Kitchen remodels are among the most common home improvement projects. Painting the cabinets in a high-gloss lacquer finish isn’t. Avery Sefcik, a Richmond-based interior designer, just finished doing it in his own kitchen, and he’s the first to admit it’s a challenge.
“It’s tricky,” he said.
The process is slow, for starters. Sefcik started the extensive kitchen remodel in the Fan District home he owns with his partner, Andrew Finnan, in November, and a painting crew was still putting the finishing touches on the lacquered-red cabinets in the butler’s pantry in early June.
Plus, it’s an acquired skill.
“You have to have a light touch and not press the brush too hard against the surface,” Sefcik said. “The paint has to almost melt off the brush.”
Then there’s the weather.
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“Humidity can make the paint dry slower, and it can also give the finish a texture that looks like an alligator’s scales,” Sefcik said. “If that happens, you have to sand it smooth and paint it again.”
That happened when Sefcik’s crew painted the walls and ceiling of his dining room in a striking peacock-blue lacquer finish a few summers ago. A three-week project ended up taking three months.
Even when the process goes well, historic houses like Sefcik and Finnan’s – theirs was built in 1908 – require extensive prep work to assure the plaster wall or ceiling is as flat as possible to get that mirror-like sheen.
The extra trouble is worth it, though.
“It’s a beautiful finish,” Sefcik said. “We love to entertain, and when we turn on the chandelier in the dining room, the walls and ceiling shimmer like a swimming pool.”
Sefcik and Finnan bought the house in 2014, the same year Sefcik launched Avery Frank Designs, a full-service interior design firm. Since then, he has treated the house as an experiment, of sorts, sometimes pursuing ideas that his clients might consider too challenging on a practical or aesthetic level.
“If I’m going to make a mistake, I want it to be here and not in a client’s home,” he said, with a laugh.
The house is also a showroom: If your designer can do it and make it look that good, why shouldn’t you follow his lead?
A client decided to hang custom Gracie wallpaper in his dining room after seeing photos of it in Sefcik’s second parlor, for example. And several clients have incorporated lacquer-painted walls into their designs after seeing it in Sefcik’s home.
Sefcik doesn’t limit his experimenting to wall treatments. He’s furnished the house with an eclectic mix of vintage and custom-made pieces, with a strong focus on European designers and artists. The Art Deco style is well-represented, too, in a variety of light fixtures.
Some of the pieces – like the piano in the front parlor, a gift from Sefcik’s mother – are permanent fixtures. Others rotate, as Sefcik discovers new pieces. It’s an ongoing process, and Sefcik said he isn’t especially interested in seeing the house “finished.”
“I constantly enjoy trying new colors, fabrics and furniture, so it will always be adjusting,”Sefcik said. “However, after the kitchen and then the master bath, most things will be fairly minor tweaks here and there.”
Throughout the renovations, tweaks and adjustments, Sefcik has focused on rich colors and sophisticated, high-quality finishes and furnishings. And it’s something he encourages with his clients, too.
“I’m not afraid of a rich or dark color,” he said. “I tell clients, ‘When you travel or see a gorgeous hotel online, why wouldn’t you want your home to look that way? Why make it blend in with everyone else’s when you can make it rich and unique?’”
Editor’s note: This is the inaugural installment in an occasional series, “Interior Designers at Home.”