Houses With “Fur Coats”

By Awake! writer in Ukraine

STORES, homes, and office buildings throughout Ukraine are adorned with a covering called shuba, meaning “fur coat.” Shuba is a traditional stucco building finish that resembles the furry inside of a sheepskin coat. Gentlemen who reside in palatial homes esteem shuba’s beauty, and even farmers of modest means splurge to adorn their cottages with such a “fur coat.”

The techniques of applying this stucco finish can usually be learned in about two years. A shuba craftsman’s tools are few and simple. They include a bucket to hold wet cement, a short broom, and a wooden or metal rod. However, the skill of creating shuba is far from simple.

Shuba is more than a mere stucco finish​—it involves a variety of patterns, designs, colors, and thicknesses. Only when a craftsman has a keen eye for the artistic possibilities of the building before him can the art of dressing a home in shuba be mastered.

The various designs or geometric patterns to be used may be outlined on the wall before applying the cement. Contrast in the design is achieved by using dark- and light-colored cements applied in various thicknesses. After the shuba dries, it is spray-painted for added beauty and variety.

Clutching his broom in one hand, the craftsman plunges it into the cement. Then he slaps the broom sharply against his rod, which he is holding in his other hand. The cement is propelled through the air and lands on the wall. Working at a steady pace, a craftsman can coat between 25 and 30 square yards [20-25 sq m] of wall per day.

Although the application of shuba is labor-intensive, homes dressed in it require minimal maintenance. All the householder needs to do is remove the dust once a year by spraying the walls with a fine stream of water and then paint any faded areas. Following these steps will assure that the shuba will endure a long time. In fact, many homes still look brand-new in 20-year-old “coats.”

One craftsman has had the opportunity to take his skills abroad. When visiting a friend in Balingen, Germany, he was asked to apply shuba to his friend’s home. While shuba is common in Ukraine, it proved to be a novelty for this town.

As the craftsman applied the shuba, he drew the attention of the entire neighborhood. A wide-eyed building contractor watched, unable to believe the beauty being created with such simple instruments. Drivers craned their necks to get a glimpse as they slowly passed by, and a journalist snapped pictures for the local newspaper. When completed, the house received a prize from the city.

Would shuba look good in your neighborhood? Perhaps a beautiful new “fur coat” on your home would warm things up a bit.

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Prize-winning shuba-covered house in Balingen, Germany

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A shuba craftsman’s tools include a short broom and a wooden rod

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Dressing a house in shuba takes considerable skill