Real vs Fake!
Looking around these days, there seems to be an awful lot of fake around, and most of it not great. There are times however, when fake is not only good, but preferable to the real thing. From Ancient Rome to the Palaces of the Taj Mahal and Versailles, natural stone and in particular, marble and granite have adorned some of the greatest homes in history. So when it comes to this most prized of building materials, what are the principle differences between fake and real, and when is fake preferable?
The main, and most significant difference between faux (fake!) and real is of course price. Many real marbles and granites are in short supply these days and the cost of extracting, polishing, shipping, not to mention fitting is high, very high. Having said that, there is, in the right situation and if funds allow, nothing like the real thing. Granite worktops continue to be the preferred choice, even with the development of materials such as Corian, and the exceptional hard-wearing nature of marble makes it unbeatable for floors and walls, particularly in high wear areas. My advice would always be if you can fit the real thing, do. However, there are practical reasons as well as money, why faux can be the preferred option.
Many designers find that there is a shortage of people who are experienced in cutting and fitting marble and let’s be honest, if you have paid a fortune for the real thing, the last thing you need is someone breaking it whist trying to fit it (trust me, I know!) it is both costly and can severely delay a project.
There is also a maintenance element to real stone that many people do not appreciate. Marble particularly needs regular sealing and polishing to keep it looking good so there is an ongoing cost too. The same goes for real wood, beams, floors and paneling will need regular maintenance to keep, them looking at their best.
The other thing to take into consideration is weight and access. The sheer weight of a piece of real stone is sometimes a limiting factor. There may be a concern over using stone upstairs or access may only be via a narrow gap which can make getting large slabs of stone into a space, challenging. One project I worked on a year or so ago, was a basement where the client wanted the walls to be stone, but the cost of shifting the stone over a house (no rear access) and into the basement area alone, made the use of real stone a non-starter. These situations are where faux comes into its own…enter Sarah and her brushes.
So what is ‘faux’ marble/stone/wood? Well, quite simply, it is a painted technique to create the look of the natural product with paint. It is much cheaper to do, it doesn’t require special access and the colours can be tailored to match other furnishings exactly. This makes it perfect for accents such as columns or panels, which can be made from cheaper materials and then painted to look like stone, wood or marble. Everything from whole walls (you are not tied to the size of stone slabs and therefore seams), faux wooden beams where the height of the ceilings do not allow for the real thing and a myriad of other uses.
Faux Finish revival
Painting faux finishes has been around for thousands of years. The Pharaoh’s artists have been painting faux stone since ‘goodness knows when’ BC. I have been painting faux stone and wood since the late 1980s, and it is true to say that it is going through something of a revival, so why is that?
Well, clearly cost is one reason and probably in most cases the main one. People see beautiful houses courtesy of social media and want to emulate the homes of the rich and famous. What better way than to fill it with products that are synonymous with luxury? Another reason is simple convenience, getting an artist to paint what you require is straight forward and requires little in terms of organisation and preparation. In complicated projects with tight deadlines, this can be a Godsend.
I have just completed a project where I have recreated marble painted by another artist in 1993. Some of the marbling was damaged in a flood caused by the Beast from the East and I was tasked with replacing it, a tough gig by anyone’s standards. Not only am I having to match colour and style, but emulate, as much as possible the fading that has occurred on the existing marble over the last 25 years.
The question I get asked the most is how do I tell if it’s real or fake? Well the short answer is just by looking at it, most of the time you can’t. The easiest way to tell is to touch it. Real stone will be cold, between 7 and 12 degrees below the ambient air temperature to be precise. There are technical tests that can be done, but not the sort of thing you can just whip out and do whilst you are pottering around your local National Trust property.
These days, I can fake most things marble, stone, concrete, copper, silk and wood to name but a few. So when it comes to stone or wood, if real is just a step to far (or a pound too pricey), don’t be afraid to fake it, no one will ever know…