This is a post on faking it! If you boil it down, there is a pretty big part of decorating that is about ‘faking it’, right?! Trying to create a look and feel with the decorations. Where does the ‘creating’ end and the ‘faking’ start? Maybe that’s too abstract of thinking… Maybe that’s just me, just how my decorator mind works… Maybe, (and this is a very solid option) I’ve been in my house during the quarantine too long… LOL
In my attempt to transform our 1970’s house into a colonial revival cottage style, I decided it needed beams. To install real beams would have been super expensive and a super duper invasive addition to the already huge renovation project, not to mention crazy heavy and cumbersome. (We did use real beams on the front porch addition, those beams were so heavy!) I did want to carry that same beam look into the inside of the house, but not invite the issues of installing real ones.
What did I do?
I faked it! Until I started to learn in earnest about faux beams, I really had no idea just how good they looked… and how easy they are to install. Disclaimer here: I did the design, the sourcing, ordering and the picture taking of the faux beam install… but I didn’t do the installation. I left that up to my carpenter. I do think that these faux beams are actually quite adaptable for a DIY project though, so keep reading and see what you think.
In our whole house renovation, though we removed as many walls as we could on the main level, it was still important to me to have defined spaces. Another very high priority for this whole house renovation was to add character and ooze colonial cottage charm in every room, without being obnoxious about it. LOL
Sounds simple, right?! This is what our house was when we first purchased it:
The wall to the left of the picture, behind the sofa was removed. Tricky part was that wall was a supporting wall. Just removing it wasn’t really ‘just removing’ it. It entailed the carpenter to carefully hold up the house with temporary supports and then add the huge laminated beam to replace the supporting stud wall.
That laminated beam is super strong… but it isn’t pretty. It could be covered simply with sheetrock, then it would basically blend in and not really be noticed and that would be done.
Done, but really boring.
Instead, I chose to emphasize that huge beam going across the length of the great room. That’s where faux beam number 1 comes into play! This, (and all the others) faux beam is made from some sort of hard foam material and is shaped like a ‘U’ so that it could slip around the laminated beam, completely encasing it.
Our carpenter, Dan, in the red shirt, is checking the fit of the faux beam, while our friend, Wayne, is lending a hand, and easily holding the lightweight faux beam in place with the handmade tool Dan made.
But just that one beam, though nice, wasn’t enough. I wanted more!
(can’t you just hear the ‘blueberry girl’ in Willy Wonka… “I waaant moooooore!”) Oompa Loompa. That didn’t go too well for her…
I think my design plan holds a little more weight… er… reasoning?
Here is my mentality for the design. It’s all about defining the space with features not with walls. The living room ceiling, to the left of where Wayne is standing is a vaulted ceiling… the ceiling in the kitchen dining area is a flat ceiling. In my head, it seemed like this area is more of an old colonial tavern style space and for sure that would include beams on the ceiling.
All that being said… there is a balance of repeating a theme and over doing it. I purposely didn’t do the mantle with a wooden beam because I felt that would have been overkill.
The large laminated beam cover was simply nailed into the laminated beam. To attach the rest of the beams to the ceiling, it was so simple!
Per the instructions from the faux beam manufacturer Dan marked chalklines on the ceiling then mounted spots of 2×4’s to the ceiling along those lines. Those 2×4 sections got screwed into the ceiling joists above.
The faux beams are relatively lightweight, so it wasn’t like he had to worry about it holding up a lot of weight.
To cut the faux beams, he used a simple oscillating tool like THIS ONE.
It cut the foam cleanly. I did order the beams a little longer, so that they could be perfectly fit on-site.
When it was time to put the faux beams up, the ‘U’ shape fits up over the 2 x 4 sections.
Using the handmade holder tool saves one’s arm from getting tired or if you don’t have a friend around to lend a hand.
Dan went across and brad nailed the faux beam to the 2×4 sections.
As the beams went up, the room was gaining character!
Placement was a thoughtful part of the design.
I didn’t want too many beams that they were in that ‘obnoxious’ category… I also needed to work around elements on the ceiling and walls. The kitchen dining room area has several chandeliers &/or ceiling lights. There are also cabinet doors that need to open, so I had to be sure a beam wasn’t intruding on that function.
Another thought in this design process was to not make it looked planned. I felt the design needed the beams to be spaced evenly apart, but not ‘centered’ on anything, like for instance on the sink or table etc. It seemed that as soon as I did that, it would look contrived. The goal in this design is for it to look like the base of this space is actually a Colonial cottage from a couple hundred years ago. I’ve been in a few of those, they are NOT perfect!
This is one of the things I love about working with Dan. He is extremely patient and offers to help me figure it out. He measured and put tape up to help me visualize the spacing as I verbalized the design. With a few adjustments we could make the final design placement plan.
We did make a mistake that wasn’t realized until the beams were up though. You can almost see it in the picture above… as soon as the beam was installed above the oven and cooktop area, it shadowed the recessed lights just enough that the cooking area was darkened. Fortunately, we were able to add additional recessed lighting in the ceiling on the stove side of the beam and the cooking area was perfectly lit again.
The beams are available in several prefinished colors, as well as unfinished. I will say though, the prefinished is done really, really well. These faux beams have such a believable texture and finish that no one can tell they are fake! In fact, my husband loves to ‘break the news’ to first time visitors…
So my takeaway tips are:
- Faux beams are lightweight and easier to work with than real beams.
- Be thoughtful in beam placement, working the plan on-site if possible, (and don’t forget about how they will shadow lighting)
- Find the right balance of repeating a theme without overkill.
- Use a holding tool, like the handmade one Dan made, to offer another hand.
- An oscillating tool cuts the beams nice and clean.
- The factory prefinished style is a really believable finish!
Want to know where you can get faux beams? HERE is a great place to get faux beams! They are relatively reasonably priced for a really big kick of character!
Did you know I now offer decorating and DIY coaching? I can help you with your decorating needs via email, without having to step foot in your home. If you’re interested in more information, visit me at Frame and Frills. I’d love to help you with your project!
Here are some more of my carpentry tips and ideas:
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