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Faux finishes add old-world charm

ORLANDO, Fla. — Regina Garay has made a career of faking things.

She fakes the look of marble, rust, metal, weather-worn plaster and age-mottled glass. She makes painted designs look like wallpaper, and fresh paneling appear decades old.

She is the founder of Garay Artisans, a company that specializes in decorative painting and faux finishes on walls, floors and ceilings. The business is based in Groveland, Fla.

Earlier this year, the techniques Garay used to transform the appearance of the Ocala, Fla., home of Thomas and Amy Grabe won her the grand prize in American Painting Contractor magazine's national Top Job Awards.

For the project, Garay replaced the dull gray paint on the home's exterior with a rich, sienna-toned glaze. For contrast, she used metallic paint and aging solutions to create a cascading patina effect in shades of green and rust in the courtyard that leads to the home's front door.

Several rooms inside the house also received faux finishes. In the living room and theater, raw paneling was given a distressed look with alternating layers of black and barn-red paint. In a niche housing a bronze statue, a combination of paint, glaze and gloss was used to create the look of marble.

"Our favorite space is a small half-bath. The texture and color are amazing," said Thomas Grabe.

In that powder room, a multicolored glaze and vertical plaster finish are layered over a silver metallic-foil underlay. The baseboards and crown molding have an aged-metallic finish and a niche has the look of marble.

Garay is a talented painter "whose thorough knowledge of the history behind her work allows her to truly bring old-world charm to every job," Thomas Grabe said.

Garay left her job in the New York music industry to start her decorative-painting business in 1998. Shortly thereafter, she moved to the Orlando area and was joined by her brother, Jason Rosales. Artisans Monica Zeuli and Jeff Huckaby complete her team.

She and her team do both residential and commercial work. They recently completed projects in the Grand Bohemian hotels in Savannah, Ga., and Asheville, N.C.

The group takes classes every year to learn about new materials and techniques. "But we also learn a lot on the job," said Garay, 38. "It's quite an experience being on a scaffold, decorating 20-foot walls."

For homes, popular finishes include glazes, which add a "warm, subtle finish," and Venetian plaster, which is mixed with marble dust.

"It has the look of marble but not the weight. When troweled on and burnished, it gets a beautiful sheen," she said.

Other finishes include gold-leafing, freehand painting, stenciling, cabinet refinishing, and verdigris or rust effects. Pricing starts at $2 per square foot. For more details, visit or call 407-839-4050.

Garay's newest venture is adding an antique-looking patina to mirrors and glass.

"We spent countless hours perfecting this technique," she said. "We lost quite a few mirrors in the process."