The “wow factor” is a popular phrase these days—finding that defining characteristic of a room or home. Unfortunately, a marble fireplace surround or cascading water fountains aren’t always in the budget, nor do they fit every design. A faux finish, using special paints and techniques to simulate texture or materials, in a room or even as an accent can dramatically change the look and give a unique, personal touch without breaking the bank or needing major construction.
Dry brushing is the most basic technique for creating a faux finish. By dipping a sparse amount of paint on the tip of a brush, blotting any excess so that the brush is almost dry (hence the name) soft textures can be added to make a wall become dramatic. It is sometimes also referred to as colorwashing or sponge painting. “A lot of people refer to it as sponge painting and I cringe when I hear that terminology,” said Debbie Viola of Custom Finishes & Murals by Debbie Viola based in Massapequa Park. “I’ve seen some horrendous jobs where you can actually see the kitchen sponge marks on the wall.”
For do-it-yourselfers, it is a manageable project as long as a light touch and blending techniques are maintained. In fact Viola admitted that her first attempt was an experiment in a new bathroom. She used sea sponges, five shades of beige and even cheesecloth. It’s been almost 20 years and she still considers it some of her best work. “The most important thing is to have a good eye and know what looks tasteful—the corners aren’t a mishmash, no paint on the ceiling, there’s not blobs of one color in one spot, everything’s blended out nice and softly.” To accomplish this, Sherwin-Williams Faux Impressions offers several different finishes that can be tinted any color for the DIY crowd.
When creating something more specific, like mimicking granite or pressed tin, it’s time to call the professionals. While it may be an added expense for the expertise, it will still save over putting in the real thing. “I just did work for the Ritz Carlton across from Central Park. They had to build a new façade around the doorway and they had to make it look like marble on wood,” said Viola. “When we went to see it installed we could not pick out what was mine and what was the marble.”
Because there’s a specific look, precision is key and technique is paramount. Painters and artists all have their own tools of the trade, from hundred-dollar badger-hair brushes to 50-cent chip brushes. Viola’s secret when painting marble? “Sometimes I’ll use a feather, for the details of the veins, it gives it a nice natural, realistic look.”
Metallic paints are a popular trend nowadays. There are micro flakes of metal that can be added to paint to give it shimmer or pearlescence and true flat metallic paints too. “I do a textured metallic and the way I run my trowel through it I’ll create a nice effect. One client said it looked like a silk waterfall,” said Viola. She recommends Modern Masters brand that specializes in metallic paints and finishes. There are even kits that create rust and patina patterns.
To add some actual texture and intrigue, plaster is an overlooked option. It’s great for old world effects with a translucent glaze in earth tones or burnished Venetian look. But plaster can also achieve contemporary looks and can be tinted any color, adding a touch that paint can’t achieve.
For those who like wallpaper, but just can’t find the right color or perfect pattern, stenciling is a popular option. It gives a freedom of choice instead of having to stick with what’s on a certain roll. Plus, no seams or worries about peeling, especially with bathrooms. Mix in dry brush techniques and plaster textures, and it creates a seamless pattern that outperforms any wallpaper.