WHEN ONE FAMILY in Northwest Washington moved into its just-bought home, the biggest problem was cracked travertine flooring in the foyer. Undoubtedly, the original owners who had installed this trouble-free flooring felt that they had made an investment for life. Unfortunately, they didn't anticipate the amount of settling that would occur and the cracks that would appear in the travertine. Instead of an elegant entrance, the front hall appeared shabby.

The solution seemed obvious: Remove the tile and put something else in its place. But that would involve jack-hammering up the flooring -- a costly, dusty, noisy job.

Judy Chapple, director of interior design at KressCox Associates, brought in faux finish expert Eugene Perreault of Entasis to come up with a more permanent solution. Perreault decided that the cracks in the tile suggested veins found in real marble. He used the joints of the travertine to define the joints of the faux marble floor and, to add interest, painted an inlaid diamond at each juncture of four tiles. The effect is stunning and, according to Perreault, half the cost of removing the tile and putting in real marble. The surface is sealed with an industrial finish that Perreault prefers to keep a secret -- but he guarantees it will last as long as real marble.