Say It Ain’t Faux! These Charlotte And Greensboro Artisans Detail The Latest In Decorative Finishes For The Home

Posted on | May 13, 2015 | No Comments

The most inspired artwork doesn’t always sit neatly within a frame. For Nathan Wainscott of Inspire By Color in Greensboro, and Charlotte decorative artisan Jon Gustafson, the entire home is a blank canvas. Both Jon and Nathan have parlayed their considerable creativity and artistic skills into a career in which they add warmth, color and life to walls, cabinetry and furniture through the use of decorative finishes. North Carolina Design talked to both of these talented artisans to find out more about their unique trade, and to learn what’s new in decorative finishes.

Images Courtesy of Jon Gustafson Decorative Artisan ©

Images Courtesy of Inspire By Color ©

The distinction between faux finishing and decorative finishing is an important one, even if it’s not always well understood by those not in The Trade. “Faux finishing is a specific term that refers to using materials to give a surface the look and feel of something else, like leather, wood, or marble.” explains Nathan. “Decorative finishing is simply the use of paints, glazes and other materials to transform surfaces or enhance their beauty. Faux finishing has diminished significantly in popularity, but people still tend to associate it with decorative finishing.”

“Faux finishing was a big trend at one point,” adds Jon. “For a while, there were a lot of people who were in it because it was new, and fun, and the cool thing to do. But once the trend died out, you were left with the more serious, well-trained artists in the decorative finish industry. I understand why people still use the term ‘faux finisher,’ and I know what they mean when they say it, but that’s not really what I am, or what I do. I am really a decorative artisan.”

Decorative artisans work with both individual clients and interior designers to achieve a specific look for a given home. “About 80 percent of my work is to The Trade, and the rest is with homeowners,” Jon affirms. “I enjoy working with designers because they think in terms of the entire space, how a finish integrates into the overall design. When I work with homeowners, I ask them to provide me with as many details as possible, from drapes, to furniture, to backsplashes, so that I can take a holistic approach to the project.”

Homeowners often don’t realize the value a decorative artisan can add to their home. Refinishing kitchen cabinets, for example, is one of the best investments a homeowner can make, according to Nathan. “Homeowners tend to think their only solutions for dated or unattractive cabinets are to replace or reface them,” he says. “But an expert artisan can give you a custom, furniture quality, factory level finish that looks brand new and will hold up just the same, for a fraction of the cost.”

Decorative artisans can also give older or inexpensive furniture pieces new life. “There’s a lot of room to be creative with furniture,” says Jon. “Clients can take Grandma’s chest of drawers and make something exceptional. Each furniture piece can be totally customized to complement a home’s design.”

There have been some dramatic shifts in decorative finish preferences of late. “A few years ago, the Tuscan finish was in,” Nathan recalls. “It’s a mottled, distressed look that is very busy and has a lot of warmth and movement. Now that technology is moving so fast and people have such hectic lives, they don’t want to come home to a busy house with busy walls. They want something that’s clean, simple and relaxing.”

The colors homeowners are choosing are reflective of this simpler direction. “I’m seeing more neutral tones,” says Jon. “Lots of variations of gray and off-white, as well as taupes. Also, gold is coming back into style again, albeit in lighter tones – champagne golds, and rich antique golds.” Nathan has seen an increase in the use of metallic finishes in general. “Metallics don’t have a lot of movement,” he notes. “They play with light, and they offer the appearance of dimension without physical depth. This gives them a calming effect.”

In recent years, finish options have become much more eco-friendly, and both Jon and Nathan are committed to using “green” products in their projects. “I use some creative thinking and some fairly recent water-borne technology to get a finish that’s environmentally friendly, has low toxicity and odor, and isn’t going to affect homeowners, children or pets in an adverse way,” says Jon. Nathan adds “Eco-friendly products have all the clarity and beauty of other products, and they are equally durable. There’s really no reason to use anything else.”

Both Jon and Nathan truly have a passion for their craft. “Decorative finishes require such attention and finesse – they force you to slow down and appreciate details,” says Nathan. “I also find joy in knowing I have added something beautiful to people’s lives.” Jon, for his part, enjoys the satisfaction of a job well done. “You have to have the right blend of materials, knowledge, skill, aptitude and equipment to create quality work, and I know have what it takes to bring my clients’ visions to life.”

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