Andy Franklin can take a concrete floor and make it look like richly grained wood. Renee Allarie can make a wall look like stone or leather and a countertop look like granite.
They’re two Fort Wayne-area artisans riding a wave of popularity of faux finishes that make the typical box of a tract home look, well, out-of-the-box.
As people remodel or build new houses, what some call going faux has become a decorative alternative to add personality, historical or rustic flair or the look of more pricey or otherwise impractical surfaces.
Take Franklin’s touch with concrete wood.
First, says Franklin, the Bryan, Ohio, owner of SupremeCrete, he strips down the existing concrete surface of, say, a basement or garage floor to ensure better adhesion to the polymer cement he applies next.
Then he designs the plan for the boards, which he stains and textures individually. The finished surface is then clear-coated with epoxy.
We end up with a flat surface, but it looks totally three-dimensional, he says, adding that the process also can produce brick and stone looks, including slate, granite or even metallic marble.
This year has been about my busiest year ever, says Franklin, 44, adding that most of his jobs are in and around Fort Wayne. I’ve been swamped.
Allarie, 60, who owns Krystal Klear Decorating in Fort Wayne, works her faux magic with plaster, paint and glazes.
I would say probably it got more popular in the last five years. It’s really on the upswing, she says.
In new homes, there’s been a demand for what she calls Tuscany looks, which add a weathered, textured Old World appearance. Others want embossed countertops with leaf designs – she can start with existing laminate, she says – or kitchen cabinets that look antiqued.
In a lot of the remodels, people are doing things to save costs for them and to upgrade, versus selling and moving. It can be an inexpensive way to upgrade, says Allarie, who is certified in faux techniques by Faux Design Studio in Illinois and Prismatic Painting Studio in Ohio and is licensed to use products made by Faux Effects, a Florida decorative finishes manufacturer in Florida.
Faux artists use many materials. For example, millwork made from synthetic materials, including urethane or PVC, is gaining ground among those adding or replacing the look of woodwork.
The popularity of one such product line known as Fypon has helped support a 350,000-square-foot manufacturing and warehouse facility in Howe that makes the material, says company spokeswoman Kathy Ziprik.
The facility consolidated operations in Archbold, Ohio, and Angola in 2010 and now employs about 100 people, company officials say.
Fypon products range from window pieces, doorway surrounds and ceiling beams to crown molding and specialty items such as decorative ceiling medallions, which sometimes are used to anchor ceiling fans or chandeliers.
There are even sunburst pediments for over doors and banister toppers, including one that looks like a carved wooden pineapple – details that give the impression they were made a couple of centuries ago, especially when faux-finished to look antiqued.
Fypon can be used on exteriors or interiors and is easy enough to handle that do-it-yourselfers can work with it, Ziprik says.
Restorers of older houses say Fypon can save them a frustrating search for missing molding, the expense of custom millwork and the weight of wooden ceiling beams.
Lee Gamble, a Steamboat Springs, Colo.-based designer and painter who specializes in faux finishes and uses Fypon products, says a homeowner can take on ambitious projects such as making the interior of a standard subdivision home look like a cozy Tudor, classic Colonial or something out of the rustic Old West.
Decorative moldings and accent pieces add so much to older, bare-bones box houses that were built in the ’70s and ’80s, she says.
In suburban Atlanta, Phoebe Taylor’s 20-year-old ranch house began plain and builder grade, she says.
Taylor, a professional decorator, transformed it with faux wood beams, decorative molding and a gold-spun paint job that looked like soft marble.
Her vision: what our dream house would have been if we had gone out and bought it.
She adds: My house was not an expensive house. But even the million-dollar houses don’t have this kind of detail.
In redoing her master bath, for example, Taylor started with just a straight-shot bathroom. She added molding and wood panels to the walls, then framed the bathtub with decorative embellishments.
It looked very dramatic, Taylor says, adding that buying a new home with those real architectural features would not have been affordable.
Rick Fischer, owner of Deco Illusions in Roanoke, has been in the local faux-finish business for 20 years and has taught nationwide for 10. He uses painting techniques and plaster.
He has re-created wedding-cake-style details in historic properties, has made interior columns look like they came out of ancient Rome or Greece and has covered walls with metallic leaf or paints to make them look like textured bronze, silver or copper.
He says fool-the-eye techniques known as trompe l’oeil and other faux surfaces should never be an end in themselves.
Architectural elements are supposed to draw your eye in. It’s to bring your attention to detail, he says. You’re always enhancing. You’re enhancing what’s in a home or commercial space.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.