For Todd and Susan Allemand, a trip to the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas marked the end of a decade-long career in carpentry and the beginning of the exploration into the art of faux finishing.
Following a successful run of supervising large crews on major projects on the Eastside and in the Seattle area, the couple stumbled upon a new love of transforming the ordinary into the breathtaking. When Susan returned home from the Vegas trip she immediately began researching the art of faux finishing.
“A lot of people don’t understand, they think faux finishing means sponge painting,” Susan said. “They are blown away when they see what we can do.”
She devoted herself full-time training and school, initially working out of their home. Her very first faux finishing job was a dining room that was later featured on the cover of Northwest Living Magazine. From there, business began to pick up and clients poured in, prompting Todd to quit his day job and work side by side with his wife in their new business venture.
In 2003, the couple officially opened Out of this World Fine Finishes located at a Central Way storefront near Marina Park in Kirkland. The company specializes in a variety of decor including professional-grade plasters, glazes, designs on glass, custom painted patterns, frescos and landscapes, and furniture. The small shop sits among the art-gallery lined streets and posh community of Kirkland’s waterfront.
The economy may be feeling the pressure but Todd and Susan Allemand see no sign of slowing down. Together, they have worked on numerous Bellevue-based projects including homes in the upscale neighborhoods of Medina and five homes situated on the Newcastle Golf Course.
The Allemands most elaborate job to date was a 7,500-square-foot italian-villa home in Clyde Hill. The six month job included 25 foot high walls, designs on the stair risers of a sweeping stair case, moldings, columns, custom furniture, a wine cellar, and nearly all the rooms in the house.
“I start out by going to the clients home and seeing what they want and then start designing with them,” Susan said. “I will go in there and pull colors out of the décor. Every client is different and every client has unique taste and I take their vision and I create it for them.”
For a more modern take, the couple transformed an apartment in the Lincoln One Tower, overlooking all of downtown Bellevue. The apartment went from a basic white interior to vibrant, colorful walls reminiscent of a desert sunset with hints of light blue hues and accents of gold leafing. The bright walls create a beautiful backdrop for the owners art collection, bringing a pop of personality to a now less then ordinary high-rise apartment.
“The best thing is that I am good friends with all of my clients,” Susan said.
Over time, the couple has continued to pursue the art of faux finishing, most recently taking a trip with two masters to Italy to further study the art.
“We are constantly learning to better ourselves. It’s important for us to keep up with the latest trends, techniques, and the new tools that come out,” Todd explained.
In 2007, they became Faux Effects licensed distributers, professional faux finishing product line, and opened the first Faux Effects licensed training studio in the northwest, where the couple instructs homeowners and independent contractors in faux finishing techniques. The training studio is the work site for the “Seattle School of Decorative Painting” and displays mock-ups and samples of the couples work.
“I just want to get the word out that you should hire a professional to do the job because I’ve heard the nightmare stories. People come in and say they’ve had their house vinishin plastered when it’s really compound mud with latex paint mixed in. They give them a fake vinishin plaster when really you have to be licensed, bonded and insured to be certified in the trade, so if someone is going to hire, please make sure they have that,” Susan said.
The two stay busy, working on multiple jobs and holding training courses one to two weeks out of the month.
“A lot of our clients are from word of mouth or seeing our work in various homes around town. Some stop in our store because they’re curious as they walk by,” Susan explained, adding that their work can currently be seen in Kreiss, a furniture store located in Bellevue Place.
The projects vary from wall to wall and from house to house, from a tiny powder room to a dining room or an accent wall. The pair will work with any budget and charge dependent on the project.
“Faux finishing is a lot less expensive then say, buying a $5,000 marble column and it lasts,” Todd explained. “Everything is clear coated with hard top coats so they don’t get scratched and scuffed and everything we use is water based and green with low VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds),” he added.
The Allemands next project will transform more than just the exterior of a wall. The couple is currently working towards establishing a non-profit organization called “Happy places, Inc.”, a foundation for children who have a life threatening illness, physical limitations, coping with the loss of a loved one, or are victims of abuse or neglect.
Hoping to secure a 501-C3, the foundation will select children in the community who fall under one of the above categories, and the Allemands will visit their living space to paint and decorate to make it a Happy Place. The couple hopes by creating a special place for the child, their outlook on life will improve and they will feel safe and happy in the new environment created especially for them.
Lindsay Larin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 425-453-4602.
Out of this World Fine Finishes is located at 15 Central Way in Kirkland, www.outofthisworldfinishes.com, 425-827-7940.