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Cindy Smith knows that paint doesn't like to be slapped.

It prefers to be stroked, brushed, swirled and twirled; it doesn't even mind being mixed or matched.

Smith, owner of Faux Smith Interior Painting in Billings, is an artisan and painter who just so happens to use walls, ceilings and floors as her canvas.

Faux real.

Smith, who has been in business in Billings the past 10 years, consults clients who wish to spruce up blank walls, boring ceilings and bare floors. She specializes in mural art and faux painting techniques - which is to say, she is a purposeful Picasso who helps homeowners add an individual element of style and uniqueness to their walls.

"Clients call me and want to add something different and daring to their cookie-cutter house - they want to make it theirs," Smith said. "During our consultation, we go through sample boards, match colors, tile, fabrics, etc. and come up with the right design element."

Smith does all of this while working within the client's budget. Some decorative elements are more expensive, like using plaster or painting a large, intricate mural, but adding less expensive, smaller accents through stenciling or freehand design can also make a delicate, yet noticeable impact.

Billings vogueBillings vogue

"We tend to be a little behind the curve in Montana when it comes to interior design," Smith said.

But that's not to say that some Billings abodes aren't brimming with chic, elegant wall art.

"The trend for the past few years has been what we call 'Tuscany Old World'," Smith said, "but that trend is slowing fizzling out and the new trend has more of an urban-metro vibe."

This trend includes geometric design shapes, bold patterns, leather faux finishes and clean lines.

"It's generally good advice for clients to pick a focal wall and work around it," Smith said.

Montanans and some Billingsites also gravitate to more outdoorsy/wildlife-themed decorative motifs. Smith is able to draw upon this inspiration to create modern wildlife accents like a subtle, stenciled buffalo border that she created for one client.

"Most people tend to over-do when it comes to decorating," Smith said.

Smith's training allows her to be able to make tasteful suggestions while maintaining the sentiment of what the client is trying to achieve.

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Teaching technique

Smith, who is a natural artist, does suggest that tackling an involved faux painting project is easier if you've got inherent talent as a painter. But she's also taken classes and seminars that have fine-tuned her stenciling, plastering and painting.

"Taking specific classes has allowed me to become more specialized with certain projects, but in this market, it's also been useful having a diverse background."

Smith, who started doing painting projects in her home and for her friends, now gets inquiries for a variety of projects - fairytale murals for children's rooms, faux leather wall finishings for dens, ceiling stenciling around hanging lights and fans and much more.

No project is ever the same twice, Smith said.

Smith's business has a nice balance between large-scale/commercial and small-scale/residential projects. She's been featured in Billings' Parade of Homes, and in 2004, Smith was recognized as one of The Billings Gazette's best "40 under 40."

Smith, who just recently sold her home, is currently working on refurbishing and refinishing her new abode with her husband, Kevin.

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