Walls CAN Talk

Learn the Language of Faux Finishing
Walls CAN Talk

Though it looks complicated, decorative artist Curtis Heuser insists that the faux finishes were the quickest and simplest efforts that went into his 1895 Newport home’s revival. He emphasizes the use of inexpensive materials that can be found at the local hardware store and tries to limit pricier items marketed expressly as faux-finishing products.

Mastering a few basics can help you explore your inner artist and create beautiful murals, tile-look designs or leather-look walls. Remember to always design and plan each area first for best results. You can find detailed instructions for these techniques in Heuser’s book: Your Home: A Living Canvas or contact Heuser at Interior Visions for information on upcoming classes.

Tumbled studio tile

Technique: Create dimension using joint compound and paintable caulk. Add color with latex paints. Quarter-inch auto body tape comes in handy for masking out the grout lines.
Seen in: Kitchen


Technique: Heuser used this finish on wood cabinetry. One of the harder finishes to master if you want a particular look. Uses some faux-finish products: sizing and crackle medium. Apply a basecoat, topped with a sealing coat. When thoroughly dry, brush on sizing. When sizing turns clear, apply crackle medium.
Seen in: Library and Office

Chinoiserie wall mural

Technique: A combination of simple finishes. First, apply the techniques of basic muraling, using midtones, highlights and shadowing tones. Use a design that keeps “the eye dancing around the room,” Heuser says. Next, roll a ticker (wood grain imitator) in green paint. Then, using pressure, roll it down the painted mural to give it the look of antique silk that’s been stretched and pulled. Finally, place an oil glaze on top and strié. To strié, use a special strié brush and sweep it across the finish leaving textured, delicate thread-like lines.
Seen in: Guest bedroom

Textured Faux Fresco Frieze

Technique: For the swirling dining room fresco frieze, Heuser added a quick textured finish using joint compound. He transferred a pattern to the area, then sculpted the edges and feathered the compound toward the center. He then painted the work, sanded and distressed it.
Seen in: Dining room and Kitchen


Faux Stripped-paint or Pickled Finish

Technique: Gives the effect of wood painted white, then later stripped. The pine wall panels were sealed, stained, painted with a mixture of joint compound and latex paint. After drying, Heuser sanded the panels and sealed them with a thick coat of oil-based glaze.
Seen in: Dining room

Faux Leather Wall

Technique: Heuser calls this one of the simplest finishes. The key here is to use a palette of deep, rich colors. Walls are divided and taped off into panels. Paint with basecoat and shade walls to create a halo effect. Draw a trompe l’oeil stitch seam between adjacent panels. Using glaze and oil-based tint, roll the mixture onto panels with a sponge roller. Immediately ragroll the wall using cotton cloth. Crumble cloth like an accordion and twist it, then walk it over the panel.
Seen in: Office


Faux Linen/Damask Wall

Technique: Use basic stenciling, ragging and strié techniques.
Seen in: Parlor

Photography By Ryan Kurtz

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