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As Seen In The Paint Dealer
Faux Grows... In Popularity and In Beauty
Feature from PD, May/June 1993
In this featured
section, an article by the Pro Faux duo themselves, John & Greg explore faux and what it cane do for you as a DIYer, retailer and professional.

Faux finishes can include any painted or glazed finish that resembles something real - or something that is not.

For instance, a metal door can be deceptively woodgrained to imitate a handsome oak door, or it can be ragged in several different colored glazes for an interesting effect. The term faux has also been extended beyond it's original intent to include simple glaze techniques that do not attempt to imitate nature at all, as well as the more colorful and exaggerated suggestions of wood and marble called "fantasy finishes.

But the common theme that ties all faux finishing together is the use of the tinted glaze or wash. Used over the appropriate basecoat color, these translucent glazes and thin color washes can produce a vast array of effects, ranging from the simple and elegant pinpricks of a stipple technique to the diaphanous and opulent effect of a marbleized surface,

These paint illusions began some 4,000 years ago. The earliest examples found were my mycenean pottery. Later the Greeks and Romans used these panted finishes to embellish their temples and other fine buildings as well as for furniture and murals. Throughout the centuries, other Europeans used these finishes lavishly and extensively in their churches, cathedrals, public buildings, palaces and estates.

Recently, we in the design related fields have witnessed a tremendous resurgence of interest for these age old techniques. In the past, these decorative trade secrets were jealously guarded and passed down from father to son, or from the master to a promising apprentice. Today these 'secrets' are revealed freely in workshops, videos, and books.

Whether the contractor is performing the actual decorative work himself or specifying the finishes to subcontractors, he/she still needs a good understanding of how these finishes are created. Often the expense of a book, video, specialty tool, or even the cost of an entire workshop can be recouped in a single professional decorative painting job. After completing the intensive two day PRO FAUX workshop, one graduate made $1,600 in a single day with one of the ten finishes he learned in the hands on course.

Education is the shortest road to success. Knowing the fundamentals of paints, of mixing glazes, and the usage of proper tools and techniques add up to the right ingredients for an enjoyable and successful start for anyone truly interested in decorative painting.

Painters who take the time to learn correct decorative painting techniques can increase their hourly earning potential by as much as tenfold. It is not uncommon for experienced faux finishers to command $50-75 per hour! In addition, these decorative painting skills can add almost instant credibility to a contractors business. Whether one chooses to specialize exclusively in this field or offer it as a part of a complete decorating service, clients, designers, and architects alike perceive these individuals as an elite corps of painters. A painter with these skills can command a much higher pay rate than his or her peers.

Painters who depend on good weather for the majority of their work can often offset foul weather days by offering interior specialty work. If they are already at a client's home for painting, wouldn't it be nice if they could sell the service of marbleizing the fireplace or woodgraining the metal doors to fill in on a rainy day? And if the painter is your customer, that's more business for your store.

Practicality is a major advantage of faux finishes. When foot traffic is extremely heavy, as in a shopping mall, real marble and granite make good sense. However, if one is more concerned with aesthetics than durability, faux finishes are an excellent alternative. Faux finishing is typically a fraction of the cost of installing and finishing real wood or stone materials. For example, the cost of remodeling with actual hard wood may add up to $120.00 /board-foot for rare species even before calculating in the cost of demolition, installation, and finishing. By comparison, woodgraining may only be $5-10/sq.ft. Marble prices can be much more. It is not uncommon to spend anywhere from $30/sq.ft. For 3/8" thick floor tiles, and up to $200.00/linear-foot for finished solid granite counter tops.

In Europe, upper areas of churches, public buildings and grand theaters would frequently be marbleized to match the real marble used on the wainscot and floor areas where durability and practicality are a must. In fact, a third of the "marble" one sees in European churches is actually smooth plaster that has been deceptively painted to look like real marble.

Modern designers, architects, custom builders can add another dimension to their designs by making good use of a faux finish. By the specifying faux along with the real, they can usually complete their projects on time and at or below budget.

Faux can be used in numerous ways to complete a rooms design. Accenting existing decor with either a painted piece of furniture or a marbleized fireplace, for instance, can be very appealing. A new wall covering is handsome complemented by glazing objects which do not readily lend themselves to wall covering treatments, such as fluted columns or panel door systems. These difficult surfaces can be painted and glazed to match any color and texture the client desires.

Simple glazing can often be done in a fraction of the time required to select, order, and install wall covering. Not only are most simple glaze finishes seamless, but clients love the idea of having someone create a totally unique wall finish in their homes. Designers and architects working with in a strict budget and time frame for the completion of a job know that specifying faux marble, faux bois, and other decorative treatments will be less costly in time and money than installation of the actual materials... and the final effect can be just as grand.

Being Knowledgeable of the tools, materials and techniques used in faux finishing can certainly enhance the paint dealer's business - both with contractors and DIYers. Dealers can profit even more by understanding the full range of uses for products they may already stock.

For example, both Floetrol and Penetrol (manufactured by the Flood Company) are used not only as paint conditioners, but also as intricate ingredients in nonproprietary glazing liquids.

You should warn those who anticipate learning faux finishing that this craft can be quite addictive. So much so that one of our students from Houston gave up his successful painting business in order to specialize solely in the field of decorative painting.

Remember, too, that dealers and their professional customers can write off the cost of education, resources, and materials. In fact, the government actually encourages continuing education to help boost your business. Many larger firms and companies already have tuition assistance programs available for employees. The more specialized information an employee has, the more valuable that employee becomes to the company; it's an investment!

Dealers who take the time to be knowledgeable about decorative painting can boost sales by educating their customers. One popular way of building your retail business is through simple in-store demos of ragging and sponging. Vic and Angela Termina, owners of Decorating Depot in Allen Park, Michigan, offer these demos once a month to a standing room only audience made up of consumers and contractors. Majestic Paints in Columbia, Ohio recently ran a newspaper ad promoting a free in-store demonstration of faux finishing, and received 450 calls the first day.

As dealers well know, you stand a much great chance of selling someone once you get them in your store. There's more to marketing faux than just selling a quart of glazing liquid. When someone want a faux finish they're actually asking for two or three paint jobs. First comes the surface prep, then the enameling, then the faux treatment, and in many cases a clear protective coating. In fat, faux painting can often lead someone to get really excited about the prospect of changing their walls and woodwork. Beats selling a gallon of flat, doesn't it?


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