboo that you can see on the field-level VIP bars at Dodger Stadium.

To another extreme, Luxe was given a very peculiar request. An electrical contractor wanted a wall of his office emblazoned with his favorite formula. Luxe, once again, delivered an impressive wall with a mathematical equation out of Evolution using custom stencils.

Our very own in-house artisan, Lisa Milligan, worked on art panels for the reception area of the Mercedes Dealership showroom in Laguna Niguel, CA giving the entrance a sophistication and class just like their luxurious automobiles. Vero’s Antiqua and Epoca Spatolato lime finishes have been chosen as the specified materials to be used in all Mercedes Dealership’s across America.

Picking up the torch from where those guys left off, John Moss ( was asked to deliver a wall finish that jived well with the target market of the Affliction stores.  He came up with a rock-n-roll, multi-dimensional look that the customer immediately embraced as exactly what he was looking for.

Soon after, Glen Moore of Builders Plastering asked us for a plaster for a Japanese restaurant that incorporated straw for a rustic look.  We had seen several Japanese straw plasters in the market that were based on acrylic formulations and had no depth of color.  So we made a lime plaster with added marble texture and rice straw from the Sacramento area, and produced our newest product, Rustico, that adds the warmth and depth of lime to the rustic straw to produce a farmhouse finish that we’ve fallen in love with.  We since used it as the exterior finish on a yurt in Santa Fe, NM.

We had finally entered the world of restaurant design, and we love the creative challenge of designing appetizing and fun yet serviceable wall designs.  So when the Cheesecake Factory requested samples for its new store in Houston, we borrowed ideas from some of the artisans featured above and presented them with these finishes.  Alfredo and Jose of Earthtone Painting were instrumental in creating these unique plaster effects.  If you see a Cheesecake Factory going up near you, stop by and see these finishes for yourself.

Another local artisan, Cary Ezell of Walls n Effects (, layered different colored Antiqua to create this unusual finish reminiscent of tobacco leaves and leather.


Chinnaya Nwosu of Taocon ( had a challenging assignment.  He had to repair the discoloration on a cement ceiling treatment in a Manhattan loft with critical light streaming in through huge windows with views of the Hudson River.  He used our lime paint, Epoca 800, that has proven a versatile fix-it tool for these type of applications and a beautiful finish in its own right.  He diluted it to a milky consistency and sprayed it directly onto the cementitious plaster.  He was able to cover up the discoloration from years of water leaks and stop the gradual degradation of the original coating.  And Vero matched the gray color so the owner will wonder if time was moved backward when he sees those stains gone.

Inspiration for Us All

While we can’t move time backward, we can help customers achieve the creative vision in their heads using our very versatile product line and its unbeatable aesthetics and performance.  When you draw on our 10-year history of Venetian plaster creations, you benefit from all the artisans who came before you, who have created their unique expressions of their customers’ personalities.  All so that your client can show a little glimpse of himself or herself in their walls that says “These are my walls.  How do you like me now?”

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Ideas

Through the years as Vero grew and supplied many prestigious resorts and homes, I started to dream again. I had no idea what type of wall finish I was looking for until I saw an amazing product at a trade show in Portland, Oregon. It is called US CottonWall. It's certainly not a sexy or romantic name like Vero, Italian wall finishes, but the products blew me away. I knew immediately I had to learn all about it and become a distributor.
Eco-friendly, all natural - what could be more renewable than cotton? It is an interior, seamless wall finish that comes in just about any color you could dream up. Think of a media room, library, conference room, dining room, or just about any interior space where quiet is desired! You know there really are not many attractive or glamorous finishes for media rooms that have acoustical properties. This product absorbs sounds creating a warm, quiet, cozy interior space. It is also appropriate for bathrooms, powder rooms, spas, and just about any room in your home or office. Photos do not do it justice. It must be seen in person to touch and feel. You can add effect materials to "bling" up the room or keep it soft and sophisticated.

We are currently doing our bathroom in our gold Silk Bama cotton product with some mica flakes and metallic threads. When it's completed it will look like you are opening the door to a beautiful jewelry box. I have yet to decide what accent colors I am going to use in the bathroom. I am thinking of accessorizing with a few jewel tones, but the truth is I could choose almost any color and it would look delish.
Even if you are an expert plasterer or painter, training is necessary.  It’s not plaster, paint, or wallpaper - it is cotton.
We frequently have classes taught by our in-house expert, Lisa Milligan.
Just give us a call and we will be happy to answer any of your questions, 714.637.7341.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dreams Do Come True

My Dad founded Merlex Stucco in 1963 and unexpectedly died in the early 90’s from ALS. At that time, I decided to purchase the family business. It took many years for me to understand the stucco industry, but I was smart enough to surround myself with very intelligent people in our industry.
As the years passed I started dreaming about new products. It was 12 years ago I decided to visit Italy and explore importing Italian wall finishes. Not faux finishes (paint) but the real deal. These finishes are similar to what Michelangelo used centuries ago. I started my adventure traveling through Italy and visiting manufacturers of Italian lime plasters. I did not connect with any of the companies I visited until the day I got off the train in Trieste. I met Massimo Locascio, the Export Manager from Rialto.

The next day I fell in love with true Italian lime plasters. That was it for me. I wanted to learn everything about these beautiful plasters. Envision the majestic limestone cliffs in Carrara, Italy where spectacular slabs of marble are cut for use in the finest homes throughout the world. I visited a beautiful country estate belonging to an Italian family that has slaked lime for generation’s right on the property. The limestones are delivered to an old brick kiln on the estate. You can read more about the slaking process on our on our website. I will tell you it is slaked for two years on the estate before transporting to the factory in Trieste.

Can you imagine Americans waiting two years to make lime plasters? The only thing we will wait two years for is a bottle of wine!
If the owner of the estate likes you, he will invite you into his cellar bar to share a toast with his favorite rare vino. 

 Antiqua I lime Finish                                               Shady Canyon, CA

Antiqua I lime finish   The Resort at Pelican Hill, Newport Coast, CA

NLP over Antiqua lime finish                        Scottsdale, AZ

Antiqua I lime finish               Crystal Cove, CA

Solution Finish                                   Shady Canyon, CA

Now I have shared with you my passion for Italian plasters. In June of 2011 we will celebrate the tenth anniversary of Vero. Vero means "truth" in Italian. I chose that name because the truth is in the plaster - it's the real thing!