A brief review of 2014

2014 was a very busy year, with many interesting and diverse projects. Here’s a quick review:

Heritage Cottage, Glamorgan

Heritage Cottage, Cymdare, Powys

Heritage Cottage, Cymdare, Glamorgan

‘Heritage Cottage’, Cwmdare, is a typical 19th century miner’s cottage of the south Wales valleys. The cottage, which was built c.1854, was purchased by Cadw in 2012, and is a rare surviving example of an unmodernised terraced house. The cottage is to be used to identify cost-effective, energy-efficient measures that can be undertaken to promote sustainability and retain essential character of traditional buildings.

KMPR undertook architectural paint research, recording and paint consultancy to the interiors and exterior of Heritage Cottage. Architectural paint research focused not only on the physical decorative history of the cottage, but also contributed to the understanding of the social history of the 19th century miner’s home. Reporting included recommendations for conservation and restoration, as well as a review of environmental credentials of paint systems and implications for use in traditional buildings. Find out more about this complex project here http://cadw.wales.gov.uk/about/partnershipsandprojects/projectsfundedcadw/Heritage-Cottage/?lang=en

Audley End House, Essex

Exterior view of Audley End House, Essex

Exterior view of Audley End House, Essex

We have been on site throughout the year at this magnificent Jacobean Mansion. Our work for English Heritage has included analysis of coatings applied to external masonry in order to information conservation treatments, and pigment analysis and colour matching for decorative wallpapers from the interiors.

The Malt Cross, Nottingham

The Malt Cross, Nottingham

The Malt Cross, Nottingham: Elevation showing the extent of Victorian marbling with the music hall

The Malt Cross, Nottingham, is one of the few surviving music halls in the UK. The gluelam roof of the Malt Cross makes this a unique building among music halls.

A detailed programme of research revealed that the interiors of the music hall were originally painted to resemble marble. This technique, which requires the finish to be built up over a series of washes and glazes, was applied extensively throughout the building. We worked with the client to devise an appropriate scheme of redecoration, inspired by the paint research findings, for this working live music venue and community hub. Find out more about this amazing building here  http://heritage.maltcross.com/timeline

Tamworth Assembly Rooms

Tamworth Assembly Room: Elevation of scheme 1

Tamworth Assembly Room: Elevation of scheme 1.
Elevation drawing supplied by Rodney Melville Architects, based on survey drawings prepared by Greenhatch Group. Colour applied by Karen Morrissey Paint Research

Tamworth Assembly Room was built by public subscription in the 19th century, and remains a key venue within the town of Tamworth today.

KMPR undertook architectural paint research to Assembly Rooms to inform a restoration/ redecoration strategy. Research included:

  • Archive research
  • Cross section analysis of samples to provide a detailed insight into the decorative history of the site
  • In situ layering tests to reveal 19th century decoration
  • Photographic and diagrammatic (to scale) Recording of historic decoration

The website is finally here!

wallpaper 1Welcome to the shiny, new website for Karen Morrissey Paint Research. It’s been a long time coming; over two-and-a-half years in the making!

I have been busy working on many wonderful projects since becoming an independent consultant in 2012. I will be posting more information about some of the interesting, beautiful and quirky places as time goes on.

I hope that you will find the information about our services useful; if you have a question about paint research, I’d love to hear from you.

What is Historic Paint Research?

Detailed assessment and recording of accumulated layers of paint allows us to interpret changing use of colour and materials, enhancing our understanding of how our architectural heritage looked, how it was used and how shifting fashions, ownership and financial means contributed to the narrative of a site. Our choice in decoration, like those of our ancestors, tells a great deal about function, taste, personality, fashion, social standing and wealth.

Architectural paint research involves meticulous analysis of archival documentation, building pathology and paint archaeology to create a detailed history of more than just colour.

The scope of a research project is dictated by the project requirements, but generally includes:

Archive research

Archive information can provide significant insight to the paint researcher and should not be overlooked; understanding the development of the site can reduce the time required in understanding the paint archaeology, and allows a more thorough and detailed interpretation of the decorative history.

Identification of sample sites

Samples are generally taken from each profile element of the architecture. The reason for this is to establish the presence of any picking out to various elements. If the schemes are to be accurately investigated, understood, recorded and recreated then this is essential.

Collection of samples

It requires experience and skill to identify the best locations for samples. The samples are collected and recorded.

Cross section analysis

Samples are embedded in clear casting resin and polished to provide a cross-section through the  paint strata. The samples are assessed under visible-range and UV light illumination.

Stratigraphic sequencing

The paint archaeology is plotted in a matrix to illustrate the chronology of decoration. The resulting table provides an easily accessible reference and is a useful project tool.

Pigment and binder analysis

Knowledge of pigment types can play an important role in dating paint schemes. For example, the presence of white pigments lead carbonate, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide allow paint films to be considered within certain periods of time.

Understanding the type of paint binder is also important, especially where failure or incompatibility issues may arise.

In-situ investigation and recording of paint archaeology

In situ recording and investigation, referred to as uncovering or layering tests, will involve the photographic recording of extant finishes, as well as careful removal of overpaint, scheme by scheme, to allow colour matching to be undertaken.

Review of treatment options

The concluding documentation should consider the significance of the paint schemes and appropriate treatment options.

Colour matching

Historic paint films are often discoloured through deterioration of the pigments and binder, as well as through environmental factors and historic cleaning regimes. Therefore, colour matching is based not only on site evidence but also on the understanding of the materials gained during the investigation.

What are the benefits of paint research for your project?

Benefits of undertaking a considered and well planned campaign of architectural paint research include:

Project management

  • By providing clarity at the beginning of a project, architectural paint research can allow planning and budgeting of conservation and restoration work
  • Identification of technical issues with paint, such as latent incompatibility, performance and toxicity
  • Contribution to long-term conservation management plan
  • Underpinning options for conservation/ restoration

Enriching the interpretation of your site

  • Enhancement of the recorded archaeology of a site
  • Establishment of the chronology of decorative schemes
  • Creation of a narrative of changes to the structure and related decorative schemes
  • Evaluation of how changing fashion, economy and use of a heritage asset has impacted on the choice, quality and condition of decoration
  • Interpretation of the significance of the schemes identified
  • Dating of both paint schemes and architectural changes