Faux for show

Designers for this year's Baltimore Symphony Decorators' Show House use paint finishes to simulate marble, rough plaster and old patinas

May 11, 2008|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Sun Reporter

See the marble baseboard that matches the marble fireplace?

Look again. Look closer.

Unless you are on the floor, nose-to-vein with it, or touch it with your finger, you'll think that baseboard really is marble.

But this is wood, a trompe l'oeil design handpainted and glazed, with green and cream veining to mimic the fireplace marble.

"I love marbleized baseboards. It adds weight and character to a room," said its painter, Charlie MacSherry, who has a Baltimore decorative painting business.

Encircling the room, the marbleized baseboard is one of several techniques used to unify elements of the library.

It's also one of many complex faux-finish and painting techniques enhancing walls and other large surfaces at the 32nd annual Baltimore Symphony Decorators' Show House.

The show house, presented by the Baltimore Symphony Associates, displays the latest in design trends and their elements - colors, style, furniture and accessories.

Especially arresting are the faux finishes and brushwork - stenciling, distressing, texturizing and otherwise multicoloring surfaces - from the pigmented kitchen ceiling down to that library baseboard.

Faux finishes and murals not only have long endured, but also are increasingly complex to create, combining techniques and finishes in multiple layers and shades. They allow for personalization, hide surface imperfections and often cost less than remodeling with the real thing, decorators say.

"Faux painting has a very broad definition, from painting, washes and glazes to more elaborate finishes," MacSherry said. "I think people choose faux finishes because they don't want wallpaper but they don't want flat paint."

This year, the show house is Roland Run, a country home built in 1896 as one of the grand dames of Ruxton. It's really a two-fer. The owners are expanding an early 1800s cottage next door, and four of its rooms are among the 23 spaces transformed by area decorators.

Although the owners plan to move to the enlarged cottage, the manor house is for sale. The homes decorated as show houses generally have ties to the real estate market.

"Most houses are like this. The houses are for sale, or it is going to be for sale," said Marge Penhallegon, this year's volunteer show house chair, noting that use as a show house gives a house exposure to thousands of visitors.

In 2003, the show house was one bequeathed to the orchestra for fundraising purposes, so it was for sale along with the decorator furnishings. Another year, new owners allowed their home to be turned into a show house before they moved in, giving them a little more say than usual in decors, she said.

"We've been very successful, because the houses do sell," she said. Between the walls and the furnishings, she said, any of the rooms done by the more than two dozen decorators could pique a buyer's interest.

In the library, MacSherry and Christopher Winslow of Winslow Art & Design in Baltimore used a French antique style, treating the room with fake finishes. The walls are a celadon and vanilla strie, a subtle look of layers of brushed-on paint. Gilded panel molding forms frames for the delicate chinoiserie designs that surround hanging artwork. The fireplace mantel was glazed to give the impression of a patina highlighting the old paint. The walls exude character and act as backdrop for warm-hued antiques.

"The walls put it together. We wanted an elegance, just a beautiful room," MacSherry said.

In contrast, Kathy Ward of Borderarts in Ellicott City used paints, waxes, primers and more in faux finishes to create an old-world look in the breakfast room.

"They are old-world finishes, meant to look like they've been here for a while," Ward said. "You're trying to get something to look like what it's not."

Rubbed-through layers of paint on the wall lend an impression that "over the years, people would have painted things in many different colors," she said. Her coral-tinted brick wall appears to have chipped to show yellows, creams and greens beneath, but really, she's created areas within each paint layer where subsequent tints won't stick.

Similarly, rough plaster made with a texturizer coats two walls; cabinets in distressed buttermilk have that look of aging furniture - but the browns that would be wood really are applied on top of the lighter shades.

In a nearby hallway, artist Susan Perrotta, a consultant for Budeke's Paints in Timonium faked the look of textured old plaster walls by applying crinkled tissue-paper with paste and coating it with five layers of paint in pale teal, cream and gold.

"It really transforms a room because you can create your own look," she said. "But it's a lot of labor."

The kitchen, the work of John Q. Grier III of Q. Decorative Finishes in Lancaster County, Pa., and Ryan Sentz, of the Faux Dream in Perry Hall, also has multiple faux finishes, including what appears to be a tile backsplash, an old plaster ceiling and walls, and rough-textured cabinets.

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