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Introduction to Fabulous Faux Bois


Faux Bois: The Look of Natural Wood

Capture the spirit of wood grain without felling a single tree. Faux bois fools the eye by imitating the rustic texture and characteristics of wood. Old World techniques are still employed today by artisans to create beautiful structures, furniture and effects. Try this kinder, gentler way to bring the look of natural wood into your home.

In This Article

  1. What Is Faux Bois?
  2. The History of Three-Dimensional Faux Bois
  3. Modern Faux Bois
  4. Wood Graining
  5. DIY Methods
  6. Pieces for the Home
  7. The Look in Fashion

What Is Faux Bois?

The term faux bois (fō bwah) is French for "false wood." A variety of materials and techniques are used to mimic the appearance and texture of wood and wood grain. These days, virtually anything in the world of home design and fashion is fair game for this look.

History of Three-Dimensional Faux Bois

The history of the three-dimensional method dates back to 19th century France, when stoneworkers used a technique called ferrocement to create furniture, planters and decorative structures from rebar, wire mesh frames and concrete.


The outer concrete layers were then fashioned into intertwining branch and log shapes, using methods similar to those of sculptors molding and carving clay. These exacting wood reproductions were commonly created for formal gardens and public parks.


In Texas, this type of approach is known as "el trabajo rústico," or “the rustic work.” It differs from European versions in its realistic coloration and detailed finishes like peeling bark, broken branches and wormholes. The creator and master of "el trabajo rústico," Dionicio Rodriguez, was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1920s.


His primary works are located in San Antonio, Texas. However, examples can also be found in Tennessee, Arkansas, Maryland, New York City, Michigan and New Mexico. Many are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Modern Faux Bois

A handful of artisans, including the great nephew of Dionicio Rodgriguez, still manufacture incredible furniture pieces, which are highly coveted by dedicated collectors. Authentic faux bois furniture (new or antique) typically carries a serious price tag. This is due in part to the rarity of the pieces, but is also a testament to the artistic talents and labor involved in creating them.

Today, most mass-produced versions of three-dimensional faux bois, such as vases, mirror frames, occasional tables and lamp bases are made from ceramics, cast resins and metals. These materials create a finished product that is more affordable and just as beautiful as original ferrocement.


Wood Graining

Mimicking the look of wood grain on flat surfaces is another way to create this effect. The history of wood graining techniques from with paints, stains and glazes can be traced to 19th century France and England because exotic wood species were difficult to import and could be quite expensive.

Designers increasingly relied on the talents of artists to recreate the look of popular woods of the day like burl, rosewood and mahogany. This technique was used on doors, beams, wall panels, moldings and even furniture. Today, a resurgence of wood graining has resulted from bans on the importation of rare and endangered wood species.


DIY Wood Grain

Working with cement, re-bar and wire mesh isn't for everyone. So, consider wood graining as a way to bring this look into your home. If you are extremely talented, you can create the look of wood grain by painting freehand. The rest of us can use specialized tools like combs, rollers and wood grain rockers that are moved through tinted glazes or stains. Just think, you can transform a nondescript door into an elegant "wood" masterpiece!

Stamping, printing or stenciling on a variety of materials, from lampshades to wallpaper, is also used to create wood grain. Some textiles such as rugs, upholstery fabric and bath towels achieve the look and depth of wood grain by varying the height of loops in the pile.


Faux Bois Pieces in the Home

The most important rule when using this look in your home is to do it with restraint. Intersperse select pieces within your existing décor. A couple of wood-grained pillows on the sofa, pendant lamp shades over the breakfast bar, a side table, placemats or an upholstered chair add a measured touch. You don’t want your home to look like a shrine to faux bois!


Don’t be afraid to try daring colors. Funky trends include the introduction of non-traditional wood hues. The green charger and turquoise mirror are quirky examples of the new, fun trend.

Wood Patterns in Fashion

As with home décor, a little faux bois in your wardrobe is fun, but a little goes a long way. While it is a unique fashion trend, it can be overpowering. By all means, leave the wood-grained pantsuit on the runway where it belongs.


If you want to try out the look, add a wood-grained silk scarf, stack bracelets, funky sneakers or a cute tee to keep things stylish and understated.


© 2012 Linda Chechar

Sound Off About This Style

Terence Eagan from Sierra Madre, California on April 04, 2013:

They don't interchange well....unless you say Roman Cement or Portland Cement. There are so many glues out there that are cements, it may in time, not carry forward to mean what what we are describing as concrete.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 04, 2013:

These terms are often used interchangeably. Thank you for the clarification, Terrence!

Terence Eagan from Sierra Madre, California on April 03, 2013:

lindacee... I would like to clear up some confusion of the term cement when we really mean concrete. Cement is the product that binds things together....the glue. That's why we have "rubber" cement, "epoxy" cement, etc. Concrete on the other hand is the combination of materials, the "aggregate" (rock, sand, admixtures, etc.) mixed with cement to form concrete. Mortar between bricks and grout between tile is concrete with smaller aggregate.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 02, 2013:

Thanks Terence! I will definitely check out your website. Thanks for reading and sharing your work with us! :)

Terence Eagan from Sierra Madre, California on April 01, 2013:

I have a lot of history links, pictures and information about the craft at my website:

I have been restoring 90 year old work for the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 18, 2012:

Mary615, faux bois is a broad term that does encompass a variety of wood simulation techniques. It is a fascinating subject--I'm happy you liked this Hub. I will definitely check out your Hub on faux stained glass. I'm interested to see if your mention any techniques I've tried! Thank you for the comment and votes. Greatly appreciated!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 18, 2012:

Ha! RTalloni, you have to wonder! He would be a very heavy puppet if crafted from cement! Thank you so much for visiting my Hub and leaving a comment!

Mary Hyatt from Florida on April 18, 2012:

I really enjoyed reading and learning about Faux bois. I never heard it called that. I've done different finishes to wood, but not this. I did a Hub on how I do faux stain glass, when you have the time, check it out. You did a great job with this Hub, the videos are great. I will vote it UP, etc.etc.

RTalloni on April 17, 2012:

Thanks much for this neat look at faux bois designs. Imagine what Pinocchio would think!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 10, 2012:

Wood and wood grain impart such a sense of richness in the home. Faux bois is gorgeous! You're right, cebutouristspot, it is a great look for any home. Thanks for the read!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 10, 2012:

Rebeccamealey, I'm happy I was able to adequately explain this art form in such a short format. Thanks for the vote and your kind praise!

Linda Chechar (author) from Arizona on April 10, 2012:

Natashalh, yes it is a great term and a fun one for us amateur etymologists! Thanks for stopping by my Hub. Glad you enjoyed it!

cebutouristspot from Cebu on April 09, 2012:

Spending over 10 years doing wood work make you think I would have enough of wood but this baby are really beautiful with the right type of lacquer and this baby will be gorgeous to any type of home. Put some class to it.

cebutouristspot from Cebu on April 09, 2012:

Spending over 10 years doing wood work make you think I would have enough of wood but this baby are really beautiful with the right type of lacquer and this baby will be gorgeous to any type of home. Put some class to it.

Rebecca Mealey from Northeastern Georgia, USA on April 09, 2012:

I too, have not heard that term, but your explanation and photos do the job quite well. I vote up and am sharing this. You did an awesome job!

Natasha from Hawaii on April 09, 2012:

Faux bois - the term makes perfect since but I'd actually never heard it used. Thanks for expanding my vocabulary! I love words and and can't wait to share this with a fellow word nerd I know.