Before & After

By staff May 1, 2007

Cherokee Park homeowner Cindy Kruse and artist Sandy Norton share a colorful and multi-layered friendship, much like the complex faux finishes Norton recently completed in Kruse’s beautiful bayfront home. 

The two women grew up together in Philadelphia and attended the same high school. As teens they dated brothers, often double-dating to the movies and school dances. Norton eventually married her high school sweetheart while Kruse moved to Florida, married her husband Tom and settled in Sarasota. A few years ago, Norton and her husband also relocated here and the two grown women picked right up where they left off. Only this time, instead of working together on the yearbook or the prom, they turned their attentions to Kruse’s home.

 “When I saw Sandy’s work in faux finishes it was exactly what I had been searching for,” says Kruse. “I knew she would transform my living room into something spectacular, and I was not disappointed.”

The living room was “stark and boring,” says Kruse, with everything the same color. As a result, they rarely used the room. “And there was something about the fireplace that did not look right,” she adds.

Enter Norton, owner of Décor du Jour and expert in the field of accent décor, custom art and faux finishes. “Sandy has such a good eye and a real gift for color selection,” says Kruse. “She knew at once what was wrong with the room.”

The fireplace was Norton’s point of attack. The soot- and smoke-stained white-brick interior was painted black with multiple coats of heat-resistant paint formulated for barbecue grills. The dated golden-maple mantelpiece was primed, painted, glazed and tipped in silver for a rich Old World finish. Now the carved wood mantel blends beautifully with its granite surround.

Next, Norton crafted a faux marble finish above the fireplace, creating the look of real stone through a painstaking multi-step process. “First, I covered the old orange-peel wall surface by applying two different layers of compound,” she explains. “They were allowed to dry and then I sanded them for a smooth surface. Now it was time for a coat of primer followed by two coats of taupe paint to blend with the existing color of the walls and ceiling. I then used a product called Bellissimo to faux finish the wall in alternating light and dark shades and create a sense of shadow and depth, as with real marble. When this finish was dry, I applied a wax coating and then buffed the entire surface for a gleaming top coat.”

Kruse was so taken with the result that she wanted more. So Norton went to work on the wall niches flanking the fireplace, creating the same effect in a slightly softer palette, and painted the walls behind the wet bar at the opposite end of the room. “There already existed a handsome wet bar and these great glass shelves between built-in bookcases,” says Norton. “So I determined to finish the wall spaces behind the shelves and break up that monochromatic mass of vanilla and cream.”

For this finish, Norton first applied a product called Luster Stone and used a trowel to coat the walls. The next layer was O’villa, a flat finish that resembles whipped mousse during application but hardens like a rock. Hues of champagne, parchment and gold were blended to complement furnishings and accessories, and Norton selected a smooth finish that would allow some of the sheen to remain visible. “You can rough up the substance for a rustic effect or trowel very tightly for a flat surface that will reflect light,” she says. “Since Cindy already had a wonderful mirror behind the bar and glass shelves, I thought it would be nice to bounce the light around a bit. And from across the room, the mirror reflects the faux finish over the fireplace, which looks beautiful against this work.”

Suddenly, Kruse saw her living room come to life. Two matched chenille sofas in vanilla with silk accent pillows were framed by the new darkened mantelpiece. The alabaster and bronze chandeliers contrasted splendidly with the ceiling, set off by their new faux-finished ceiling medallions. The French doors opening up to glorious views of Sarasota Bay just beyond the back yard were accented by silk damask swags, and the window treatments seemed fresh and vibrant against the new marble wall finishes. Even the baby grand piano looked more impressive, surrounded by walls with depth.

Norton is pleased that the new finishes enhance Kruse’s collection of beautifully framed family photos, glass, crystal and artwork. The life-sized sculpture of a tuxedo-clad violinist by New York artist Susan Geissler kept Norton company while she worked, and she is more than satisfied with the play of color between the faux finishes and the living room’s calming neutral color scheme. “The quality tints and glazes on the market today allow artists to create beautiful finishes with superior durability,” she says. “As with my dear friend Cindy and me, these bonds are permanent.”

Design Team: Painting and faux finishes by Sandy Norton of Décor du Jour; products by Faux Effects of Vero Beach.

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