The term “Faux Bois” is French for “False Wood” and has been used as a natural element of design since the 1800’s in France and England. Faux Bois is the spirit of wood grain, an imitation of the rustic texture and characteristics of wood. During a time when exotic woods were expensive and difficult to import, European designers are said to have relied on the talents of artisan craftsman to recreate the look of popular woods of the time, such as rosewood, burl and mahogany. Great strides where taken by these artisans to showcase the difference between these diffferent woods. In France,“rocaillers”, or highly skilled stone craftsmen used a technique called “Ferrocement”, a technique that joins the flexibility of iron (steel) and the resistance of cement, to create wire mesh or rebar framed furniture covered with the application of cement. The cement itself was carved and molded into intertwining shapes of branches or logs, creating a fantasy version of chairs, benches and arbor-like structures. In fact, if one visits the park of Jarin Montessori in Paris, it is said that one will find at the edge of the park wooden bridges, benches and planters sculpted into stone to resemble logs of wood. Perhaps a step into a timeless and almost magical world of concrete. A durable substance that has certainly endured time. The French notion of “Trompe-l’oeil”, the art technique involving realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that the depicted objects exist in three dimensions, can be found in the art form of Faux Bois. A forced perspective of nature.
During the early 20th century, it was the skills and vision of Mexican born artist, Dionisio Rodriguez that brought this European craft and form of sculpting cement to the United States. In Mexico, this art style was referred to as “El Trabjo Rustico” (The Rustic Work) and reflected the sophisticated and refined skills of the French creations. However, it is noted that it differs from European Faux Bois in its more realistic finishes, such as peeling bark, broken branches and even worm holes. Rodriguez’s whimsical creations in America of graining in concrete certainly pay tribute the charm and allure of ancient and weathered wood. Today, his famed creations are carried on by the third generation of Rodriguez’s family in San Antonio, Texas. 100 years of Faux Bois. Quite an enduring craft of family artisans.
The popularity of faux bois began to fade among its collectors after the 1920’s. It was during the age of Modernism and Art Deco that the naturalistic style of Faux Bois declined in its demand. It was not until the turn of the 21st century that the emergence of this naturalistic art form has returned as a prevalent style to grace our interiors and exterior garden spaces. The appeal of bringing elements of Faux Bois into our interiors would be a daily reminder of the natural elements of our external world. It is said that the contemporary creations of Faux Bois style retain the influence of the 18th century designs. These old world techniques employed by artisans provide striking structures, furniture and accessories that provide a world of possibilities to infuse in our own personal domains. Nature brought within. Modern and mass produced versions of this stunning art form of wood graining can be found today in ceramics, cast resins, metals, textiles & rugs, furniture, lighting and wall coverings and even paper. Let’s not forget the fabulous skills of the faux finish painted wall! Endless possibilities to grace our realms with nature…
Inspired by the greatest art form, nature, Faux Bois is certainly worth our appreciation and attention. Whether an interplay of twisted tree limbs or the stunning showcase of grains of wood, Faux Bois is an art that echoes nature which can be incorporated into our surroundings, year round, for appreciation and enjoyment. Nature as decor that can be interpreted with unique style with the limitless variety of materials and techniques used today to emulate the appearance of wood. The Art of Woodgraining taken as a stylish statement for the modern interiors, indeed.
And what of “Faux Bois” styled events? Nature appreciated with sophisticated and stylish modern entertaining. Nature presented with elegance and natural flair. A memorable occasion, for certain.
Consider Faux Bois. Whether in its purest and original form or a revision of modern style, perhaps there is an element of “Faux Bois” that can adorn and embellish any interior or exterior space. Nature’s wonders appreciated throughout the year, in style.