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If Irish eyes can truly smile, they'd be grinning from brow to brow upon seeing the lovely decorative concrete work throughout the home of Sandra and Steven Quintus. Built by the owners in 2007, the quaint Ventura, Iowa, home is something you would expect to encounter while driving through the Irish countryside. The design was inspired by the rural Irish cottage appearing in the classic movie "The Quiet Man" (1952). To replicate the rustic charm of the Emerald Isle, the Quintus's used concrete as a major element, in both structure and design.

Exterior of the Quintus home, showing the concrete driveway, curved exposed-aggregate walkway, and ICF walls finished with stone and stucco. Stenciled bedroom floor border in an Irish Celtic knot pattern, using Modello masking patterns and SkimStone applied over acid-stained concrete.

"We had fun carrying the Irish theme throughout our home, especially the master bedroom," says Sandra, who applied her skills as an artist specializing in faux finishes to adorn the room with stenciled designs in an Irish Celtic knot pattern. She created an area-rug border effect around the perimeter of the bedroom, and in the master bath she used the same pattern on the concrete vanity and on the shower floor to create faux tiles.

Although Sandra is responsible for many of the artistic touches throughout the home, her husband Steven—a custom homebuilder specializing in concrete and masonry work—placed most of the concrete. The home has insulating concrete form (ICF) walls, a concrete driveway and curved exposed-aggregate walkway, and an on-grade floor slab with in-floor radiant heat. All the floors throughout the house are acid stained. The countertops are also concrete, as is the fireplace hearth and window sills. The hearth, which juts out from a stone wall built by Steven, was poured against a Styrofoam form burnt with a torch to create the look of a rock-face stone slab.

Stenciling materials and techniques
Sandra loves the decorative effects you can achieve with stenciling and used stencil treatments in every room of her home, and even in the exterior stucco. The stencils she chose for the master bedroom suite are Modellos (an adhesive-backed vinyl) in a stock border pattern with matching corners. "I love using Modellos. There is nothing else quite like them for creating intricate, multifaceted designs in less time than it would take otherwise," she says, noting that the stenciling portion of the project took three days to complete, from start to finish. (For more information about Modellos, see A New Way to Stencil Concrete.)

Stone fireplace with stained concrete hearth.

Close-up of the stenciled border, featuring a green and gold color combination over a rust-brown stain.

Stenciled shower floor in the master bath.

Sandra applied the Modello masking patterns to previously acid-stained concrete, and then troweled over them with SkimStone (, an acrylic resin and portland cement blend that's similar to Venetian plaster. She says that the Modellos and SkimStone combination not only added decorative flair, but also solved a few problems. "The bedroom floor had not received a hard-troweled finish and therefore did not take the acid staining as richly as the rest of our floors. So I used the border to add interest and beauty," she explains. "Also, when Steven hand finished the concrete vanity, a bit of reinforcing rod burnished through the surface. The SkimStone application covered up that problem."

Because the Emerald Isle was her design inspiration, Sandra chose a green and gold color scheme for the master suite, using SkimStone's stock colors in Forest Fern, Winter Olive and Yellowstone. The unstenciled areas of the floors were treated with a rust-colored acid stain from Kemiko ( "I am very happy with the results; the colors are clean and refreshing," she says.

After doing a layout of the design for the floor border, Sandra taped off the areas where she wanted the rust-colored staining to show through. She then applied the Forest Fern SkimStone in the open bands between the tape and allowed it to cure. On top of these green bands, she applied the individual square patterns to the corners to connect the borders. Next, she trowel applied the Yellowstone and Winter Olive mixtures of SkimStone on top. When everything dried, she removed the Modello masking patterns to reveal the results. To add a beautiful sheen and a protective finish to her handiwork, she applied SkimStone's water-based sealer.

Sandra also used the Modello corner patterns for the entire shower floor, to achieve a faux-tile effect. "They fit almost perfectly, and the slight raised elements from the Modello design also give a nice 'tooth' to the floor, making it slip resistant," she says.

"Stenciling the vanity countertop was an afterthought," Sandra admits. "I had a section of border stencil left over, and I thought it would pull the whole look together. I used the Winter Olive color on the back half of the vanity to complete the effect." Sandra used Modellos on the kitchen countertop as well, with a stain-on-stain coloring treatment.

Stenciled kitchen countertop motif, using two colors of acid stain. Concrete bathroom vanity with stenciled border.

Aside from the stencils, Sandra's basic arsenal of tools included Japanese hand scrapers, a Venetian plastering trowel, safe-release tape, a tape measure, mixing containers, and a chalk line.

Since this was her first experience stenciling over concrete with SkimStone, Sandra was reluctant to be too experimental. "As when trying a new recipe, I stick to the directions at first. Only when I understand how it all works, am I willing to step outside the box," she says. However, she's delighted with the outcome and looks forward to applying her know-how on new projects. "The look is exactly what I wanted. There is nothing I would do differently," she says.

Project submitted by:
Sandra Quintus
Artistic Walls
Ventura, IA 50482

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