Jan 182019

This week, the Chicago Tribune posted an article about how you can add more warmth to your home’s interior design when you “bring more of the great outdoors indoors” – and our faux wood products enable you to do that without breaking the bank.

“It makes people feel good when you bring in natural elements,” says
Leigh Spicher, Director of Design Studios for Ashton Woods, in an interview in this week’s Chicago Tribune. “Using wood on walls or the ceiling of a bathroom fits in with the trend toward using wood for trim and entire walls in all kinds of homes, from modern to traditional styles.”

Custom Driftwood Beams provide a striking framework for an open plan kitchen and living room.
Our Custom Driftwood Beams make a striking framework for this contemporary home.

I don’t think any fans of design shows on HGTV or DIY Network would argue with that – as using natural materials like stone and wood seems not just to be ‘in’ at the moment, but also seems to be a design aesthetic that increasingly stands the test of time and resists looking dated.

“In a modern house, you can add rustic wood beams to the ceiling to add warmth and texture,” says Jessica Parker, an interior designer and senior project manager with GTM Architects, in the same article. “We use wood consistently, especially in homes with an all-white kitchen or high ceilings. In a more traditional home, we install polished wood beams for a more refined look.”

However, Leigh and Jessica are both talking about using wood in the context of new home builds – which gives them incredible flexibility and freedom to use different materials and also absorb the costs within the scope of the project costs. For many people looking to update their decor and give their home a fresh face, the idea of using real wood is both prohibitively expense and very impractical.

Rough Hewn Beams add a rustic accent to a bedroom ceiling.
The vivid texture of our Rough Hewn Beams makes for a striking ceiling accent.

This perhaps explains why the popularity of our faux wood products seems to be growing in parallel to the increased interest in wood-look and natural materials for the home. Our products offer a highly affordable alternative to real wood and timber; and yet don’t require any compromise on looks.

This is because each of our line of products is created using molds taken from real wood and timber – from the deep gouges of our Custom Rough Hewn Beams to the aged perfection of our Rustic Ceiling Beams. The molding process captures every knot, grain and imperfection in vivid three-dimensional detail, which then allows us to recreate it perfectly in high-density polyurethane foam using an innovative injection-molding process.

Homeowners then have the option of staining the beams themselves, or ordering them in a variety of real-wood colors that are painstakingly detailed using a market-leading four-coat process. The result is a wood-look beam that is so realistic, it’s impossible to tell from the real thing without reaching out and touching it.

But while they might look just as good – the design of our products provide a lot of benefits that using real wood and timber doesn’t. This is especially true for people trying to add the customized look of real wood that Leigh and Jessica rave about to an existing home; and are limited by the scope of the existing architecture.

Hollow faux beams conceal chandelier wiring and mounts.
The ability to conceal wiring from chandeliers and other fixtures provides a versatility that real wood can’t match.

Adding exposed wooden beams to a ceiling, for example, requires nothing more than mounting blocks drilled into the ceiling studs. Our faux beams are hollow inside, and simply slot over the mounting blocks to be secured with screws.

Likewise, our products can be used to conceal wires, cables and ducting in a manner that’s simply impossible to do with real wood – and can be used to conceal recessed lighting, mask ceiling fixtures like fans or chandeliers, or even seamlessly incorporate LED lights or hidden speakers.

This versatility, combined with the extremely low cost of ‘going faux’ in comparison to using real wood, means you can reap all the benefits that the Chicago Tribune article raves about; without breaking the bank.

“Wood is a great way to personalize a space, to give it character and texture,” the article says. “Wood adds a lot of warmth and is welcoming when you make the transition from the exterior to the contemporary interior.”

The article ends talking about the disadvantages of using real wood.

“Adding a wood ceiling to a room can cost $5,000 to $10,000,” Jim Rill, owner of Rill Architects, is quoted as saying.

Our products cost just a fraction of that – without any compromise on looks or style.

“If you’re installing wood in a damp room such as a bathroom, pressure-treated poplar is a good choice, because it’s more resistant to mold,” Leigh Spicher says. “It’s also smart to install a backsplash between the sink and wood to protect the wood from getting too wet.”

Again, these are issues that our faux products don’t have – because they are made from a closed-cell polymer that is water-resistant and impervious to warping, cracking, mold and rot.

These examples just demonstrate how you can get the look of a modern, custom-built home without compromising cost or look – and the other advantages speak for themselves.

Jan 112019

We recently visited the Chicago Avenue home of Frank Lloyd Wright – arguably America’s most famous and influential architect. Many of the concepts he pioneered with his “organic architecture” movement can be used to great effect with our faux wood products; so we wanted to take a moment to explore them.

When Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Wisconsin, in 1867, his mother hung pictures of English cathedrals on his walls and gave him geometric building blocks to play with. In his autobiography, Lloyd Wright claims his mother declared he would grow up to “build beautiful buildings” and if that was the case, he certainly proved that prediction right.

Franklin Lloyd Wright's home and studio in Oak Park, IL.

Lloyd Wright’s home and studio on Chicago Avenue in Oak Park, IL is open to the public, and preserved to show what the home and business would have looked like in 1909.

Over 500 of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs were eventually built, and today many of those buildings remain as protected properties. His most famous construction was Fallingwater, described as “the best all-time work of American architecture.” Eight of his buildings have been nominated to the UNESCO world heritage list, and this year his famous Ennis House in Los Angeles was put on sale for $23M.

Plaque outside Franklin Lloyd Wright Home and Studio museum.
Lloyd Wright’s Chicago Avenue building was both his home, and later his place of business.

Lloyd Wright’s home and studio is slightly less impressive than Ennis House and Fallingwater; unless you’re a student of architecture. If you are, it’s like visiting a living scrapbook of his design inspirations and experimentation; many of which are mirrored in his famous building designs.

We visited the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio this week to learn more about the man’s iconic vision – and one of the most remarkable things we discovered was how many of his pioneering concepts would later go on to influence the design advice we give customers when using our faux wood products.

A good first example is in the original studio of his two-story home, which was later converted into bedrooms for his children. Lloyd Wright believed in ‘honesty in architecture’ and felt that opening up the high ceiling of this room was a better use of the space than an enclosed attic. However, to frame and balance that space he used wooden runners in much the same way many of our customers use our faux beams.

Wooden runners on the ceiling help frame the expansive space.
Wooden runners on the ceiling help frame the expansive space.

In fact, we’ve written articles about how beams can be used to break up large ceilings and – somewhat counter-intuitively – they can actually make a room look bigger.

Before and after of ceiling with beams used to break up the white space.
We’ve often recommended using beams to a similar end – helping define a space that would have previously got lost in whiteness.

Lloyd Wright similarly used suspended beams to add a ‘human scale’ to large or tall rooms. This is best demonstrated in the studio he built, which includes an upper story suspended by chains. Lloyd Wright built a network of suspended beams below that to help bridge the gap and better define the work spaces; something he coined as ‘breaking the box’ of traditional design.

Suspended beams in the Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.
Much like our faux wood products, these suspended beams are purely decorative; but highly effective in defining separate spaces in a single, large room.

We have a number of design projects which use these techniques – like Caryn’s, which used suspended beams to separate her large room.

Living room with beams suspended from large white support columns to divide the space.
Suspended beams can be used to divide spaces without taking up room.

Suspended beams are also great for adding a more ‘human scale’ to tall rooms, just as Lloyd Wright used them in his studio.

Suspended beams installed across a tray ceiling.
These suspended beams help make this towering ceiling space seem more ‘human scaled.’

One of the aspects that defines the architecture of Lloyd Wright best is practicality – although not always so (he actually built a passageway in his Chicago Avenue home to include the branches of a tree, rather than cut it down.) One way he did this was to use design features to conceal functional equipment like radiators and vents. He even inserted a piano into the wall of his family room rather than have the grand piano take up unnecessary room.

Grand piano inserted into a wall at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.
Believe it or not, but this is actually a full-size grand piano inserted into the wall and suspended in the space above the stairs in the room next door.

One of the most versatile and practical features of our faux wood beams is the fact that they’re hollow, and can be used to conceal a host of different practical features such as air conditioning vents, structural supports and wiring. This allows the natural flow of the wood-look to shine and makes our products very much in keeping with Lloyd Wright’s philosophy of ‘organic architecture.’

Basement before photo
In this finished basement project, structural supports and cables needed to be run from one end of the room to the other. Our beams helped seamlessly conceal this.
Finished basement with beams
The way the beams flow and the color and texture used is also, arguably, an example of ‘organic architecture’ in play; albeit using synthetic materials.

One frequent feature of Lloyd Wright’s characteristic designs were the use of beams and wood features to suspend lights and other practical elements in places they wouldn’t otherwise be able to go – such as these suspended wooden beams at the nearby Unity Temple, which Lloyd Wright designed in 1905.

Suspended beams and lights in the Unity Temple
Unity House, within Unity Temple, features these suspended beams which showcase what were then innovative and new electrical lights.

We recently featured a project which immediately sprang to mind when I saw these practical, yet stylish features – a suspended beam assembly that incorporated an electric fan and light hanging from the center. In addition to being a pretty impressive example of planning and construction, these elements very much mirror the great design inspirations Lloyd Wright envisioned over a century ago.

Suspended beam with ceiling fan.
A study and practical suspended beam served to support the weight of a working ceiling fan, plus the associated wiring…

Suspended beams covered with Custom Timber Beams in Rich Walnut.
…but when it was concealed by our Custom Timber beams in Rich Walnut the seamless combination of practicality and style mirrors the techniques of Lloyd Wright.

Another feature of Lloyd Wright’s Chicago Avenue home and studio that immediately jumped out at me was the incredible ceiling design in the center of his towering studio. An octagonal roof allows light to come in from all directions, and Lloyd Wright used beams as both practical and aesthetic elements to contrast with the light pouring in.

Octagonal roof at Lloyd Wright Home and Studio museum.
At the top of the attached studio, Lloyd Wright used means in a configuration that we often see mirrored in contemporary faux beam projects.
Close up view of octagonal roof at Lloyd Wright Home and Studio.
A close-up of the ceiling design demonstrates how the radiating beams mirror the path of the natural light – very much in keeping with the concept of ‘organic architecture.’

We’ve featured many photos over the years of our faux wood beams being used to create similar ceiling fixtures, and it was striking to see a designer from so long ago pioneer an aesthetic element that is still very much a la mode today.

Before and after photos of circular ceiling with faux wood beams arranged in wheel spokes pattern.
While the original inspiration for ceiling fixtures like this comes from the design of actual structural supporting timber roofing, the decision to expose or recreate that look with faux materials is definitely influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Another design element that Lloyd Wright commonly used was to break up the height of different open spaces – again ‘breaking the box’ of traditional design. In the nursery this is most clearly scene by reducing the height of the alcove windows; to make the most versatile use of the natural light and create a sense of intimacy where the crib would be placed.

Touring Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio
From the angle of the natural light to the imposed feeling of intimacy, using wooden elements to lower and frame sections of the room is both practical and aesthetic.

We recently featured a project by designer Andrea Kleiver who used our Custom Handhewn Beams to frame a reading nook for her daughter; utilizing the same technique of ‘breaking the box’ and framing different areas of an open space for different purposes.

Bedroom reading nook framed with a faux wood beam.
Our faux beams helped frame this reading nook and create a sense of intimacy.
Mirror view of bedroom reading nook.
It’s very much in keeping with Lloyd Wright to use organic-looking materials to break sections of an open-plan room into different segments used for different things.

The tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio was truly eye-opening, and it was fascinating to learn and appreciate all the thought and process that went into defining the aesthetics that continue to be popular to this day.

I think one of the most interesting ways in which our products follow the vision of Lloyd Wright is that they vividly resemble real materials – in keeping with his philosophy of organic architecture – and yet are also practical, versatile and affordable.

From his use of concrete to build Unity Temple, and experimentation with blending magnesite mixed with sawdust to create softer, warmer alternatives to concrete floors, Lloyd Wright was always more focused on what was ‘right’ for the design of a construction of a home.

We can’t claim that he’d have incorporated faux wood into any of his designs if Lloyd Wright were alive today; but I think he’d have appreciated our product and also agreed with many of the stylistic and design recommendations we make right here on this blog.

Jan 042019

2018 was a great year for faux, full of fantastic interior design projects that we’ve shared on this blog. It was tough to narrow down over fifty posts to our top-twelve monthly favorites – but we tried! Here are some of the best show-stopping designs highlighted in 2018.

January – Building a Fireplace: Easier Than It Sounds

Customer Maryn decided that her living room needed some cozying up. What better way to add warmth than with a fireplace? Building it was more straightforward than one would think. Maryn built a wooden frame around an electric fireplace, covered it with stone-style paneling to create the “chimney” and topped it off with our Custom Timber mantel. As you can see in the After photo – the final result is stunning!

Fireplace with Custom Timber Mantel

February – Simple Kitchen Design with a Ceiling Beam

We featured another innovative project in February – in which
customer Hussein used a single one of our Custom Timber beams to fill in the apex of his kitchen’s sloping roof. Paired with our accessory beam straps, the result was subtle, stylish and incredibly elegant.

Sloped kitchen ceiling with Custom Timber Beam and beam straps.

March – How to Brighten a Sun Room Design with Beams

Designer Diane Bianchini of Dream Windows & Interiors gave us a fantastic project to feature in March; in which she used to counter-intuitive addition of our dark-hued Quick Ship Timber Beams in Rich Walnut color to make a previously drab sun room brighter and lighter. It was a great example of interior design at its best, and we love how our beams contributed to the end result.

Sunroom with Timber style beams suspended from the vaulted ceiling

April – Low Ceiling Design Gets a Lift with Beams

Faux beams are not an obvious choice for homes with low ceilings, but in April we featured a great kitchen project sent into us by customer Jennifer; who used our Custom Timber Beams to add a low-profile wood look to her kitchen ceiling; without clonking anybody on the head! It’s another example of how versatile and practical our products can be in virtually any application.

Open plan living room and kitchen with Custom Timber beams installed on the ceiling.

May – Dividing a Living Room with Suspended Beams

Customer Caryn sent in a really innovative design project in May of 2018; demonstrating how she’d used our Custom Timber Beams to give the illusion of dividing a large room into sections; without any of the obvious blocking or restriction real dividing pieces would have resulted in. It’s a great example of innovative design and arguably the trend of 2018 we think is most notable.

Living room columns topped with Timber Beams to divide the room.

June – Decorative Gable Trusses Make a New Home Spectacular

Simplicity went out the door in June – and showmanship stepped in. We featured an incredible exterior design project from Ocala, Florida, which saw our Custom Hand Hewn Beams in Burnt Mocha used to incredible effect to mimic the look of curved roof trusses that would have been used in the historic homes that inspired this new build. It was bold, dramatic and arguably one of the faux beam projects of the year.

Trusses built with Custom Hand Hewn beams accent the exerior of a Tudor-style manor with towering dormer windows and a vaulted porch. 

July – How to Add Medieval Style to a Modern Home with Beams

We continued the theme of modern medieval in July, when we featured the work of customer Ashok; who used our Custom Heritage Beams in Dark Walnut to add an incredible look to his towering vaulted ceiling. It really helped break up the wide expanse of ceiling and added a beautiful historic element to his modern and stylish home.

Custom Heritage beams in Dark Walnut add frame and scale to a room's high vaulted ceiling.
The beams added some frame and scale to the room’s enormous vaulted ceiling.

August – Simply Stunning! A Whole House Remodel with Faux

August was an incredible month, with a stunning whole-house resign project dominating this blog and that of our sister site, The focus was an incredible house remodel that turned a drab and dreary home with a unique layout into a showpiece resembling a luxury resort or top tier casino. Our Custom Hand Hewn Beams in Light OakCustom Tuscany Beams in rich Walnut, and Rustic Beams in Walnut were part of the project and look fantastic now they’re installed.

Hand Hewn Beams with straps transformed a living room’s towering ceiling, and provided a stylish mantel.

September – Basement Support Columns Covered in Dazzling Driftwood

There’s definitely a perception that our beams are best-suited to adding ‘age’ to a home; but in September we featured a basement redesign that demonstrated the opposite. Our Custom Driftwood Beams were used to great effect in concealing supports, ducts and cables; and yet blended perfectly into a stylish and contemporary design.

Custom Driftwood beams cover a basement's support columns and ceiling with the beautiful look of natural wood.

October – Suspended Beam Design in Boutique Hotel

In October, fans of this blog were reminded of how popular our faux products are in commercial applications. This boutique hotel used Custom Hand Hewn Beams to create an amazing suspended wood ceiling fixture that adds a beautiful and contemporary elegance to this Florham Park hotel.

Custom Hand Hewn beams used to create a hanging fixture over a hotel's lounge area.
These suspended beams look vividly realistic, but weigh a fraction of what real wood does.

November – Farmhouse Style Fireplace with Rough Hewn Mantel

November featured one of my favorite projects of the year; a beautiful real stone fireplace that benefited from the addition of a Custom Rough Hewn Mantel in Walnut. It was interesting to see how seamlessly ‘faux’ blended with the authentic article; and this project demonstrated how our products can often provide a more practical installation than real wood without having to compromise on looks or functionality.

Custom Rough Hewn mantel in Walnut installed on a real stone fireplace.
Adding a real wood mantel to this fireplace would have been pretty difficult – the sheer weight of it would have required major drilling and reinforcing into that gorgeous stone.

December – Bedroom Color Scheme Trick: Match the Beams to the Furniture

One of the final projects we featured this year demonstrates the elegance of good taste; in which homeowner Kristina added our Quick Ship Rough Hewn Beams in Walnut color to her ceiling; and brought the whole project together by pairing the walnut-hued wood with perfectly-matched fixtures and furnishings. It shows how our products work best when they’re part of a holistic design that doesn’t lean too heavily on any individual design component; and lets each one speak for itself.

Custom Rough Hewn beams in Walnut installed in a bedroom, matching the color of room's other wood fixtures.

Dec 212018

The flexibility of faux beams are making them one of 2018’s hottest design trends, according to interviews from Milan Design Week.

It’s been months since the MDW – the Milan Design Week which serves as one of the most important celebrations of interior design in the world. However, as design journalists put together their reviews of the year, more and more are quoting interviews from the MDW with leading designers who seem to think that design elements like faux wood beams were one of the most important trends of 2018 – and one that will continue to grow as a design favorite next year as well.

Statement ceilings like this tray ceiling with faux beams have been recognized as one of the hottest design trends of 2018.
Statement ceilings have been recognized as one of the hottest design trends of 2018.

In a December post from Milan Design Agenda, ‘new wood’ was recognized as the top choice for ‘design trends that remain relevant’ in 2018, with synthetic wood highlighted for how good it looked when the “elegance of the material aligned with the creativity of designers” – and in modern decor, wood features were “an excellent combination.”

Jen McCombie, head of marketing at designer furniture brand Indigo Living, was interviewed during Milan Design Week and recognized that wood features were “hot at the moment” and that interesting and unexpected ceiling designs were on trend. 

Finished basement remodeled with faux wood covering the ceiling beam and lally columns.
Using faux wood in modern design aesthetics is an “excellent combination” according to the experts.

At the same show, Dan Lee, co-founder of furniture and interior design brand Ovo Group, highlighted how on trend concealed LED lights were in 2018, which is something that our hollow beams lend themselves perfectly to.

“Statement ceilings can enhance the spatial hierarchy of a room,” Lee was quoted as saying, “and can make it feel more voluminous and sophisticated.” Again, we’ve highlighted how our beams make an excellent material for ‘framing’ a room and establishing a sense of size and scale in blog posts like this one.

“Wood ceiling beams are a way to create eye-catching ceilings,” said Crystel See, retail operation manager at furniture brand Organic Modernism. “Take advantage of the large blank canvas by adding color, texture and design details in the upper part of the room. This will draw eyes upwards to appreciate the loftiness of the space.”

The trick to making beams and other ceiling elements work is to make sure they’re congruent with the rest of the room – and choose paint and furniture that complements the overall ‘feel’ of the space.

Before and after photo of living room remodeled with beams to frame the space.
The use of beams to ‘frame’ a space and enhance the feeling of size and scale is one of the most-recognized trends in modernistic decor.

“Take into consideration the rest of your decor to ensure that your ceilings complement the aesthetics,” suggests Jen McCombie. “You can express a lot with statement ceilings, but they should always support the elements below.”

Given how unique and eye-catching ceiling designs werethe talk of Milan Design Week, and are being featured so heavily as a trend of 2018, you can expect to see more and more projects that feature products like ours.

We’ve already blogged about how faux wood is one of the fastest growing markets globally, and we look forward to remaining the leading all-American producers for many years to come.

Dec 142018

An elegantly rustic beam shelf serves as the perfect underlining accent to a living room’s artwork.

If you’ve ever gone to a modern art museum and stared at a fire extinguisher for thirty minutes – before realizing it’s not actually an exhibit – you’ll know that art is subjective.

Rustic beam shelf with a hand hewn wood texture.
AFTER: The beam shelf adds a visually impressive complement to the beautiful artwork.

So is style – but these project photos sent in by a customer prove that Justice Potter Stewart was right when he said “I’ll know it when I see it” – because both the artwork and the shelf added below it are unquestionably sophisticated.

The homeowner in question hung three beautiful photos on their living room wall,  – but felt as if the pictures on their own lacked a certain foundation that would really help them pop.

Part of the issue was that the rest of the room featured some dark and stable elements, like the dark leather couch and the awesome bourbon-barrel drinks cabinet in the corner.

The customer’s solution was to add a shelf – but they wanted something beefy and broad, rather than a thin wooden element supported by a bracket. The challenge here was that real wood of the length and width they wanted would be prodigiously heavy; and not easy to safely or securely mount to the wall studs through the existing drywall.

BEFORE: You can see something is missing

That’s where comes in – doing what we do best by offering a practical alternative that delivers on the ease-of-installation without compromising on the look.

The customers ordered a Custom Hand Hewn Beam in Rich Walnut color, and installed that as a decorative shelf beneath the framed photos. The AFTER picture they sent demonstrates what a dramatic difference it made.

But the picture – like all artwork – only tells part of the story at first glance. The benefit of the beam was that they could install it directly onto the wall studs with mounting blocks. Our beams are made from a lightweight and durable polyurethane material. After drilling wooden blocks into the wall studs, the three-sided beam ‘slot’ over the blocks and are secured with screws – no additional support needed.

The customer ordered the beams with end caps – which feature vividly realistic ring and grain textures – and as a result the illusion of a real length of wood is  artwork in itself. The beam is made from a mold of authentic hand hewn wood. Add in our innovative and industry-leading four-color painting technique and it’s practically impossible to tell that the shelf isn’t real wood. It will even support appropriately-weighted objects like lightly-framed pictures.

We love this simple, elegant project and are hugely excited to be able to feature it here. What do you think of the addition? Let us know in the comments section below.