PaintPRO Vol 4 No 2

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Other articles in this issue:
Accent Color for the Home Exterior
Caulking
Wood Sidings
School Spotlight: NASODA
Paint Stores
Contractor Profile: Barth White
Manufacturer Profile: Faux Effects
Paint Industry News
Paint Product News
Painting Tips

 

 
PaintPRO Archives  — Manufacturer Profile
Faux Effects Inc.
By Stacey Enesey Klemenc

We’re truly a company where everything we make is decorative,” says Raymond Sandor, founder and CEO of Faux Effects Inc. headquartered in Vero Beach, Florida. “You can’t call us a paint company.” (Well, on second thought, you could… if you also consider Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci mere painters. Most, for good reason, don’t.)

Sandor’s company does more than just manufacture and distribute in excess of 150 decorative and faux finishing products — everything from plaster, glazes and creams to art imprints, custom canvas murals and stencils. It develops each product it sells, and it shares trade secrets and training through an educational circuit that spans North America. Faux Effects’ mission: To preserve the essence of Old World techniques by way of today’s New World technology. And in the process, turn ordinary painters into extraordinary craftsmen.

The perfect finish:
Combining yesterday with today
Bob Marx, director of The Finishing School on Long Island right outside of Queens, has been distributing and teaching with Faux Effects products since 1993. “We decided to combine our teaching approach with some great material,” he says.
That teaching approach — which is described in detail in a 1991 book written by Bob and his parents, Ina and Allen — is based on traditional techniques and approaches with oil-based products. Titled “Professional Painted Finishes,” the book sets a standard in the field when it was published and many still consider it the “bible of the business,” Marx says.

When it comes to teaching, he continues, “My strength has been to combine the traditional approach of creating finishes with new materials and to really bring that into the school’s curriculum.”

What Marx thinks makes Faux Effects’ water-based products so incredible “is the interactivity of the materials. For example, the glazes and reactant solvents are revolutionary at creating random visual textures. All the material can be interlayered in virtually any combination. There’s tremendous flexibility at how these materials can be approached, which makes way for lots of creativity.” Students can explore and develop new techniques, which in turn produce new types of finishes. “It always amazes me what people come up with,” he says.

Another upside of Faux Effects products is how easy they are to use. “Faux Effects materials allow people who haven’t had years and years of training to create high-quality finishes almost right off the bat,” Marx says. “That’s what our students think is so incredible.”

The Finishing School, which was founded in 1982 by Ina and Allen Marx, also has a studio in Atlanta and in Pennsylvania near Hershey. Marx estimates they enroll about 400 new students each year in the 18 different classes they offer, with a total of 120 classes offered in a year. About 500 students return annually to continue their education.

In the beginning
Sandor, a son of a furniture maker, grew up in Connecticut. When he was a teenager, he worked after school in the finishing department of his father’s plant where he learned various fine-finishing techniques from European masters. By his mid-20s, he ventured out and formed his own company, the House of Craftsmen, which focused on specialized painting and antique restoration involving complex furniture finishes.

Primarily working for interior designers in Fairfield County, Connecticut, Sandor says he was “doing faux and decorative finishing before it became popular to the masses” and has continued to hone his skills during the past 35 years. “Hand painting door fronts, gold leafing, antique restoration involving faux bois [wood graining], marbling — we were doing all that” years ago, he says.

By the late ’80s, Sandor saw the need to design a clean system of finishing that mimicked the Old-World oil finishes that had been around for the past 300 to 400 years. But he hoped to eliminate many of the drawbacks. The populace had begun to realize that most oil-based products were hazardous to both their health and the Earth’s well being; laws were tightening. Sandor, who has a background in chemistry, began to develop a line of environmentally friendly, water-based, VOC-compliant high-quality products and systems which formed surfaces that were every bit as beautiful as those produced by their odorous predecessors. Plus, they were easier to apply and an easy cleanup.

In 1990, he founded Faux Effects® and began selling his products. But he ran into a little glitch, he recalls. Many of his customers, who were accomplished professional painters, admitted they didn’t know how to properly apply his systems to come up with his breathtaking results. “Some of our finishes are as many as 10 layers deep,” explains Sandor. The solution to that problem was solved when the company started a little school in Vero Beach that focused on fine finishings.

From the company’s humble 1,100 square-foot beginning to today’s 35,000-square-foot manufacturing plant, separate school and studio, Faux Effects has grown steadily in the past 12 years by focusing on products for the serious faux painter. The company’s school also has expanded to include 13 satellite schools across the nation — in major cities such as New York, Louisville and San Antonio — operated by accomplished artists who teach serious painters how to use the company’s Pro Line. Plus, some 50 other distributors train people how to apply the company’s less-complicated line, Aqua Finishing Solutions™.

Sandor, a decorative painter who genuinely loves the faux finishes he creates, is also proud of how his products are viewed by his clients. “We have helped so many average painters [who were making a decent income] make much, much more,” Sandor says. “Our products and techniques have literally changed their lives.”

Not to mention, he adds, “We’re making the world more beautiful and much more enjoyable to look at.”

The company’s genuine faux products
Sandor says some of his wall finishes are modeled after fine-furniture finishes. Others are made to chip off and show varying degrees of the finishes beneath. Still others look like marble or aging stone or a cracking wall. “They all have their place,” Sandor replies when asked which is the most innovative.

With some 150 products (and the list growing every year), it’s hard to pick favorites, he continues. The company sells a lot of its Faux Crème Color because “it dries nice and slow. And it’s translucent rather than opaque so a mural takes on a fresco quality,” he says. “It looks like the picture’s embedded into the surface rather than painted on.” And with a Faux Crème Glaze layer, “The light reflection seems to make the artwork glow.”

The company’s Custom Art Imprints, a patented system of artwork that is burnished onto a substrate, leaves no raised edges and looks like they’ve been hand painted. The fine art transfers range from urns, peacocks and cherubs to accents, borders and whole scenes.

One of the company’s newest products, Luster Stone™, trowels on a surface to produce reflective stone patterns. If you follow directions, you can produce a wide variety of high and low sheens. “Just about everyone can do it,” he says. “You can make a beautiful pattern in one or two simple applications or you can combine any one of 14 different colors and intermix for a detailed stone design.”

The necessity of a good education
When it comes to continuing education, Sandor believes everyone “absolutely” benefits, from the lowly apprentice right up to the accomplished faux creator. “There’s a great deal of talent out there,” Sandor says, and so much to learn. Some people may think of a way to use a group of products that never even crossed his mind, let alone yours. “Like applying a system backwards and coming up with a totally different look.”

When you get 10 to 15 people together who are all interested in the same thing, there’s almost an instant camaraderie among them. “The social interaction is as valuable as the actual class,” Sandor points out. “They talk; they’re together. They show their portfolios. They didn’t realize something could be done like that. The whole thing works.”

Faux Effects’ typical workshops last five days (but can be as long as 12) and cover a wide range of topics, including patching, taping, scaffolding, drawing up contracts and several points in between. Advanced workshops include Designer Walls™ I and II, their trademark classes, and others that cover such topics as stone and marble, finishing techniques for millwork, stenciled effects and dimensional painting, to name a few.

Faux Effects Studios not only teach the best of today’s faux and decorative finishing techniques but also historical art forms such as trompe l’oeil [finely detailed illusions], Old World fresco and faux bois. The studios’ hand-picked directors, who are all accomplished artists, are committed to ensure these age-old arts aren’t lost to future generations.

Eyeing the future
Sandor, known as one who doesn’t sit around resting on his paint can, plans to continue developing new products in the upcoming year, such as his version of a precatalyzed conversion varnish for kitchen cabinets. He’d like to reach more people with easy-to-follow directions and wants to expand Faux Effects’ presence on the Web. And in the next year or so, he’d like to establish 40 more Aqua™ Products schools throughout the nation.

“Our schools have helped bring up the standards of faux and decorative training,” Sandor says. The industry has bettered, the painters have bettered themselves and the little company in Vero Beach has grown up. “It a win-win situation for all.”

 
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