Beautiful murals, both classic and modern

Back in the day, moguls meant murals. Jack Warner’s home showcased Chinese landscapes, Cary Grant’s had a tropical scene and the ceiling in Norma Talmadge’s residence was a virtual Sistine Chapel. “There was a definite relationship between murals and theatrical sets,” says contemporary artist Darren Waterston. The tradition of in-house frescoes has faded as much as the murals, but it hasn’t disappeared. Waterston has earned a reputation for customized canvas wall coverings. The paintings stretch floor to ceiling and depict idealized Arcadian landscapes similar to Waterston’s celebrated (and smaller) paintings. He will unveil a 24′ x 18′ piece created for the revamped Sofitel later this month; a 150-foot mural will bow at the San Jose Museum of Art in November.

While some contemporary muralists like Waterston use panels or canvas that can be packed up and moved if the owner relocates, others prefer a traditional approach. Claudio Sgaravizzi paints directly on the wall, often using allegorical elements specific to the architecture and its inhabitants.

“I try to make frescoes that are like an opera or a great painting, not just a decoration,” says Sgaravizzi, who’s currently finishing a house in Flintridge with the designer Antonia Hutt. “It’s much deeper than that.”

Others are happy with skin deep. Nancy Lorenz creates wall coverings with precious stones, gold leaf and mother of pearl, including a 60-foot piece for the Beverly Hills Hilton.

“There’s a reason why kings and queens lined their walls in gold leaf,” says Gucci interior designer Bill Sofield, who is selling his Laurel Canyon home with the option of buying its murals and wall pieces by Matthew Benedict and Lorenz for an additional $190,000. “It really makes your skin look great.”

Darren Waterston: The Michael Kohn Gallery LA, Matthew Benedict: Alexander + Bonin NY, Nancy Lorenz: PDX Contemporary Art Portland, Claudio Sgaravizzi and Antonia Hutt:

A dining room wall by Nancy Lorenz
Claudio Sgaravizzi’s dome celing
Covered walls by Sgaravizzi
Gold leaf work Nancy Lorenz
Darren Waterston’s “His Universe”
Detail work from Norma Talmadge’s estate, restored by current owner and designer Sue Wong
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