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Martin Alan Hirsch - Nio's

The entrance to Nio's at 917 Baxter features deeply textured walls that resemble rich brown cork.

"Walls can talk"

A Louisville restaurant is getting some national exposure but it isn't the food that's the focus. Nio's at 917 is the subject of a five-page photo spread in next month's Faux Effects World, a magazine for artists, painters and interior decorators. The restaurant's faux painted walls designed to look like cork and to echo colors of exposed red brick were created by Martin Alan Hirsch, a Louisville artist. The magazine spread, titled "Historic Louisville Beauty," highlights the restaurant at 917 Baxter Ave. in a former theater/performance hall built in the 1920s. Nio's owner Jun Eugenio, whose restaurant opened to positive reviews earlier this year, originally planned to simply paint the walls. Then Hirsch, a friend and customer, stopped by while the building was being renovated. Hirsch, who for 20 years has transformed dull walls into creative artworks with Italian and Old World flair, persuaded Eugenio to do something more creative. Hirsch and a crew of 14 faux finishers worked six straight days, completing the job a day before the restaurant opened. "We got done Thursday afternoon, and they had a private party Friday night," Hirsch said. The decorating team stripped the walls of their stucco and paint left over from the building's previous life as the Atmosphere dance club and added a thick coat of plaster, creating deeply textured walls that resemble rich brown cork. Hirsch faux painted other walls in red and green hues, colors pulled from an exposed brick wall in the main dining room. "We made the walls look like they had been plastered over centuries ago," he said.

Modello floor rscrete

Photo to the left:a concrete floor at Hirsch's studio that appears to be a rug over a wood floor....all done with Modello stencils and RSCrete, a concrete overlay paint system. Top photo: dining room shows off the embedded coral fresco look. Middle photo: a re-creation of a 17th century Irish castle wall fashioned from 11 layers of Aquastone, concrete and drywall compound. Bottom photo: Faux painted bricks overlayed with Tuscan plaster Old wine prints applied and distressed.

Jamie Jackson, marketing director for Faux Effects World, said Hirsch is recognized as one of America's best faux painters. "He does some pretty impressive work," she said. She said the magazine decided to feature Nio's because it's unique and involved Hirsch researching the building's history. The 40,000-circulation magazine also regularly features a renovation project. Nio's which serves small plates, allowing people to order many dishes for grazing has an Old World feel, with contemporary touches, including small square white lights that dangle from the ceiling. The bar is an old library bookcase, complete with a sliding ladder. Wine and liquor are stored on its shelves. The elevated former theater stage houses the kitchen, along with a baby grand piano for performances. Eugenio said he wanted his restaurant's decor to look and feel as though it had been around for decades and the faux effects helped achieve that. Hirsch, who owns Decorative Finishes Studio on Bardstown Road, has a long list of corporate and residential clients in Louisville and beyond. His projects include the corporate headquarters of Papa John's International, with its Tuscan-inspired dining area, and Reba McEntire's Tennessee broadcast and recording studio. Hirsch has completed faux-finish work on several restaurants, including the now-closed Chef's Table in Old Louisville. He noted that his techniques are similar to cooking. "A chef and an artist are so similar in the way we treat our dishes and our walls," he said. "We create on the spot to get the right effect." "

During the past 14 years, Hirsch has worked to teach the same faux-finishing skills to more than 5000 students who have taken his classes.

Martin Alan Hirsch

An excerpt from "Wall can Talk" article.

His faux finishing school, which is located on busy Bardstown Road in Louisville, is a work of decorative art in itself. Fashioned to look like an Italian villa, the building contains the school's classroom, samples of Hirsch's faux-finishing work, several offices and a stockroom/mailing room for faux-finishing supplies.

Hirsch teaches the courses himself, with help from two assistants. The courses, which each last five days, are entitled "The Art of Faux Finishing" and "Designer Wall Finishes." Both are hands-on programs designed for professional decorative artists, with "Designer Wall Finishes" being the more advanced of the two.

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