The Cross House

Inching Along in a Faux Bois Kinda Way

In a recent post, I detailed the effort to restore the wall surrounding the FABULOUS triple-stained-glass windows on the upper stair landing. Just this ONE wall.

 

I don’t have time right now to restore the entire upper stair hall, but wouldn’t it be ever so delightful to, at least, have this one wall looking’ good?

As part of the process? The wood trim around windows.

The problem?

Unlike almost all the trim in the house, the trim around the triple-windows was painted and then repainted and then repainted and then repainted…and so on.

This is because these three windows were part of a big change to the house. While originally lighting the upper stair-hall, in 1929 a remodeling resulted in the triple windows lighting two kitchens. A later remodeling removed the double kitchens and changed the immediate area to a motel room (with the two right-most windows) and an adjacent pink bathroom (the left window). And the final coat of paint was black.

At some point, somebody took…

 

…a heat gun to the trim. But never finished. It seems that they did not own a ladder. Only the left-most window trim was untouched.

 

Until now! I removed the left-most trim and stripped and stripped and stripped away. This is the result.

 

What you see above is, mostly, the original faux bois (false wood) finish, with areas of actual wood peeking through.

The lightness of the faux bois finish surprised me though. Surely the upper hall didn’t have trim so light?

To solve this mystery, I took a length of trim off an nearby door, which had never been over-painted, and…

 

…removed the later DARK layers of shellac. And at the top, the 1894 faux bois finish was revealed. Squee!!!!!!!!

 

Yes, this looks like wood but it is, in actually, a painted finish.

 

However, the door trim (left) reveals that the triple-window trim (right) has now lost some of its faux bois finish. I am guessing the the extant finish on the window trim is the BASE coat for the faux bois finish, and that my stripping seems to have removed the final coat.I am guessing.

 

I don’t think however the any of this matters. A dreaded and evil heat gun removed about half the original finish down to bare wood, which means that the lost finish will have to be recreated by a faux artist.

 

So, I will simply have the faux artist recreate ALL the original finish on the triple window trim.

And, at this point in the restoration of the Cross House, in an 1894 house filled with damaged faux bois finishes, it is now obvious: I really really need to marry a faux bois artist. And treat them like a God.

 

 

28 Responses to Inching Along in a Faux Bois Kinda Way

  1. Your plan to marry a faux bois artist seems rather complicated and time consuming. (The wedding planning alone could take hours!) Ir might be easier to just learn to do the faux bois painting yourself. But seriously, I’m sure you would do a fantastic job.

  2. When I was about 15 I tried to create my own faux bois texture on some kitchen cabinets my dad and I built. We had no base coat, and it was straight onto MDF. Needless to say it failed, and I still don’t how to do it. It looked totally fake and terrible before it soaked in either way. It is most definitely an art.

  3. I’ve watched some faux bois DIYers on the internet and I’ve seen the results of some professional painters so I’d definitely say even with the proper tools (graining combs etc.) there’s a steep learning curve! First of all you need to know exactly what the species you want to imitate looks like, pores, rays and all. Then you need to pick the right base coat colour. Next, you need to be able to re-create the look of that wood species. Finally you need to pick just the right tint colour. I’d say the wood grain is the most complex part though, in many cases it just looks like bad brush marks and even the better pros often only get it to the level of cheap laminate wood imitation.

  4. In the meantime, since you know the base coat color, you can repaint the bare wood so at least it all matches- It certainly looks better than that gloss black! I can pretty good at graining birch & mahogany, but oak is tough. The door trim is really beautifully done!

  5. Ok, please don’t hate me or ban me or come at me with a butcher knife. But, and I know there is a million square feet of wood, but would it be possible to strip all the wood to the real wood and re-stain it and polyurethane it? Since trying to do the faux bois is seeming like it’s nearly impossible is this even an option? *Bracing for the blows*

    • Well Dan I second that so you won’t be alone when the blows hit. Also, at the risk of further blows to myself the grain looks a lot like dry brushing to me and I’m good at that. But yes it takes skill, an eye for wood and color.

    • -Neither hatred, banning, nor physical attack, with or without, weapons is appropriate, however, the use of polyurethane in an historic house seems wholly inappropriate. We all have our opinions, here’s mine.
      -I believe that shellac is often the finish of choice because it can be restored or removed fairly easily without damaging the wood. Few know that shellac is a very good stable base for most other decorative choices such as graining, as well as the finish at the end.
      -Accentuating the wood so one can see the surface through it is the goal of a good finish. Faux graining is not supposed to be the final coating aka “finish”. It should be protected by a number of coats of a good finish like shellac. The wax can be used to protect the shellac.
      – Polyurethane removal is really rough on the wood underneath and definitely destroys patina. If one really wants to put polyurethane on a wood surface, a base coat of shellac makes it much more easily removed when it eventually fails.

      • Believe it or not Stewart I was wondering about that. The difference between the use of shellac and polyurethane. Thanks for that. I will keep that in mind when I redo my rocking chair.

  6. I always find it remarkable how light the woodwork was in 1894. For some reason I always think of dark woods as synonymous w 19th C. By the 1890’s this must have been the “modern” looks!

    • Some of it was indeed awfully dark, even in the early 20th century. I think that was a German influence, they sure loved their near-black oak! Our doors were definitely on the lighter side, although not as light as these windows. Subsequent clear coats have darkened them considerably.

  7. What I don’t understand is why did they redo real wood to make it look like real wood? I’m still with Dan but if you were able to strip the wood and stain it I guess it wouldn’t be in keeping with the way it was done originally. Time for you to check out that sight Mike gave you. 🙂 I don’t want to get married! 🙂

    • They could use a species that was affordable and nice to work with and turn it into something fancy that way. Eventually faux bois became an art form in itself rather than simple cost-cutting and cheap imitation, at least that’s what I’ve read.

  8. Just wondering why they were trying to make wood look like…wood? What was the point? Sorry but they skipped the finer points of faux Bois in my home ec class.

  9. There is a man by the name of Ed Gonet who did some fabulous work at the Edwards House in Springfield. I don’t know if he is still in the business though.

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