Victorian Woodgraining

This splendid Victorian entry door set with leaded glass windows
was finished with a faux bois effect by Lynne Rutter.
In San Francisco Victorians, it's fairly common that the dark woodwork so commonly found in their interiors is actually redwood, that has been painted with a faux bois finish to look like something richer and more expensive. This style of woodgraining usually emulated mahogany, and was often nothing more than a layer of deep tinted glaze pulled over a painted surface, then varnished. This simplified faux bois technique is a remarkably effective treatment. 
In older American cities like New York or Chicago, the faux bois used in Victorian homes could be a more complicated process resulting in a realistic imitation of wood, but in boomtown San Francisco, there were few skilled painters available in the rapidly growing city, so most made do with a very simple graining job; and then it was off to the next house!  Of course these days we can improve these old finishes if desired, but one of my specialties as a restoration painter is rehabilitating and recreating these period finishes, which requires careful matching of color and mimicking the style of the original painter.
repaired areas of missing moulding were matched to the original  wood-grained finish
In this Mission District Italiante mansion, removal of a 20th century dropped ceiling in the dining room revealed the original mouldings, damaged but well worth saving! Missing areas were re-created by a carpenter, and then we painted them with a woodgrain effect to match the original finish. We also created a typical faux bois finish for the baseboards, doors, and casings, to restore the room's period look.

My associate Melka Myers,  creating a burl effect in the insets of some reproduction Victorian doors
The parlor in this house had an interesting paneled ceiling that had been painted over many times. I designed a color palette and finishes for this room to create a more Victorian period atmosphere. As you can see the finish starts with a bright, apricot colored base.
San Francisco Victorian-  the paneled ceiling being painted with a simple faux bois effect
My good friend Tani Seabock gave me a hand to work some magic on this ceiling, using a formula I designed that requires only one layer of glaze to skillfully fashion a convincing faux bois finish. This was done not only to preserve the budget but  to emulate  the original graining style used elsewhere in the house.
a faux bois ceiling  by Lynne Rutter Studio,    a simple finish with an outstanding effect
The effect is stunning, so much so that it's hard to believe anyone would want to paint it white. It's worth the extra effort to finish these surfaces as they were intended; you get so much more out of the architecture.

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  1. Gorgeous -- you and the team did a beautiful job...and you're right, who would want white after seeing the warmth of woodgraining?

  2. What a transformation! Great job. One layer for this technique? I am so impressed with the depth and richness you were able to achieve!

  3. It is wonderful work! You're so talented.

  4. Fascinating. Our Brooklyn 1890s Victorian has a mix of oak and mahogany faux graining on the woodwork, which is actually pine and poplar. It looks like for the "mahogany," they just stained and varnished it. The "oak" is real faux graining, but semi-transparent, so you see the real wood grain (amusing when you spot a pine knot!). -- Mopar


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