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Patty Henning – Fabulous Finishes, Inc.



When buying her first house and deciding to tackle the painting herself, Patty Henning had no idea that it would be the impetus to pursuing a new career in decorative finishing. At the time, she was working in the business world with a degree in information systems management. When faced with some do-it-yourself projects around the house, she was able to unleash her creative side.

“It gave me the opportunity to learn on my own,” Patty reminisces about her family’s first home. “I really started playing with decorative finishing and trying different things.”

Soon after, Patty decided to take a break from her career and spend more time with her two young children. As they grew older and started school fulltime, she knew it was time for her to go back to work. Being the self-proclaimed “Type A” person that she is, Patty wanted to keep busy outside of the home. The dilemma was finding the right opportunity. “I couldn’t go back to an office environment, which would have been too limiting,” she explains. “And I wanted something that would provide flexibility for my family.”

Fortuitously, she came across an advertisement for a local faux effects school and felt compelled to save the information. After dropping off her kids at school one day, she decided to stop by the studio and was “floored by all the racks of samples.” She knew right then that she wanted to give decorative finishing a serious try and signed up for classes.

“It was kind of a gamble,” Patty admits about making the investment in her first course. “But that’s how I do anything. I remember thinking that it’s all or nothing. I’m not going to spend all this money and then decide it’s not for me.” In the end, she stuck with it and started her own business called Fabulous Finishes, Inc. in 2003.

And now, she is busier than ever. Working primarily on residential projects in the suburbs of Detroit, Patty utilizes her expertise in glaze, plaster, and texture to create unique spaces for her clients. She also enjoys working with lime-based plasters. In fact, she trained with French master Pierre Ricard in the Rivedil Certification Program and received certification as an Authentic Lime-Based Italian Substrates and Artistic Finishes Installer. Her projects range from walls, ceiling and trim work to wood graining and smaller furniture pieces.

Her favorite project is also one of her most extensive. She spent two months working on a house on Lake St. Clair, which was being completely renovated. Her artistry is on display throughout the spacious home: Venetian plaster in the two-story great room and foyer, Schabin ceiling in the powder room, glazed trim in every room, metallic plaster on the walls and ceiling of the master bedroom, and stone finish in the bathroom.

“You’re there so long that you start to question how it will all turn out,” Patty recalls working on the multiple rooms while the home was empty and torn apart from the renovations. “When it finally came together and all the furniture was put in place, it was just beautiful.”

Her most challenging project involved a living room with a lot of built-in, intricate woodwork on the walls and ceiling. “At first, I was unsure how to tackle the room without making it look too busy and over-the-top,” she remembers. In the end, she decided to keep everything tone-on-tone as well as: oil glaze all the trim, stipple all flat surfaces with a soft glaze in the same color tone as the trim, oil stain the fireplace in a richer color, and add some Dutch Gold to the detail for highlight.

Obviously, Patty has a passion for what she does. But she also believes that “training and networking with masters in the industry are keys to success.” That is how she first came into contact with Kathy Carroll and The Chicago Institute of Fine Finishes. While attending the 2006 SALI (Stencil Artisans League, Inc.) Convention in Chicago to expand her knowledge and interact with other artisans, Patty visited Kathy’s booth (Patty had previously ordered products from Kathy and wanted to meet her in person).

“From that first meeting, Kathy really helped me to start thinking out of the box,” Patty recalls. “She is completely giving. I don’t know how many times I have been on the phone with her asking questions, and she gives you as much time as you need.”

Since then, Patty has often used products that Kathy offers through her studio and Faux by Kathy eStore, including: Versiplast (“it’s easy to trowel on, creates a smooth stone finish, and takes glaze easily”), Bella Wax, Gold Schabin Leaf, and Perfetto Portofino plaster. Her favorite tools include Japanese trowels (“they are heaven-sent and feel like a feather in your hand”).

To further network with her colleagues, Patty became a member of the Sisters Hands Decorative Artists Consortium (www.sistershands.com), a group of 10 women throughout the country that was formed to share their common experiences and passion for decorative finishing. Cait Whitson of Carte Blanche in Scotland, who is teaching a course in marbling and graining in July at The Chicago Institute of Fine Finishes, is also a member.

Even with their busy schedules, the group tries to get together annually. Kathy generously sponsored some products at last year’s gathering, which gave them the opportunity to “faux play and brainstorm” on new finishes. Over the years, the members have gotten to know each other well. Patty’s painter “sisters” recognize her ability to work at a fast pace and affectionately nicknamed her “The Hummer” because she can buzz circles around them.

“Women need women,” Patty explains the value of being part of the Consortium. “It’s tough finding a balance between work and family. The group isn’t just about discussing our work. We support each other both personally and professionally. And with each of us having our own strengths and talents, I know I can turn to them for assistance on a project if I don’t have enough time to balance everything.”

Her advice to those wanting to break into the decorative finishing business: “You need to be willing to make an investment in good classes. If you’re serious about the profession, you have to expose yourself to training with professional products. And you have to be willing to buy some high quality products and experiment at home as you start building your clientele. Because once you are busy with projects, you won’t have the time to play.”

For more information on Patty Henning and Fabulous Finishes, Inc., you can contact her by phone at 313-318-6511 (mobile) or 248-652-1845 (studio), e-mail at pattyhenning@comcast.net, or Web site at www.fabfinisher.com.

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