Throughout the process I felt that achieving the 'right look' for a high-end architectural products showroom was just as important to you as it was to me.
- Richard S. Cohen, Feather River Wood, Wilmette
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Doing Justice to a Maya Romanoff Wallcovering

Installed Maya Romanoff Wallpaper

Installed Maya Romanoff Wallpaper

As painting and decorating contractors in the Chicago area, we are regularly asked to install wallpapers. In recent years, the demand for high-end wallcoverings has been soaring. We have had the opportunity to install many illustrious wallpapers. A recent project involved the installation of 4 panels of a deep red Maya Romanoff hand-made wallcovering to create a feature wall in a master bedroom. The pattern, called (Moon Lake) , had subtle horizontal, thin and artful stripes.

Before getting into the special challenges of this installation, I would like to take a moment and give a little background on Maya Romanoff. The company bears the name of its founder and is the largest manufacturer of hand-made wallcoverings in the United States. Since its founding over forty years ago, the company has creatively used diverse materials such as glass beads, seashells, wood, gold leaf to beatify walls all over the world. I recently had the privilege of touring their manufacturing facility. What stood out the most for me was the joy I felt from their artisans doing their artful work. Their efficiency and team coordination was amazing! Attached is a picture of a portion of their plant.

Maya Romanoff Manufacturing Facility

Maya Romanoff Manufacturing Facility

The installation of the Moon Lake wallpaper presented special layout challenges. It took almost as long to plan the layout and trimming as it did to do the installation. Firstly, the bed was not centered on the wall. The challenge was: how do we layout the paper in a way that minimizes the problem? The second challenge had to do with the nature of the wallcovering itself: the stripes started in one edge of the paper but ended substantially short of the other edge, in an irregular fashion. We had to decide if we were going to flit the next sheet so the stripes would but against the striped edge of the previous sheet and leave an open area between the other two edges. We decided to proceed in this way. The last challenge was to plan the trimming of the edges as to minimize the lack of centeredness of the bed. That whole process took in excess of three hours. Our client was made part of the whole layout process to ensure he was on board with the final look.

A happy client is worth everything to us. The final layout and installation did justice to the beautiful work of Maya Romanoff.

The First Step in Creating a Wow Look with New Paint Colors for this Plain Chicago Row House – Part 1

Facade of Historic Chicago Row House - Before

Facade of Historic Chicago Row House – Before

One of our Chicago clients, who is the proud owner of a Chicago historical row house, is poised to transform the appearance of the façade of his building through the use of new paint colors. As house painting contractors, who specialize in historical restoration. we are especially found of working on projects such as this, where we can help beautify a building and fulfill a client’s vision.

Our client has done a wonderful job in decorating the interior of his house in a “Period” appropriate way, while expressing his personality. Our working relationship began last year when he hired our painting company to (install and decorate a Lincrusta wallcovering) below the chair rail in his Foyer/Stairway area.. We will soon be adding stencils to the surfaces above the chair rail to complete the look.

Six-Color Palette for Historic Chicago Row House

Six-Color Palette for Historic Chicago Row House

Last year, we had a brief discussion about his building’s facade, but he was not ready to pull the trigger yet. This year he is! As shown in the attached picture, the façade is very plain currently, which bothers him. He is looking to have it be outstanding on his block! Knowing his need, we scheduled a Color and Concept consultation, to help develop a color palette that meets his requirement and likes. A six-color scheme emerged from a two-hour meeting with the client, as shown in the attached picture.

You may now wonder how these colors will be combined on the available surfaces to create a well-balanced and attractive overall design. This is where the studio portion of the consultation comes into play, in which we experiment with different color placement until we arrive at the desired result. This is the stage where we are at right now. Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article showing the completed painted work on the façade of this historic building.

When you Submit a Project for an Award, you Win… Always!

Having entered many projects over the years in national and local competitions, I long realized that there are many benefits to be derived from entering a contest, irrespective of winning an award or not. I will list some of the major benefits.

Restored Chicago Vintage Metal Bay Window

Restored Chicago Vintage Metal Bay Window

1- Probably the least understood benefit has do with building one’s self-confidence. Daring to enter a competitions helps you recognize and defeat disempowering thoughts like: I am not good enough; I will embarrass myself etc. (you get the picture)
2- it focuses your company on quality. Since making an entry requires you to document a project from start to finish, all the steps become important.
3- That message about quality gets across to employees as well: their work and rigor of execution makes a difference. The net result is: Enhanced pride in their work.
4- It helps build your brand as a craftsmanship-oriented company. Making an entry generates pictures and stories that you can then use to populate blog posts, create a video on YouTube or Facebook or a project album on Houzz.
5- An entry becomes a marketing tool.
6- If you want to really impress a client, give them a copy of your entry or a version of it. That will become part of the stories they tell others about their project with your company.

Winning is frosting on the cake. If you do win an award: Tell the world through blog posts, newsletters, mailings, videos etc. You might also be able to get written up in magazines: get reprints of the article. In our case, we have collected four reprints over the years, which we still use today in our presentation folders.

Restored Chicago  Vintage Metal Decoration

Restored Chicago Vintage Metal Decoration

It is also OK to submit your project in more than one competition. You might as well leverage your efforts. On occasion, a dollar amount is sometime attached the top winning entry. Wow, that is a bonus! We have won a couple of those as well. Submitting a project for an award is fun and exciting!

Attached are pictures of our last winning project, which won the PIPP Award for Residential Exterior Restoration. Earlier last Fall, it also won one of the Chicago Painted Lady awards.

Laser Cleaning – A Cutting Edge Approach to Cleaning Historical Exterior Surfaces

Driehaus Museum - After

Driehaus Museum – After

Driehaus Museum  - Before

Driehaus Museum – Before

Jefferson Statue - Lincoln Park

Jefferson Statue – Lincoln Park

Historical Restoration being one of our main specialties as painting and decorating contractors in the Chicago area, we look to stay current with new technologies, methods and practices. Belonging to trade associations is how we stay connected with the happenings in the industry. Last week, we attended a meeting held by the Western Great Lakes Chapter of APT (Association for Preservation Technology). The meeting was hosted by Conservation of Sculpture & Objects Studio (CSOS) of Forest Park. The topic was on the applications of the laser cleaning technology they have developed, including a live demonstration of the cleaning process.

Being new to this technology, I was fascinated by the range of potential applications, the environmentally friendly nature of the process, all-the-while leaving the substrates in mint condition. CSOS has designed and manufactured their own state-of-the-art laser cleaning equipment. Another interesting aspect of this cleaning process is that it barely raises the temperature of the substrate.

One of CSOS’s success stories includes the cleaning of 25,000 square feet of the stone exterior substrates of the Driehaus Museum in Chicago.. The before and after pictures illustrate the dramatic result. This was the first building in the U.S. to be entirely cleaned with lasers. The other picture shows Jefferson’s statue, grander than life, normally resting in Lincoln Park. It will soon be laser-cleaned to its bronze substrate and prepped to receive its 24 carat gilded finish. It will be back in the Park this summer.

In our work as panting contractors, we take a custodial view towards our clients. It means that we try to think as the owner of the building. Because of the trust we establish with our clients, we are sometimes asked to put a team together (carpenters, metal fabricators, masons and now laser cleaning) to tackle the entire restoration project. This is why being knowledgeable in the restoration of other related substrates is an asset to our customers. Sometimes, it is about making our clients aware of different alternatives and levels of intervention, so they can make the most informed decision possible.

The Refinishing of an Ipe Wood Front Porch Floor

Ipe Wood Decking - 1

Ipe Wood Decking – 1

Late last summer, our painting and decorating company was tasked with the refinishing of a front porch deck and the railings, as well as the refinishing of the front door system for a six-year-old house in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. The decking was made of Ipe wood, the railings of Cedar wood and the front door of Doug Fir. Ipe is also known as Brazilian Walnut ad is one of densest hardwoods in existence. It is three times harder than cedar and is very heavy lumber.

Needless to say, creating color harmony between the different woods was very important to the client. To achieve the desired result, we had to resort to three different stain products, depending on the wood specie. Samples were prepared using similar woods. The client having specified Penofin as the product to use for the Ipe wood, it set the tone for the stain colors of the other two woods. Penofin is the Cadillac of finishes for Ipe and several other hardwood species. It is made of Brazilian Rosewood Oil and penetrates deeply into the wood and performs the best of any products I know of. In the long-run, it is also the easiest finish to maintain.

Ipe Wood Decking - 2

Ipe Wood Decking – 2

The major challenge we faced in refinishing the Ipe floor was that a different product had been used, the first time it was finished. We used a deck stripper to remove the old product and then sanded the whole deck floor. Strippers typically raise the grain of any wood. Normally, the sanding knocks off the dead wood fiber. However, we learned that , for a hard wood such as Ipe, the wood fiber is very soft, short and dense. It is similar to a peach fuzz. We tried sanding off that fuzz, with only very limited success. We ended up having to buff out the fuzz with an orbital sander and a soft foam pad covered with 1000-grit sandpaper. To achieve the desired finish, we had to wipe on two additional thin coats of Penofin, on top of the first coat.

Taking the additional finishing steps and doing the stain samples proved key in producing the look the client was after.