Faux Real

Painting techniques have morphed from simple sponging and distressing to sophisticated metallic, graphic and multi-dimensional looks.
Contemporary faux finishes started out in the 1980s and ’90s with a variety of trompe l’oeil techniques designed to fool the eye, but the history of the style actually goes back hundreds of years. Renaissance artists often painted realistic columns and other architectural features on the walls of churches and palaces—sometimes as a cost-saving method when there wasn’t money in the budget for the real thing.

Not surprisingly, when Mediterranean-inspired architecture was popularized in Central Florida, these painting techniques were embraced by homeowners and builders. Faux painting lent a timeworn patina and depth to new construction. 

And for existing homes in need of a refreshed look, many homeowners have opted to have their cabinetry, vanities, islands or furniture pieces “renewed” with a fresh coat of faux.

Today, the term “faux” has expanded to include all manner of painterly techniques, from gilding and antiquing to murals and floral garlands. High-tech methods also are transforming this time-honored art, says Gabriel Collazo of Aztec Scenic Design in Winter Park. “It is a new amazing technology that we are incorporating into our projects,” he says. “Things that we would have to sculpt and make molds of, now we can print them.”

Collazo and his team haven’t abandoned traditional techniques, however; Venetian plasterwork and Italian-style frescoes are still popular faux-painting options. 

Kathy Bailey, who paints under the name Faux for the Soul, says that while Venetian plaster remains a top choice for homeowners, she’s recently used shimmer plasters and foils in her work for a more sleek, contemporary look that homeowners are now seeking.

Like Bailey, Greg and Cindy Byrd of The Byrd House Faux are discovering that the Old World finishes are being upstaged by a cleaner, more transitional look with an emphasis on light metallics. “People really like the clean lines; we’re even changing out fixtures to give spaces a more contemporary flair,” says Greg Byrd. 

The Big Picture 

A trend the Byrds are seeing is the use of large-scale graphics on walls. “You can see it in wallpaper, too,” says Byrd. “A lot of the oversized hand-painted graphics are super hot right now.”

Those big graphics are a powerful complement to the transitional décor that’s dominating 2014, and if you had to pick a color to illustrate that trend, it would have to be gray and its metallic complement, silver. Transitional “is a happy medium of modern and traditional,” says Marisol Roman of Roman Interior Design in Orlando, and gray “is the new neutral and can be paired with multiple colors to create unique color schemes.” Byrd notes that silver-leaf techniques have eclipsed the more traditional gold metallics of the past. 

Other popular faux treatments are layered looks with subtle reliefs using beeswax and metallic powders, and Byrd adds that tortoiseshell faux finishes and deep jewel tones are on trend this year.

Go with a Pro

Even though DIY is all the rage, a major faux painting project isn’t the best place to find your artistic expression. “Always consult a professional,” says Tito Granada of Designer Finishes by Tito in Altamonte Springs. “Faux is an art and it requires an artist. Faux finishing must be well thought out and intentional in its design. All too often faux finish becomes a major faux pas.”

Once you’ve taken the faux route, you’ll find that the true beauty of a faux finish is its undisputed uniqueness. No two finishes are alike, which means you’ll have a one-of-a-kind masterpiece to call your own. How’s that for an artistic statement?  

Categories: Decorating