Introduction to Fabulous Faux Bois
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 faux bois 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.
What Is Faux Bois?
The term faux bois (fō bwah) is French for false wood. Faux bois takes in a variety of materials and techniques 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 faux bois.
Three-dimensional Faux Bois
The history of three-dimensional faux bois 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 intertwined 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 faux bois is known as "el trabajo rústico", or “the rustic work”. It differs from European faux bois 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.
See How Concrete Faux Bois is Made
Modern Faux Bois
A handful of artisans, including the great-nephew of Dionicio Rodgriguez, still manufacture incredible faux bois 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.
Mimicking the look of wood grain on flat surfaces is another way to create faux bois. 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 faux bois 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 Fois Bois
Working with cement, re-bar and wire mesh isn't for everyone. So, consider wood graining as way to bring faux bois 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 faux bois 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 faux bois 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 of faux bois. You don’t want your home to look like a shrine to faux bois!
Don’t be afraid to try daring colors. Funky trends in faux bois include the introduction of non-traditional wood hues. The green charger and turquoise mirror are quirky examples of the new, fun faux bois trend.
Faux Bois 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 faux bois 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.
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Linda Chechar