Scagliola

Scagliola provides a beautiful and distinctive finish to a range of schemes in establishments Worldwide.

As a highly experienced and creative International company Hayles and Howe can offer exquisite attention to detail and finishes for any scagliola project including restoration or conservation.

Scagliola is a marble-like material made from plaster, pigments and glue, polished by hand to a brilliant shine. The company founder David Hayles is widely considered to be the leading expert in both traditional and marezzo scagliola and has taught at both the European School for Craft Conservation in Venice and the Edward James Foundation in Sussex.

Hayles and Howe’s scagliola services cover all areas from design and specification to manufacture and installation. The company has a proud tradition of providing a high quality service to any home or building, public or private, large or small. The high standard of craftsmanship the company consistently achieves has been recognised by numerous awards, including the Queen’s Award, the Plaisterers’ Trophy and Humber Silver Salver.

Scagliola is a versatile and beautiful artificial medium that can be produced in a wide range of forms and colours which do not need to, but can, imitate those of natural minerals. It is now considered to be one of the most prestigious materials in the building trade.

The name scagliola is derived from the Italian word for splinters of coloured material (scaglie) mixed together with plaster and pigment to create a marbled effect. Its production is time consuming and painstaking, involving a carefully regulated polishing process. The finished article is virtually indistinguishable from real marble.

Hayles and Howe specialise in the manufacture, restoration and conservation of scagliola and have carried out award winning projects in both historic and new buildings throughout the world. This skilled workforce are able to provide a wide range of stunning scagliola products including mouldings and door-surrounds, corbels, plinths, pedestals, table tops, wall panels (plain, book matched or in-laid) and a full range of columns and pilasters in all the architectural orders. Hayles and Howe also enjoy manufacturing scagliola to match or complement any colour scheme.

As the manufacture and installation of scagliola is so specialised and labour intensive, each enquiry receives individual attention.

Meticulous attention to restoration projects and conservation consultancy bring historic scagliola back to its former glory.

Hayles and Howe are constantly involved in the conservation and restoration of scagliola, and have a number of prestigious projects to their name. Over the years the experience the company has gained enables Hayles and Howe to offer a wide range of scagliola services to owners, architects and conservators.

Scagliola is applied as a veneer 5-10mm thick, which is possible to sand back and re-face. This can be a highly effective way of restoring it to its original appearance, particularly when the surface has been damaged by surface stains, dampness and water runs. During the process, defects and bad repairs are removed, and losses re-instated with fresh scagliola that matches the original. Unlike most marble repairs, scagliola can – in the hands of a professional – be literally ‘invisibly mended’.

Although popular in the past, this approach is rarer today, when conservation is generally considered preferable to restoration. However, when the scagliola is very old and fragile, or has become thin through repeated resurfacing; it can lead to the loss of well-loved patinas, while failing to remove more ingrained staining.

Less invasive techniques are available, and include cleaning with conservation grade agents, replacing losses with ruled-in and painted plaster, and the application of specialist waxes for protection and shine. Over the years Hayles and Howe have found that bad practice from the past creates problems with maintaining and preserving scagliola in the present, in particular the application of numerous coats of varnish that can seal the surface, discolouring the scagliola as well as causing unseen, internal damage to the structure by the trapping of moisture.

Often the best approach will be a combination of techniques that take into account aesthetic and conservation issues, cost, duration and inconvenience to the users of the building. Hayles and Howe recommend that before any treatment is undertaken a preliminary survey is completed that tests for any delamination, structural problems or other factors that might be stressing the scagliola. Following a survey Hayles and Howe also recommend the preparation of a sample patch to illustrate the methods of restoration or conservation under consideration.

With an almost untouchable experience of prestigious theatre work, Hayles & Howe provide a quick response to both the design and maintenance of scagliola.

Working in theatres is of special interest to Hayles and Howe who have gained immense recognition and become leading lights in theatre inspection, safety certification, conservation and restoration.

The Kings Theatre in Southsea, Hampshire is a theatre that Hayles and Howe have been involved with for over 10 years. They were first asked to inspect the ceiling by the local council in 1998. A leaking roof, Portsmouth industrial dust and nearly a century of nicotine abuse had damaged this lovely 1907 Frank Matcham theatre. In 2007 during the Centenary restoration of the auditorium the company carried out the repair and restoration of much plasterwork and the impressive scagliola proscenium arch. On the strength of all their work on this prestigious project the company received a “Highly Commended” Award from the FPDC in February 2009.

Hayles and Howe also enjoyed being involved in the prestigious sixteen million dollar restoration of the eclectic and stylish Beacon Theatre in New York, USA. The work that Hayles and Howe carried out in this iconic theatre included the restoration of some unique scagliola in the entrance hall rotunda.

Hayles and Howe are more than happy to assist the owners and managers of theatres to prepare a cost-effective rolling inspection and maintenance plan that fits in with the scheduling of rehearsals and shows. The company is quick to respond to any calls from theatres that find themselves facing any unforeseen problems with their ornamental plasterwork or scagliola.

Introduced into Britain in the 17th Century, scagliola was and still is as popular as it is elaborate.

Scagliola has a long history dating as far back as the ancient world. Notable forerunners were Egyptian and Greek craftsmen who produced an artificial marble-like plaster to adorn interior walls and tombs; in the case of the Egyptians. The Augustan architect, Vitruvius, writing his treatise The ten books of Architecture in 1600 BC describes how the Greeks created a stucco resembling a highly polished marble. It is thought that the temple housing Zeus at Olympia was rendered using Vitruvius’ formula. This formula which was based on lime rather than gypsum, became the basis for marmorino, used from the fifteenth century in Florence and Venice.

Interestingly, excavations in Israel revealed a marble-lime finished surface reinforcing the theory that this early precursor of scagliola was a fairly common wall finish in the pre Roman Middle East. It has also been found that early Roman civilizations used a special marble-like mix to waterproof and line aqueducts.

During the Renaissance and the revival of the first principles of Architectural theory plasterers (Stuccoists) developed the mixing of gypsum with pigments and glue to create a faux marble. At this point in history marble was becoming increasingly rare and costly so the skills of craftsmen such as Fassi and the manufacture of scagliola very quickly became as popular and valued as marble. The first complete interior carried out in scagliola was The Riche Chapel in Munich in 1603, from there the techniques spread from Germany to Italy and subsequently across Europe usually surrounded by a veil of secrecy.

It was introduced into Britain, during the 18th Century as an exotic surface for columns, pilasters, walls, floors and table tops in some of the UK’s most prestigious buildings. John Nash’s design for Buckingham Palace typified this period incorporating extravagant bright scarlet scagliola columns in the throne room and Lapis Lazuli scagliola columns in the music room.

In the latter part of the nineteenth century pioneers in the USA developed Marezzo scagliola which moved on from the traditional methods of making scagliola using a cement (patented by Keene) rather than plaster and glue. The production of Marezzo scagliola uses random lengths of silk threads, dipped into liquid pigmentation before stretching them over a bench. A thin skin of coloured Keene’s cement would then be poured or spattered over the silk threads transferring the pigment to the skin of cement. The use of both Marezzo scagliola and traditional scagliola in America was prolific in this period mostly confined to public buildings, such as state capitols, courthouses, churches and railway stations.

In recent years scagliola has been enjoying a revival in both the UK and USA thanks to the pioneering skills of David Hayles who is now a leading authority and consultant on its production.  David regularly lectured and taught at The European Centre for Craft Conservation in Venice and West Dean College in the late eighties. David currently contributes scagliola presentations to the IPTW and IDAL in the USA where he now resides.