Carol Martell, 81, a Maryland artist who specialized in traditional American decorative painting, died Sept. 29 at her daughter's home in Darnestown. She had Alzheimer's disease.

Mrs. Martell was a decorative painter of faux finishes for designers in the Washington area, and her work was regularly seen at the National Symphony Orchestra's annual Decorators' Show House.

She worked on several historical restoration projects, including Constitution Village Park in Huntsville, Ala. Locally, her work can be seen in the carriage house of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Stephen Decatur House in downtown Washington and at the Montgomery County Historical Society's Beall-Dawson House in Rockville.

Mrs. Martell was recognized as one of the country's best traditional craftsmen three times by Early American Life magazine.

"When she started, the fascination for her was to try to re-create something naturally occurring, to try to make it as realistic as possible," said one of her daughters, Melisa Martell. "Then she started to go off in a wild, artistic direction, mixing traditional marble [with] a tortoiseshell print."

Mrs. Martell, who was born in Manchester, N.H., received a registered nursing degree in 1945 from New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston and practiced nursing until 1949, when she married and moved to the Washington area.

Early in her career, her interest in decoupage veered toward an exploration of 19th-century American folk art and other traditional American crafts such as stenciling, decorative tole painting, graining and marbling. Her sense of color and design, combined with instruction and collaboration, brought her steady commissions from area designers.

She taught classes and individuals at her home studio in Gaithersburg as well as at the Isabel O'Neil Studio in New York, the Smithsonian Institution, the Hitchcock Chair Museum in Riverton, Conn., and Stencil Artisans League Inc. conventions.

She retired to St. Leonard in 1995, built a large studio and continued to work on smaller projects, including decorated boxes and furniture.

Her husband of 56 years, Frank J. Martell, died in 2004.

Survivors include three children, Kevin Martell of Damascus, Kathleen Vargo of Dallas and Melisa Martell of Darnestown, and three grandchildren.

Carol Martell produced decorative faux finishes for designers in the Washington area.