Ready, Set, Decorative Paint

Part of the main house at The Carey Mansion, a sprawling mansion in Newport Rhode Island designed in the French Renaissance Revival Chateauesque style, was leased to Salve Regina University until 2009. The exterior was used as the fictional Collinwood Mansion in the television series Dark Shadows.

In 1977 Susan Strange, a young student at Salve Regina University, snuck into her dorm, the day before classes started, and painted her room a nice rose color with a beautiful cream trim. One day later, she was expelled from college for trespassing.

“From the time I was five years I have been obsessed with color,” Strange admited. “My father would take me to the paint store where he worked and I would get to match all the paint chips. How could I not paint my dorm room before class began?”

Strange along with her business and romantic partner Joe LeBlanc own Real Faux, a decorative painting business.

Strange studied Art History at University of Rhode Island and later was a district visual manager for Bed Bath & Beyond and a wardrobe stylist for Jerry Lewis Telethons. LaBlanc attended SUNY Maritime and received a degree in Meteorology and Oceanography and really wanted to search for buried treasure at the bottom of the ocean. A self taught landscape photographer, LeBlanc’s Uncle is a fine artist who also started a decorative painting company back in the 80’s.

The two artists met on a singles hike in New Paltz. “Joe was in a red shirt, my all time favorite color,” Strange remembered. They began the business together in 2004.

LeBlanc is the production end of the business with Strange acting as colorist and designer. Strange has taken numerous classes with World-renowned decorative paint master Mike MacNeil whose clients include Charlie Sheen, Steven Spielberg, Casey Kasem, and George Clooney.

Real Faux shot a pilot for HGTV in 2007 where the couple taught two couples how to produce a venetian plaster effect on walls. “We were terrible on camera!” Strange cried. “The series was never picked up, maybe because of our on camera skills but the producers said there were just too many competition shows.”

When on an estimate, Strange takes in the entire environment of the home. She visually sizes up what colors the potential client wears, colors of cars in the driveway, hair colors, how many children and pets are around and very much comes to color and technique conclusions in a very holistic approach.

“If your children are young, walls may take a beating, we take that into account.” she said.
Real Faux can also transform old furniture into new and vibrant parts of any room décor and has done work as far as Miami Florida and Amagansett New York.

“We really love painting restaurants too,” LeBlanc offered. “We designed the entire feel and color scheme at the Flying Horse in Mount Kisco and other businesses in and around Westchester and Rockland.”

A new part of the business model coming soon is paint by numbers on old barnwood tables.

“My Dad designed furniture using old barn wood,” LeBlanc explained. “We have all his contacts and will be purchasing old barn wood tables, finding images and projecting them onto the tables to paint. The new line of tables should be available starting this Fall and will be called Real Faux Tables.”

The two laugh and have a really good time while they work. They love when kids and dogs are around and LeBlanc admits that Strange is his own one woman variety show. “She makes me laugh everyday and that is her gift to me.”

Real Faux Website: