meet a fabulous faux finish artist

I love picking the brains of artists. They are a wealth of knowledge (and of course creative) and I always learn something when I beg them to answer my questions!

I recently met and have began working with Dee Cunningham, artist and owner of Deelite Design. Dee specializes in murals, faux finishes, decorative painting, trompe l'oeil and more. After brainstorming with her about my own kitchen cabinets and a client's dining room wall, I decided to ask her a few questions so I could share her with you!

Deelite trompe
(trompe l'oeil niche (it's all an illusion!) and the lower half is faux wood, by Deelite Designs)

1. When we met to discuss my kitchen I was happy to learn that you can faux paint metallic finishes and tiles (to simulate a tile back splash). What other treatments do you offer that most people may not know about/consider for a paint treatment?
When people think of "Faux" they usually think of sponge painting or ragging. Those techniques are a solid foundation for more interesting and complex finishes. There is a whole world out there of faux finishes, or as I like to call them "artistic finishes" because it’s more than just a sponge or rag. I do a lot of plasters, metallics, crackles, lime plasters, faux bois (woodgraining), faux marbe (marbling), as well as the staples: color washes, blended glazes and striae. Walls are only the beginning. In addition to walls, I've painted ceilings, floors, furniture, and will be learning a special (green) product that can go over existing counter tops. The product is super durable, and can achieve effects such as granite, onyx, and other natural stones.

Deelite cab b4
(oak cabinets before)

Deelite cab after
(oak cabinets after, by Deelite Designs)

2. More on kitchens. You offer many custom treatments for cabinets. Explain how these treatments are better than/different than me opening a can of latex paint and rolling it myself? And, what are the benefits of oil vs. latex paint on woodwork?
Cabinets in kitchens probably get more abuse than any other surface in the house besides counters. A homeowner can certainly paint their own cabinets, but may be disappointed if necessary preparation and quality products are not used. I follow a regimented set of steps in order to make sure the client's cabinet finishes don't fail. Latex enamel paint has come a long way and can be used on cabinets, but for a tough finish, I still use oil. Oil closes well and doesn't soften with humidity. Painting cabinets can be more cost effective than refacing and certainly replacing. Plus you can get custom colors (the entire paint deck!) to match your decor.

Deelite mural
(mural, the girl is on canvas, by Deelite Designs)

3. Do you paint murals and what do people need think about when considering a mural and hiring an artist for that type of job?
Murals are my specialty! Murals don't have to be just for kids’ rooms. I have done "murals" that are more like a custom piece of art for the client. I also do decorative painting by adding accents or flourishes to walls, ceilings, etc. When considering a mural, think of placement, subject matter, size, and level of detail. When I paint murals, I ask a lot of questions. What is the budget? Why a mural? Do they have reference images? Can the mural be executed on canvas and installed? I like to do canvas murals because they allow me to work in my studio and not in the client's home for months. The canvas is married to the wall and is virtually undetectable unless you walk up close and feel the texture. The biggest bonus is the mural can be taken down if the client were to move or change the purpose of the space thus saving their investment.

(tree painting, featured on HGTV's "My Big Amazing Renovation," by Deelite Design)

4. What is your favorite paint treatment and is there anything you won’t paint?
If it stays still, I can paint it! I have painted surfaces where I was very apprehensive about the paint sticking, and in such cases I make the client aware of this. I don't think I have had to say "no" yet to a client. The closest to "no" is, "I’ll try it out on myself first and let you know." I have painted walls, ceilings, floors, furniture, glass, tile, etc. It’s all about research, proper preparation and practice. I don't really have a favorite paint treatment. My favorite moments are when the work is complete and the client is happy. The whole picture comes into focus and the vision has been achieved.

Deelite ceiling before
(ceiling before)

Deelite ceiling after

(faux mahogany ceiling, after, by Deelite Designs)

5. What trends are you seeing now in paint finishes?

Trends right now are all over the place. I have seen modern treatments with graphic patterns, traditional and completely unique. I do think that the trends of faux finishes follow trends in interior design and fashion. I have seen less "old world" crumbly plasters and "Tuscan" interiors and more "Transitional" looks, cleaner lines and personalized interiors. Less browns and tans and more clearer colors. Faux finishes can be tailored to any interior design style. The possibilities are endless!

You can view more photos of Dee's work on her website. Happy decorating!


Lisa W said...

I love the kitchen cabinets that she did - gives me hope for mine. But I must say that I'm not liking the faux niche painting - I lived with a niche in my DR for 9 years and hated it, and after spending many hours removing it and re-building that wall I would NEVER put a faux one back in!

Lisa W said...

Just realized that the tile in the kitchen pic is the same tile that I have in my kitchen. Maybe that's why I like the cabinets so much!

April Force Pardoe said...

Different strokes...but I agree, your real niche was kind of silly & useless. This one is ART!