Creating Some New Finishes and Designs for Cafe Havana in Smithtown NY: Part 1, The Grasscloth Finish

sign out front Back in 2008, I had the pleasure of meeting Eddie Rivera, who was taking over an Italian eatery – and turning it into a Cuban restaurant. We got along very well at our first meeting and soon I was helping him turn a dated and dingy place into a fun, lively and, of course, colorful restaurant. 

Cafe Havana in Smithtown NY

Part of the foyer where musicians play!

Fast forward to 2012 – and the restaurant had been doing great business since opening in ’08, but a horrible leak from a newly installed HVAC system flooded the place and destroyed ceilings, walls, floors and more and they had to close their doors for a complete renovation.  Since they had to close to repair anyway, the owners decided to really revamp and redo the restaurant – which included two new bar areas, new finishes for the dining rooms plus working on the downstairs dance lounge, which they plan on opening soon. All of this meant a lot of work for me…which was one of the reasons I have been a bit absent here at the blog.  There was so much to do, fix, paint and create anew for this restaurant.  

Cafe Havana dining room back in 2008

The old dining room look, back in ’08. Photo credit: Phil Marino, NY Times


green and brown color scheme in Cafe Havana in Smithtown NY

The new color scheme, dining room 1


Cafe Havana green and brown color scheme

Another view of dining room 1

I thought I’d share some of the new finishes at the restaurant and give you some recipes on how to re-create them (or…call me if you’d like me to do something like this in your home or business). The first one is the finish that is in the back dining room – a Pear Green Faux Grasscloth

green glasscloth made from a metallic plaster

The Green Grasscloth sample I made for approval

Eddie wanted to have green and brown for some of the dining rooms walls.  Since there is a chair rail, we decided on green on the upper half and brown on the lower half for one dining room and the adjacent space would have the reverse – green on the lower half and brown, above.  

Green glasscloth

The Inspiration Photo: Green Grasscloth

I showed Eddie the photograph above (I think I may have found it on Houzz, not sure) and he fell in love with the look.  Wanting a tropical feel in the restaurant, grasscloth was definitely a finish that would help give it that feel. 

Faux grasscloth finish during the makeover in Cafe Havana

The back dining room during. See how we taped out sections to effect fabric or wallpaper

The walls were first painted with Benjamin Moore’s Pear Green, then I mixed up just the tint from the paint color into Untinted LusterStone Metallic Plaster from Faux Effects.  I added some glaze to this mix in order to keep the plaster open and not drying too fast.  Marking off every 54 inches on the wall also helps to foster the illusion of fabric or wallpaper and it helps you to keep a level line when you are doing the finish.  

Green grasscloth finish for the back dining room in Cafe Havana

The back dining room finished!

Using a roller, put the mixed plaster on the wall.  Go for a fairly even covereage – and only roll about 2-3 feet at a time.  We first put it on horizontally – then used a wallpaper brush to create the striated horizontal finish.  Do this for all the wall sections.  When dry (usually the next day), you do all the vertical sections. Important Tip: When you are dragging your brush down vertically, make sure that you finish off by sweeping up a bit so that the end of your strie is not clumped with plaster  

The grasscloth finished walls in the back dining room

The grasscloth finished walls in the back dining room

It’s a great textural finish for any room.  You can do it in any color plus you can mix colors (usually a darker color first, then a lighter).  You can make the finish more textural by not putting in as much glaze – but be careful as the plaster can dry up quicker this way.   

The same finish but done with a darker plaster color first and a lighter one last

The same finish but done with a darker plaster color first and a lighter one last


a more textural grasscloth sample

Another variation, done without adding glaze so it’s more coarse

My only regret about the finish in the room is that most people see the finish at night and so the texture isn’t as obvious.  You have to put your hand on it to know it’s a texture.  But – it’s a visible texture during the day (hopefully the restaurant will soon be serving lunch!!).

A table setting at Cafe Havana

Waiting for the next customers!

  If you have any questions about this finish, please put them in the comments below or send me an email.  I’d be glad to answer them! I’d like to thank Marty Wiesehahn for helping me out tremendously with this project.  He is the fastest faux in the east!  If it weren’t for him. I would still be there doing this finish!  Thanks Marty!

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