Monday, August 18, 2008

Tricks of the Trade

When I think about designing, it is not always about painting. I have written many entries with reference to color, paint, faux finishes and the like. I feel I have left out a big area, that is DESIGN in general. All the questions I have raised in my earlier posts can be answered using this trick.

What colors should I choose?
How do I choose the right colors for my room?
Where do I start?

SPECIAL TIP: Some of the most experienced designers and decorators do it.... cut out photos! From magazines, old and new or from your family photo albums. Take pictures from anywhere you might find an image that speaks to you, gives you good feelings!

I have saved just about every Architectural Digest, Better Homes and Gardens and many other magazines that I had subscribed to over the years, or just bought on a whim in an airport while traveling. I tear out the pages that I love, the rooms and colors that speak to me, that give me good feelings. I keep them in a file, for reference, or pin them to my bulletin board so I can glance at them and dream. Another great source is to search through the photos you have taken on vacations, places you have traveled that have special meaning.

Think about the deep rich blues of the Caribbean waters, how calming and soothing they made you feel. Or the deep terra-cotta clays of Mexican villages and reds of the floral bushes leading down to the shoreline. How about the great contrast of the white plaster homes to the deep Mediterranean sea in Greece.

You can use these images as a jumping off point!

I worked with clients who did a lot of traveling in Italy and wanted their home to reflect that Tuscany feeling. We used rich colors and re-created a look of a small home, where the plaster had peeled away to expose the brick below. There was a window box of vines and flowers that draped down over this. We painted the walls with a fresco finish and I used plaster to re-create the bricks in a way that looked as though they were under the wall, exposed, as in the photo. Using a silk floral arrangement we were able to complete the look.

Sometimes taking images from your past, or photos from a room you love in a magazine is the best place to start. The colors can inspire you to create a wonderful room that you will enjoy for many years!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tools of the Trade

With every job you do, having the proper tools can make an otherwise difficult job seem easy, or easier than if you don't. Many of the faux finishes have the type of the tool to use right in their name, sponging for example. This can be deceiving.... there are sponges and then there are sponges. I once witnessed a do-it-yourself faux sponging go bad. After making a color choice and choosing the sponging finish technique, a client decided to try the finish on their own. The problem came when interpreting the finish, they used a rectangular kitchen sponge. Now this can be a good tool if you want a geometric hand. Being precise in the placement, keeping the lines even can give you a great look. Using different shades of the same color or analogous colors would be terrific. However, this client wanted a soft touch, monochromatic look. You cannot get this with a rectangular sponge - the edges are too severe. Having the right tool would have created the desired effect.

I am going to give you a list of the tools I suggest for specific faux finishes, some of which you have in your home. You do not need to go out and purchase expensive tool for most faux finishes. Cotton rags for example are great for ragging on/off or for fresco washes. Most of us have old t-shirts, towels and sheets we can cut up that are great for these finishes.

sea sponges - sea sponges are exactly what they are called, sponges from the sea. A great benefit to using a sea sponge is that it has lots of texture, I call them 'stipples'. You can cut them to fit into small spaces and corners. This tool is used in a variety of techniques, sponging being the most popular and well known. I also like to use a sea sponge to add texture at the end of a projcet when doing a wash or marble finish. You can purchase sea sponges in many locations such as most local hardware stores, arts & crafts stores such as Michael's or online.

rags - cotton works best- this can be old t-shirts, towels, old fabrics and sheets. You can buy a bag of rags at Home Depot or Lowe's if you do not have any of the above items. It is best when using cotton rags that you wash and dry them before using to faux. This will get all the pieces of loose threads and lint that may exist off the fabric. You do not want to start a finish and have small deposits of cotton on the walls, this will drive you crazy! Rags are good for ragging paint onto the walls or ragging off. These techniques are exactly as they sound.
Ragging on - applying paint to a rag, lightly, and dabbing it on the wall until the desired amount of color is applied to the wall.
Ragging off - applying paint to the walls, and using a clean rag to dab the walls until the desired amount of paint is left on the wall.
Believe it or not, these finishes look very different from each other.

cellophane- any brand will do, but you need a lot, as this can be a very messy process. I would suggest a garbage pail lined with a garbage bag kept nearby so that as you are done with a sheet, as it is loaded with too much paint, you have a place that is convenient to toss it out, without fussing trying to get it into a garbage bag. This can create a nightmare of a clean up if you try to get the paint covered cellophane into a loose garbage bag. Cellophane creates a texture that can look like the walls are covered in the product itself. You can apply the paint to the walls and then place a long sheet of cellophane on top of the paint, mush it up, ( I know that is not a real word, but I think you know what I mean) create wrinkles in the plastic and then take it off the wall. It will remove some of the paint and leave a unique finish.

paper bags - this is a tool many use like cellophane, but it is not as messy of a finish. You can use supermarket brown shopping bags for this process. Again, you can apply the paint to the walls and with crumpled up bags, press the bag onto the wet painted wall and remove it for a wrinkled look. You can also apply the paint to the wrinkled and folded bag and using the bag, apply the paint to the wall. Make sure the cut the bags into manageable sizes. Another unique finish is to use the bags ripped into smaller pieces, depending on the look you want and using wallpaper glue, put up the ripped pieces, overlapping them on the wall. Then use a glaze, either tinted with color or as is, and apply over the papered wall. This gives you a completely different look than faux finishing using a bag. It is not exactly a faux finish, more like a homemade wallpaper treatment. Unique nonetheless!

woolie- here is a tool that as a professional you should not be without, and as an amateur it will be the best investment you can make! The Woolie is a tool that is available in some stores, or online, as you can see from the link. It has a faux sheepskin texture fabric that is on an easy to use handle. It is easy to clean and comes in two sizes. The smaller tool is great for corners and hard to reach small spaces. Well worth the investment! The Woolie will give you a soft touch finish and can change any flat finish painted room to a muted finish in no time at all. The only tip I have to offer here is to be sure not to load the Woolie with too much paint. You can use the tray supplied in the kit and dip the Woolie in, or, as I prefer, use the tray as a holder for the Woolie and apply the paint to the tool with a brush. This will allow you to control the amount of paint on the tool, and subsequently on the wall.

blue steel blades -a must for venetian plaster finishing. The plaster is applied using these blades and then burnished using the same blades. Be sure to keep the blades clean as the plaster can dry and cause problems by getting into the wet plaster on your walls. Venetian plaster is a very difficult and labor intensive process which can be overwhelming after only thirty minutes of starting, if you are not prepared. I would suggest reading up on this one, searching on YouTube for hints and how-to video before you attempt this process on your own. You can buy the blades at your local big box hardware store, paint store or online at a number of sites. Here are two I have found - OR Plastering Tools- Venetian Plaster and Faux Finish Supplies, Tools and workshops.
I own the symphony blade kit and love it! Three sizes for all spaces!

spackle knife- A basic tool, mainly used for fixing the cracks, pin and nail holes and divets in the walls prior to painting. They can also be used in an artistic way to apply paint to the walls for a different look. Spackle knives come in a variety of sizes and are available at your local hardware stores. It is important to keep the spackle knife clean while working to alleviate the problem of the dry plaster ending up mixed into the wet spackle being applied to the wall. This can cause a problem when the time comes to sand the area, as the dried up piece that got mixed in can crack out and create another divet that will need repair.

artists paint brushes - These come in all different sizes and shapes. Using an artist's brush will allow you to correct problems easily and act as a great tool for finishes like marbleizing and veining. Most arts & craft stores carry a variety of brushes. You do not have to buy the most expensive brush to get the effect you want. I find that Michael's has a great selection of brushes.

paper plates - I know, this is a crazy tool! I feel this is one of the most important tools to have when starting ANY faux finish technique. I use paper plates in many ways, they make great palettes for your paint! They are terrific when you want to dab off the excess paint from the tool you are using, be it a ragg, sponge, or any of the items mentioned above. The best part is that this is an affordable tool and most people have this in their home!

So, there you have it - my list of my favorite tools. Before trying any finish yourself, make test boards using foam core, actual sheet rock or poster board. Test the tools and the finish on a sample board before applying it to your walls to perfect the technique. Place the finished board in the room and look at it in all different lighting to be sure you like the finished product.
The most important tip... have fun with it - after all, it is only paint!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Faux Finishing : "Do-it-yourself" or "let someone do it for you"... that is the question

You need to ask yourself, am I the 'do-it -yourself-er ' or the 'I love it, but want someone else to do it' kind of person -

Whichever type of person you are, faux finishes can add a great customized look to your home and make it unique, a real expression of your style.
Whether you choose to do flat paint or faux the walls, the idea of painting still stands.... it is the easiest, quickest and most of the time, the least expensive way to update a room!

SPECIAL TIPS for the Do-it- Yourself-er:
  • blue tape is your best friend with faux finishing. Always tape the ceiling when doing the walls, right at the corner where the ceiling meets the wall. This will allow you to get into the corners at the ceiling so that there is no white or missed spots - When you see missed spots in a line at the ceiling, it is a sure sign that the faux finish was done by an amateur. Blue tape can also be used to create a unique look, like artwork on the walls.
  • have the right tools, and the right size tools ( this is most important with sponging and ragging, to get into the hard to reach corners for a consistent look!)
  • cut the sponge or rags to different sizes to allow for those hard to reach, smaller spaces, like next to the door frame when it is in the corner.
  • have different styles of paint brushes, those used in fine painting come in very handy for veining, when doing a marble finish and for just touching up color into corners that are difficult to get to. If the paint peels off the wall when you are taking down the blue tape a small paint brush can be used to touch in the original color. ( I am sorry to say that this sometimes happens!)
When considering doing the work yourself, the question to ask is how much time do I have, am I willing to take the risk of trying something new, am I willing to get my hands ( and clothes) dirty?

SPECIAL TIPS to consider when hiring a faux finish artist:
  • talk to your friends, whose home have you seen a finish you love. Get recommendations of painters they have used. Collect a few names. Local paint stores may also be a great source in finding a painter.
  • set up a consultation with the artist, review their portfolio, ask for references, and understand how they conduct their practice.
  • understand how the artist will charge you. many faux finishers charge differently for their work. Some may charge a consultation fee to help you choose the color palette and then a fee for the actual painting; others may give you a flat rate for a room. Some charge for the paint, others include it in the flat rate. It is best to have this understanding up front.
  • ask if they will provide 'sample boards' of the finishes they are recommending, in the colors you have chosen. This is important, as they may have a sample board of what a wash or ragged off finish looks like, but once you determine the "style" of finish, (the technique that you like) and the colors you want to use, you should receive a sample of that finish, in your colors. Remember to place the sample board in the room and look at it during all different times of the day and night to see how it reacts to your lighting. You can always ask your painter to lighten or darken up the finish depending on how your want the room to feel.

Hiring a professional is definitely the easier way to get the finish you want, and to have total control. Be prepared, it can cost you - faux finishers are artists after all, and the finish they create is a work of art that will make your home unique!

Whatever you decide about just who does the work, be careful with faux finishes, you can overdo it! You want the flow of your home to work. When each room complements the other it creates a harmonious feeling. You do not want to create an atmosphere where every room is faux painted because it can become too busy. The colors and techniques of the adjacent and visible rooms (rooms within eye shot) must be considered when making these choices. Whether you are redecorating your entire home or just one room, the best way to decide if the colors you are choosing for each room work together is to make a color scheme for your home on paper using paint chips on one palette. This will give you the visual picture of each room and how the colors all look together.

These are great tips to consider when determining if you want to take on the project yourself, or hire a faux finish artist. Faux finishing adds a unique appearance, one that is exclusive to you and your home. As the colors and technique used are as different as snowflakes!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Faux Painting and it's Benefits

I love faux painting on so many levels!

Faux painting is one of my acquired skills - I have done so many rooms and finishes that I can comfortably explain each technique. Some are easier than others, some are more expensive processes and more time consuming. If hiring a professional to faux paint for you, understanding the time involved in each process will help you understand the costs and charges involved. In addition, there are some great books I can recommend for the do-it-yourselfer to purchase and web sites that can help as well. I hope to be able to describe the finishes so you can have an idea of what the finish can look like and what room it may best compliment in your home. This topic in itself is so massive, it deserves it's own entry- actually,more than one! Each finish has it's own look, style and time constraints that as I move deeper into this log that I blog, I will try to address them all. For now, let me just tell you the benefits of faux painting as I see it.

The Benefits of Faux Painting

1. it covers a multitude of sins on your walls
2. it adds depth and dimension to a smaller room, allowing the walls to act as your artwork
3. there are so many different techniques that you can use, which helps make each room look different, giving the room it's own personality or feeling.

There is a multitude of faux finishes available. I will share a few of my favorites in each entry - I will also make available a list of books and web sites I would recommend if you are interested in learning to faux paint yourself. I am going to try to give you some of my insights about the finishes, as well as tips I found helpful.

The most important lesson to learn as a do-it-yourselfer, is that blue tape is your best friend!