Natalie E. Tackett has brought Old World charm to clients who have traveled the
globe.
In a recent project for the couple, Natalie transformed Thermofoil-covered
cabinets with
the magnificent finish shown here. (Photo by Derek Tackett)

 

Old World Attention to Detail

By Tammy Adamson-McMullen

Natalie E. Tackett specializes in Old World finishing, but this goes beyond her artistry with aged patinas, Venetian plasters, marbleizing, vintage and antique restoration and similar techniques. The decorative artist also offers the personal service, trustworthiness and friendliness of a bygone era, and all of these together bring a steady stream of projects to Brushed, her business in Bristol, Tenn.

Faux artist Natalie E. Tackett

Because of the demographics of the surrounding area, Natalie’s projects tend to be large and high-end, although she tackles smaller and less expensive projects, too. Regardless of the project’s size and scope, clients give Natalie rave reviews and feel comfortable placing multiple projects in her hands. Into her hands they frequently also place symbols of their appreciation. “They send me home with meals, make me cookies or invite me to have dinner with the family,” Natalie says. “I’d say that 80 percent of my clients are that way with me.”

One pair of repeat clients even went so far as to invite Natalie to stay with them while she refinished their kitchen cabinets. “I appreciate the trust so much,” says Natalie, who four years ago left a career in marketing to pursue faux-finishing full-time. The trust, she says, is an affirmation that she made the right career move in following her passion since, “Nothing makes me feel happier than creating.”

Natalie created this custom design on a tabletop in the
clients' home, to give the piece an Old World flourish.
She also embellished the
sides of the table to
coordinate. Note: Another 
image of the finished
table can be found in the portfolio pages at t
he
end of the story.

Naturally, Natalie didn’t accept the invitation to move in with her clients, but she has spent a lot of time in their home nonetheless. The cabinet refinishing project, which Natalie completed in February, was one in a long line of assignments for the couple. Natalie’s projects there have ranged from painting ornate ceiling medallions and installing a Tuscan plaster backsplash to marbleizing an 18-foot-high alcove—all with an eye to creating Old World finishes that reflect the couple’s extensive travels throughout Europe.

The couple has been delighted with the skill set that Natalie has brought to the table, both as an artist and consummate professional. “Half the time, at the end of the day, they invite me to have a glass of wine with them,” says Natalie. She believes that the relationship she builds with clients has a lot to do with how she approaches jobs. “It’s not just about being creative; it’s also that I feel like I’m giving them a gift, a part of myself. There’s something so special about that.”

CABINET MAKEOVER

As Natalie completed projects at the home throughout 2015, the couple became increasingly dissatisfied with their builder-grade cabinets. Covered in Thermofoil, the cabinets were frayed and discolored in places and didn’t match up with the other high-end finishes in the home. The cabinets also had become a mismatch with the Old World theme Natalie was helping to create.

The clients' white kitchen cabinetry was discolored, frayed in places and
didn't match the Old-World theme Natalie had created throughout
the home.

The couple was reticent to replace the cabinets because of the time, noise and mess involved, so Natalie suggested refinishing them.

“I suggested that an Old World finish would be really beautiful, given the look of their home and the things they’ve brought back from their travels,” she explains. “And it would tie together the backsplash, granite countertops and everything else in the kitchen and (adjoining) great room.”

Natalie stressed to her clients that while she could do some repair of the cabinets, she wouldn’t be able to change their structural makeup. However, she felt certain she could create a finish that was reminiscent of what they had seen in Europe. Encompassing 57 doors and drawer fronts as well as 19 panels along the bar and island, the project was extensive. Natalie estimated that it would take three to four weeks to complete. The clients agreed to the work, and Natalie began this past January.

Natalie’s first and most crucial step after removing all of the doors and door fronts was to thoroughly clean all of the cabinet surfaces—“and I mean thoroughly!” she says. “I used a product that doesn’t leave a residue. This is usually a one-step process, but I wiped everything down several times, including the bottom of the cabinet doors where there might be drips you don’t see, such as coffee.”

Natalie presented her clients with a sample that showed how the
cabinets w
ould look 1) with the gray base coat and 2) when
finished. Natalie was supported in her product choices by
Joan Seckinger of Faux Effects as well as by Martin Alan Hirsch
of The Faux Finish School.® 

Natalie then glued some of the frayed edges, feeling confident that the subsequent layers of coatings would reinforce the rest. Because the plastic-laminate surface of the cabinets was so fragile, Natalie elected not to sand it down. Instead, she applied two coats of PrimeETCH® by Faux Effects. PrimeEtch is a durable, clear bonding primer designed for difficult-to-paint surfaces. Natalie made sure every millimeter of the cabinets was covered in the product, shining a light on the surfaces and checking the reflection “just to make sure.”

Two coats of Faux Effects’ SetCoat® followed, which Natalie first blended with FauxCrème®Colors to achieve the desired gray for the base color.

The glazing came next. At one point in the initial stages, the husband wasn’t sure he wanted Natalie to apply the final glazing, since he liked the idea of a gray base coat for the cabinets. Thinking a visual might help, Natalie made up a sample cabinet front that included both glazed and unglazed sections. The sample board sealed the cabinets’ fate, and the glazing was a fait accompli.

To achieve the desired color of glaze, Natalie mixed together seven different glazing colors. Then she applied two light coats—necessary, she says, to facilitate movement during application and to create the proper light reflection of the finish.

A closeup of Natalie's Old World effect

Finally, Natalie applied two coats of sealant, using another Faux Effects’ product, AquaThane™. The product was recommended by Faux Effects representative Joan Seckinger, who provided a lot of hand-holding through the project. Joan explained that AquaThane often is used to seal floors, so it definitely would provide the durable protection that Natalie desired.

Altogether, Natalie applied eight coats of products, and all but the glazing was hand-brushed. As it turned out, the coating layers did, in fact, provide structural stability to the cabinets. And the resulting hard finish of these products provided additional reinforcement.

While the structural improvement of the cabinets was a bonus, their appearance is the real standout. The cabinets now look as high-end as the rest of the home and, according to the clients, remind them of their visits to Tuscany.

Natalie recalls that when the husband walked in and saw the finished product, “His mouth dropped, and he said, ‘Oh my goodness! I love, it, I love it, I love it!’ ”


EXTRA ATTENTION TO DETAIL


According to Natalie, the project went smoothly overall, although there was one small hiccup at the end: The front of the silverware drawer bowed upon re-installation. Natalie discovered that the drawer tracks had not been properly installed, and with the extra layers of coating, the drawer front had more weight.

Another view of the finished project
(Photo by Derek Tackett)

“Thankfully, I’m handy with tools and have done small antique restoration,” Natalie says, “so I was able to shim the drawer and repair the tracks so that the drawer glides worked properly without slamming or causing more stress to the drawer front.”

Natalie finished the project within her estimated timeframe, even though the clients added slightly to the scope of work with some other small projects.

Additionally, Natalie had a toe kick shortened and re-installed in the kitchen, which originally was installed too long for the space. This type of attention to detail “leaves a good taste in the client’s mouth,” she says. “Even though the client is not paying me to do small repairs around the house, it builds rapport and makes them feel like they’ve been taken care of throughout the project.”

The extra attention to detail also created clients who were more enthusiastic than ever with Natalie’s services. On the last night, as Natalie and her assistant were putting items back into their rightful place, the clients took a multitude of photos, sometimes asking Natalie to pose in front of her work. “It was so heartwarming because I put so much into my work,” Natalie says, adding, “It just never gets old.”

Click on for more images of Natalie's work in this Old World-inspired home.