Faux Finishing, Decorative
by Bruce Hackett
As consumer demand for faux finishes has skyrocketed, so has the need for qualified practitioners equipped with the skills necessary to provide the high-quality work the marketplace has come to expect.
that one of the hottest trends in interior design and decorating is the use of faux and decorative finishes — glazing, muraling, Venetian plastering, dimensional textures, raised embossed images, marbling, wood-graining, stenciling, and trompe l’oeil, to name some of the more popular techniques.
As consumer demand for these finishes has skyrocketed, so has the need for qualified practitioners equipped with the skills necessary to provide the high-quality work the marketplace has come to expect. Consequently, there has been a proliferation of faux and decorative finishing schools, workshops and classes offered in virtually every state in the Union.
PaintPRO recently spoke with a number of leaders in the faux finishing industry and asked them to share their thoughts on the evolution of the profession, where it’s headed, and how schools and workshops can help raise the standard of quality delivered by professionals.
In the “olden” days before the Industrial Revolution, European artisans like Thomas Kershaw set a standard for beautifully rendered, hand-painted faux and decorative finishes. “It was a small, tight-knit, and extremely proud profession,” says Ray Sandor, president and founder of Faux Effects Inc., of Vero Beach, Florida. “These people devoted their lives to their work, and they were extremely reluctant to divulge their trade secrets. Some even refused to let you in the room while they were working because they didn’t want anyone to see the techniques they used.”
One of the more recent pioneers of faux finishing was Isabel O’Neil, who ran a school for painted finishes in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s. Joan Day, who has 28 years of experience running Day Studio Inc., in San Francisco, Calif., was one of her students. “Isabel struggled to overcome people’s negative attitudes toward painted finishes, which had been so badly damaged by the cheap antiquing kits so popular at the time,” says Day. “She successfully restored the reputation of painted finishes to their rightful place, which is well beyond craft and more toward fine art.”
By the 1990s, Sandor says, customers were traveling to France, Italy, Germany and England and seeing the age-old quality there. They soon began demanding that same level of quality here in the U.S., he says.
“Ten years ago or so, a contractor could get by with a little ragrolling here, a little sponging there, and clients would be satisfied,” he says, “but what used to pass as wonderful is now only a mediocre finish. The quality of old is returning, I’m happy to say. The bar is getting set higher and higher.”
Ten to fifteen years ago, there were only about a half dozen schools for those eager to learn faux finishing and decorative painting. Today, there numerous companies promoting everything from one-day specialty courses to two-week comprehensive workshops.
Sandor adds a word of caution, however. “The proliferation of schools is actually a little disturbing, in that everybody has sort of jumped on the bandwagon. Each of these schools surely has something worthwhile to offer, but I would warn PaintPRO readers to try and take a really good look at the history and experience of the people who teach the workshops.”