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Carol McGrath finally got her ocean-front property in Massachusetts -- on her kitchen wall!

Carol's interest in trompe l'oeil and mural painting began with a futile two-year search for a wallpaper-type photo mural of a beachfront scene to use in her kitchen. She found exactly what she was looking for a while channel-surfing one morning and ended up on the Home and Garden channel. Carol found a stenciled waterfront scene complete with a light-house. Just what she was looking for!

"I can do that," said Carol, who had never stenciled before, planting the seeds of a new vocation.

Carol soon discovered that she wasn't happy with the flatness of stenciling. She decided to combine her 20 years of tole painting experience with the patterns of the stencil. Finally she had created her dream kitchen--and "probably the only waterfront property I will ever own," Carol says. She then went on to paint her dream house on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and her daughter's wedding, complete with relatives, for a personal touch.

And so Carol's addiction had begun! While trying to track down out-of-print trompe l'oeil books, Carol spoke to Peggy Decker, a pioneer in 3-D painting. Peggy told her about a new school starting up in Georgia called the Decorating Masters Institute that was teaching many of the techniques Carol was searching for.

After taking classes at the Institute, Carol returned to Boston where her career began in earnest. Today she starts some aspects of her murals by stenciling first in white or cream, then hand paints for realism and dimension. Carol finds this process particularly helpful in painting precisely measured things like ropes, windows and lattice work.

"Decorative painting has brought me to that point where I'll never work another day in my life because every day I get to plan or paint something wonderful," she says. "And I get paid for it!"


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