The History of Concrete Faux Bois (False Wood)

It’s hard to describe how special concrete faux bois is without telling you about its history.

Concrete faux bois (false wood in French) began as an art form in France about 150 years ago. The discovery that cement could be sculpted over iron or steel reinforcement spurred a tremendous wave of creativity. Artisans fashioned whimsical garden furniture, bridges, fences and trellises to look like they were made of wood or sticks.

Numerous early faux bois works can still be seen in France’s public parks and on the grounds of elegant chateaux. Many years ago, wealthy Americans traveling to Paris fell in love with faux bois and hired artisans to sculpt furniture and garden structures for their own gardens. Beautiful examples of this bygone era can be seen at the historic Henry and Arabella Huntington estate in California and many parks in San Antonio,Texas.

The demand for faux bois waned when the Art Nouveau period ended and people migrated toward the bold, modern industrial, graphic lines of Art Deco. Faux bois as an art form nearly died out. Unfortunately, many faux bois masters took their secrets with them to the grave. A lot of knowledge involving the technical aspects of this mysterious art form disappeared and no records of their mortar recipes or techniques were kept.

Now, nature themes are again finding their own place, as they did 100 years ago. Each year faux bois garden furniture, sculpted by anonymous artisans in the early part of the last century, is imported into the United States by high end antique dealers. They sell it for top dollar to affluent collectors like Martha Stewart.