How to Decorate with Faux Bois, the Classic That’s Making a Comeback / by Margaret Chambers

 This garden bench by Currey & Company resembles wood branches, but is actually made of concrete. For more information on where to buy Currey & Company pieces, please contact us.

This garden bench by Currey & Company resembles wood branches, but is actually made of concrete. For more information on where to buy Currey & Company pieces, please contact us.

Even if you’ve never heard the term, “faux bois,” you’ve almost certainly seen it used in interior design. Faux bois means “false wood” in French. It can be any kind of decorative item, but when people talk about “faux bois,” they usually mean the cement, stone, or cast iron furniture that is shaped and patterned like wood. Though faux bois fell out of favor for a few decades, interior designers here in Dallas and elsewhere are seeing it make a comeback.

The first example of faux bois was a garden bridge created by Joseph Monier, a Frenchman, in 1875. Monier layered concrete and sand over metal rods and sculpted them to look like wood branches. In recent years, faux bois has remained an important tool for interior designers as certain woods have become more rare and expensive.  

Examples of Faux Bois

 We decorated this outdoor patio with faux bois benches by Currey & Company.

We decorated this outdoor patio with faux bois benches by Currey & Company.

Faux bois furniture is traditionally used for the outdoors. For example, faux bois is a great choice for patio furniture, bird fountains, gardening tables, planters, and more.

The latest trend in Dallas and elsewhere is bringing faux bois inside to pull a touch of nature into the home. A popular accessory is the faux bois mirror, which is bordered by interlocking imitation tree branches.

Other examples of faux bois can include dinnerware, wallpaper, lampshades, and fabrics with a painted or printed wood grain pattern. Even glass can be crafted to have a distinctive wood grain look.

Faux bois cement pieces are much more durable than real wood, and can last over 100 years. Unfortunately, newly produced cement faux bois is becoming rarer and rarer. If you want to buy antiques, you can start by looking at the differences between European and North American faux bois and decide which style you like best.

Faux Bois Furniture Traditions in America

 The frame of this mirror is surrounded by faux bois branches and leaves, which resemble carved wood.

The frame of this mirror is surrounded by faux bois branches and leaves, which resemble carved wood.

In the 1920’s, Mexican-born artist Dionisio Rodriguez developed his own take on faux bois. The Mexican style of faux bois is called “El Trabajo Rustico,” or ‘the rustic work.’ Trabajo rustico furniture were usually tinted and given highly naturalistic details such as lichen, peeled bark, and knotholes.

Today, Rodriguez’s largest pieces are kept in the Brackenridge Park in San Antonio. Carlos Cortes, Rodriguez’s great-nephew, continues the tradition using steel-reinforced concrete in his studio in San Antonio.

Another designer who made faux bois a hit in America was John Dickinson. In the 1970s, Dickinson’s design collection included faux bois lamps and mirrors with cast concrete “twigs.” He used a distinctive chalk white finish for many of these pieces. John Dickinson’s furniture and accessories command high prices from collectors today.

Now that it’s the twenty-tens, faux bois is probably enjoying another resurgence in popularity because of Martha Stewart, who fell in love with Rodriguez’s pieces in Brackenridge Park and released her own line of faux bois bath items.

Faux Bois Design Tips

Because faux bois has been around for such a long time, you don’t need to worry about it being a passing fad. It also has the advantage of blending with either rustic, shabby chic, or upscale contemporary rooms.

 This accent table by Currey & Company is well-suited for the indoors, too.

This accent table by Currey & Company is well-suited for the indoors, too.

If you want your faux bois pieces to have their maximum impact, limit them to one or two per room. Visitors will enjoy the surprise of seeing tree stumps as low tables, or wood branches as hanging rods. You can mix these pieces easily with real wood and other organic textures, such as a sisal rug.

Introducing a bold graphic wood-grain print is one example of how faux bois should be used in modern interior design. Faux bois wallpaper can come in playful colors, and there are a variety of options for the scale, texture, or subtlety of the pattern too. One smart way to update your kitchen cabinetry is to find a painter who’s experienced with a faux wood painting finish.

Our design team at Chambers Interiors in Dallas has personal experience decorating with faux bois. Whether you already own faux bois and could use some creative ideas for decorating with it, or you’re interested in buying faux bois furniture for the first time, Chambers Interiors can help you bridge the gap between your vision and your next home.