Dutch Master

People spend hours poring over paint charts, trying to decide between white and superwhite, maize and buttercup. The truth is, the secret to a perfectly painted surface is more related to primers and preparation than it is to color. Witness those European door frames with a finish so brilliant, a lady can use it as a mirror to apply her lipstick. That is not lacquer; it’s not just high-gloss paint. Those doors achieve that mind-boggling sheen because they have all been prepared with Swedish Putty, a formula of titanium dioxide and silicate held together with a marine-varnish binder. It was mixed for centuries at job sites according to guarded family recipes and is now available ready-made through Fine Paints of Europe. I would not paint a molding or a frame without it. And no wall or large surface should be painted without first applying a coat of the company’s tinted oil primer, made to match the exact shade of the final coat. Think of Rembrandt; the colors peeking out from underneath his canvases were as beautiful as the ones on top. Or take Porsche—the company first covers its cars with a base coat identical to the final hue so a scratch is never a visible catastrophe. The approach to house paint should not be any different.

Fine Paints of Europe is actually a U.S.-based company founded about ten years ago by an American named John Lahey. After an exhaustive search for a domestic paint whose quality matched that of European finishes, Lahey decided to import what he needed from Holland. Ever since Rubens and the Dutch masters revolutionized painting by switching from tempera to oil, the Dutch have been the leaders in fine paint. It turns out that not much has changed since the 17th century.

Equally as critical are the tools used in the application. The bumpy orange-peel effect seen on far too many walls is the result of not using a lamb’s-wool or mohair roller cover. And Omega’s Italian boar’s-hair brushes are essential for trims and moldings. The sharp bristles let the painter get into corners and details. Plus, boar’s hair soaks in more liquid than a synthetic brush does, allowing the paint to flow off it much more smoothly.

Available at Fine Paints of Europe, 800-332-1556; finepaintsofeurope.com.