A neutral toned moodboard showing textured papers, dried flowers, marble and powdered lime.

[Advertisement – this guide on how to use limewash paint was made in partnership with Bauwerk Colour who supplied the product for this post].

It’s been a while since I’ve had new work on the house to show you, hasn’t it? I know, progress has been frustratingly slow since we stripped the hallway in January. January! But, me being me and not wanting to sit idle over summer, I decided to give my workspace an update.

Powdered lime styled as part of a moodboard to show how to use limewash paint.

This room was originally the scullery when the house was built in 1904. Sandwiched between the kitchen and sunroom at the back of the house, it can feel a bit like a tunnel. Although it gets fabulous light from the South-West facing garden, when there’s no sun, it’s pretty miserable, not to mention bloody cold. The walls are extremely rough and, to embrace that old plaster texture, I wanted to use a natural paint that would accentuate it. After my trip to Copenhagen in May piqued my fascination with textured lime wash walls (it was everywhere), I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to road test it!

Enter Bauwerk Colour, an Australian brand who began creating modern lime paint for interiors and exteriors almost twenty years ago. With a vast selection of colours inspired by nature, many produced in collaboration with world-renowned interior stylists, it was a complete no-brainer for me. Curious? Let’s dive in a little deeper, shall we?

A brief history of limewash paint.

Historically, limewash has been around for centuries. As one of the very first around, it’s a natural, environmentally safe paint. The paint is made when crushed limestone is burnt and ‘slaked’ (combined) with water to form a putty. This putty is aged, diluted with water and mineral pigment for colour and voila, we have limewash. A breathable paint which allows moisture to escape, it cures by taking carbon dioxide from the air as it dries. During this process, it forms calcium carbonate crystals as it hardens which gives it a unique luminosity when the light hits.

A Mykonos colour swatch from the Bauwerk Colour limewash paint collection, styled within a moodboard.
The colour of choice – ‘Mykonos’ gives a warm feel in winter and a holiday feel in summer.

What’s the appeal of lime paint?

At the time our house was built, and indeed even earlier, natural paint solutions were being pushed out for newer, chemically-based paints. Think lead, turps and formaldehyde that strengthed the durability and finish of the paint. Today, awareness and attitudes towards the harmful effects such chemicals can have on the environment encourage us to look for natural alternatives when decorating our homes.

A demonstration of how to use limewash paint in a corner of my home workspace.
Painting round the pipes was tricky business but the paint stuck well thanks to the undercoat.

Without a doubt, the biggest argument in favour of this paint is its low impact on the environment. As it contains zero VOCs (volatile organic compounds that release vapours and gases over time) you can use it with a clear conscience. It’s water-based and there are no strong odours to contend with. Though there definitely is a smell of some description, it disappears eventually.

If you love the look of unpainted plaster walls like these from our bedroom renovations, you’ll love how easy it is to recreate that look without calling out the plasterer. It’s ideal for older houses, particularly those which still bear the original horsehair plaster walls and need a little extra care. That expressive, almost cloudy texture can lend depth and character to newer properties too. I absolutely love the way it picks up the nuances of light throughout the day and the bolder you are with the brush strokes, the better!

Bauwerk Colour's Mykonos lime paint stirred and ready to paint from a bucket.
My choice of ‘Mykonos’ from the Holiday collection, in the bucket and ready to go.

It looks great, but are there any downsides to it?

You’d be hard pushed to find any cons to using limewash, however, it’s worth considering that it’s not a wipable paint. If your walls pick up any wear and tear over time, you’ll need to apply another coat.

There’s an element of risk with limewash paint, so if you’re not prepared to go with the flow, it might not be for you. By nature the finished look will depend on the surface you’re painting onto and how well its been prepared beforehand, as well as how you apply it. You might also discover that you need to apply more than the recommended number of coats to get the required effect.

A limewash before and after comparison of my workspace walls during decoration.
Limewash before and after I started the first coat on the back wall.

How to master the limewash paint technique

Before you order, check you’re using the right product for the type of wall you’re painting onto. I recommend using the appropriate brushes too. Don’t use a roller! I used the ‘block short’ for smoother areas and the ‘medium short’ for brick and render.

First ensure that the surface you’re painting is clean, dust-free and has a good, solid coat of undercoat or paint underneath. Bauwerk recommends an acrylic undercoat. Sometimes the lime paint can show up the differences of the structure in your wall – areas where the plaster has been patched with filler for example, so the undercoat will provide a solid base and avoiding ghosting.

Neutral, earthy tones styled using paint swatches, linen board and textured paper in a moodboard.

Unlike standard emulsion paint, limewash has the consistency of milk. The intensity of the colour is built up over several thin coats which are absorbed into the wall rather than sitting on top of it.

Some products come as a dry powder and require mixing with water but Bauwerk lime paint comes pre-mixed in recyclable pots from 250ml up to 10L. First, stir or whisk the pot up to mix any sediment and decant all of the paint into a bucket.

Working the limewash across the wall in a criss-cross action with a short, natural bristled paint brush.
Applying the second coat of limewash to the walls with criss-cross brush strokes

Dip the brush into the paint and flick off the excess to avoid drips. Starting in one corner and work your way into the centre of the wall using a criss-cross movement. You can be quite expressive with this. Keeping a wet edge as you go to avoid colour overlays, continue applying a thin coat to the walls. Repeat the process from each corner until you meet in the middle and then move on to the next wall.

Be prepared to work fast! I found that the limewash started drying pretty quickly, so it kept me on my toes to maintain a wet edge.

To build on that cloudy look, start subsequent coats in a different corner or in the centre and work your way outwards. Bauwerk has some brilliant ‘how to’ videos which demonstrate the technique a darn sight better than I can describe them!

Translucent dried honesty or Lunaria, styled on a glazed white tile in a neutral moodboard.

So what’s the verdict?

Let’s just say, I think it’s love. Mykonos was 100% the right choice. The room is still empty but I often find myself standing in the doorway, watching the walls catch the light.

I’ll be the first to admit I was a little nervous before painting started. This was new territory for me and I don’t like not knowing what to expect at the best of times. I think the best approach is to trust the process. I used this as a mantra until the second coat had dried and I could see the room taking shape. I took around ten days to apply three coats, allowing a few days in between for each to dry. Would I use it again? Absolutely yes.

If you found my tips on how to use limewash paint useful, check out my ‘Decorate With Lime Paint’ Pinterest board for inspiration.

Photography and styling © Tiffany Grant-Riley

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