Artisan of the Month
Anna and Scott Sadler – Surface Refinements
When Anna Sadler first met Scott, it was as her personal trainer. Little did she know that he would end up as her partner in life and in business. While Scott helped Anna with improving her fitness, she shared her passion for the arts and faux finishing.
After 10 years of marriage, they are now sought-after artisans, working on high-end residential projects that range from hand-painted walls and ceilings to decorative finishes on mirrors, furniture, fireplaces, cabinetry, columns and trims. They enjoy taking on the more complicated jobs, including working with plasters, leafing, modello and murals.
Whereas Scott joined the faux finishing world after he met Anna, she has been an artist since as far back as she can remember. “From the age of four, I always had a crayon or paintbrush in my hand,” Anna recalls.
Her love for the arts led her to the decorative painting industry in 1986 when it was becoming “a popular trend and primarily involved sponge painting and glazing.” In developing her skills, Anna has traveled the world to train and work with renowned artists in France, Italy, and Canada.
When asked why she wanted to turn what was first a hobby into a business, she explains: “I’m a creative person by nature. So I love being able to use a wall as my canvas and having the opportunity to take something that is blank and make it beautiful. The ‘wow’ factor from clients is what makes all this painstakingly detailed work worthwhile.”
At the time when she met Scott, Anna was working alone and needed an extra pair of hands to help with her flourishing business. Since Scott and Anna enjoyed doing things together, he decided to switch careers and learn the craft of faux finishing.
As native Canadians, the couple commuted between Montreal and Naples, Fla., where one of their clients had a second home. After four months of constant traveling, Surface Refinements was born in 2000 when they finally made the move to Naples. For three and a half years, their newly named business continued to grow in the warmer climate. But after enduring a summer when Florida was hit with four hurricanes, they decided to move to Scottsdale, Ariz., in 2004. “We ended up trading the humidity and bad hair days for the dry heat,” Anna jokes about their reason for moving.
Most of their clients are located in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, an affluent community in the Phoenix metropolitan area that boasts multi-million dollar homes and 12 resorts, making it one of Arizona’s premier tourist destinations.
“The clients we work with have the means to get whatever they want,” Anna elaborates. “When they hire us, they expect the best. The pressure is on to outdo ourselves on each project. Everything we do is unique to each home.”
For every job they take on, the work starts offsite researching finishes and “creating something that the next person isn’t going to have.” Case in point: They took nearly six months in research for their current project (also one of their favorites), which involved flying to Las Vegas so they could capture and bring back the elegant, whimsical feel of the Wynn Las Vegas Resort for a 17,000-square-foot home located in Desert Highlands, a private residential golf community in Scottsdale.
The work itself on this whole-house project will take about six months to complete, including: an embedded tissue finish in the main room, a stone pull-off finish in the guestroom, a ceiling with iridescent/pearlescent Italian plaster and starbursts to give the room a “dreamy” feel, and a finish in the bathroom that resembles the side of an airplane with more than a thousand nailheads hammered into the wall to look like bolt studs (the client owns two jets).
The guesthouse reflects an Asian contemporary influence, which is a departure from the Old World style that Anna and Scott have been perfecting for years. They used glass beads in the main bathroom to create a one-of-a-kind finish. Plus, they designed a 10-foot-high mural of a Geisha girl using plaster, gold and celestial leafing.
Their artistry was recently featured in the November 2008 issue of the prestigious Phoenix Home & Garden magazine. Even with their stellar reputation and accolades, they are not content to sit back and assume they know everything there is to know about faux finishing. In search of expanding their skills and portfolio, they came into contact with Kathy Carroll of The Chicago Institute of Fine Finishes.
“In the more than 20 years I’ve been in this business, there are only a few people who have been able to teach us something that we really found value in, and Kathy is one of them,” Anna enthuses. “She truly is the queen of finishes.”
The couple signed up for a two-and-a-half-day Private Session with Kathy, giving them the opportunity to select the finishes and products that they wanted to work with at their own pace in a one-on-one environment. The techniques they acquired from their Private Session have already been put to good use on their current project.
“Going into this particular job, we knew we needed everything to be so cutting edge and different,” Anna recalls. “After our Private Session, we were able to come back and immediately incorporate everything we learned from Kathy, which has more than paid for the course ten-fold.”
Because of their extremely positive experience, Anna and Scott have been ordering products that Kathy offers through her studio and Faux by Kathy eStore. “Nobody gives us the service that Kathy provides,” Anna explains. “She’ll bend over backwards to make sample boards for us. She helps to make our jobs easier.”
In particular, they enjoy working with the Golden Proceed product line because it is “far superior in quality than its equivalent from other manufacturers.” They also used the 22 Carat Gold Oikos finish for their current client. “In my entire time in this business, I’ve never used a product like this,” Anna admits. “I can’t wait until I can use the product again on another project.”
Anna’s advice to newcomers in the faux finishing business: “You have to be very passionate about what you’re doing, which is true in any business. There’s no glamour in this work except for the end results. The reality is you need to be willing to work hard and get a little dirty.”
For more information on Anna and Scott Sadler and Surface Refinements, you can contact them by phone at 480-313-3191 or e-mail at email@example.com.