Portland painter antiques furniture and walls


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The new outdoor dining room was built with salvaged wood painted to look as if the structure had aged in place.

// Photos by Matthew D'Annunzio

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Peggy Del Rosario fibs for a living. And she’s very convincing.The ancient cracked walls of her home, the rusted iron of a side table, even the aged upholstery of her dining room chairs — all fake.

“This,” she says of her Northeast Portland home, “is my walk-in portfolio.” Del Rosario does decorative painting with the eye of a fine artist. She’s made new commercial wineries and restaurants look as if they’ve been around for centuries. She’s given standard tile fireplace surrounds a one-of-a-kind appearance. She’s transformed inexpensive lamps and mirrors into instant antique treasures.

Del Rosario first fell in love with the natural distressed look of old buildings back when she was a flight attendant making frequent trips to Europe.

“Here, it’s ‘Honey, fix it’ if it’s got a crack,” she says. “There, we’d take a picture.”

She took painting classes in 1987 and apprenticed with a decorative paint expert in San Francisco to learn how to re-create the patina of age.

“You can learn a few things, but ultimately you have to experiment,” she says.

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Inexpensive new accessories are given a past with paint.

Peggy Del Rosario paints in her studio in the basement of her Portland home.

Nothing escaped Del Rosario's paintbrush, including the dining room ceiling, walls and furniture. Even chair cushions got the treatment.



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Del Rosario occasionally paints canvas, too, such as the impressionistic landscape hanging above a side table.

// Photos by Matthew D'Annunzio

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She compares the process to cooking. It’s fine to begin with tried-and-true recipes, but to become an excellent cook, you need to dare to dabble, adapt and adjust to taste.

“A lot of finishes are too perfect,” Del Rosario says. “Nature isn’t perfect.”

Del Rosario has perfected the art of imperfection. She takes note of the graceful deterioration of a crumbling wall, a well-worn piece of furniture.

“I can’t just walk down a sidewalk,” she says. “I see cracks and moss, and I look at the way the rust forms
on cans.”

Then she goes home and tries to replicate the look in her basement studio. She’s picked up inexpensive sconces, lamps and accessories from Ross, Fred Meyer and HomeGoods and gives them unique character with brush and paint. It doesn’t matter if it’s wood, metal or even plastic.

“If the bones are there,” she says, “I’ll paint it.”

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She jokingly refers to her bedroom as "Marie Antoinette's dorm room." Layering several shades of paint, she can transform virtually anything.

The first piece of furniture she ever painted was this set of drawers. She's been refining her technique since 1987.

An inlay table is the rare authentically antique piece in her house and the only one she won't paint. The upholstered chair is painted.



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A closet to the left of a reading chair is cleverly disguised with curtains.

// Photos by Matthew D'Annunzio

Click images to view larger

The patina on a table lamp, the worn-down tiles of a hearth, even an area near a door that appears darkened from decades of touching — all look so authentically old that many visitors’ first reaction is to reach out and touch them. Del Rosario often tricks not only the eye but also the hand. The ironwork on a console feels like rusted iron even though it is actually painted pine. The skip-trowel walls in the living room have an uneven texture. It’s strange to look around the room and realize that everything in it is merely an illusion of antiquity.

“If I won the lotto, I’d want everything [authentically] old,” she says. “Except my face!”

Until she draws winning numbers, she’s making things look old with paint and imagination.

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It looks and feels like rusty iron, but the figure is actually carved wood that's skillfully painted.

Subtle variations of white paint give a second-hand sideboard a rustic French country look.

Much of her commercial work is on-site, so her house, including her home office, serves as a "walk-in portfolio."


  • To give a wall an aged look, Peggy Del Rosario starts with a coat of white oil-based primer. “A blank canvas allows me to control the color,” she says.

  • She allows it to dry for a day.

  • Using three sea sponges, she applies three shades of latex paint in a circular motion, “like washing a window.” If you stay within the same family of colors, they blend more easily. She likes using shades of taupe, cream and gold to create the look of stone.

  • Oil-based primer prevents the latex from absorbing into the wall too quickly. This allows her to manipulate the wet latex paint, blending it and rubbing it with cheesecloth.

  • She creates the appearance of veins or cracks with a brush dipped in one of the darker shades of paint.

  • “You can’t be afraid of paint,” she says. “Experiment. You can always paint over it.”

  • She’s spent two to three days creating a full antique bedroom.

  • Her painted furniture pieces and canvases are sold at Please Be Seated, The Purple Pear and Justin & Burks in Southeast Portland.

  • She typically meets at clients’ homes to get a feel for their style and decor, then comes up with ideas to repurpose furniture pieces or refinish walls to enhance ambience.

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