16 days of faux bois wood painting — 40% done

miniature schnauzers helping out16 worker-days of painting all the woodwork in my living room / dining room to look like stained cherry. We are about 40% done. Denise has worked 10 days full time. I have worked about six days. Yes: 16 work-days, altogether. And we are only 40% done. 

I am also frazzled beyond belief.

So you get some adorable dog pictures.

I neeeed some adorable dog pictures.

Meanwhile, I have flown to Kentucky to visit family. Denise has cabinet doors with her at home to work on this weekend.

And I am also working on a big project to rewrite the parking bylaws for my Town. I am on the Planning Board. I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this. I am a publicly-elected official! Ummmm, no one ran against me. But still. I like working on local projects, because you can see the difference your help can make, assuming you are actually successful at being helpful.

I can see the difference the painting is making. I love it! Above: The bookcase does not have the faux bois glaze layer yet. The wainscoting does. Denise is doing all the important glazing. When I try, it’s pretty much a hot mess. It takes serious finesse. She has been doing decorative painting 29 years — she’s awesome and is doing a fantastic job!

Still, I had no idea how time intensive this would be. Ummm, I kinda didn’t ever ask her.  

16 days of work — and only 40% done. This may be the bamboo that broke the camel’s back. xoxo

Categoriestiki and bars
  1. Yes, wow, it looks amazing! Our 1949-vintage house has beautifully rendered book-matched walnut faux bois wood work which mercifully was never painted over in the main rooms. Truly a lost art. And now that we hear how much time it’s taking, it’s easy to see why putting in real cherry would be about revenue neutral if you weren’t doing this work by yourself (with your secret weapon Denise).

    I was wondering when I saw the original pictures of all that dentil moulding on the coffered ceiling if it wouldn’t be much faster, not to mention truer to the time period, to just remove that and add a plain moulding to paint. I can’t even imagine the chiropractic bills that may be required to treat necks and shoulders doing all that over-the-head work. I used to do decorative paint finishes, so I am reliving (which is not quite the same as relishing) many memories of time spent up a ladder working on ceilings.

    Keep up the great work.


  2. pam kueber says:

    Hi Elizabeth, a few comments since several readers have mentioned maybe it would have been cheaper to replace all the woodwork and start new.

    I really don’t think so. My woodwork is quite complex, and I have a very difficult time believe its quality could be replicated affordably today. To pull it out would be a major mess — I can’t imagine how you would do it without messing up the ceilings and the walls. In addition, to restain is not easy – a multistep process just as painting is, wood is not cheap, and labor is for sure not cheap – and we would have had to spend for removal, dumping, replacement, staining, etc.g. I have lots of original windows, too, all with beautiful moldings, and even rounded moldings in places. The beams — I counted at least six pieces of different moldings to create them! Oh, and two long rows of bookcases and many cabinets and drawers.

    To recreate our woodwork would be super duper expensive, I think.

  3. Mary Elizabeth says:

    I think the project is coming along very well, and it is interesting to hear all the comments and your replies regarding why you chose to go the faux painting route.

    I believe the elaborate woodwork is original to the house (it looks like the midcentury colonial style to me), and it’s hard to know what the original finish was. Sometimes people strip down the wood in their homes and find it was a paint-grade wood that was used for moldings, etc. And pulling out it all and replacing it with stain-grade lumber would be outrageously expensive.

  4. karin says:

    Faux bois lookin’ good! It looks so warm and inviting in the photos. For some time, I have considered trying my hand at a faux bois finish on my doors. I really love the look of midcentury wood doors.

  5. Lynn says:

    Wow! It looks great!! After seeing all your work and reading the comments, I feel very lucky. The prior owners of our house replaced ALL the painted trim in the main living area (1700 square feet) with new and stained it to match the original (1965) doors exactly. It is beautiful and so warm. I have always loved stained woodwork so much more than painted. While their replacement is not original to the house (and I like to stay original), I think it is more reflective of the period than the painted would have been. I am very glad I didn’t have to take this huge project on myself! I can spend my resources on my blue bathroom and black and white basement floor!

  6. Ann says:

    I didn’t see any mention of the colors or brand of products you are using. I am faux bois-ing in my 1862 Italianate, and I am having a terrible time getting a decent brown from the paint industry as a whole, it is either too black, too blue, or looks like, well, you can imagine where I’m going with that. Have been custom mixing stuff, but with limited success.
    How about a kick in the right direction? Thanks!

  7. pam kueber says:

    I have not talked about that info yet. The base is 2/3 Cimarron from Benjamin Moore “Ben” eggshell to 1/3 Soft Clay, same other info. The glaze changes the base color a lot. Don’t have a recipe for the glaze. Denise custom-made it.

    Note, my wood has a very strong red feel to it, to coordinate with existing woodwork. It’s also quite dark, for the same reason.

  8. Kathy says:

    I first learned about using paint under glaze in an old book called “The Wood Doctor,” which I got at the library and liked so much I bought a used copy for myself.

    The “harvest oak” look that was popular in the 70s and 80s was actually a butter yellow thinned and wiped over the wood just enough so that some of the grain still shows. Then finished with a product similar to Miniwax.

    My grandmother’s and parts of my house were finished in “platinum.” According to an old-time painter, you used to be able to buy that finish in the 60s, and I actually found a tiny can of it at a yardsale, but haven’t had the courage to open it up. In my bathroom where it has worn around the handles, I can see it is a milky pinky brown, similar to the color one would get mixing burnt sienna and burnt umber artist colors with white. It too was wiped on so that the grain still shows then finished with a clear or slightly tinted finish. The picked finish popular in the 80s-90s was similar but more pink.

    My trim is pine and the cabinets birch plywood. Perhaps this technique (using oil paints, stains and varnish I’m quite sure since it has yellowed to a near fruitwood color over the years) became popular when light tones for wood, and had the benefit of being a way to finish pine, which tends to not accept stain evenly.

    My grandmother also had a custom oak door. For years I wondered how it was made because it was a smooth black with the grain in white. Finally I found out that is called liming and it is painted and then finished in white wax or paint to pick up the grain in coarse-grained woods, usually oak. It can be done in any color, but black or stained is the most common. It is also known as a cerease finish and was popular on Art Deco furniture in a light finish.

  9. Susan Halla says:

    Heywood Wakefield furniture is finished in a similar type of finish where it has a bit of opacity to it and is wiped on. There is a guy on eBay who makes his own in the two colors that Heywood Wakefield used (Wheat and Champagne) and there’s another place online that sells it, too.

    I refinished a beautiful HW coffee table that I bought at a junk dealer for $30 and restored. I used the Wheat color from the dealer on eBay – it’s a perfect match to my existing HW wheat furniture!

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