I first became enamored with faux bois (French for “false wood”) when I purchased Skylands, my home in Maine. The house sits high atop a knoll known as Ox Hill, and is surrounded by tall trees. When we look out the large leaded windows, it feels like we’re actually living in the forest, among evergreens. To play up this effect while adding an element of natural beauty to my traditional furnishings, I decided to decorate with faux-bois pieces—that is, items that resemble tree trunks, branches, or bark—made from a variety of materials. I searched antiques and garden shows and shops, and found tables, chairs, benches, settees, planters, troughs, pots, and flower vases. I also commissioned artist—most notably Carlos Cortés of San Antonio, Texas, who made several large faux-bois concrete tables for me.
Later, when restoring my farm in Bedford, I began experimenting with how to paint wood grain on my walls. I was happy to discover that the process isn’t complicated or time-consuming. In fact, it can take just a few hours to do a room. All you need is paint, glaze, and a wood-graining rocker tool.
I enlisted the help of master house painter Stefan Lewicki, and together we plotted out the patterning and size of the grain (it’s important to get the proportion right, so it looks realistic). I started with the wainscoting in the dining room, then painted the wall panels in the green living room. I was so pleased with the results that I continued on to the center hall and small dining room, which looked plain in contrast.
When applied on a smooth surface, the graining looks like Japanese cedar. I love hearing exclamations from friends who swear my walls have been papered, or think they took hundreds of hours to hand-paint. This technique is a very easy and economical way to create the look of wood, or of costly designer wallpaper. I hope you will try it in your home.