A client's request for a statement ceiling resulted in Elena's "crocodile effect."

Crocodile Effect

By Tammy Adamson-McMullen

Elena Geil, owner of Interior Urban Finish in San Antonio, is known for her luxurious, one-of-a-kind finishes. One of her favorite projects of late was a challenging assignment that resulted in an unusual finish she describes as a “crocodile effect.”

The client in this case asked Elena to provide a statement finish on a groin ceiling, located in the entryway of his 7,000-square-foot home. As an architectural detail, the ceiling already was a standout; however, Elena’s artistry took it to a whole new level.

Elena notes that the finish was chosen almost on a whim. Always trying out new finishes (see main profile story), Elena had been experimenting with a similar finish on a sample board before meeting with the client. Right before the interview, she tossed the sample board into her portfolio. When the client saw it, he immediately seized on it.

“I thought, ‘Of course! And he wants it on a ceiling…’ ” Elena groans with a chuckle, noting that the ceiling was high and the finish, multi-step. Nonetheless, Elena was only too happy to comply. And, “It sure looked beautiful when it was done!” she adds.

A close-up of the groin ceiling.

To create the look, Elena used an unusual tool—fish netting—which she manipulated into the ceiling as she troweled on layers of joint compound. The netting created the “crocodile skin,” or texture of the ceiling, but the effect was subtle. Elena notes that she has a soft hand when applying finishes and prefers to keep her finishes and textures “light.”

After letting the mud dry, Elena put on a base coat. Then she applied a series of metallic glazes to the ceiling, “and I layered and layered them,” she says. The layering of the glazes, which were in tones of brown and gold, produced a depth of that complemented the crocodile skin produced by the netting.

The last coat that Elena applied was a statuary bronze, which provided the finishing touch. “Before applying it, I added a glaze to it to make it sheer,” Elena explains, “so wherever you stand (below the ceiling), you get a different look.”

Elena notes that the work was grueling. “I was upside down on scaffolding creating it,” she says—but adds that it truly made the statement the client desired. “It’s just amazing!”

To see more of Elena’s work, check out her portfolio here.