Our customers, and I personally, appreciate the high level and consistent delivery of your products and services. You make us look good.
- Bryan Zolfo, Insignia Kitchen & Bath, Barrington
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Glazed Lincrusta in Master Bedroom

Glazed Lincrusta in Dining Room

Lincrusta Dado Glazed with Metallic Paints in Kitchen

Glazed Lincrusta Dado in Upper Hall

Lincrusta is a heavily embossed wallcovering, which was launched in England in 1877. It was invented by Frederick Walton, also the inventor of Linoleum. Since that time, Lincrusta has found its way into some of the finer homes all over the world. Today, it is often used in historical restoration projects, or to add a “period” charm to vintage homes. It is intended to be painted and can be glazed to further highlight Lincrusta’s beautiful designs.

Our house painting company was recently hired to install and decorate four different Lincrusta wallcoverings, as part of a much larger staining, painting and decorating project in Chicago. The owners were converting a one-hundred-year-old two-flat to a single family home. They had also built a substantial addition to the rear of the house and made sure all the materials used and the work done in their house was respectful of the “period” of their house. After noticing those concerns, when they were still at the stage of deciding on whom to hire for their house painting project, I thought of asking them if I could send them a link that I thought might be of interest to them – it was a link to the Lincrusta! After checking out the link, they fell in love with the Lincrusta designs. We not only got their entire painting and decorating project, but we were also commissioned to install and decorate four Lincrusta wallcoverings.

This two-flat was originally designed for the owner to occupy the second level of the house – it was therefore more upscale. After deciding to hire us and selecting those Lincrusta papers, they had me take a look at the front staircase leading to the second level of the house, which I had not been shown to me until then. There it was: a Lincrusta imitation from the late 1910’s below the chair rail! No wonder the clients bonded with the idea of having Lincrusta wallcoverings in other parts of their house!

Listening deeply for the needs and concerns of our clients and coming up with decorating ideas that meet those needs is what we are about as a house painting company.

Burrows’ Honeybee Pattern in Powder Room – Detail 1

Burrows’ Honeybee Pattern in Powder Room – Detail 2

As painting and decorating contractors in the Chicago area, we recently did extensive plaster restoration in preparation for the redecorating of this century-old house in one of Chicago’s rejuvenating old neighborhoods. For the project, we used several historical colors and historical wall coverings. The client referred to her wallpaper selections as the “Jewels” of the house.

The wallpapers she chose for the house were all from the J.R. Burrows collection of American Arts and Crafts designs and patterns from the 1880s – 1920s. All the wallpapers are untrimmed and made to order. Before installing the wall coverings, we first hung liner paper to ensure a proper bond to old plaster walls.

During the past week, we installed he first wallpaper in the powder room adjacent to the kitchen, using the Honeybee pattern. We also cut out the edge pattern of the frieze version of this Honeybee pattern and used it to frame the arched opening for the pedestal sink and mirror.

We are looking forward to installing three more Burrows wall coverings in the next few weeks, as the papers are delivered to us. They will include: the Coleman Bower style in the Dining Room, the Pervis wallpaper and its companion frieze in the Vestibule and The Stag border in the Upper bath. You can expect to see more pictures soon. We enjoy helping clients give a “period” look to their vintage houses.

Roman Shade - Missoni Fabric

Roman Shade – Missoni Fabric

As painting and decorating contractors in the Chicago area, we are regularly asked to execute decorative painting projects of all sorts. On occasion we are asked to reproduce a pattern from a picture or a fabric. We recently came across such a project. However, in this particular instance, we felt that a painted finish would not give the optimal result for our client. Read on for details and pictures.

Installed Upholstered Border

Installed Upholstered Border

Detail of Missoni Upholstered Border

Detail of Missoni Upholstered Border

In her master bath, our client had a Roman shade made out of a most expensive Missoni fabric. She wanted to replicate the pattern in the upper part of the shade on the three other walls (about a foot in height and twenty feet in total length). She approached us with the idea of using paints to recreate this intricate pattern with about a dozen different colors. Considering the complexity of the pattern, this request was somewhat intimidating, because it would virtually impossible not to have imperfections in the execution of the work.

In the course of the conversation, she told me that she was a brain surgeon. Then the light bulb went off in my head! I said to myself: “As a brain surgeon, she has microscopic vision and will see any small imperfection in the color or pattern of this painted border”. This is when a brought up to my client the idea of creating an upholstered border using the same Missoni fabric and a cording to frame the edges. My client had never heard of upholstered walls, but thought this alternative to paint would give her the exactness she was looking for. So, she agreed to proceed.

Ten weeks later, the fabric finally came from Italy and our team proceeded with creating the upholstered border, and completed the installation within a week. The client was delighted. The border pattern matched perfectly with that of the Roman shade! Upholstered walls can at times be the best choice, if the budget permits.

Categories : Decorative Finish

During the course of a recent plaster restoration project, we ran into an unusual weather event in Chicago: two or three days of minus 15-degree temperatures! In a well-heated house, one might reasonably assume that it is safe to work on its interior surfaces. However, a recent experience has shown us otherwise.

Old houses were designed to “breathe”, allowing moisture to escape the house through its plaster walls. Moisture barriers and insulation had not come of age yet. As a consequence, the inside surfaces of the exterior walls can be very cold to the touch, in spite of very warm interior temperatures – check it out! During extreme cold temperatures like what we experienced last week in Chicago, these walls can actually be ice-cold! Much to our chagrin, we also discovered that such cold walls can seriously interfere with the plaster restoration work we do as painting and decorating contractors.

What we discovered is that the walls can be cold enough to cause the moisture in the patching materials to form small ice crystals and prevent those materials from dying and curing properly. Those materials normally generate their own heat, which helps the drying and curing process. The cold walls interfere with that process. Even though the surface of the patching material can appear and feel normal, it is not the case. Unfortunately, using a waterborne primer to prime over the patches can compound the problem by introducing additional moisture into the patches and the walls. The net result of this chain of events is that the primer does not properly adhere to the patches.

Failed Liner Paper Seams

How did we discover this problem, you might ask? One of the rooms in which we were doing plaster restoration was being prepped for an expensive wallpaper installation. Because the walls were plaster and the paper of such quality, we specified that a colored liner be first installed. That was our lucky break since it allowed us to discover our problem BEFORE installing the Burrows paper: the liner paper failed within hours from installing it!

What happened here? As the paper dries, it shrinks a little bit and put strong pressure at the seams. If the primer has not bonded well to the substrate (like in our case), the shrinking paper will cause the primer to delaminate and the paper to come apart at the seams. Lessons learned: Do not patch plaster walls when outside temperatures fall below 20 degrees and use oil primer (sorry for the smells and VOCs) to seal the plaster to help keep the moisture from penetrating into the walls.

As craftsmen, we are on a never-ending quest to learn as much as we can from any situation we encounter and pass on that knowledge to all our clients and people like you, our blog readers.

Categories : Plaster Restoration

Because of our love of old buildings and our desire to preserve them, our painting and decorating company is called on to restore old plaster, especially in Chicago’s old neighborhoods and the North Shore.

Stabilized Plaster Cracks – 1

Cracks in plaster deter many house painting contractors from even submitting a bid for the project. The reason is first that plaster restoration requires specialized knowledge, materials and techniques. Second, plaster restoration is also difficult to estimate, because the scope of the repairs is not entirely known until you start doing the work.

The clients who hire us to restore their old plaster value the many qualities of lath plaster. They are usually not interested in having it look like smooth drywall. They like it unevenness, the imperfections and signs of aging that plaster develops over time. It is part of the “cachet” of an old house to them.

Stabilized Plaster Cracks – 2

Our clients are however very interested in preserving the integrity of their plaster surfaces. Properly repairing cracks is especially important. When cracks develop on plaster surfaces, it means that some of the keys that attach the plaster to the lath have broken off. This allows the plaster to pull away from the lath and crack off. To deal with this problem, we use a system called “ Big Wally’s Plaster Magic ”. The process consists of drilling holes in the plaster to reach the lath (without drilling through the lath), injecting a liquid conditioner in those holes, then injecting an adhesive in the same holes so it can get between the plaster and the lath. The final step consists of using screws and over-size plastic plaster buttons to reattach the plaster to the lath. The next day, the screws and buttons can be removed and cracks can be repaired in the normal fashion.

Stabilized Plaster Cracks- 3

Depending on the condition of the surfaces, an average size room can take between 16 and 32 hours to perform the plaster restoration. When completed, the surfaces are stable again and they look beautiful. Plaster restoration is not cheap, but the result is well worth the effort.

Categories : Plaster Restoration