A faux-coffered barrel ceiling painted by Carey Johnson of Mountjoy Designs at the Kentucky Museum Center.

    Carey Johnson is not the typical house painter. With her talent for faux finishing, she adds subtle texture and design to spaces. Her past projects run the gamut from delicately painting air vents to faux finishing the walls in the new miniatures wing of the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center in Maysville.

    Art has been a hobby for Johnson since she was a child. She started her own faux finishing business, Mountjoy Designs, five years ago. “My mother was always my support system,” Johnson says. “She called one day and told me about a friend who had gone to faux finishing school in Florida.” Johnson packed her bags for Naples, where an intense week of 12-hour workdays awaited her. After she returned, interior designer Julie Rooney commissioned her first job at a local country club.

    Since then Johnson has built a successful business doing what she loves. “If I come across something I don’t know, I figure it out,” she says. She has done everything from painting curtain rods to restoring old Zuber wallpaper with gouache watercolor. Her use of a faux copper finish on a range hood saved a client $7,000 in materials. “So many people have seen faux finishing done poorly,” Johnson notes. “When it’s done right, you can live with it forever and it can increase the value of your home.”

    An ASID Industry Partner, Johnson has even been singled out in her industry. A kitchen with a range hood and wall finish that she executed won a regional award in Sub-Zero’s bi-annual Kitchen Design Contest, and her work was also featured in two kitchens that won first and second place ‘Kitchen of the Year’ awards from St. Louis Homes and Lifestyles.

    Her portfolio inlcudes faux limestone and pearlized Venetian plaster alongside traditional sponged textures. She also does ornamental painting, as seen on a portfolio page of willowy Tuscan grapes. She can recreate distressed cloth, raw silk, leather, stone or soft suede, and pages of wood grain and ‘crackle’ finish show every detail. Johnson also can mix any custom color to finish walls. “Clients with their houses finished don’t need to compromise on the color of their walls when they’re working with me,” she says. “I like to tell my clients, ‘The world is your oyster. You can get anything you want.’”

    Johnson composed a beach mural on high-end cambric cloth for a client, which was installed over a bar. “It created a wonderful seaside ambience,” Johnson explains. When faced with metal airvents in a cork floor, she simply reproduced the cork design and painted the vents to blend in. “I make ugly things disappear,” Johnson smiles.

    She also makes depth and style appear out of nothing. At the Kentucky Gateway Museum Center, she painted a barrel ceiling of faux coffering with gold medallions, modeled after a ceiling in  the Spencer House, Princess Diana’s ancestral home. Johnson used hand-cut stencils of rosettes, creating high- and low-light with paint for the effect of depth. She also produced lettering describing the story of the Spencer House. And over three days she painted a mural in the Nursery Rhymes Room of the museum, where sculptures reify tales like the old woman who lived in a shoe and Jack and Jill. The work at the museum had her commuting for a year and a half for one-week stretches.

    Johnson has studied locally with artist Paul Reising, who works on set production for The Muny. She is also expanding her repertoire by taking fine arts classes at Meramec Community College, and her teachers say she serves as a role model to the younger students. “I’m very happy with my skills, but of course there’s still room for improvement,” Johnson says. After her experience working on the Kentucky museum, Johnson is hoping to branch out into more commercial work. “I really like the problem-solving involved,” she says. “I love doing this. I’m thrilled that I have my own business. You can’t ask for more than that.”