PaintPRO, Vol. 8, No. 5
November 2006
PaintPRO, Vol 8 No 3

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Other articles in this issue:
Painter of the Month
Faux for a Cause
Great Design!
Technology: Metallic Paints
Estimating: Overhead Costs
Business Strategies
Product Profile: Aura Paint
Paint Industry News
Product News

From the painter's perspective
Tania Seabock of Sterling, Va., an artist who moved to Virginia from San Francisco about five years ago, estimates that she put in about 400 volunteer hours, "not including phone time," to help transform the house in Arlington.

When she first came onto the project, she recalls, all the rooms were taken and she was assigned to do a ceiling mural, one of her specialties. By the time the project was at its midpoint, she was in charge of two rooms: the dining room and the gentleman's room in the basement. She did wood graining in both, and was the artist behind the faux marble and inlaid wood floor, as well as the freehand mural in the dining room.

"From January until May, I gave it my all, working my regular jobs by day and the faux house by night," she says. And although she got little sleep during that time, she doesn't regret a minute.

"I just clicked with the people I met on this project," she says, adding that before, she hardly knew anyone in Virginia, and now she knows so many. "It's one of the best decisions I've ever made. It opened a lot of doors for me."

When the time comes to build the house in New Orleans, she plans to be there. "I'm an adventurer. I love to work on group projects. Plus this project has good karma. Good things keep happening over and over."

PaintPRO Archives
House of Faux



House of Faux

The House of Faux was created by volunteer artists from around the world to help those left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. Started as a way to show how different faux techniques could be used to transform their own homes, it turned into a house that amazes all who visit.
by Stacey Enesey Klemenc

From the street, the modest three-bedroom home in the Northern Virginia town of Arlington looks quite ordinary. But on the inside, the 1940s house is oh so faux fabulous.

The brainchild of Adrienne van Dooren, a retired Army intelligence officer turned faux finisher in nearby Alexandria, "The House That Faux Built" is the result of artists from across this country and beyond combining their talents for a worthy cause — to help those left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. More than 100 folks volunteered to work their magic to make nearly everything in the house appear to be something else.

House of Faux
Hand-painted details make the lincrusta-covered walls in the gentleman's room look like antique leather. A patina glaze completed the process.
House of Faux
Guest artist and author Melanie Royals of San Diego taught a group of volunteers how to apply one of her Modellos, a one-time-use adhesive vinyl stencil, to the parquet floor in the living room. The 6-foot-by-8-foot design was created with water-based stain and seal.
House of Faux
For ambience, Maggie O'Neill and her team embedded wine corks and labels into the walls of the basement stairwell leading to the wine cellar and gentleman's room.

The work is documented with before, during and after photos in a book authored by van Dooren, who is currently immersed in rewriting the hardcover version of "The House That Faux Built: Transform Your Home From Shabby to Showplace Using Paints, Plasters & Creativity." The rewrite is scheduled to be published in 2007, with a portion of the proceeds to benefit Habitat for Humanity.

Top artists from Rome, England, France and across the U.S. donated their time and talents to help fund a New Orleans Habitat house, as well as homes for animals displaced by hurricanes. These included such renowned artists as: Barth White, Melanie Royals, Kelly King, Gary Lord, Nicola Vigini, Mary Gibilisco, Sean Crosby, Pascal Amblard, Leonard Pardon, Pierre Finkelstein, Joanne Nash, Amy Ketteran, Randy Ingram, Brian Townsend, Jacek Prowinski, Sheri Hoeger and Yves Lanthier. Almost 100 product sponsors from this country and Europe also participated.

Once upon a time
The story began in summer 2005 when van Dooren came up with an idea that would forever change her life. At first, she just wanted to buy a fixer-upper to show common folk how different faux techniques could be used to transform their own homes.

Then Katrina hit and she started thinking that maybe this project could help the hurricane victims. She began with an e-mail blitz to fellow artists she knew, asking if they were interested in participating in such a project. The goal was to raise $75,000 to fund the building of a Habitat for Humanity home in New Orleans. In the process, she would produce a coffee-table book recording the event.

In a few months' time, she obtained commitments from scores of artists. Those who couldn't come sent murals for the house or to be auctioned. By December, a few dozen artists arrived in town armed with paints, plasters and the tools of their trade. With a megadose of creativity intertwined with little-known techniques, problems were solved and finishes created that would show homeowners how to avoid costly and disruptive remodeling and still achieve stunning results.

House of Faux
This mural on canvas depicting a landscape in Northern India is the work of Pascal Amblard, Sean Crosby, Pierre Finkelstein and Nicola Vigini. Painted at the International Salon of Decorative Painters, the original work hangs in the "Crossroads to Culture" room. The model is Crosby's wife.

You won't believe your eyes
By May 2006, the transformation was complete. The home was open for public tours, which often left visitors in awe at what they saw:

Old worn parquet and wood floors were stenciled to create the impression of inlaid wood and Oriental carpet. A cement floor was made over to look like inlaid wood and marble.

In the kitchen, a refrigerator and dishwasher were painted to look like expensive built-ins. The stove was accented with a backsplash fashioned with tape and marmarino and Venetian plaster.

Commonplace tiles had been refinished to resemble stone, slate or tumbled marble.

House of Faux
Sheri Hoeger, better known as "The Mad Stencilist," created this panel door with overalls in her studio in California and shipped it to Virginia to be part of the faux house's home office. The canvas panel was waxed to the existing flat wooden door.
House of Faux
An old storage shed behind the Faux House was remodeled into a home office. Seen here is a mural by Francesca Springolo, who used a stencil from The Mad Stencilist and added shadows.
House of Faux
Denise Malueg used a stencil from The Mad Stencilist to create this mischievous pig in the home office.

What appeared to be richly grained wood in the dining room was the result of layers of paint and a skilled stroke.

The trompe l'oeil touches — from a matchbook on the floor and note on the cabinet to a cork and broken wine glass on the stairs — could fool even the trained eye.

A once-carpeted run-of-the-mill stairwell was now one of the most fascinating parts of the house. A cutup cartouche mural adorned the stairs' risers and harlequin diamonds embellished the treads. Word stencils and a painted niche with flowers in a vase dressed up the walls. At the top of the stairs, a cozy reading nook was flanked by faux bookcases.

The basement was now home to a wine cellar and a gentleman's room. The lincrusta was detailed to look like leather and the drywall was wood-grained to resemble rich walnut.

And there was the nursery with glow-in-the-dark fairies, a romantic bedroom with Italian scrollwork and a heavenly ceiling mural, an upstairs sitting room that features a mural on canvas, and the list went on. It was hard to find a focal point in this meticulously decorated 1,600-square-foot house.

Here's the plan
At first, van Dooren says, she thought they would hold an open house fundraiser, sell the house, and take the profits from both to finish funding the Habitat house. "But the market shifted," she laments. "And with everything costing more than I had anticipated and paying the mortgage for the year we worked on it, it didn't look like there was going to be a profit. Plus, we hated the idea of someone moving in and painting over the stunning work."

So the plan was altered. She rented the house furnished to a caretaker who allows access to the media and keep tabs on how the faux finishes hold up over time.

About $30,000 was raised from ticket sales and renting out space for private parties this past summer to help fund the Habitat for Humanity House that Faux Built in New Orleans. The remaining funds will be raised through sponsors, auctions and book and DVD sales.

Looking for a few good tips?
For the next edition of the book "The House That Faux Built," Adrienne van Dooren is planning to add a section of tips from artists across the country. "It will include things that artists just starting out could learn by reading instead of the hard way," she says.

Examples of some of the tips already submitted:
— Use a hairdryer to remove stubborn tape.
— Paint barefooted so you know if you've stepped in wet paint.
— Use a clear sealer over tape to make sure nothing bleeds through.

If you have a tip you'd like to share, e-mail van Dooren at If she uses your tip, she'll credit you in the book.

"Right now we're in the low $40s," van Dooren says. To help boost the coffers, artists have donated classes, with some to be auctioned off January 15, 2007, on the faux house Web site, She's also including a section in the back of the book where, for a set donation, companies can be listed as sponsors or in a resource guide.

There is also a series of how-to DVDs being produced by Patrick Ganino of Creative Evolution, with a portion of the sales going toward the house.

"Once we reach our $75,000 goal, we'll start gathering people to actually go to New Orleans and help build the house," van Dooren says.

"This project has inspired me to start a nonprofit group called Artists 4 Others," she says. She sees the group taking on special projects related to hospice care, animal rescue or some other humanitarian aid. "I'm lucky to have the security of a military pension and medical benefits so I'm able to work for meaning instead of money. I used to hate going into an office and living by someone else's standards. Now when I go to work, I have a passion about it."

In conjunction with the Habitat project, more than $1,000 was raised through the sale of birdhouses donated by artists around the country. The money was donated to Noah's Wish, an animal charity that helped animals displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

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