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Magazine    July 2002

Paint Wizardry

Faux tortoiseshell and ivory cabinets and walls in a powder room

Simulated trellises in a San Francisco loggia

Simulated rosewood paneled walls

San Francisco decorative painter Willem Racké is sought after from as far away as France and New York for his expertise in murals, wood graining, trompe l’oeil and gold leafing. But if you ask him, the basis of any good paint job is mixing the paint. “I have good color sense,” he says. “I can match any color.”

And therein lies the reason why interior designers such as Jacques Garcia in Paris and Suzanne Tucker in the Bay Area call Racké for jobs ranging from simple glazing to the more complex techniques.

Among the many complex jobs he has executed for Tucker is painting a powder room (widely published because of its incredible detail) in a private San Francisco residence with a faux tortoiseshell and ivory inlay pattern (top). For Garcia, who was hired from France to redecorate the former residence of Danny Thomas, Racké was asked to create a simulated limestone entry, paint murals and do a lot of faux wood graining and gold leaf on the walls.

He’s also a master at trompe l’oeil: In a private San Francisco residence he painted simulated trellises, with climbing roses and birds, in the vaulted ceilings of a loggia (above left) inspired by an 18th-century Italian ceiling.

Some of his more simple commissions have been faux wood graining (left) and stenciling though in the case of the bathroom shown below, Racké designed the pattern and hand-cut the stencils.

The decorative painter says lately he and his staff of illustrators, colorists and finishers have been called upon to render antiqued silver-leaf on walls (bottom right) and in one room he simulated an aluminum leaf finish.

He also recently replicated a Persian rug design on the walls of an Italianate Victorian house in Virginia, and he and his studio associates spent weeks in the dressing room of a house in San Francisco’s prestigious Marin County painting a simulated wood grain pattern and adding intricate faux ivory detailing on the drawer and shelf fronts in the client’s dressing room to give the space an exotic, Eastern look.

Glazing, too, is a popular request. When working color onto a wall, Racké uses the grisaille technique, adding layer upon layer of plaster with marble and lime dust mixed in it, which he then hand polishes for a smooth and shiny finish. “It gives a richness, a depth and a luster to the walls that one can’t achieve with paint,” says the self-taught Racké, who started with Jeffrey Johnson in New York two decades ago and has lived and worked in San Francisco since 1989.

Custom hand-cut stenciling Silver leafing on the walls

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Willem Racké
190 Potrero Avenue
San Francisco, California 94103
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