Home Decor Interview: Jennifer Allwood from “The Magic Brush”

We all know magic isn’t real, but it sure looks real.

And the same goes for faux finishing; it’s not the real thing, but it looks just as good, costs much less, and as you’ll soon see, can literally transform your home into something you’ve always dreamed of.

Meet Jennifer Allwood, a young, energetic woman who owns The Magic Brush, a company that specializes in faux finishing. Jennifer and her talented group of girls can do it all, from fireplaces to ceilings, from cabinets to garage doors.

Jennifer is here with us today to share some of her ideas with you, and in times when saving cash is the hot new thing to do, faux finishing might just be what you’re looking for.

Let’s meet the owner of The Magic Brush!

1. Hi Jennifer, thank you for granting us an interview. Please take a moment to introduce yourself and tell us about your business, “The Magic Brush.”

I am Jennifer Allwood, owner of The Magic Brush, Inc. I am originally a small town girl from Iowa. I moved to Kansas City, met the love of my life, got a computer degree, scrapped computers for a paint brush, started my business,had 3 babies and now the story continues as I strive to juggle it all.

2. Your work is beautiful and more and more people are discovering the beauty and affordability of faux finishing. What first got you interested in painting, and how did you end up in this particular line of work?

I bought my first house at the young age of 21. I could afford the mortgage… but had no money leftover for decorating/updating the house. My house had salmon colored kitchen cabinets. I just couldn’t live with them. So I bought about 20 cans of a spray paint they had then (uh… yeah… that was 16 years ago) called “FleckStone” and spray painted my whole kitchen. Then did it on my tile back splash. Then my bathroom cabinets. Then I was hooked.My whole house was Fleckstoned… but it was no longer salmon!

magic-brush-33. One of the most neglected areas of the home is the ceiling. Not just the entryway, but all around the home.

Since you’ve done extensive ceiling work, what is your opinion on finishing them and what can you say to people to convince them to pay more attention to their ceilings?

It is impossible to convey how having a ceiling anything OTHER THAN WHITE feels. My rule of thumb is to use whatever color is on the wall… but have it mixed at HALF STRENGTH for the ceiling. This is what most of my decorators do as well. It does not make a room feel smaller! It does not close a room in….. instead it warms up a space and makes the entire room FEEL COZIER! If you have a beautiful focal ceiling, a faux finish is always perfect there.

4. Many people reading this still live in apartments, townhouses, and condominiums. What are some finishing techniques of yours that can help make smaller rooms appear larger?

Stripes are great for making a short room appear TALLER. Any finish really that is linear will trick your eye into feeling taller than it is. If you have a small space….. use furniture that is the appropriate scale and don’t overdo the room with a lot of knick-knacks and small decor. Lighter colors still do make a room feel somewhat larger…. but can also make it feel “sterile.” I would prefer a room to feel “small and warm” over “bigger but sterile” any day.

magic-brush-45. For readers who occupy older homes with worn out cabinetry, much of the luster of their kitchens is lost. Do you recommend these people replace their cabinets completely, or would your faux finishing work do the trick?

If your budget allows for new cabinets… I would certainly recommend it. However, for most people…. we have cars to repair, kids to raise, groceries to buy, other decorating to do, etc.

My company is often hired to change dated, oak stain colored cabinets to a cream color with a glaze… or just the opposite, they want a darker stain. Both will help to instantly update a kitchen.

I have a great post on my blog about “Cabinet Redo’s.” Kitchen cabinets are MAJOR. If you majorly dislike them, I would spend money or time/energy to change them. They will completely change how your home feels. Keep in mind also that kitchens and bathrooms sell a house… so concentrate your remodeling dollars in these rooms.

6. Obviously the collapse of the global economy affects all of us. Has it affected your workload yet, or has the low-cost nature of faux finishing actually helped your business?

The economy is of course affecting us to some degree. I would say that half of our faux finishing business comes from home builders. And the building industry as a whole is down. We are believing and praying however that the economy will turn around. And… any time you have an economic hit… it does weed out some competition and usually presents some other areas of your trade that perhaps you hadn’t really concentrated on growing before.

For instance, we used to faux finish mostly walls. But, in the last 1-2 years, home owners have quit replacing their cabinets (which unfortunately is forcing cabinet companies to close their doors) and we are getting more and more requests to faux finish them instead. It is a fraction of the cost.

Also, people are spending more money on remodels instead of buying larger homes… that is great for us!

magic-brush-57. One of the unique features of our home is that it has two fireplaces; one in the family room and one in the living room. We have yet to finish either of them, but plan to eventually.

You’ve done some work with fireplaces, which is another part of the home that often gets neglected. Briefly, what are some of the things you do to fireplaces, and in what ways can they spice up a home?

More often than not, we are faux finishing fireplaces. If your fireplace is the same color as your trim in the room, it probably doesn’t get much notice. We often paint them in a metallic color and then glaze them. Or even just a glaze can spice up a boring fireplace. We have a beautiful black distressed finish that we do on many fireplaces. We are also getting more and more requests to faux finish boring or dated tile that is on the fireplace. We use car detailing tape to tape off the grout lines… prime properly and faux away!

In my own home… I first redid our fireplace black in that “Pottery Barn” distressed edges look. Now I have it bronze with a chocolate glaze. But next I am redoing it in a cream colored crackle to expose some of the bronze. I had a decorator tell me once that there is an old Indian saying that says “House done… man dies”. It makes me feel better about my constant need to change things.

8. A business is only as good the people who work for it. How did you find such good people to work for you, and how does it feel when their hard work and skills bring so much satisfaction to your customers?

My right hand girl is also my sister in law. She has worked for me for 8 years… she is so very talented, but prefers to paint only and doesn’t want any interaction with the homeowners, does not want to do bids or take care of any of the “business” stuff. So it works out well.

I found one girl who worked at our local paint store… she is great with products and color. Found one girl at church…she had a background in nails (which is also creative) and fits right in. The last girl was a stay at home mom in my neighborhood who has a flair for decorating… I knew she’d be a natural.

I have heard so many times when we leave a home that our clients miss my girls being there. They are truly wonderful women and I am so blessed that they continue to work for me. It’s not an easy job. I lose directions, get lost going to client’s houses, forget supplies, ask them to make somethin’ out of nothin’, ask them to climb ladders that are too high, etc., etc. But I think for myself and my girls… the satisfaction of a beautiful room when we are done makes it all worth it.

9. Jennifer, thanks again for your time. For this last question, please tell us a bit about your family. I know your kids are still so young, but have any of them shown a knack for painting yet?

Yes, my kiddos are still young…. Noah is 7 and much more interested in sports than painting. But I have noticed he loves to build (which is also creative). I constantly ask him if he will build Momma a house one day.

Easton is 5 and does like to draw/paint.But he too is more interested in Legos and climbing trees.

My sweet baby Ava is 16 months old and I’ve seen a real passion for her artistic side as she attempts to apply mommy’s makeup, suck on paint brushes, dig through my supplies, etc. She may have something! The truth is… until I bought my own house and began the project of redoing it all… I didn’t display any knack for painting either. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I discovered I even enjoyed it. So… there is still plenty of time for them to show some talent. Hopefully that is an encouragement to other women!

If that doesn’t make you wanna go re-do your kitchen cabinets right now, what will?

We want to thank Mrs. Allwood for letting us pick her brain and sharing her wonderful ideas with us. Please do consider faux finishing, and if you’re in the area, The Magic Brush will do a fantastic job on your home.

For those of you not in the area, please step on over to The Magic Brush and read all about Jennifer and her family. She updates her blog regularly with cool photos and great ideas for your home, so please don’t miss it. Thanks again, Jennifer!

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