Angie Cronin wanted an interior update for her two-story Belleville home.
She got that, and more after she hired Gail Strebel, of Jerseyville, whose 13-year-old business is Faux Finesse.
“Once we met, we hit it off,” said Angie, a mother of four and a buyer for Lumiere Place in St. Louis. “I had lived here about eight years. I never really took the time to decorate, repaint, make it our own. I wanted to make it modern, give it some color.”
The first project was mosaic-framed mirrors in an upstairs bathroom. Angie’s shower curtain inspired her to consider mosaics. She had bought the folk-art style curtain that depicts a St. Louis-cityscape online from Etzy artist Heather Galler.
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Gail hadn’t attempted mosaics before, but was game to try.
“I can pretty much do anything,” said Gail, 47, a self-taught decorative painter and designer. “I had seen videos. I had always wanted to try it, but never had the opportunity. Angie purchased a bunch of stained glass scraps on eBay. The mirrors are from Lowe’s. I came over one weekend and we had a blast. Angie helped. Her older kids helped. I feel proud they were part of it. Her husband (Kyle) even got involved. We did the work on the dining room table.”
The two mirrors, each with a 4-inch wide mosaic frame, hang across from each other.
“As family came over, they were amazed we had never done mosaic before,” said Angie, who discovered Gail and Faux Finesse through Facebook in April.
Gail painted the bathroom walls a medium gray and the cabinets black.
“The shower head changes colors, too,” said Angie, pulling aside the shower curtain. “Of course, the kids are in the shower forever.”
Next stop, half bath off the kitchen.
Dark crown molding and a reflective pearl plaster finish add interest to the little bath with the pedestal sink. Gail created a nailhead border beneath the molding that Kyle put up and chose a round, hammered stainless-framed mirror. Gail estimated the room update cost $850.
“I first troweled layers of pearl plaster onto the ceiling, then straight painted the walls using the same color we used on the living room focal wall to tie the two spaces together,” said Gail. “ I troweled multiple layers of silver colored plaster over the paint leaving areas where you can see the paint underneath.”
“That’s one nice thing about Gail,” said Angie. “If you give her a budget, she will make it happen.”
The color palette at the Cronins is gradually changing from tans and browns to grays and blacks — with a pop of yellow. Gail and Angie recently worked together, painting the dining room a neutral Silver Lining Gray and doorways white, for contrast.
“We’re taking it from traditional to ultra modern,” said Gail, who helps Angie choose paint colors, furniture and accessories.
Gail also does staging and organizing. She makes over furniture and transforms countertops and fireplace surrounds. Her resume includes beading, photography, jewelry making, scrapbooking and mixed media.
“I love being creative,” she said. “I like to do different things.”
A side bonus with this job is Gail and Angie have become friends.
“This one always cooks for me, invites me to dinner,” said Gail.
“You are here,” said Angie. “You might as well eat with us.”
“We go shopping together,” said Gail. “We email: ‘What do you think about this?’ I am constantly researching. I belong to art groups, paint groups. A lot of ideas come from Facebook. Some of my ideas might have made Angie a little nervous. I know I said, ‘Trust me, trust me, it will be awesome’ about a hundred times.”
Trust was involved with the nailhead borders. Nailheads, traditionally used to tack furniture upholstery into place, are now a design element.
“I wanted to incorporate nailheads in (the living room) to play off the ones in the powder room,” said Gail.
“I am not a visual person,” said Angie. “I knew to trust her. If I didn’t like something, she would make it right.”
Gail painted the living room walls dark gray, the deep shelf interiors a warm yellow and used a nailhead border as an outline. She painted three abstract designs on canvases for one wall. On another, she hung whimsical porcelain flowers, a find at Target. Scrapbook paper decorates switchplates. New furniture — a white leather sectional on a black and white area rug — completes the room.
The kitchen is a work in progress. The sides of the kitchen island are sprayed black, then stenciled with silver spray paint. Pearl stickers she found at Michael’s were incorporated into the design.
The brown wood dining table is now black with an industrial-look top made with tin foil, several coats of Mod Podge, then glazed and sealed with several coats of varnish. Gail also sanded and painted six dining room chairs. She is in the middle of reupholstering them, another craft she’s learning as she goes.
Angie’s 13-year-old daughter Chloe Shemwell, enjoys helping with projects.
“My daughter Chloe and Gail, they hit it off,” said Angie. “I’d be at work, and Chloe and Gail would be working at home.”
Or heading to a craft store for supplies.
“It’s fun,” said the Mascoutah Middle School eighth-grader. “I like the upstairs the best and the bathroom. I like the circle sparkle things at the top of the stairs.”
On a recent afternoon, Gail led the way to the second-floor landing where she was completing the “circle sparkle things” with help from a $65 stencil. She applied different shades of glitter to rows of dots.
“It’s a showstopper, no doubt,” she said.
Angie’s husband Kyle goes along with the makeover.
“He’s laid back,” said Angie. “He doesn’t care. He’s up for anything.”
To contact Gail Strebel, visit her Faux Finesse Facebook page or call her at 618-580-9397. She charges a $50 consultation fee.
Gail Strebel, a decorative painter and designer, has noticed these trends in 2015.
1. Treatments on ceilings – consider a mix of metallics.
2. Add horizontal or vertical structure to any well done decorative finish. Consider graphic panels, blocks or bands.
3. Go for sophisticated, sleek and understated finishes, i.e. glazing, suede-like finishes, linen or strié and soft metallic plasters.
4.Try stenciling feature walls. Use oversized patterns in brocade, or classic patterns, but slightly modernized.
5. Give a front door a new finish.
6. Go for bling and glam in master bedrooms and powder rooms, including three-dimensional finishes featuring glitter, mica, glass beads, crystals or three- dimensional stenciling.
Nix these six
1. Wallpaper borders.
2. Over-themed rooms: country, floral, etc. Think accents.
3. Techniques that reveal the tool, such as sponging or ragging.
4. Fussy or super dark finishes.
5. Marbleized columns. Think stone instead.
6. Painting every room a different color.