Using ombré clay plaster for a soft, retro look

The ombré effect seems to be everywhere right now – from hair, to nails and even baking! Used on walls, this gentle graduation of colour (ombré literally means “shaded” in French) can create a unique, subtle retro look.

The California Nails salon in Sydney’s Barangaroo is a gorgeous example of how ombré effect walls can be used to create a feminine elegance that is gentle, yet visually appealing.

Handcrafted with RockCote Clay Plaster Décor, three colours were carefully blended to achieve a gentle colour graduation.

The plaster extends above routed MDF over the datum line and onto the ceiling which features radiuses that enhance the retro vibe.

The ombré walls are a key feature of the salon designed by lauded interior design firm TomMarkHenry. A vintage Venice Beach theme is achieved with a soft colour palette, flowing curves, terracotta tiles and round wall sconces.

Achieving an ombré look with plaster

The brief from the client was for gradual and discreet colours with no distinct lines. I worked with colour specialists to get the tones right, creating individual and graduated samples for the client to view prior to application.

Correct installation of the substrate is critical to achieving the optimum finish with any plaster products so effective communication with the builder to get the substrate right before starting on the plaster was important.

The job took five days to complete. Particular care was taken during application to ensure the three colours were not inadvertently mixed.

As the product is “alive”, the clay will start to set if I don’t move fast enough so the challenge was to achieve a perfect colour graduation swiftly, blending as I went.

“Chris worked tirelessly at Barangaroo to ensure this matched our requirements. The quality of his workmanship and the pride he takes should be applauded,”said the project manager.

Lights were carefully placed to showcase the walls, with overhead lighting and wall sconces highlighting the fine, natural texture that radiates a gentle warmth across the room.

The benefits of clay plaster

Nail salons are typically quite formal and austere in design, more like a medical clinic than a day spa. Given the Barangaroo location, the California Nails team wanted a luxurious and experiential ambience that would appeal to their urban clientele.

In an environment where toxins are used every day, the clay plaster was chosen for its ability to balance the chemicals used in manicure treatments, creating a healthier experience for staff and clients.

Clay is not only a versatile and natural, it is also easy to maintain.

Project accolades

The California Nails project has been applauded by designers across the country as well as featured in several magazines and design blogs.

Vogue called the salon “so chic you’ll wish it was your home” in a 2017 article.

Habitus Living architecture blog made note of the “powder pink walls and ceiling; which were hand rendered by a specialist artisan”.

Dot + Pop said it was a “nail salon dreams are made of”.

RockCote’s magazine, The Natural Artisan quoted Jade Nottage saying “The clay render is the hero of the space without a doubt. We worked with the artisan to achieve a smooth finish with a visible texture that is easy for the naked eye to see and appreciate.” Read the full story below.