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Bauwerk’s founder on her love affair with limewash paint

Searching for an eco-friendly paint with style credentials? Limewash is the answer. Bronwyn Riedel explains why…

Micheal Sinclair

When Bronwyn Riedel formed Bauwerk 20 years ago this year, little was known about the benefits and qualities of limewash paint, a naturally sourced material for home decorating. Now, her paints have almost cult status, and are the go to brand for both interiors stylists and decorators.

It suits those seeking a gentle alternative to the standard block coverage of a regular matt emulsion. Limewash creates a soft chalky effect which is pleasing, soft and unassuming – in fact it’s a work of art in itself. It’s the only paint where evidence of the painters brush is almost actively encouraged.

But how is this magic paint produced and how does it work? We talk to Bronwyn about the attributes of limewash....

How did the Bauwerk journey begin?

We created the brand in 2000 in our hometown of Fremantle, Western Australia – an isolated city with an abundance of limestone. It really was a labour of love for my husband Andreas and I. His background was in historic restoration (with a respect for humble traditional materials), while mine was in colour and textile design. Our respected interests led us to create what we firmly believe to be the most beautiful of paints.

Browyn Riedel, Bauwerk founder

Where do you source the ingredients to make your limewash paints?

Our raw materials come from all over the world. Although our base material is, of course, limestone, which we still proudly source from Australia.

Everything we use is mineral based, so its qualities are determined by its geological origin. For example, I use a lot of natural umber from different areas of Europe, such as Italy. There I work with small and highly knowledgeable mills – they expertly take colours directly from the earth to make colour pigments.

peggy janssen images
‘Birch’ and ‘Stone’, limewash paints, Bauwerk
Peggy Janssen

How can you offer such a vast choice of limewash paint colours?

We don’t make any colours that require pigments that are toxic for human health, such as cadmium (which has previously been used in paint production), or colours that are not in the natural spectrum. Bright fire engine red, orange, or hot magenta pink are strictly off limits, as these can’t be created using natural pigments.

‘Nature provides so many beautiful colours, we could never run out of new combinations’

While we do use cobalt, all of our suppliers provide ethical and environmental certification. Nature provides so many beautiful colours, we could never run out of new combinations.

‘Dune’, limewash paint, Bauwerk

What are the health and environmental benefits of limewash paint?

Lime paints are made from calcium carbonate, a naturally occurring mineral contained in limestone (also found in eggshells, pearls and seashells). It is one of the world’s most abundant materials. So we are making use of what’s around us, rather than messing around with man-made plastics to make our paints.

The benefit is, this allow your walls to breathe. Now for the science bit… Like trees, carbon carbonate absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. And, just like trees, it also has natural anti-bacterial properties. We believe that nature provides everything we need to live in our homes, in harmony with nature. So we make paints that work on that principle (and what you leave out is more important that what you put in).

Bauwerk founder Bronwyn Riedel’s home just outside Berlin

What inspires the colour choices for your limewash paints?

Nature is always my biggest inspiration. Everything you need to know about colour is found in nature: tone, proportion and depth. I spend a lot of time walking and absorbing my surroundings, constantly scanning for shades. I have trained my eyes to be able to process how to recreate them in paint form.

‘I spend a lot of time walking and absorbing my surroundings, constantly scanning for colour’

When creating a colour, I usually start with an underlying natural tone like umber or natural black. This is to anchor and create mood. I really relate to this quote from Lucian Freud: ‘Full, saturated colours have an emotional significance I want to avoid’.

Bauwerk founder Bronwyn Riedel’s home just outside Berlin

How would you decorate your own home?

I love using soft, moody, neutral colours with small variations across a whole space, making each room subtly different yet cohesive as you flow between them. I may be biased but I think limewash paint is perfect for all types of spaces – even in white it has more depth and nuance than a conventional paint. Used in the kitchen or bathroom, it even works to regulate humidity. It’s worth noting, though, that it is sensitive to stains and oils.

‘Nurture’, limewash paint, Bauwerk x House of Grey
Micheal Sinclair

What does the future hold for Bauwerk?

Our latest collection with House of Grey, ‘Silence’ (above), is based around our shared interest in materials and how they make you feel in your home. So not just how the colour looks, but how natural materials also make you feel when in the space.

To create the final nine colours for the new range, we first created 50 to work with. We tested them in the studio under different lighting, making sure what is applied to the wall is usable in a real home. We wanted to create a usable collection that has a restful effect.

You can also see our paint at the Barbican – it’s been used as a backdrop to the current Jean Dubuffet ‘Brutal Beauty’ exhibition, which runs until August 22.

How to apply limewash paint

Won over by the beauty and benefits of limewash paint? Here’s Bronwen’s expert guide to using it in your home…

Limewash paint must be applied to the walls thinly, quickly and evenly, using a natural bristle brush. You are essentially applying a thin layer of stone which needs air to eventually turn it into a paint, rather than requiring oils or other industrial coatings. It’s a truly wonderful natural process.

    Two coats is usually all you need. You can reapply again and again over the years, building up the beauty of the walls’ surface over time.

    Our limewash paint can be used on both interior and exterior walls. When applied correctly, the paint is drawn up into the wall allowing them to breathe.

    If your home is already painted or requires priming, you can use limewash paint in tandem with our Bauwerk Prep Coat. This has been developed as a bridge between different wall surfaces. bauwerkcolour.com

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