Painting faux windows to brighten up your basement family room

Are there rooms in your house that feel a bit claustrophobic? You can open up the space almost immediately with a decor of  “faux” (“fake” in French) or “trompe l’oeil” (deceiving the eye) windows painted on your walls, bringing the outdoors in!
In this example, I painted a mural with two windows,  in a large, dimly lit family room in the basement, used by children and adults for playing games or watching movies.
Background for painted "faux" windows

Background for painted “faux” windows

I started by drawing the silhouette of the windows that I masked to paint the moldings around the window opening, mimicking the real existing ones. I always used the “Frog tape” that does not let the paint bleed through the tape and it leaves a very clean edge. I used high grade Benjamion Moore latex opaint.
Blocking the silhouettes of two trompe l'oeil windows.

Blocking the silhouettes of two trompe l’oeil windows.

Then I painted the window frames.

One sketched window with window frame painted

One sketched window with window frame painted

The following step was to draw and paint the window sill and the exterior walls framing the windows. Once completed, I blocked them with tape and started painting the countryside landscape surrounding the house: its pond, the old farm and the wonderful hills.

Two trompe l'oeil/faux painted windows

Two trompe l’oeil/ faux painted windows

The last step was to block the opened window frames to paint the reflection of the landscape within the window panes. Once finished, the windows became the focal point of the room while expanding/linking the latter to the outdoors.
One faux painted window with neighboring landscape and pond

One faux painted window with neighboring landscape and pond

This “trompe l’oeil” (“fool the eye” in French) not only brought fun and warmth but also a relief to an otherwise closed-up room.
One faux window with neighboring old farm

One faux window with neighboring old farm

In children quarters, you could also paint cute monsters peeping through the windows or other fun animals! Any theme could be amusing and would literally open up your walls. Here’s another idea, perhaps for my next project: a round opening to a Chinese garden or a succession of doors and hallways to perfect a trompe l’oeil effect.
Here at French Designing, we are always helping clients with these types of projects and many others. If you have a project you would like for us to help you with, please feel free to write or call!
Thank you and good luck with your next project!
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French Louis-Philippe upright desk/secretary

These upright secretaries produced through the 18th to the 20th century very commonly found in houses. They were typically displaying beautiful mahogany or walnut crotch or flamed veneer patterns, while concealing lemon wood or rosewood or other precious wood on their interior drawers and shelves.

Upright Louis-Philippe desk/secretary

Upright Louis-Philippe desk/secretary

Their lower part had either 3 drawers or 2 doors concealing  shelves, while their upper part was an opening leaf to be lowered as a desk surface.

Profile of upright desk/secretary

Profile of upright desk/secretary

Nowadays, with the disappearance of artistic knowledge, these woods are perceived as dull, if not sad. Few people can tell an essence of wood or appreciate the hundreds of hours spent on assembling such a piece of furniture, or the different shades and patterns of its wood essence and the incredible difficulty of varnishing it properly!

It is only the shape of a furniture that matters now and its surface has to bear a catchy décor or color.

Proceeding to modernize this piece, I had to sufficiently sand it to give tooth to the primer, while being careful not to sand down the thin veneer layer and avoid creating porous zones difficult to cover with paint.

I then applied two coats of primer covered by 3 top coats. I used a newly available oil/latex paint from Benjamin Moore.

Painted upright secretary in two tones

Painted upright secretary in two tones

Instead of applying a uniform color all over the entire piece, I decided to use a lighter grey /purple for the upper part and a darker one for the bottom, these 2 color zones joining at the bottom of the leaf.

I added a 2-inch gold stripe at this junction, making the desk appear less heavy, more elegant, and unique.

Painted upright secretary in two tones

Painted upright secretary in two tones

Painted upright secretary in two tones

Painted upright secretary in two tones

Another option would have been to use a single color all over the secretary and paint on its leaf a huge stylized pattern such as a flower, a coat of arms etc. painted in a contrasting vivid color or in silver or gilded.

See same transformation on half moon or “demi-lune” table or on side-board.

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Stool painted in faux wood topped by a faux cushion

Stool painted in faux bois, ornate with a faux painted  cushion

One of my clients had a black stool called in French an X shaped stool (by reason of its crossed legs)  bringing sturdiness and style to the piece.

It was in her foyer, topped by a cushion. She was tired of cleaning the cushion that would also fall on the floor hence her request  to paint a fake one, in “trompe l’oeil”!

Original black stool with gold line

Original black stool with gold line

She also wanted to soften the severe and conventional look of this Directoire stool by changing its black color to a faux wood grain in a medium hue.

The first step was to hide the black under a sand colored primer, covered by 2 coats of “café au lait” colored paint with a hint of salmon hue mixed into it.

Stool primed in cream color

Stool primed in cream color

Background color for faux wood applied

Background color for faux wood applied

I then started drawing the pattern of the wood grain and applied several coats of glaze to simulate with it the wood grain.

Faux wood grain painted on edge and legs

Faux wood grain painted on edge and legs

For the design of the cushion, I picked a pattern to simulate the fabric in a more credible way, faking creases and their corresponding shades, as well as the fading of the fabric in some areas.

Stool with faux painted cushion

Stool with faux painted cushion

Of course, along the contour of the cushions I darkened the faux wood, as well as along the edges of the faux cushion itself to bring in some depth necessary to a three dimensional effect.

Faux painted cushion on top of stool

Faux painted cushion on top of stool

The stool has now become a piece of conversation with a maintenance free cushion.

One could also imitate the fabric of close-by drapes or upholstered furniture to make it more convincing!

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Giving your dining room table a much-needed make over

Removing the old surface finish

Removing the old surface
finish

There is nothing more rewarding than revamping a piece of furniture covered by a drab, outdated, and damaged painted décor, especially when you can already envision its new appearance.

It is also pleasing to give a solid piece of furniture a second life, instead of contributing further to our world’s growing trash problem.

I started by removing the layers of paint on this table with paint remover and a spatula, then I sanded its surface.

Anatomy of a makeover finish

Anatomy of a makeover finish

I applied a little bit of compound to even up the surface, sanded it again, and laid one coat of primer followed by two basecoats.

I drew the design freehand and started painting the main lines. I then developed the pattern adding details and colors.

Drawing the broad lines of the new surface design

Drawing the broad lines of the new surface design

I used off white as a base color, followed by bronze and blue/grey/green for accents, to lighten up the shape of the furniture. One single color all over the table would make it too stocky: you need the accents to “sculpt” the furniture.

New decor painted on top of the table

New decor painted on top of the table

Once the décor was completed, I lightly sanded it to soften its lines and applied 4 layers of acrylic varnish to protect its surface.

Details of the table top decor

Details of the table top decor

 

Lightly sanded butter cup flower detail

Lightly sanded butter cup flower detail

 

 

 

 

Table in situ

Table in situ

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Vive les friezes!

A frieze is a linear repeated decorative pattern, with a geometrical or natural design. 

Russian style frieze

Russian style frieze

Bathroom frieze with Russian flair

Bathroom frieze with Russian flair

Oversize baroque frieze

Oversize baroque frieze

 

 Friezes serve several purposes in the decorative art: completing ornate rooms with sophisticated patterns,

Gothic frieze

Gothic frieze

or bringing in a specific theme as a focus point to a decor.

Owl and jewelry ceiling border

Owl and jewelry ceiling border

Ceiling with seabird

Ceiling with seagull and necklace border.

 In a minimalist setting, a frieze can be welcome to stress its architectural element, such as by underlining ceiling lines or framing a door. 

Simple burgundy ceiling line

Simple burgundy ceiling line

 

 

Deep red and blue straight frieze

Deep red and blue straight frieze

 It contributes to dividing and warming up an interior.  In the twenties, wide friezes at the top of walls representing landscapes or stylized patterns were very much in vogue. 

Art nouveau frieze

Art nouveau /William Morris frieze

 

 

Detail of William Morris frieze

Detail of William Morris frieze

 

These vistas or designs aimed at opening up spaces, and replaced more invading wallpapers.  The use of such wide friezes is perfect in children rooms to illustrate a narrative, leaving the rest of the wall space available for more designs or furnishings.

  Speaking of narrative, scrolls or banners on monuments, bearing dates and major public events, can be replicated at home with friezes stamping important family dates and memories, to personalize one’s home. 

 

Commemorative banner

Commemorative banner

 Friezes also replace moldings as a finishing touch: to break for instance the expanse of a wall, two colors are used horizontally, delineated at man’s height or at the chair rail level with a simple frieze.

Garland of olive tree leaves

Garland of olive tree leaves

 

 

Single color leaf garland

Single color leaf garland separating a light green and a dark green  wall surfaces.

Islamic geometric design

Islamic geometric design

 

Pompeian style frieze

Pompeian style frieze

 Exterior friezes work also wonderfully: under the eaves of a roof for example or as a window surround, they soften a façade and bring it originality. 

 

Outdoor frieze under rood line

Outdoor frieze under rood line

 A frieze is a decorative accent and does not need to be complicated or invasive to do marvels.

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