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Home Guru: In A Time of So Much “Fake,” Where Did “Faux” Go?

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By Bill Primavera

Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

 Have you ever heard the word “fake” more often in your life? While most of it is concentrated in our political arena pointing toward the media, one area where you wouldn’t have heard it in a long time would be concerning finishes in the home.

Referred to in French as “faux,” fake finishes on walls and furnishings were all the rage 15 years ago when I first started writing about all matters of home interest, from sales to decorating.

At that time, do-it-yourself projects in the home were running wild, and faux techniques were chief among them, but today, I never see evidence of them in homes and never read about them in lifestyles sections of newspapers or in decorating magazines. It’s nowhere.

Just to confirm my conviction of its demise, I called the paint store Wallauer’s in Mohegan Lake. A young man named Brian Tompkins picked up the phone and, admittedly new to the business, was able to immediately confirm that, yes, sales of faux products were dead. “There’s no interest in our faux products at all,” he said without hesitation, and didn’t fumble for a second to offer two reasons why: “The materials are expensive and it’s also expensive to have the work done if you don’t do it yourself.”

I also checked with my painter of choice, Joe Pascarelli. “It’s true,” he said, when I laid out my suspicions, “People just don’t want those treatments anymore, just like wallpaper isn’t in anymore.  Trends come and go, and faux work is definitely out. Today, people want more neutral, lighter treatments and faux is thought of darker and heavier. Also, it’s very expensive to do. I used to have a woman on call who did very good faux work, but there’s just no demand for it anymore.”

Pascarelli added that his clients also want to expand their space, rather than diminish it. “Faux uses multiple colors which make the space busier and smaller instead of larger and brighter. I always use white for trim and it just wouldn’t go with the darker faux walls.”

When I was younger, my bent toward do-it-yourself projects must have carried over to my interest in attempting faux finishes. Also, it correlated to my living in new apartments with broad spans of boring white walls that needed something to liven them up. That’s when I took to cutting out my own early-American stencils from manila folders, oiling up the paper so that they wouldn’t be absorbent, and dabbing paint into the stencils along the perimeters of the rooms of my first abodes.

In one case, I even stenciled the walls of a walk-in closet, admittedly to try out my skills before I did a main room. I must have had a lot of free time on my hands in those early days!

When I bought my own homes, I progressed from that first foolproof attempt at faux to a more adventuresome freehand project, the marbleizing of a fireplace mantelpiece. In a word, it was disaster. I tried my best to imitate the striations found in black marble with white and rust veins and the end result was that it might as well have been done by a five-year-old in kindergarten. But, I had spent so much money in the materials, not to mention the time and effort, that I let the project stay in place until the day I sold the house. I don’t know if the new owners mercifully covered it over.

A more successful project at faux I tried was wood graining, but that was easier because there was a handy device that basically, dipped in glaze, did the graining work for me.

Considering that faux projects began literally with history itself from the time of decorating cave walls to personalize and decorate our surroundings, it would be a shame if faux disappeared from our decorating lexicon completely. But that may just be the case. It just may surrender to our preference for light, airy and neutral surroundings that offer us a background for décor that is more transportable from one place to the other.

Only time will tell, but in the meantime, let’s face it, it’s easier, quicker and cheaper – not to mention lighter and airier — to slap on a fresh coat of paint with a roller and brush. And for those who want help with that, you can call Joe Pascarelli at (914) 330-3889.

Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( His real estate site is To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.


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