In this weeks installment of our weekly Stencil Star™ series, we feature the hottest restaurant designer in D.C., Maggie O’Neill of O’Neill Studios. She and her team of artists create some of the most innovate decorative painting finishes incorporating Royal Design Studio wall stencils and patterns in her creative, contemporary projects. She also weaves in fresh color combinations and stencil designs in her fine art pieces. I first met Maggie when she came on our 3rd Peacock Painting adventure to Marrakech: The Tent Trip! I can tell you that she is even more fun than she looks!!!
ABOUT O’NEILL STUDIOS
Maggie O’Neill is a Washington, DC based fine artist and the Creative Director of O’Neill Studios, the decorative painting company she founded in 2001. Maggie attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA and pursued a Masters Degree of Fine Art at the University of Georgia, enrolling in their Cortona, Italy program. “In Italy, I was moved by the rich art history of the Renaissance and the integration of commissioned fine art during this period,” she says. Maggie focused on drawing and painting (concentrating on portraiture) and the decorative arts, with her studies also including Fresco painting.
After Italy, Maggie continued to travel, eventually living and working in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, where she completed her first commercial exterior mural. “It was at this point that I fell in love with the creation of utilitarian and public artwork that the surrounding community could enjoy.”
Returning to DC, she decided to continue working in the vein of commissioned artistry and opened O’Neill Studios in 2001. In the time since, Maggie has built O’Neill Studios into one of the most well-respected decorative finishing companies in the Washington area. The team’s productions can be seen in some of the city’s most notable private residences, embassies, churches, restaurants and commercial spaces.
A custom Modello vinyl stencil design on a restaurant ceiling.
How do you determine which pattern will work for your project?
There is never just one determining factor of why or what pattern I will propose to a client. Sometimes we have an inspiration paper or fabric to work from and the project becomes about replicating the same properties; scale, color, etc. I typically think about the following three features of the space to select patterns and stencils that will work: Style, Scale and Palette. What is the style of the space? Does it require something stylized with a high level of impact or something more delicate and understated? What is the existing palette working in the space? Do we need to introduce more color or keep it a neutral pattern to create a backdrop for other features or artwork? What features in the room allow us to play with the scale of the pattern?
I think to have a stencil custom-made to scale for your space is the smartest thing anyone can do when introducing allover pattern. You may love a pattern on a sample fabric or even an item of clothing but it’s not right for your ceiling or the back of your bookshelves. Any of these things can direct you to the right stencil and technique. I highly recommend doing some research into the style or look you are trying to achieve before purchasing. Also, cutting out shapes to the scale of what your thinking and understanding where they will repeat and run off, measuring the space to understand where it will start and stop is also helpful.
Please share your top Stenciling tip with us.
My favorite technique is a bit messier then the average application. I enjoy seeing the interruption of one color and the introduction of another. I also prefer to see a bit of depth in the application. For this reason my favorite technique is a drop shadow or a “pulled silk” effect. This is at least a two layer stencil technique. The first layer of glaze or paint is a bit slippery so that it has a longer open time and transparency. Immediately after you stencil, you use your brush like a strie brush and pull through the pattern lightly. Pulling one direction is important. I prefer to use gravity and pull down. The second layer is the same stencil (cleaned off of course) and place the stencil about 1/8- 1/4 of inch above where you originally set the first layer. Using a lighter more opaque color is helpful to achieve a raised appearance. This creates the look of hand worked fabric or pulled silk or ikat look.
Maggie also enjoys creating fine art pieces and incorporating stencils within. Here, the Intricate Zelij wall stencil from the Allover Moroccan Stencil Collection supports the supports and enhances the beautiful central figure.
How does stenciling enhance your creative business?
My business is ALL about how creative I can be for my client and how can I work with what they already have. Turning something totally ordinary to something extraordinary has been the cornerstone to my business. Initially, stencils gave me the ability to offer high impact results with relatively quick turnaround and affordable prices. However, stencils have pushed open new creative doors for me as an artist and designer. I experiment with more techniques and applications that include 3D elements and unconventional methods. I am constantly looking to wallpaper and textiles for inspiration and take note of the techniques used to create nuances in each design.
Maggie working with our one of our Modello Ornamental Center patterns (OrnCen162) in a more traditional space.
Stencils are tools this are just as important as the paint itself, allowing me to explore new methods. I now examine every space and surface with a different perspective and understanding of how to embellish or apply pattern. I realize that you don’t need to stencil everything BUT YOU CAN! The creative options stencils have introduced have overflowed in to my own fine artwork and now end up in most of my paintings. Stencils have been a juggernaut for my creative business and have opened the doors of my portfolio to include fabric for window treatments and table runners, wrapping paper, furniture makeovers, and even clothing.
At the Irish Whiskey Lounge, Maggie mixes both Modello vinyl stencils and traditional mylar stencils to incorporate multiple patterns, textures and typography to create an unforgettable stairway. Pictured is our Endless Circles Lattice, the Moroccan Arches and Chez Ali stencils — all from the Moroccan Stencil Collection.
Maggie is a creative visionary who designs incredible, contemporary spaces. Do yourself a favor (and be prepared to spend some time!) by browsing both her sites, O’Neill Studios and Maggie O’Neill Fine Art. For a more personal look, follow Maggie and her painting team via her two Facebook pages, O’Neill Studios and Maggie O’Neill Fine Art as well.