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Friends & Faux

Some folks still think they style hair.

To which, Julie Jones, as usual, has a snappy comeback: “Have you seen my hair?”

Her sidekick, Beth Meredith, just laughs. She’s the straight man to Julie’s quick banter, the more serious one. In fact, the two girls of Two Girls and a Brush are, at first glance, a study in contrasts. Julie’s the talker. Beth is the first to zero in on the next project, a dresser abandoned on the side of the road, a cabinet relegated to the scrap pile until Julie begs, “Please don’t think of anything else today.”

But this partnership works. Both of them see art in unexpected places.

On a cool morning in early spring, the two women are bent over their latest canvas, paintbrushes in hand. Except it’s not a canvas at all, but a Formica countertop in Teresa Diner’s Haymount kitchen. By the time Beth and Julie are done, the white counters will be unrecognizable as black granite tops like the ones found in today’s high-end houses.

The materials for this transformation are simple: primer, black latex, a certain mix of silver and white paints and a coat of polyeurethane to finish. But it’s the way the two women dab and work a sponge that the texture of the “granite” begins to appear on the kitchen counters. The look pulls together the smart airy kitchen with its black and white tiles.

Faux finishes have been around for years, an art form that has often been imitated in the hands of do-it-yourselfers. Done right, faux finishes can make a plain wall look like marble, limestone or leather. It can add a luxe look to a bedroom or give a much-needed lift to an arched ceiling. Faux finishes can take on the look of wood or damask wallpaper. They can hide flaws in old plaster or give something new an Old World feel.

They are all artistic but here, in a family kitchen, this is one work of art that will truly be worked.

For Julie and Beth, it’s a return to their roots. Though most people now know them from their shop in downtown Fayetteville, the two women got their start creating faux finishes. Both moms, they met at their children’s pre-school. The two began painting faux finishes on walls and gradually expanded into furniture, picture frames, wine buckets and other gift items. After working out of Beth’s dining room and a back room at Julie’s house, they decided to open a shop on Franklin Street. More than a year later, and even after a weekend opening that nearly depleted the inventory, they still say it was a big step.

They opened the weekend after Thanksgiving during A Dickens Holiday. “We did fabulous,” Beth said recently. “We were wiped out of everything.”

But still, “We were beyond scared,” Julie said.

Today, you can often catch one or both of them sitting outside the tiny shop waving to passersby on Franklin Street. Two Girls sits in a row of shops including White Trash, Kindred Hearts, Babywear & The Belly Place and a temporary campaign office for Hillary Clinton. But most of the time they’re painting – customers often walk in to find them engrossed in the latest project. Beth and Julie are so busy at the shop, they stopped taking requests for faux finishes on walls. It’s simply too time consuming. But they still take on the countertops during early morning trips before the shop opens or after it closes. They like the instant gratification, the sudden metamorphosis. And it costs less than new granite, about $600 to $1,200 depending on the size of the kitchen.

For the duo, it’s a challenge to take something and fashion it for a new use instead of simply throwing it away.

And sure, they have ambitions of bigger things to come.

“Here we are trying to get to Oprah,” Julie says, brush poised in mid-air and generously adds, “I’ll even take Ellen.”

Julie and Beth want to make Oprah’s list of favorite things. Just don’t ask them to do her hair.