We explore why the ancient art of limewash paint remains a favourite among architects and interior designers today.
Traced back to Roman times, limewashing was one of the first forms of paint. Characterising historic Mediterranean buildings and churches, and commonly used in heritage restoration, limewash paint is also known to create warmth and depth in a contemporary home.
Perth-based limewash paint company Bauwerk Colour specialise in natural, non-toxic limewash paint inspired by nature. For the past two decades, Bauwerk creative director Bronwyn Riedel has built a range of more than 300 natural limewash colours, collaborating with globally-recognised designers on new collections such as London-based studio House of Grey.
We’ve enlisted Bronwyn’s expertise to take us through how limewash paint is made, achieving an organic finish and what makes it both a healthy and enduring paint alternative for the future.
Produced in partnership with Bauwerk Colour
Limewash Paint’s Natural Composition
Limewash paint is a natural alternative to acrylic paints, absorbed into the wall rather than sitting on top of a substrate. This creates a soft, textural effect on the surface that resembles patinated stone or plaster.
The organic appearance of limewash paint can be attributed to how it’s made and applied. “Limewash is made by utilising the elemental cycle of earth, fire, water and air,” Bronwyn says. The lime in limewash paint refers to the fired limestone, and the wash refers to the cooled limestone added to water, liquifying the stone into a lime putty. The putty is the basis of the paint that is mixed, purified and stored for a period of time to achieve the right consistency. Finally, the pigments are added, creating a variety of colours.
“Bauwerk paint is a reaction of natural materials,” Bronwyn maintains. “We don’t add chemicals for colour, to make the paint stick to the wall or to make the paint stay mixed. We believe in nature offering us everything we need to decorate our homes.”
Application and Appearance
Limewash paint can be applied internally and externally to most walls, responding best to render, cement and bricks. While Bauwerk Colour limewash paint isn’t recommended for timber doors, trims or kitchen cabinetry, it can be used on plywood and pine wood panelling.
Limewash paint is also suitable for a high-humidity environment such as the bathroom because it isn’t prone to blistering, peeling or chipping and is naturally antibacterial and mould-resistant. It can be used on all wall and ceiling areas except the inside of a shower or immediately beside a bath.
According to Bronwyn, applying limewash paint is simple; hand-brushed using a ‘cloud’ or ‘drag-down’ technique. This allows no two spaces to look the same. “Limewash is such an easy paint to apply and use – it has the consistency of milk.” Texture is achieved with a layering effect, that shows variations from the person painting, which adds to the organic finish. “As a finish that reflects the painter’s own hand, I think this offers a great creative outlet for anyone to express themselves in their own home or project,” Bronwyn adds.
Health and Sustainability
It’s no secret limewash paint is a non-toxic, environmentally-conscious alternative to other interior paints. “Our limewash paint has zero V.O.C (Volatile Organic Compounds) and is made from natural renewable resources, free from biocides, formaldehyde, and preservatives,” Bronwyn says. “The pigments used in Bauwerk Colour limewash paints are mineral-based, colourfast and UV stable. Limewash paint is also non-film forming, leaving breathable skin over the substrate – letting the building breathe naturally.
The making of limewash paint is a carbon-neutral process. The carbon created in burning the limestone and adding it to water is offset once applied to the wall – when the limewash is exposed to air and returns to ‘limestone’. “The environmental footprint from manufacturing our limewash is a few buckets of sand,” Bronwyn says.
Wear and Longevity
Limewash paint’s organic appearance and natural makeup ensure it’s both long-lasting and easy to maintain. Bauwerk developed their Prep Coat as a ‘bridge coat’ to make their limewash paint more durable and easier to apply.
Limewash paint develops a natural patina over time, further accentuating its depth and character. A limewash surface can be repainted at any time without sanding or priming – or toxic fumes. “Every coat just enhances what’s there,” Bronwyn says. “All of our limewash whites are also fully patchable and are the easiest to apply.”