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Planning a Custom Stenciling Project

Ascertaining the Proper Spacing

Ascertaining the Proper Spacing

As painting and decorating Contractors in the Chicago area, we are occasionally called upon to do a custom stenciling project. A custom stencil is a completely made-up image or an enlarged version of a much smaller pattern that is cut into a stencil, to be used to create the desired composition, in this case a wall treatment. Quite a few steps are involved in the planning of a custom stencil project, which we will now discuss.

Establishing the Proper Stencil Size

In our case, our client came across a pattern that he liked, whose dimensions were 2.5’ x 2.5”. In discussions with the client, it was ascertained that a 6” pattern would be the optimal size for the space. We then headed out to the print shop to enlarge our small pattern to a 6” size. Once we achieved the desired size, we made about 18 copies of the stencil patterns and cut them into 6” squares. We were then ready for the next step.

Choosing the Color and Style

Choosing the Color and Style

Ascertaining the Proper Spacing of the Stencils

As shown in the attached picture, that process consisted of temporarily attaching the pattern to the wall, trying two or three possible layouts. We finally settled on the one in the picture.

Choosing a Color and Style of the Stencil Pattern

This step included both choosing the color and the style of application. As shown the next picture, we first prepared a sample board showing stencils using a pewter color, applied in slightly different styles. The client immediately commented that the pewter color was too much brown. From the sample, we were also able to ascertain that he preferred a lighter touch of application. Fortunately, we had brought an other pewter color and we proceed to create a new sample that used the new color and the proper style of application. The new sample hit the spot!

Selecting a Pattern for the Border

Selecting a Pattern for the Border

Selecting a Pattern for the Border and its Size

Up in the stairway, there is a picture molding and a border space of 12” above it. We could not keep this space blank. We chose a fragment of the wall pattern and followed the same steps all over again to arrive at the right size of the pattern. We then produced a final sample board for the client’s approval as shown in the last picture.

A project like this involves much advance planning. Once the project begins, more work goes into the actual cutting of stencils and the actual layout in the client’s space before any paint is touched. Painting is the easy part!

The Reasons why a Paint Job Will Cost More in 2017

We have been in business as painting and decorating contractors in the Chicago area for over 28 years. During that time, we have seen many changes take place in our industry. One major change has been the plethora of new paints that was brought to market by manufacturers. A major impetus for those innovations was the need to adapt to new governmental regulations regarding VOCs in paint. Another major shift, although much less publicized, has greatly reduced the labor pool available to our industry, thereby very significantly increasing labor costs and the price of your paint jobs in 2017. Let’s examine the two main reasons for this shift.

A- Scores of Painters Dropped Out of the Industry
Starting in the Spring of 2007, the residential painting market started to go into a recession, a good eighteen months before the rest of the economy. In the Fall of 2008, the other shoe dropped and the economy entered its worse recession since the Great Depression era – it was very long and very painful. The field of residential painting did not start to sustainably recover until 2013. That was a six-year stretch! During that period of time, a lot of people exited the field of painting, learned new skills and never returned to painting. This is also true for most of the trades. There is a major shortage of trained workers in painting and the trades in general. That shortage has resulted in major wage increases and higher prices to consumers.


B- Scarcity of Young People Entering the Trades
Young people generally do not look at painting and the trades as a viable career track. Part of the reason is cultural: our culture regards the trades as less glamorous than other fields, like technology, health care, business for example. The other part of the reason is that the painting industry has done a very poor job at marketing painting as a viable career track for young people.

Typically, contractors advertise online for already trained and qualified people, in spite of the fact that the quality of the people in the labor pool has diminished a lot. This is a strategy that is proving very frustrating in this current labor market. A more promising alternative is to mine High Schools and Trade Schools: attract young people early, help train them and retain them as young super stars in one’s company. In the long run, such a strategy could help contain labor costs and soften price increases to the consumer.

A Young House, Made to Look Old, Is Being Remodeled

Cottage Facade

Cottage Facade

Cottage Woodwork

Cottage Woodwork

Cottage Window and Door Detail

Cottage Window and Door Detail

In a week, we will be starting the interior painting for this entire six- thousand-square-foot house on the shores of Lake Michigan. Even though the house is only thirteen years old, it was built to look old, from its architecture to the hand-brushed oil paint used on the extensive and detailed woodwork on the walls, trim, windows, doors and cabinetry.

Even though the interior surfaces were still in mint condition, the arrival of grandchildren in the family precipitated the need to remodel the house to accommodate the needs of the children (and some needs of the grandparents also). Very few areas in the house will be left unaffected by the remodeling, thereby causing the repainting of all the interior surfaces of the house. Below is a list of the major challenges we will face on this special project.

1- Volume of Woodwork Challenge:
The walls on the first floor and basement are almost all clad horizontally with four-inch beadboard. I guesstimate that there is at least mile of that beadboard and more is being added on the second floor. So one of the woodwork challenges is just the sheer volume of painting involved. Everything is to be hand-brushed from the beadboard, trim, built-ins, doors and windows.

2- Hybrid Paint to Be Used Over the Old Oil:
Because of the great amount of woodwork involved and the fact it is painted in oil, we were faced with the decision of choosing a new finish coat that would stick well to the old oil without requiring a primer coat on everything.

3- Matching the Finish on New Doug Fir Beadboard on the Hallway Ceilings in the Basement.
New beadboard needs to be added on some areas on the ceilings. Our challenge will be to match the umbered look of the old Doug Fir, as well as the old sheen. This one is still on the drawing board!

4- Painting the Kitchen Cabinets
The cabinets are currently stained, glazed and varnished. We will have to apply a paint finish on all the cabinet surfaces. That is a piece of work in itself.

Meeting the challenges of a project, developing the procedures necessary to achieve the desired result and doing additional training and practice where necessary are the ingredients to the success our team of craftsmen pursues on every job.

Dressing Up a Historic Chicago Row House in Mid-Century Colors

Historic Chicago Row House - After Painting

Historic Chicago Row House – After Painting

Historic Chicago Row House - Before

Historic Chicago Row House – Before Painting

Our Painting and decorating company recently put the finishing touches to the façade of an historic row house in Chicago. The façade had a metal cornice and crown, five windows, a front entrance and a porch. As you can see from the Before picture, the façade was very subdued. The client felt that the façade did not do justice to the character of the house nor the beloved Mid-Century style of his interior décor.

With the client’s involvement, we developed a 5-color palette that introduced the Mid-Century style of the interior decorating of the house. The client’s passion for this particular style is rooted in his childhood with his grandparents. When he inherited their furnishings and other belongings, it started him on a quest to recreate those childhood memories in his own house. He did such an outstanding job at it that Houzz recently published a most interesting video on the interior of his house and the story behind its decorating elements. Click on this link to view the video.

By accident, it just so happened that the colors selected for the project happen to closely match colors that can be found in the Pantone color pairings for the 2016 Color of the Year, shown on this link . When we do color consultation, listening to the client is key to insure a successful result, in this case a result that reflects his personality and décor preferences, as well as beautifies the façade of his house.

New Color Scheme for an American Four-Square House

New Color Scheme for "Period" House

New Color Scheme for “Period” House

Old Color Scheme for "Period" House

Old Color Scheme for “Period” House

The owner of this Period house in the near Western suburb of Chicago was looking to make a major change in the color scheme of her house. As painting and decorating contractors, we offer a Color and Concept Consultation service to help in successfully navigating the sometime choppy waters of color selection.

Early on, the client was toying with the idea of removing the aluminum siding – she later abandoned that idea. Instead, she had that siding repaired in a number of areas, had a new roof installed, built a new rear porch and new front railings, and indeed chose a new color scheme that harmonized with new roof color, which we had recommended.

Selecting interior or exterior paint colors can be quite intimidating and stressful to many people, especially when dealing with a “Period” house. In the consultation, we had recommended a dark red accent color for three small areas on the front of the house. It turned out that the client’s spouse did not like that idea, so we stayed with a two-color scheme.

Taking into account personal preferences is an important and necessary aspect of the color selection process, because people react differently to color. Making those color adjustments is an integral part of the consultation service we offer. For both colors, we selected a Benjamin Moore’s MoorGuard as paint, which has a very low gloss level. The client commented: “When the sun goes down, my house glows!” She was very excited to tell me this.