Passing the faux torch

  • The exterior of 277 Main St. PHOTO BY CRIS CARL

  • Alison Smith, left, and her daughter, Brooke Savage, both of Greenfield, pose with columns at 277 Main St., Greenfield, painted using a faux granite technique. Smith originally painted the columns 40 years ago and they have now been repainted by Savage. PHOTO BY CRIS CARL

  • Closeup of faux granite. PHOTO BY CRIS CARL

For the Recorder
Published: 11/29/2021 2:46:38 PM

An unusual architectural feature of a Greenfield Main Street building is now also part of a local family’s history.

The building at 277 Main St., which was built in 1900, includes metal Romanesque columns.Roughly 40 years ago, Alison Smith, 70, of Greenfield was hired by owner Wayne Gass to faux paint the columns to have the appearance of granite.

Recently, Gass hired Smith’s daughter Brooke Savage, 37, also of Greenfield to freshen up and repaint the columns in the same style.

“I was working as an interior designer with Mount Holyoke College and Wayne had called me in on other jobs in the past. At the time I just thought it sounded like a cool project,” said Smith.

Smith has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and a master’s degree in interior design.

“I used an oil-based paint, which nobody really uses anymore and I wanted to make them look like granite,” she said.

There are several techniques that can be employed in faux painting, which is defined as a “technique that creates texture and nuance by replicating the look and feel of other surfaces such as striped wallpaper, suede, and marble,” according to the True Value Hardware website.

Smith said she was glad to see her work stood the test of time. “It lasted this long but when Brooke took the project on there was some rust that had come through,” she said.

Savage, who owns and operates Savage Interiors in Greenfield, originally had gotten a master’s degree in nutrition with and undergrad degree in psychology, but said she “found my real passion for painting and created my own business.” Her mother added that “the psychology degree helps with anyone owning a business though.”

Savage said that she found she “enjoys working with my hands. I realized over time I just couldn’t sit behind a desk all day. I consider myself an artist who gets the opportunity to apply my talents in areas that everyone can be satisfied by and enjoy.”

Smith, who continues to run her own interior design business, was happy to pass the project on to her daughter.

“I have more than my hands full these days. I just didn’t have the time,” she said with a laugh. Smith provides interior design services for schools and medical centers she said.

“I spent years as a fine artist, but interior design gets me actual jobs,” she said.

Savage said she “did a little bit of research on how to go forward with the project and opted to use a “multi-layer approach rather than just a solid layer.”

She said that the process included painting the columns a solid color and then a darker green on top using a plastic sheet to help protect the project while still wet. “Then I mushed it around with my hands to take some of the paint off to show the base coat. It becomes an unusual texture at that point,” she said.

Savage said the last three coats “were different colors that got sponged on randomly. I had to work to get the colors to blend with each other so there weren’t any stark edges.”

She used a sea sponge and green, pink, and tan paints as the accent colors that bring the effect of appearing as genuine granite. This time around, instead of oil paint Savage used latex paints, finishing with a satin coat. The project took 40 hours of concentrated work Savage said.

“I just really enjoy painting. It puts me in a tranquil place and I get so enmeshed, which is why I love it so much. I love the focus on detail that I jokingly refer to as my OCD,” she said.

She added she also painted the accent walls to set off the coloration in the columns as well as the next door business Plum Boutique in a rich purple. “It really helped the columns stand out more,” said Savage.

Savage said in her business she works with a variety of wall coverings with Smith chiming in that “very few people do wallpaper these days.” “You have to have a keen eye, sharp blade, and a real plan in place to do wallpaper,” Savage said.

Savage’s business focuses on fine interior painting, faux finishes and wall coverings. “Sometimes I collaborate with my mom on colors. I am grateful I get to work on projects and running the business together. We have lots of fun,” she said.

Savage added she likes watching her projects evolve and that she is proud she and her mother run “women-owned businesses.”

For the home owner who wants to use the faux painting technique there are several methods that include, sponging, color washing, marbling, and crackling which creates a weathered look on a surface such as a door or a chair.

According to True Value, to use the sponging technique you need a natural sea sponge, glaze and two or three colors of paint. Once you have primer and a base coat of the color of your choice painted on and dried, you then dab the (damp) sponge in a mixture of glaze/paint and dab it randomly on the wall or other project. To achieve a subtle effect, use the same color family of your base color. For a bolder effect, use a glaze color from a different color group.

To reach Brooke Savage at Savage Interiors call 413-768-2422.

Cris Carl is an avid local gardener, licensed therapist and certified herbalist. She is an experienced journalist who has written for the Recorder for many years. You can reach her at


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