Introduction to Fabulous Faux Bois!

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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!

History and Types

Three-dimensional Faux Bois

The history of three-dimensional faux bois dates back to 19th century France, when stone workers used a technique called ferrocement to create furniture, planters and decorative structures from rebar, wire mesh frames and concrete.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Wood Graining

The history of creating wood grain with paints, stains and glazes can be traced to 19th century France and England. Exotic woods 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.

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This faux bois technique was used on doors, beams, wall panels, moldings and even furniture. Today, a resurgence of faux bois painting techniques has resulted from bans on the importation of endangered wood species.

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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.

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Most modern, mass-produced versions of three-dimensional faux bois, such as vases, mirrors, occasional tables and lamp bases are made from ceramics, cast resins and metals. Much more affordable and still beautiful!

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Faux Bois DIY

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.

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Using Faux Bois

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!

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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 the turquoise mirror (shown above) are quirky examples of the new, fun faux bois trend.

Fashionable Faux Bois

As with home accessories and décor, a little faux bois in your wardrobe goes a long way. Throw in a wood grained silk scarf, stack bracelets, sneakers or cute tee shirt – on occasion.

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Leave the faux bois skinny jeans, sweaters and pantsuits on the hangers in the store where they belong. IMO, head-to-toe faux bois is just wrong. Am I right?

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© 2012 lindacee

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Sound off about faux bois! 16 comments

Natashalh profile image

Natashalh 4 years ago from Hawaii

Faux bois - the term makes perfect since but I'd actually never heard it used. Thanks for expanding my vocabulary! I love words and and can't wait to share this with a fellow word nerd I know.


rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

I too, have not heard that term, but your explanation and photos do the job quite well. I vote up and am sharing this. You did an awesome job!


cebutouristspot profile image

cebutouristspot 4 years ago from Cebu

Spending over 10 years doing wood work make you think I would have enough of wood but this baby are really beautiful with the right type of lacquer and this baby will be gorgeous to any type of home. Put some class to it.


cebutouristspot profile image

cebutouristspot 4 years ago from Cebu

Spending over 10 years doing wood work make you think I would have enough of wood but this baby are really beautiful with the right type of lacquer and this baby will be gorgeous to any type of home. Put some class to it.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Natashalh, yes it is a great term and a fun one for us amateur etymologists! Thanks for stopping by my Hub. Glad you enjoyed it!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Rebeccamealey, I'm happy I was able to adequately explain this art form in such a short format. Thanks for the vote and your kind praise!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Wood and wood grain impart such a sense of richness in the home. Faux bois is gorgeous! You're right, cebutouristspot, it is a great look for any home. Thanks for the read!


RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

Thanks much for this neat look at faux bois designs. Imagine what Pinocchio would think!


mary615 profile image

mary615 4 years ago from Florida

I really enjoyed reading and learning about Faux bois. I never heard it called that. I've done different finishes to wood, but not this. I did a Hub on how I do faux stain glass, when you have the time, check it out. You did a great job with this Hub, the videos are great. I will vote it UP, etc.etc.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Ha! RTalloni, you have to wonder! He would be a very heavy puppet if crafted from cement! Thank you so much for visiting my Hub and leaving a comment!


lindacee profile image

lindacee 4 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Mary615, faux bois is a broad term that does encompass a variety of wood simulation techniques. It is a fascinating subject--I'm happy you liked this Hub. I will definitely check out your Hub on faux stained glass. I'm interested to see if your mention any techniques I've tried! Thank you for the comment and votes. Greatly appreciated!


Terence Eagan profile image

Terence Eagan 3 years ago from Sierra Madre, California

I have a lot of history links, pictures and information about the craft at my website: www.fauxboisconcrete.info

I have been restoring 90 year old work for the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

Thanks Terence! I will definitely check out your website. Thanks for reading and sharing your work with us! :)


Terence Eagan profile image

Terence Eagan 3 years ago from Sierra Madre, California

lindacee... I would like to clear up some confusion of the term cement when we really mean concrete. Cement is the product that binds things together....the glue. That's why we have "rubber" cement, "epoxy" cement, etc. Concrete on the other hand is the combination of materials, the "aggregate" (rock, sand, admixtures, etc.) mixed with cement to form concrete. Mortar between bricks and grout between tile is concrete with smaller aggregate.


lindacee profile image

lindacee 3 years ago from Southern Arizona Author

These terms are often used interchangeably. Thank you for the clarification, Terrence!


Terence Eagan profile image

Terence Eagan 3 years ago from Sierra Madre, California

They don't interchange well....unless you say Roman Cement or Portland Cement. There are so many glues out there that are cements, it may in time, not carry forward to mean what what we are describing as concrete.

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