HOMES: The scoop on how Sarah Moffat creates her cool textured walls

Painter and craftsperson Sarah Moffat has worked in the high-end-finishing business for 15 years, the first nine of those under the name Faux Unlimited. During that time, brand-name domestic doyennes started filling hardware-store shelves with DIY faux-finishing kits. It turned the technique into a four-letter word, synonymous with tacky do-overs. So, in 2005, Moffat decided to conduct her own makeover, rebranding her business as Moffat Bailie (which includes the last name of her former business partner). The company is known for its foil techniques that add razzmatazz and shine.

The copper finish is called Dirty Penny. Moffat creates texture with plaster and then layers it with foil. A layer of glaze is added to make the texture pop. The wall is then clear-coated with a high-gloss finish. The effect is created with simple tools: spatulas, X-Acto knives, and Moffat’s hands. Photography by Dwayne Brown

1. The search
Most of Moffat’s clients come to her after seeing her work in local restaurants (Absinthe, Siam Bistro) and pubs (many of the Heart & Crown locations) or through her website. A former set painter, Moffat is adept at using a variety of materials to mimic textures.

2. Style watch
Moffat meets with clients in their space to get a sense of their style. “You can probably categorize people into three places: people who like the old, rustic look; those who like lush, visual textures that are inviting; and those who have a lot of white in their house and want feature walls.” From there, they start on a work plan.

3. Material prep
When Moffat started the business, she used untinted paint and extended it with whatever she could access: glue, wax, sawdust, or drywall mud. In recent years, commercial products have come onto the market. Moffat mixes all her materials on-site, sometimes with something as simple as an egg beater.

4. Site plan
Moffat works with a team of three to create a variety of looks, which she refers to as “luxury painting.” Multiple processes are involved, and each one requires a few days’ drying time. She promises clients that the work will be “timeless, classy, and appropriate.” She has installed her foil technique on walls, on canvas, on ceilings — even on a range hood (see inset photo).

5. The Reveal
Moffat, her team, and the homeowner stand back to reflect on the work. The nature of the process means you don’t get a textbook look. Rather, subtleties and nuances come off the wall, depending on where you’re standing. The work dries flat. “You can paint right over it when you’re tired of it in 20 years,” says Moffat.