Going with the Grain

Going with the Grain

As a companion to my June Bay Area Women’s Journal article  on “Faux Bois“, or the fine art of wood graining I am writing this post to further explore the subject. To create, or recreate the look of wood on tired, damaged, or lackluster surfaces is one of my favorite things to do!

There are so  many uses for even the most simple Faux Bois!  Who doesn’t love the warm look of wood in a space?  Natural (looking) wood gives a feeling of bringing the outside in.  From rustic, to elegant, and back again….go with the grain to enjoy beautiful (painted) wood for all seasons.  I would…wouldn’t you?

One of the most common uses of Faux Bois  is on doors, especially exterior doors.  Often these doors are made of wood that has been painted, or has become worn and weather-beaten.  Sometimes a homeowner, house painter or contractor will opt to have it refinished in a wood grain  finish, rather then replace it, or strip and restore it.

As most Faux Bois looks are achieved through the manipulation of semi-transparent glazes over a base coat, the color that emerges is the skillful combination of the two. This  also results in a sense of depth, giving the “fake grain” a sense of naturalness.

Windows too, are a common surface for Faux Bois. Sometimes, like the above, the sashes have been replaced, and need to be wood grained to match the existing frames and surround.  This can be tricky…matching not only color, but “faux” to real wood, but it can be done, and to great effect.

And, sometimes, as in the window above,  all of the wood areas are done, or redone, at the same time, on the recommendation of an interior designer, architect, or even decorative painter!

Ceiling beams can be especially fun, and satisfying to recreate.  These beams were initially painted the previous ceiling color, what a waste!  The homeowners and their designer wanted them to look like wood again, and to match the heavy, darkly stained wooden doors installed throughout the house.  Now they really pop against the creamy ceiling, adding character and interest to the room!

Both the cabinet and the mirror frame above are grained to work with the marble vanity top, a great solution for these newly built and installed raw wood pieces.  As the treatment is custom, the clients could choose the color, style and feel they wanted, in keeping with the hues in the marble.  As with any finish, Faux Bois is fine in a bathroom, as long as it is sealed with the  proper water-resistant varnish.

In the master bath above,  the tub cabinets were painted in white latex.  Once wood grained, they become a focal point in the room, providing another layer of richness and luxury, and connecting the room to the other wood finishes in the master suite. These cabinets are sealed with an oil-based varnish for extra water-resistance, luster, and depth.  The slight ambering of the varnish over time will only add to its warm glow!

If carefully planned, and executed with artfulness and skill, Faux Bois, like any finish, will enhance your surroundings, whether interior or exterior.  You can have the look of rich, natural or stained wood, without having to strip, restore, or replace.  Now, wouldn’t that be grand?!

Have YOU used “Faux Bois” in your Home, Business, or Community Spaces?

If so, please share about it with us here. We love to hear from you!

Remember, we are all designing this thing called Life, together.


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Featured Work: A Niche Greater then the Sum of its Parts

Featured Work: A Niche Greater then the Sum of its Parts

The Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “niche” as:

  • a recess in a wall especially for a statue b: something (as a sheltered or private space) that resembles a recess in a wall
  • a place, employment, status, or activity for which a person or thing is best fitted
  • a habitat supplying the factors necessary for the existence of an organism or species
  • the ecological role of an organism in a community especially in regard to food consumption
  • a specialized market

What is the connective tissue between the various definitions above? It seems to me that the term “niche” indicates a unique space specific to an individual, species or thing.

Those of us in the fields of decorative painting, carpentry, wood working, design, architecture and building most likely have designed, created, built, painted or adorned a niche or two at one point or another.

Those of us in our own businesses, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, creative-preneurs, creators, and those of us training, schooling, learning, job-searching,  job creating , or job holding,  have at least one thing in common: we want, need, or are compelled to “find our niche“, our “place” in our respective fields, professions, markets, companies, schools, programs, jobs, or careers. We are moved to find that  elusive (and sometimes colorful!)  unique space which seems to defines us authentically,  in our worlds of work, family, society, and community.

Abby Kerr, copywriter,  blogger, niche marketer, and owner of Abby Kerr Ink says of her work: “It’s about nichifying your offerings to meet your right people right where they are.” .  Within the “niche” business model, the proposition of uniqueness in gifts, talents, voice, sensibilities, skills, and offerings would seem to be a given.

So it is with Clients, who wish to express themselves by making something even more unique of their architectural niche space, at home.

Beloved Clients of mine purchased a “dream” retirement home…well, a house they planned to transform with color, design, furnishings, and decorative painting INTO their dream home, with the skilled assistance of various vendors.

Their realtor suggested a mural application for the hitherto unadorned wine bar niche, and the game was on!

Niche before "niche-y" adornment

My Clients had spent decades living in Southern California, and were enchanted by the Sonoma Wine Country in which their new house was situated.  They were  thrilled about making the Wine Country a theme in their new home.

We chatted about vineyard scenes, and determined we didn’t want a “prototypical” one.  We looked at photos, colors, applications and mock-ups.  We determined that a softly rendered scene of lines of vines gently receding to meet misty hills under a golden sky would be best.  I applied the mural with semi-transparent washes of glaze, as opposed to opaque paints, (an unusual approach) to the back wall of the niche, and glazed its side walls and ceiling in layers of red wine-y colors.  Involved with the whole process from start to finish, my Clients were delighted with the outcome. which reflected THEM, and the unique place they were at in their lives, right at that moment.

"Niche-y" adornment reflects Them

The entire wall into which the “niche-y” Wine Bar niche was placed was treated in concert with its “niche-y” focal point, the Vineyard mural.  The walls were painted a strong red, mitigated by an application of three deeper  red “wine-y” hued glazes applied simultaneously.  An original “adage” penned by the Clients was lettered in “grapey” purple, and sparkling metallic colors.  The built-in cabinetry and bottle storage were base painted and wood grained (treated with “faux bois”) in tones of “sweet rosy brown” , which worked beautifully with the bar’s countertop.

The Niche is part of the Whole

My Clients were pleased with a result which reflected Them, and their unique take on where they felt themselves to be, right at that moment.  The process of developing a “niche-y” design of artful applications in their Wine Bar niche, and throughout their new home during a time of transition helped them through that transition, and eased their way into a new phase of life. You might say that they “niched” their new home to reflect the people they had become, and created a “niche” of the entire house which would  support them in their adaptation to retirement, containing and expressing both the effects of their “old” life, and expressing their excitement about the new.

In this way, “nich-ing” can not only become an expression of our deepest selves, our uniqueness, offerings and worth, it can also help us to embrace our lives and experiences as they are now, and move more confidently, and happily, into the future.

When have you used your art or craft to create or enhance a niche, for yourself, or for others?  What was the quality of the process and its outcome?  If you feel so inspired, please share your unique, “niche-y” experience with us. We love to hear from you. Remember, we are all  in this thing called Life, together.