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About Martin Alan Hirsch   

Excerpts from the Builder/ Architect Magazine 

  17th century Irish CastleDecorative artist Martin Alan Hirsch got one of his greatest compliments fromCover of Builder/Architect Magazine Homearama 1997 (the premier Louisville home show) in the form of a "good scolding."  A woman from the National Historic Preservation Society visiting the home Hirsch designed with builder Charles Priestap, president of Celestine Homes, approached  Priestap and told him she was appalled that he had defaced an historic Irish castle by bringing a wall from the castle to incorporate into the new  home in Louisville.  Priestap hastened to allay her fears by showing her the ancient wall was in reality one of Hirsch's magical illusions - a faux finish that turned plaster board into stone, mortar and moss.  No historical sites were destroyed to make this home into a castle for its new owners, he assured her.  Hirsch has been involved in the design of many Homearama homes before, but the home that Hirsch designed with Priestap is the first one where he has been involved in the planning from the onset and the first time a decorative artist has been part of a design team. The home received the 1997 Homearama Lake Forest Best Home and 1997 Homearama Lake Forest Best Design Awards.    

     The 9,120-square-foot home in the Lake Forest community is named Dromoland Manor after an Irish castle built in the 1600s.  Hirsch created a castle wall, making it appear as if it were from the 17th century, using 11 layers of drywall, plaster and cement. 

In the library, he has created a breathtaking fresco-covered Old World map that Fresco-covered Old World mapappears to have been discovered by chipping away at ancient, discolored plaster (see photo).  

"Faux means 'fake,"' Hirsch explains, "and faux finishes date to the time of the pyramids, which had faux woodgraining inside." Hirsch can do anything a builder, architect or designer wants when it comes to faux finishes.  Among his most popular finishes are marble, Tuscan plaster, fresco, cracked paint, tortoiseshell, old copper or tin, brick, leather and suede, and woodgrains.  

Hirsch has spent countless hours studying these surfaces in museums in Pisa, Rome, Florence and Venice, and in libraries.  In October, he will return to work again on a villa in Italy and he, has been commissioned to wave his magic brush on the home of a national recording artist.  

"Creating detail, style and color is what allows the magic of decorative finishing to take place," he said.  "Decorative art allows things to appear to be what they are not.  It bridges the gap between reality and illusion."    

Hirsch's work is in a class by itself. If someone wants ragging and sponging finishes, "fantasy painting," like is seen on television and in other show homes, they'd best call a painting contractor," he said. But if the builder, architect or designer likes working with a creative artist to fashion a home that is a piece of art, and stops visitors dead in their tracks, Hirsch is the man to call. "I feel that when creating decorative finishes, you must strive for the right blending of colors, texture and light. I'm ever curious, and never satisfied, always looking for new materials, tools, and techniques. Combining detail, style and color is what allows the magic of decorative finishing to take place," Hirsch said.

Rocky Pusateri, co-owner, with his brother Joe, of Elite Homes, engaged Hirsch to work his magic on a 1996 Homearama home in Sutherland. Hirsch marbled some wooden columns and walls. Visitors had to knock on the columns to know that they weren't really marble. The kitchen had a domed ceiling over the breakfast table. Hirsch imprinted angels and clouds in the dome and Pusateri called the effect "awesome." "The work reached out and grabbed you. It was a beautiful job."

In addition to being part of numerous Homearama homes, Hirsch has designed commercial sites such as the Uptown Cafe, Carby-Britt Day Spa and Salon (winner of American Salon Magazine's "Salon of the Month" Award in 1996) where he created an Old World Byzantine style; Eckert Alcorn and Goering Law Offices in Madison, IN, where he recreated a hand-rubbed Italian plaster finish floor to ceiling (recently received the American Bar Association's new design of the year award); and the Highland Fish Market in Prospect, KY, where he finished the walls to resemble woodgraining like old fishermen's plank boards with Old World plaster exposing faux brick and wood patches.

Nancy Shepherd, Owner, 
Uptown Cafe, Louisville

"My daughter, Kelley Ledford,  
discovered his work and wanted Martin to redesign the Uptown Cafe.  Kelley wanted a more quietly elegant interior and Martin achieved this by creating suede, Italian plaster and marble finishes throughout .. Martin accomplished it quickly and with minimum disruption.  He took the existing poster artworks and collaged them in the bar.  After  having done so, he purchased additional pieces to create a Florentine look throughout the restaurant.  He's really quite the genius.  It was incredible how quickly and beautifully his work  was done.  "        

In the chapel at Adath Jeshurun Synagogue, Hirsch's faux aged-cracked paint faux aged-cracked paint doors for the Holy Ark are embedded with faux lapis lazuli, malachite, turquoise, and tiger's eye stones.  The front wall is made of custom-milled wood he has finished to resemble old marble.  The faux finished stone walls throughout the chapel give worshippers a feeling of antiquity and history (see photo).

He has also finished mantel pieces, furniture, walls, ceilings and floors in private homes.  A client in the 1400 Willow hired Hirsch to help design her condo when she discovered to her dismay that the wallpaper she planned to use as the focus of the design had been discontinued.  Hirsch came to the rescue and faux-finished the walls in the living room and kitchen" the ceilings and accent work. "My husband and I were newlyweds and we both had been art collectors and our place was eclectic and Martin tied together the whole condo," she said (see cover photo).

Hirsch has been in the faux finishing business in Louisville for about a decade. He has always been creative, he said. After college and a tour in the Marine Corp, he came upon an old fellow painting metal elevator doors to resemble mahogany. It was then that he found his niche.

Hirsch's finishes are designed to last forever. They are not only washable, they are "scrubbable," he said. Today builders, contractors, designers and private clients can visit his studio at 1905 Bardstown Road in Louisville Monday through Friday 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., weekends by appointment and find hundreds of samples of finishes, and dozens and dozens of photographs of completed residential and commercial jobs. When he works with his clients, Hirsch will provide samples of custom-designed finishes at no charge, so the customer can see them in their actual lighting and environment. Call (800) 598-FAUX or (502) 452-1339 for an appointment, or visit his Web site at www.fauxfinish.com

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