Julie King, founder and owner of Samarra Faux Painting, will celebrate the company’s 15th anniversary in July. Over the years, the expert faux finisher has expanded her repertoire to include interior and exterior painting of residential and commercial spaces. Though, having studied in both New York City and Tuscany, Italy, she has always performed the highly specialized faux work herself, leaving other projects to her crew.
Sitting in her serene dining room, King dishes on color, noting it isn’t necessarily the furnishings that make a room feel comfortable (or otherwise)—she believes much of that feeling can be attributed to the color of the walls. Florescent yellow, for example, creates a very different mood from that evoked by butter yellow. She says oranges bring clarity and colors in the blue hue lull, as they actually lower one’s heart rate. “There is a reason you paint a baby boy’s room blue,” says the color expert, who doesn’t adhere to traditional rules like “don’t use green in a kitchen”—if it makes people feel good, she’ll use any color anywhere. “I know how color affects people,” she says, adding that the colors of her own walls are constantly changing.
When working with clients, King takes stock of what they surround themselves with, what they love. “If they are married to a rug, then I make it work. I never push my own taste. I look at their taste and work with that.” But if she feels the color blends don’t work or the requested treatment is all wrong, she will decline. “Some people want me to do things that I wouldn’t [choose to] do, and I do draw the line. As long as it is going to look polished and professional I will do it. I’ve learned that if I can’t really do a good job…I don’t want the job.”
To all consultations King brings a large portfolio from which she pulls examples of Venetian plaster; color washes; harlequin patterns; fire- and water-resistant faux brick; luster stone, which is ground marble mixed with plaster and tinted with pigment; leather looks that are created using pigment mixed with glaze, which is applied with a roller and blotted with plastic bags (sometimes she even adds a layer of tissue paper to the wall first for a rich complexity); and stenciling, which has come a long way to include elaborate imagery (think: the Sistine Chapel) that looks hand painted.
King might wax a wall before painting it, which gives it a smooth shine or she might do tone-on-tone ragging. “Something that differentiates me from other faux finishers is that I go in and really soften everything. It needs to be soft and sheer. That’s what [I learned in] New York.” She still really enjoys working with Venetian plaster, and most often opts for the traditional technique, which is very matte, whereas the American style includes a metallic top coat. “In most cases, I will educate the client, hoping they will choose the authentic Venetian plaster.” She also does faux marble, though she says, “I prefer to do marble where marble would be—like on a bureau top or around columns, not for an entire wall.”
Interestingly, five years ago, internationally renowned design consultant Sally Fretwell—author of The Power of Color, among many other titles—gave King her non-toxic custom paint line, mixers and pigments in all. “She inspired me so much, she taught me how to make color.” Today, most of King’s clients readily choose the no-odor, no-VOC Davis paints she carries.
Beyond her painting services, King offers clients something equally valuable. Having been part of the networking organization BNI International for the past 15 years, she brings to the table 50 trusted professionals from various industries; she can easily recommend an electrician, a plumber, a carpenter, a general contractor, a Realtor, etc. “It’s so good for my clients…. I think that’s a big part of my success at this point.”
And, to keep things interesting, King donates her time and talent to Emmaus House in Haverhill, the Newburyport Lions Club, and Habitat for Humanity, among other charitable organizations. Additionally, she started a Paint It Forward program through which she paints rooms for the homebound or those in the low-income bracket. When describing the experience of going from a job at a high-end home to one at a homeless shelter, she says: “It keeps it real for me.” It’s that way of thinking that makes Samarra Faux Painting something exceptional.
Photos by Dawn Kingston