The Fresh Face of Faux-Finishes

No need to cringe anymore -- Painting a wall with a faux finish is cool again.
View the slideshow above for faux finish wall ideas.
Along with gold hardware and Formica everything, sponge-painting of the 80s has to go down as one of the worst trends in home decorating history. To put it lightly, it was not a good time for design! Not only was the cottage-cheese-like pattern strange, but popular color combinations like pink and green, and peach and sky blue were questionable. That time has thankfully passed and given way to a new breed of faux-finishing: one that is actually attractive.
Faux finishing, a decorative feature that involves layering paint glazes and plasters for visual effect, is much more subtle than it used to be. Instead of taking over a room (like brightly-colored sponge paint), today's techniques create effects that mimic natural surfaces -- like stone and leaves -- and old-time finishes like plaster. The other difference is that with advances in paint technology, it's much easier to create a professional look on your own.
"Faux-painting went out of vogue because of sponge painting, but never really went away," says Sanda Espinet, a designer based in Los Angeles and Cabos, Mexico. Espinet uses wall treatments in almost all of her clients' homes and focuses mainly on using plaster, which gives walls a certain depth and strength, "like they've been there for a long time."
But plaster can be a very expensive technique. "Paint techniques are a great alternative for tighter budgets and give the home a richness that plainly painted walls can't achieve," she says. To get a timeless effect, Espinet tries to stay away from trendy colors and stick instead with classic neutrals. "Not only do neutrals let the rest of the house -- the furniture, artwork and architecture -- stand out, they will always be in style. Trend colors might look great now, but on a treated wall, that color might look dated in a few years time."
Annie Sloan, author of Quick and Easy Paint Transformations, thinks that people may be drawn to faux finishing because of the recession. "They have never gone away, but there is a great interest in what can be done with paint," she says. "Using paint is an easy way to change the decor and brighten our spirits."
Sloan focuses mainly on painted furniture but loves using the chalk paint she developed along with wax to create waxed walls. "After the paint dries, apply a clear, soft -- consistency of soft butter -- wax to the wall with a piece of cloth, and have another clean piece to push down areas that are too thick or sticky," says Sloan. After it's been wiped all over the wall, polish areas where you'd like more sheen. For a shortcut to a similar look, try Behr's Venetian Plaster topcoat over regular paint.
Sherwin Williams' Faux Impressions collection is a great go-to for trying out different paint treatments. The collection is divided into four categories -- Metallics, Quartz Stone, Old World and Artisan Impressions. The four effects are different, but they all add an element of richness to the wall that regular paint cannot replicate. We especially love the Quartz Stone, which has a matte finish with a little sparkle, and the reflective Metallic finish, which is fashion-forward and dresses up any space. Kept in neutrals like gray, beige and tan, the finishes have a sophisticated look that should stay in style for years and years to come.
Photo Credit: Sherwin Williams

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