When asked “What do you do?” I invariably answer I’m a faux finisher. And I sometimes get a quizzical look.  I may follow up with I’m an artist, .a decorative painter but I usually end up in the neighborhood of I paint murals…to which everyone then goes Ahhh!. I haven’t yet found an answer that works 100% of the time and I don’t mind the confusion since my own husband thought the glazes I work with are the same as can be found on doughnuts.  It makes me smile.

What is a Faux Finisher?

A faux finisher is an artist that uses materials in a unique way to create false (faux in French) or decorative illusions.  It’s OK if you call us the fancy painters as well – many trades do!  [As in, upon our arrival at a good-natured jobsite: “Oh, you guys – the fancy painters. Check it out everyone: The Fancy Painters are here!”]  Our industry can be viewed as a luxury, but in actuality, there are a few ways we support the needs of both the building and design industry:

Affordable Fix-ups:

An inexpensive way to avoid demolition and clean-up costs is to hire a finisher.  Most have worked on a variety of surfaces — cabinets can be refinished, countertops given a fresh look, wood can be matched seamlessly and light fixtures can have their patinas transformed.  All this without needing to tear down or buy new.  Maryland artisan Dee Cunningham of Deelite Design says, I have probably painted nearly every surface imaginable.

It’s essential to know what materials work best on a given substrate to create a truly professional look.  I believe that is a key component.  It’s important that when you do hire a finisher that the end result look seamless and not painted.  And savings?  My company was hired to woodgrain the all white glossy cabinetry in a large hotel restaurant.  They wanted it to look like cherry wood and of course, it needed to withstand the rigors of a restaurant.  Tearing out the glossy white cabinetry and replacing it with cherry wood would have cost the owners 3 times as much as our estimate.  The result?  We finished it in record time, some of the other trades could not believe it wasn’t real wood and it has and will continue to hold up beautifully.   It is the art of illusion, of course — durable illusion.

restaurant before and after faux painting techniques

restaurant before and after faux painting techniques

Restaurant Before (top) and After (bottom)

Work Within Design Plan:

Adding a layer of interest on surfaces is what finishers, as a trade, are called in for.  There might be times when the design of a house calls for a good balance of multiple finishes and times when just one perfect accent area completes the look.  A finisher often works with techniques such as:

  • Glazing,
  • Venetian Plaster,
  • Decorative Scrollwork,
  • & Mural Elements.

They can also tailor  the finishes to work in several design styles: a streamlined look for a modern home, patterns within a Moorish design or a nice mix of textures for a traditional home.  Also remember that good style doesn’t necessarily mean a good amount of money — builders, designers and trades have versatile options to ensure that a good level of beauty can be had at any budget.

Would This Article Also Help?  Color that Pops :: Pops of Color Examples in Home Decorating


Artisans are adept at mixing and pairing colors.  Most finishers have undergone Color Theory training and can also match colors easily.  I’ve developed finishes that take into the elements in a space in order to unify everything, Dee Cunningham adds.  “We can also use our keen sense of color to help tweak something if it wasn’t delivered in the correct finish.”  A finisher that has those talents can help immensely in helping to choose the right tones for a home and residence, help with colors that are not working together or bring a color around that is just a bit off.

decorative painting techniques used on kitchen cabinets before

Decorative Painting Cabinets After

Pink Pickled Cabinets Before (top) and into a warmer color transformation (bottom)

The faux finishing industry is one that adapts to the changing tides of design.  Products and techniques are constantly updated and it is exciting for most artisans to see and reflect these changes – we are a mercurial group, after all.  I personally fell into it after rooming with a film set designer and she introduced me to the world of decorative painting…which I call my “true love” career.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this inaugural post.  If you have any questions or comments, by all means post away — but for the record: no, the glazes used are not the same glaze as on doughnuts.  Devastating, I know.  :)  Have a wonderful weekend!


Notes from the hosts: To read more from Faux Finisher Regina Garay, here. For more from our general category, Decorating – there. To seem more from our What to Know About series, click back there. ~jb