Faux Painting Revisited

Today StyleBlueprint welcomes guest blogger and decorator Robin Campbell. Robin is a Nashville-based artist who takes the mundane and makes it great with her special techniques and creative eye. In homes across Nashville, Robin has scattered her version of Pixie Dust over dozens of cabinets, walls, and furniture to breathe new life into things that looked drab or boring. We are happy that Robin gives some insights into her job as well as many project photos to get our creative wheels running.

Occasionally, when someone asks me what I do for a living, I pause for a split second to think. I’ve called myself a faux finisher for years. When I was in my first grade, faux finishing was cool. Who wouldn’t want to hire me to paint their kitchen like the walls of a Tuscan villa had been reclaimed (regardless of the fact that the house is actually a 950 square meter apartment built in 1993)? These days I call myself a “decorative painter”. I like to think that the newer title doesn’t immediately bring to mind fluffy white clouds on a light blue ceiling or a kitchen that bears a remarkable resemblance to the olive garden.

This island, with its very subtle glaze, is a great example of how decorative painting can highlight everyday items in the home.

This French antique and newly built cabinet was a world apart until paint and glaze brought them together. (Interior design by Elizabeth Hague Interiors, Inc.)

Here is an example of what we are NOT aiming for with decorative finishes. I can almost smell the bottomless basket of breadsticks if I just look at this wall …

Many industries struggle to stay relevant in the face of changing trends and economic conditions, but decorative painting has a very lively baggage from which to distance itself. While the subtle glaze on a paneled wall has nothing in common with its distant cousin, the garish, terracotta-covered gold wall, the association that decorative painting “dated” leaves a certain guilt. The irony is that many of today’s design trends depend heavily on surfaces – furniture, cabinets, walls, floors – many of which can be created or altered using painting techniques.

A subtle glaze on woodwork adds warmth and depth to the entire space.

Another example of a subtle glaze that adds the finishing touch to an already beautiful room.

Nowadays it is impossible to ignore gray. Blue-gray, green-gray, French-gray, Belgian-gray. It is the new standard neutral. We saw it on windows, upholstery, walls and wood. It’s in every design magazine, catalog, and everywhere in Pintrest. There are several blogs entirely devoted to praising his virtues. It feels fresh, it looks current. It’s not beige.

What started out as a brand new, unfinished chair now shows the wisdom of age with this warm gray finish.

Gray different: this time a metallic plaster ceiling and ailing curtain fittings. (Interior design by Elizabeth Hague Interiors, Inc.)

A dated piece of pine goes into the millennium with a touch of gray

The good news is that much of the heavy Mediterranean furniture purchased for Tuscan walls and beige living areas looks several pounds lighter without all of that dark stain – a good sanding and painting, a tinted or chalky wax, or a coat the newest member of the Minwax family of stains, surprisingly dubbed “gray”, can change the entire look of a piece … and a room.

These already beautiful cabinets called for a bluish / gray treatment to complement the new homeowner’s lighter style.

Here are the same cabinets with their new finish. (Interior design by Elizabeth Hague Interiors, Inc.)

At the other end of the spectrum are the super bright colors of 1970s Palm Beach. Kelly green, bright yellow, coral and turquoise are popping up everywhere, seemingly against the gray trend. Lacquered mirrors, chests and chairs, whether new or renovated, make bold statements with their cheerful colors. Modern lattice, Moroccan and chevron patterns in the form of pillows, bed linen and wallpaper appear on the Flash Sale websites every day.

And believe it or not, wallpaper is not threatening me. In fact I love it! Not only does wallpaper provide a perfect scenario for a painting technique on a ceiling or nearby piece of furniture, it has also helped bring textured and patterned walls back to the foreground of the design.

Fabulous metal wallpapers are a perfect partner for an ornate ceiling. (Interior design by Rachel Halvorson Designs)

Aside from kind words about wallpaper and beautiful pairings, color is sometimes the way to go. For these occasions we can invoke an explosion from the past, the template. I’ll admit that I’ve only recently seen the light when it comes to stencils, as I’ve always associated them with terrible green ivy borders on ceilings of dated kitchens or purple hearts written on birdhouses with the words “There’s no place like at home ”over the little holes. But times have changed, and technology has given us the ability to turn any design imaginable into a laser cut template that allows that design to be transferred onto a surface. The ability to adjust the color and size to suit a specific room makes stencils a great way to incorporate patterns into the decor.

Customizable template. This would be great in tone on tone or metallics too.

The economy has changed the long-term plans of many homeowners. At this point, some may no longer be able to move to a larger house or a gutted kitchen. However, replacing some appliances, remodeling dark, tired white, and even melamine cabinets can be an inexpensive way to update a kitchen.

Melamine is great …

… when you paint it.

The same goes for furniture. A factory-made dining table and chairs from the 1970s look far less groovy with a coat of paint and a subtle aging glaze.

A stain on my iPhone makes these chairs look even worse than they actually were.

A coat of paint and an aging glaze transform these chairs and the table they surround into pieces that belong in this elegant kitchen. (Interior design by Sandra McDonald / Austine Fleenor)

One of the reasons faux finishing can create bad memories for some people is the abundance of not-so-well-done DIY projects. That’s not to say that there is no place for the weekend warrior in the world of decorative painting. Several large paint dealers sell their own lines of glaze and texturing products, and the quality has improved significantly over the past five years. Lowe’s offers Valspars Antiquing Glaze, an excellent aging treatment for surfaces that have already been painted. One of my favorite products in the furniture and accessories market today is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint. This UK made paint is now available in the US and is both user friendly and non-toxic. No primer is required, and in my opinion, the less even the application, the better! Cleaning is easy and once sealed, the finish is very durable. Annie Sloan Chalk Paint is worn on-site at C’est Moi in Brentwood. If you’re in the mood for a road trip, Virginia Weathersby teaches great courses on how to use it in Jackson, MS at PAINT, her Annie Sloan business.

I’ve found this paint to be a perfect tool for making those Pier 1 / Storehouse pine pieces from the late 90’s …

Cabinet. Around 1990. Before? Yawning…

And then? My version of an Olympic gold medal.

The development of decorative painting is very similar to the development of fashion. We can hold onto the classics for a lifetime, but some periods were downright hideous and should be banned forever. While some people will forever consider decorative painting a purple leg warmer, the endless possibilities the painting techniques offer really catapult them into the ranks of the little black dress.

Robin and her dog Moses. Photo by Stef Atkinson

Thanks, Robin!

For more information on Robin’s work, please visit her Facebook page by clicking here: www.facebook.com/RobinCampbellDesigns. Or contact them by email at [email protected]. She travels to make houses beautiful and works with interior designers in many cities across America.

Today’s photos (with the exception of “Pre-Shots” and the close-up of the template) courtesy of Stef Atkinson.

Selected interior designers are:

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