C&J Blog Article


Faking it? Here\'s how to do it properly!

In the spirited and glamorous world of Colin and Justin, sometimes, just sometimes, things aren’t exactly as they seem. Indeed, now and then, at our behest, a spot of carefully planned artifice, a little caprice and just a touch of illusion are the component parts that bring our decorative schemes alive.

Some might refer to this designer flexibility as “faking it,” a term with which we’re entirely comfortable, whereas others will acknowledge our (less than dark) art as a means by which to give clients significantly more than their budgets might otherwise achieve. Call us old-fashioned, but we simply love to give.

In the past, we’ve faked it in many ways. We’ve attached inexpensive beading a few centimetres below ceiling cornice and then painted everything white to give the impression that plasterwork is deeper than it actually is. We’ve played a similar trick, too, with timber strips positioned above skirting boards; when painted — along with the original skirting and the area between — using satin finish, the illusion of stouter detail immediately occurs.

Always remember how potent a medium paint is. Aside from a million-and-one trompe l’oeil tricks (such as, yawn, marbling, sponging and rag rolling), paint can be used to change spatial perception. A long hall, for example, will appear shorter if the far wall is painted in a shade that’s darker than those it connects. Similarly, in a wide room, painting side walls darker will help space appear rather narrower. Even a tall room can be tamed by painting its ceiling in a shade carefully “borrowed” from wallpaper schematics. Scan back through to view various rooms where we’ve used all these fakery tips to dramatic effect.

Design matters aside, clever tricks can also be played as far as corrective issues are concerned. Bumps in walls, for example, will appear minimized if you use matte as opposed to shinier paint, while smooth walls in small rooms can be painted in a soft sheen finish to help bounce light, thereby promoting (at least the feeling of) better proportions. Fakery? It’s all part of the service.

Anyway, let’s get down to “before and after” business; the heinous hallway as depicted in our before shot — a space so boring our eyes watered as we passed through it for the first time. Boasting a pinky beige colour with all the allure of a cadaver, it needed to be raised from the dead.

Mathematics at the forefront of our minds, we settled in our style lab and twisted the balls on our antique abacus until the hallway’s economic conversion made sense. Without doubt we’d have to make better of the tiled floor, and the shaggy carpet would have to go. There’d be paint to buy, carpet to specify, furniture to locate and homeowners to entertain; we imagine it must be rather stressful having the tartan army set loose in one’s home!

Keen to effect a massive transformation for Helen and Joe (an adorable couple for whom we simultaneously reworked several rooms), we were extra creative with budget to ensure our sporrans didn’t go into meltdown. That said, we’re blessed in Canada with remarkable team players who pushed for the optimum level of remedial surgery, and together, metaphorically, we climbed a decorative Kilimanjaro.

So what did we change? Well, pretty much everything. Let’s start with the floor. The mahogany which we initially considered proved way too expensive and besides, our contractor advised that, because we had neither time nor budget to remove the existing tile, we’d run into problems. Laying new lumber on top of the ceramic finish would have raised the floor by 1.5 centimetres and, as a consequence, we’d have had to remove — and plane — the bottom of all six hallway doors. Our solution? Amtico — a plank-form wood-effect flooring finish. Composed with a low profile (approximately 2 millimetres), its application avoided the need for door removal and subsequent prep work, factors which positively impacted on our budget.

Flooring attended to, we moved our attentions to the staircase. A less than holy trinity of institution beige, dated pine spindles and thick carpet made it reek of the 1990s. However, as we’ve said before, we — ably assisted by our generous team — can fix anything. First task was to tear away the grizzly carpet, an action that revealed lumber treads and risers. After the horizontal and vertical areas had been thoroughly sanded, we decreed they be painted white and the results speak for themselves.

Next on our hit list were the banister spindles (which looked decidedly worse for wear compared to the newly envisioned steps) and these too were lavished white. This done, we sanded and stained the banister deep inky black. Tip: The key, as always, to any good finish is preparation and, while sanding might sound like a boring job, it should always be tackled properly. Not only will your results look better, they’ll also endure longer, especially if you abrade everything between coats.

Adding extra flair to the staircase was a relatively simple task. By engaging the services of a flooring contractor — and specifying a sisal stair runner edged in black — we provided immediate pop upon entering the hallway. Finished with metal stair rods (we call this type of addition “decorative jewelry”) the whole affair comes immediately to life.

Now let’s get back to fakery, at its finest. D’you like our wallpaper? Well, look again because all is not what it seems. During a previous assignment in London, we used banded paper by Graham and Brown ( to achieve similar esthetics to these. However — and it’s a big however — the London hallway was significantly smaller. During today’s project, we also decorated the upstairs landing and, had we used wallpaper, we’d have needed 18 rolls in total. At $85 a pop for G&B’s Bold Stripe Black and Charcoal, $1,530 would have been immediately swiped from our overall budget. Ouch.

Reeling from the mathematical observation, we came up with a simple alternative: paint. Three coats of pale grey dispatched the fleshy tone and, when completely dry, it was time for the magic to happen. Dave, our painter, is a veritable masking tape maestro and, following our plan, he marked out bands on the wall and set to work. Tip: Opt for low adhesion tape and run your thumb nail along the edges to release tiny air bubbles. This simple wee job will reduce paint bleed and tempt far sharper results.

Taking into account our clients’ taste, we opted for a significantly darker grey for the secondary tone and, using a foam roller, David applied two even coats to achieve a perfect finish. Tip: Remove the tape before the paint dries; this avoids the formation of a microscopic “shell” that can subsequently crack as tape is pulled away.

In summation, we’d suggest that “faking it” (in decorative terms, certainly) isn’t about pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes; it’s about achieving results that suggest that economics were a whole load more indulgent than they actually were. In our world, whenever a spot of visual trickery is required, it’s never about rushing; indeed, for us, every step of every job is about precise and careful planning. Which means, even if we were to be faking it, you would never, ever know.




Flooring: Amtico,

Paint: ICI Paints,

Building sundries: Rona,

Occasional chair: The Bay,

Hall chest: Bombay & Co.,

Accessories: HomeSense,


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