Had you been walking through Combermere Abbey recently you might have been startled to see a gentleman of a certain age laying on the floor on his side, with his head resting on the carpet. You would have been forgiven for thinking that the poor chap had suffered a seizure of some kind, but closer examination would have revealed the unlikely truth that in fact he was peering at the wainscoting. His name is Icaro Kosak and he has been responsible for specialist paint detailing at the Abbey, and decorative paint techniques.
“It’s the vacuum cleaners”, he said, “No matter how careful the cleaners are their vacuum cleaners still take chunks out of the paint”. So there he was, with a fine brush and a carefully-mixed colour, re-touching work that he first created quite some time ago. Many years ago he created a wood grain on the wainscoting, and now repairs were needed.
As we have reported elsewhere, the larger armorial shields on the coving in The Library were fitted on a ground which had a grained effect. This was disturbed in places by Hare & Humphreys excellent restoration work, and now Icaro had been called in to make good – and to tour the Abbey doing any repairs to his work which were needed.
He applied a ‘ground’ colour to the background coving, which is plasterboard, and then created an artificial wood-grained effect as a top coat. There had been some staining in the base material, but Icaro’s work evened that out and a single, uninterrupted effect was achieved. His medium is an oil-based artists’ oil paint.
Two decades ago Icaro created the individual decoration in the Abbey’s self-catering cottages, and also worked in the Abbey itself – on the hall, the staircase, and any number of other rooms which cried out for paint detail. He describes his work as ‘specialist decorations’, which ranges from marbling to trompe l’oeil murals.
Born in Rome but now living in south London, Icaro drew and painted from an early age, and has specialised in interior design and paintwork for more than three decades. He has worked in commercial and retail properties as well as in homes both large and small, and both ancient and modern.
He was full of praise for the recent restoration of The Library ceiling; “It’s beautiful, quite beautiful. It doesn’t look restored, doesn’t look new, which is very difficult to achieve. I’m very glad to see it.”
He was only at the Abbey for three days on this visit; “I go very fast when I get going”, he says. He went on, “I love this house. Wherever you look you see a different century – there’s always something else to see. I was first here in 1990, and I have seen a lot of changes, all for the better. It’s unbelievable how much work and effort has gone into the restoration here. Very impressive.”