How to use scenic painting to transform a space

Ever been to an Escape the Room? Today we will discuss how we used scenic painting to transform the storage room in this office building into a NYC sewer. This is part of an escape the room called Clue Chase, which is located in the Grace building across from Bryant Park.  It's always fun to design a highly conceptual setting because you get to do things like make the room look filthy, that you would hopefully never need to do with a residential interior.

Assessing the space

When we arrived the room was a typical blank office space.  The big advantage was the long narrow shape which suits the shape of a sewer well.  

 Storage room prior to transformation

Storage room prior to transformation

Create a Conceptual Rendering

We started with a conceptual rendering which included darkening the room through scenic painting to give it that grungy feeling and installing some built in cage lighting to add to the industrial feel.

 Conceptual Rendering

Conceptual Rendering

Building Sewer Grate Wall

Next step was to build this sewer grate wall which was built in 3 parts in order to fit into the building. We installed the wall and closed the seems with Spackle.  

 Sewer grate wall installed

Sewer grate wall installed

Scenic Painting

Now the fun begins!  Scenic painting is a skill you get better with the more you do it and the real trick is just to go at it with confidence.  First step was to find an image of dirty concrete online.  I always work best when I have a reference to try to replicate.  I chose a middle range color from the reference (not the lightest or darkest color) and painted everything with this flat color.

 After one coat of aging

After one coat of aging

Now it’s time to age the wall.  This can be done by taking the darker color from your reference and watering it down.  Some people use a product called Floetrol which helps to thin the paint but I have also had success just using water.  You want to water it down enough that it has an opaque quality but not so much that you can’t keep up with the speed that it drips down the wall.  Using the watered down paint I began going around the room to all the places where dirt would typically collect (corners, cracks, etc).  As I add the thinned paint I would dab it with a dry cloth to blend it into the flat wall color and create shading in those areas.  I also add some shading randomly to the center of the walls to create the texture of the concrete.

Next I waited for it to dry and continue aging until I was satisfied.  You want to make sure to let each layer dry before adding another layer.  After adding a few layers using this dabbing effect I thickened the paint a little and let it drip from floor to ceiling to add some drama and make it feel more filthy.  I also did a slight mold effect by watering down some greenish paint and doing a similar effect in some areas.

 Almost complete 

Almost complete 

Before you know it you have transformed an ordinary storage room into an authentic looking NYC sewer.  To check out this room and other rooms we have designed go to www.ClueChase.com and check back for more blog posts about other techniques and transformations.