Today we are talking about how to paint a DIY faux bois table.

Faux bois.

It and its good friend trompe l’oeil are words I like to work into conversation whenever possible to sound like I wear berets and just flew in from the south of France.

It means “false wood” or a surface that looks like its grained wood, but it’s really something else.

Super fancy, right?

That’s how we roll here at Thistlewood.

But before we go all faux bois….

 ….can I ask you a question?

If you are French or visited France as an exchange student or read French home decor magazines or stopped by a french thrift store on the way to the Eiffel Tower…

…or simply like baguettes.

Can you tell me what these are?

My sister picked them up for me in Paris.

They are tiny black and white numbers on loops of string with different words under each number.

She said they looked like me and she was right.  I love them.  I have about fivfillion projects planned for them, but I have no idea what they were used for.

Inquiring minds want to know.

Just in case I want to drop them into conversation, too.

And now back to our regularly scheduled faux bois conversation.  This is a faux bois table top project I created last year for FrogTape for their look book.

Here’s the finished table set up in my office posing as a desk.

See how the top looks like wood?

Here’s a closer look.

You can see the graining and the wood knots on the top.

Faux. Faux. Faux.

The table actually started life like this.

It looks fine right now, but actually the table top is pretty dented and has chips out of the top from one too many hot glue projects.

This project is perfect for a piece of furniture with a flat surface that needs a little love.

I started by sanding down all the rough parts of the surface.

Then I painted the table with one coat of SW Mindful Gray.

The best gray known to mankind.

One day archaeologists will be talking about this paint color in museums somewhere.

After it dried, I added a layer of watered down umber paint.

I simply brushed it on with cross strokes.  You can see the cross-hatch pattern in the table top.

This was to add a layer of dimension before I faux boised the top.

To create the faux bois look….this is the tool you need.

You can buy them at paint stores (I bought mine at Sherwin-Williams) or you can get them at some craft stores, too.

They usually come in a kit with three pieces–a larger piece, a small piece and a comb.

For this project we used the larger piece to create the grain, the smaller piece for the wood knots and the comb for texture.

Here’s a close up of the graining process.

You’ll want to choose a darker color than your surface.  This color is called SW Black Fox.  I went with gray for this project, but you could create the same look with more neutral colors, like SW Alabaster and SW Universal Khaki or more tan/gold colors like SW Ivoire and SW Macademia.

The key is using a lighter color underneath and a darker color on top.

You’ll mix the darker (grain) paint with a glaze and water.  The ratio should be 1 part paint to 1 part glaze.  Your mixture will be thinner than regular paint.  The glaze allows the paint to be moved around and prolongs the drying time.

To create the grain, simply paint on a strip of paint on the table top and drag the tool through the glaze.  You might want to practice on a flat surface, but once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty easy to manipulate.

Repeat the process until you have covered the entire table top with faux graining.

I just kept experimenting with the tool until I got a look I liked.

I started with the larger tool and dragged it across the surface to create the large grain.

Then, I went back and adding in knots with the smaller tool.

Lastly, I dragged the comb across parts of the “grain” to make it look more like wood.

The glaze is so flexible that if you create a “grain” you don’t like, you can wipe it off and start again.

It’s a fun project that you can paint for under $50 in an afternoon.

You should try it.

It’s really so much easier than it looks.

And besides…

….everyone likes to work a little “faux bois” into conversation. 🙂

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  1. Image for Maaike Maaike

    What a great project! At one time, I worked as a buyer for an upscale home and garden center, and had ordered some beautiful faux bois cement garden furniture. I'll never forget when it came in, and I was told that my "Fox Boys" chairs had arrived! (and that they were super heavy). ?

  2. Image for Jeanne Jeanne

    Fabulous the step by step...saved for sure. The little French porcelain pieces...sorry, I have no idea, but I love them...can't wait to see what you do with them. Happy Weekend. :)

  3. Image for Marisa Franca @ All Our Way Marisa Franca @ All Our Way

    Bonjour, mon ami! Comment ça va? That is the only thing I can spell in French -- I hope I'm not using curse words or anything. Your table is so neat. I really like that finish. I've seen the faux wood finish before and always wanted to try it. You are certainly inspiring me to try. Have a great weekend and stay warm.

  4. Image for Carrie Carrie

    Love the table and the tiles~ perhaps they were a type of calendar marker?? Similar to our 'perpetual calendar'? Just a'll do something brilliant with them, I have no doubt, Rock Star. :)

  5. Image for Florence Mur Florence Mur

    Hello KariAnne, All the best for 2017! I read your posts every day, and I'm so happy I found your blog. It's very inspirational for me. I'm French and live in Provence, and would like to help on these tiny numbers. They remind me of hotel keychains, with maybe a sort of play on word between the room number and a usual reference to each number (like 7 days, 4 seasons...). On the other hand, I'm not sure they are French as the words are spelled in English. Let us know if you get more info! Florence

  6. Image for Nancy @ Slightly Coastal Nancy @ Slightly Coastal

    LOVE! I took French in high school so that should qualify my to try this right? Plus I love chocolate croissants. Two checks in that category. I have always wanted to try this. I'm so happy you have an example. Putting it on my list to do in 2017. Have a great weekend. Nancy

  7. Image for Michelle Michelle

    What a lovely faux bois tabletop! My dream is to one day travel to France and if I do, I'm looking for those whatever-they-are porcelain numbered pieces your sister brought back for you. They are so adorable! Can't wait to see what you do with them!! By the way, my favorite French word to drop into conversations is à propos, as in 'how à propos of your sister to give you those porcelain pieces' because they fit you to a T. :)

  8. Image for Debra Debra

    They came from France but are written in English, I do not have a clue what they maybe other than a item for English tourists?

  9. Image for Denise Cox Denise Cox

    Thanks Karianne!! Gotta put this on my "to do" list! Where did you get the quote sign in your work space.. "Be the Change...". I havent seen that one... I like it. It's a great way for us to approach the new year.. ?

  10. Image for Denise Cox Denise Cox

    Oh... Forgot to add... Like the other ladies, I also love those adorable, ceramic little ditties. They are precious! Find something to create with them FAST and share with us ASAP... ?

  11. Image for Cecilia Cecilia

    Your table is tres chic. French words are fun to throw around, ha. You did a wonderful job creating the faux bois top. I will have to remember that next time I want a table to look like it has a rustic wood top. As for the ceramic doodas, no idea but they are adorbs. Can't wait to see what you do with them. Au revoir! ;) Cecilia

  12. Image for Sharon H Sharon H

    Miz karianne, many, many years ago in another lifetime, my husband and I drove a big truck all over the country as well as Canada. We spent a lot of time in French-speaking Quebec, and while our truck would be getting unloaded, I would be sitting in the glass company's entry. So many times a customer would walk in, wait expectantly for someone to serve them, then turn to me and ask me something in French. In self defense I had the manager teach me how to say, "Je ne parle pas Francais". I must've done it fairly well because they would look confused and say, ....No? Then when they were waited on there would be a conversation about me....hahaha. What I told them was, I don't speak French. Wish I knew what those cute little tiles were for. Can't wait to see what you do with them. I would tie them to baskets or small cubby box pull knobs....

  13. Image for Christine Christine

    Those cute little numbers remind me of decimal time that was used sometime around the French Revolution. Because they don't look that old, I wonder if they were a reproduction for something decorative trying to simulate decimal time.

  14. Image for Claudine Claudine

    Darling, aside from my name being French, I know nothing in French! I have been to Paris - and I love croissants and macaroons- lol I have no idea what the tiny porcelain kind of keychains are! But again, once I brought home an English bedwarmer (you know the ones with a handle, and the "pan part" had holes like a colander?) thinking it was a MEDIEVAL POPCORN MAKER!!! ??? I loved the technique and I laughed with your remarks about French and also the amazing comments! We are a community of goofballs! Best part of my day! Mwah!

  15. Image for Allison Allison

    I believe the quote "Be the change you hope to see in the world" is by Ghandi. I've always loved it an try to live it. Beautiful quote, beautiful blog, beautiful sweet red lipstick Karianne. =)

  16. Image for Mary Mary

    Great job. I have a small table that I have wanted to do this grain. Now I think I might be confident enough to try it. Thanks for the instructions. By the way, where do you get the quote print? Thanks, Happy New Year

  17. Image for beverly e beverly e

    Love this, and thanks for offering some other paint combinations (with the actual paint brand/names),. That will be very helpful because I always love your palettes!

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