Ordinary To Extraordinary

Margarette Johannes
Avant Palette — Custom Faux Finishes

Please tell us about your business. I take your ordinary walls and make them extraordinary.

What are faux finishes? Many faux finishes were distinguished in the medieval days where there were castles and chalets. The kings and queens were bringing in expensive wood and stone, but sometimes they could not, so they would imitate the precious woods and stones in lieu of bringing them.

What is an example of the work you’ve done? I created the faux trim in the lobby of the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club in Poipu. Where it was once all white, it now looks like wood. I transformed it and painted it to look like wood.

What other kind of work do you do? I work a lot with decorative plastering.

I can work with Italian plasters, Venetian plasters or American clay that adds a bit of texture to the wall and gives a custom feel to a space. Some of my plastering can give an air of luxury for next to nothing in cost.

What can you do for residential homes? I take a homeowner, designer, architect and a contractor’s vision and I embellish it. They might want something as small as a custom faux finish trim, like at the Marriott, or they may want more details, like imitating marble on electrical plates. I’ll blend the marble from someone’s counters into the wall so the plates disappear.

Are you eco-friendly? There are some textures that I offer that are really eco-friendly and actually filter the air so that you don’t have any volatile organic compounds. It’s a huge consideration to be green now and to be as natural and organic as possible. I offer some textures that really enhance your space not only with the look, but also by being great for your health.

How did you start this business? I started painting portraiture when I was 5 and started taking private lessons after. I realized, however, that I didn’t want to be a starving artist in hope that my fine art would sell. I continuously was fascinated by these castles and chalets that I visited in Europe. For me to see that art could be so timeless and continue on to this day and there still be a need for it, I saw it more as a commodity than struggling to sell my canvases. So I started working with faux finishes and attended University of California, San Diego, and achieved a degree in fine arts. I actually started my company when I was a teenager in Vail, Colo., where I used to snowboard competitively. I saw an amazing amount of buildings and homeowners there who were asking for this service, and by complete luck I ended up partnering up with the biggest interior designer in Vail and my business exploded immediately.

How did you move your business to Hawaii? Many of my customers in Vail are Californians who also love Hawaii and have homes here as well. They followed me from Colorado to California to Hawaii, and I have a branch of business in all three places to this day.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? Every job is different, every customer is different. The customers really get to feel how passionate I am and excited about my work. What I do is so personal, and I get to meet my customers and really know them on a personal level.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business? My biggest challenges are actually the best projects I have. When I started to work with commercial projects, some of them had enormous square footage, and it was huge for me to overcome residential and jump into commercial.

What makes you get up every day and go to work? I love what I do. To be able to exercise what I love and what I went to school for is awesome.

What sets your business apart from others? I research a lot and see where the design and architectural trends are going and find out what the materials being used are. I also try to finish my jobs early, and I bring in the best and the most skilled laborers.

What’s the most interesting creation you’ve made that you are most proud of? My best mural was 30-by-15-feet on someone’s residential ceiling. It was a koi mural in the dining room. But not only did they want the fish, they wanted it where it would be like they were sitting at the bottom of a pond if they looked up. Every image we ever see of koi, if you think about it, is either from the side or looking down on them. I went to an aquarium, where they had similar fish, and I took pictures and video, then went to a park and studied koi and filmed them as well. I transferred what I saw onto the ceiling.


—Coco Zickos