Saturday, April 2, 2016

Faux Fluenza

We all have hobbies, right? Things that interest us.  Look at a friend's bookshelf.  My friends have colorful books on art, design, and fashion.  Mine?

"Level 4. Virus Hunters of the CDC."

"The Black Death."

"And the Band Played On."

"The Stand."

"World War Z. An oral history of the Zombie War."

Yes. I am obsessed with disease hunting.  I even worked with the CDC and let me tell you nothing is more scary then reading the monthly World Health Organization updates. Unless you google search a medical term. All I can say is don't eat before you do it.

So what does this have to do with Faux? I read a recent article that asked, "Is Faux Dead?"  It got me thinking...

Fauxpocalypse? Or just a sniffle?

The answer is no but I can tell you that our profession is a bit ill. Not dead but more then a cold.  
How did we end up with Faux Fluenza?

All illness follows a pattern. In public health it's called Epidemiology. It begins with etiology or the origin of the disease.  Next is transmission or how is it spread.  Then there is an outbreak or sudden increase in occurrence.  We engage in screening, which facilitates diagnosis. And finally treatment.


Remember when you finished every room because the costs were folded into the mortgage? Builders included big allowances for decorative painting. Old World was hot. And then like Old World Pompeii-it all blew up.


First we lost the builders and designers unless your job was getting a house ready to sell. I did say something.

Then we lost the part-timers who pursued other part-time jobs that paid better and had some benefits. I again said something.

Then they came for the older finishers with faulty shoulders and bad backs.  Who needs it! I said something then too.

And then they came for me! Since everyone else was gone no-one said anything. And by this time I was horse from saying too much.

People don't take classes if they don't have money. They don't buy product if they can't get a job. The illness had spread up and down the decorative community.


While decorative artisans were facing fauxmageddon, the world of the DIY'er rose out of the ashes.  All of a sudden you didn't need a professional just a great pin board and you-tube video.  Access to information is unprecedented with a barrage of gurus and experts handy with Instagram filters.  Making over things yourself is fun, cheap, and satisfying. I do it myself!  But the un-intended side effect is the notion that "good-enough" is great, quality pricing is price gouging, and Internet learning is the same as hands on training and experience.


The defining symptom is Faux Fatigue. Those infected looked at their walls and cabinets and ceilings covered in chippy plasters and aged patinas.  Even when it is beautiful and well-done it make them tired and heavy.

The next symptom is a grey tinge that develops to a white on white pallor.
Finally, they begin hallucinating and repeating the words "Grieg" "Shiplap," "Vintage," "Upcycle" and in a final breath you hear the whisper, "grass cloth."

That's it. You have a full blown FAUX FLUENZA epidemic!


The key to many treatments is giving people an altered version of the disease. Think of vaccinations. For finishers this means studying and offering finishes that mimic expensive wallpapers. Learn how to layer patterns effectively and render printing techniques on a vertical surface.

Work with the trends.

Take your favorite Old World Samples and update the colors to lighter greyer shades.  Think of all the potential sick people that won't pay to get the texture removed but do want it refreshed.

Learn the language of the trends like Rustic Modern, Farmhouse, and Bohemian Chic.  Make design boards of the trends and set aside time to interpret the looks in faux finishes. Those of us who teach have switched to more modern and sleek finishes with less steps.

Create mini portfolios that focus on how finishing pulls together a trend in a wall, ceiling, and cabinet designs.

Set yourself apart. Don't be afraid to include the unique. While everyone is offering the same thing you can offer the alternative. You need samples that set you apart and make people remember you!

Focus your efforts. You will never be cheap enough for some people.  Research the healthy markets that include custom builders, custom designers, and up-grading homeowners. As my friend Suzanne told me yesterday, "upper clientele want a turn-key job." You need to be a skilled finisher in walls and cabinets as well as a project manager.  The less the client has to coordinate, the better.

Go through your samples and let go of dated boards.  Assign a price per square foot to the samples you keep. You should have a range that starts at $2 a square foot and on up.  Make sure you have a low, medium and high offering for a finish.  For example, here are 3 different off-white cabinets at different price points.

And finally accept that you have to hustle harder to get your work out there. You are competing against an endless stream of information and visual stimulation. Web-sites, blogs, Instagram, Facebook, and Pintrest are major sources for information. Of those people, 80% are just shopping ideas. But you never know who is looking to buy.  I tagged a friend in a Facebook post and her older client saw it. He contacted her to do that finish!

Hopefully there will be a day when Faux Fluenza is no more. Until then, we will work on treatments that lead to a healthy, interesting, and profitable faux finishing world!

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