I would have any of his people over at my house for dinner!
- Lois Gries, ASID, Chicago
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Archive for Decorative Finish

Repairing and Matching a Decorative Finish

Water-Damaged Ceiling Planks

Water-Damaged Ceiling Planks

As a painting and decorating contractor in the Chicago area, we are often asked to repair and match an existing decorative finish. We recently received such a request from a client. Her basement ceiling was clad with simulated wood planks made out of a material similar to that of acoustical tiles and wrapped in a vinyl that imitated rustic wood, including knots. The water had stained, bowed or destroyed seven of those boards. The entire ceiling covered about 500 square feet. The goal of this restoration project: Making it look like it never happened!

Achieving that goal is a lofty one. When you are the person who did the original work and have kept good records, the task is greatly facilitated. However, when it involves the work of others and no records exist, the task can be very challenging. This restoration project was of the latter sort.

Our carpenter’s investigation revealed that these planks were made in a tongue and groove style and that seven of the boards had been compromised. He concluded that the planks should replicated in wood, with the same dimensions, in the same tongue and groove style.

New Planks Grained to March Old Ceiling

New Planks Grained to March Old Ceiling

We then turned to our graining specialist to first replicate the colors of the wood grain. It takes a trained eye, patience and a willingness to experiment to arrive at the combination of colors. The next step was to mimic the style of the wood grain, including the knots present in the original planks. That process also involves experimentation with different tools and techniques. Finally, matching the sheen of the clear coat was the final touch to the restoration work. In this case, we used a dead flat varnish to match the surrounding sheen on the old planks. The second picture shows the final result: Mission accomplished!

In a way, the plank design made it easier to blend in the graining patterns, because there were no edges to contend with. When a decorative finish has been damaged, we must sometime redo the whole surface affected by the damage, because it is impossible to blend the edges of the repair. Because of the experimentation needed, the cost of a decorative finish repair can be disproportionately high. However, that cost is only a fraction of what a complete redo would be. In our house painting company, we do whatever it takes to meet a client’s need!

An Upholstered Border Was the Answer, Not Paint this Time!

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.

What can you Do with that Two-Story Wall in my Living Room?

Decorative Finish and Mural on Two-Story Wall

The field of decorative finishing has suffered badly during the recession; however things are looking up again. Decorative painting is reemerging as a powerful design tool to beatify one’s environment and provide creative solutions to modern-day building challenges. One of those challenges consists of these two-story walls in foyers and family rooms of contemporary houses.

Watercolor Rendering of Mural Elements

A client recently posed the following question to our Chicago area painting and decorating company: “I have this 20’ x 20’ wall in my family room – what can I do to make it an appealing feature of my house?” After asking a few additional questions, I was able to ascertain that she was looking for something that would have warmth, be inviting, give a feeling of depth to the room and be nurturing to her. I went to my van and brought back a sample board for a one of our signature finishes: a sanded-texture finish, combined with hand-painted mural elements. I explained that the texture and mottled color of the finish would add warmth and a comfortable feel to the wall, while creating a wonderful background for a mural on the lower portion of the wall. She loved the idea!

Two-Story Wall Before Decorative Painting

After probing further, it turns out that our client had a pretty good idea of what she would like as mural elements: wetlands, cattails, tiger lilies, a blue heron and silhouette of trees in the foreground. Following our meeting, we both went online and searched for images to give more definition to her vision for the mural – we did find many images. The more challenging elements were the silhouettes the client had envisioned. One of the images made the concept clear: In nature, when a larger object is in the foreground, it is sometimes deprived of light and appears as a darker, single color, like a silhouette. Having grasped that concept, we proceeded to develop a watercolor rendering for the mural. Our client loved it and kept it on her computer until we were able to schedule her project!

Decorative finishing and murals in particular are powerful tools to help transform the mood of a space. Our client happened to come home as we were pulling up the tarps. When she got choked up while talking about her mural, we knew we had “hit the spot” for her.

A Faux Finish and Mural Painting Can Be Repaired – With Skill!

This past week, Painting in Partnership, from the Chicago area, repaired a decorative finish that we had executed ten years ago. We also repaired painted mural elements that had later been added to our work, by the client’s friend. The decorative painting had been damaged by a water leak in an upstairs bathroom, just above a doorway.

Repairing Decorative Finishes - Before

In those days, we used eggshell oil as a basecoat and oil glazes. With the new ASHA regulations, eggshell oil products were no longer available. We had to resort to reformulated satin oil products that were still on the market, at least for now. Even though the damage was limited to the upper portion of the doorway, we repainted the two side legs of the doorway opening to avoid creating any repair lines. Because we keep excellent records for all the decorative finishes we create for a client, we were able to recreate this painted finish perfectly. Our muralist, even though she did not do the original painting, was able to recreate the mural elements that had later been added to our work.

Repairing Decorative Finishes - After

This room was the only work we had ever done for this client. Yet, all she needed to do, after ten years, was to place a phone call to have us rescue the situation and help protect what had been a $5,000 dollar investment in the decorating of her dining room. She was thrilled. Halfway through the repair process, she took me in the adjacent room to show her next project. Someone had given her a bid to do this entire two-story room for an unbelievably low price of $750, including a decorative finish all over the walls. I made the point to her that someone who charges those kinds of prices cannot stay in business for long. I further explained that, because we price our services correctly, we have been in business for over twenty years and we were able to save her $5000 in her dining room.

So she asked me to bid for her room. To keep the cost down, we limited the decorative finish to the fireplace wall and will use plain paint on the other walls. The cost: $3,000 – she gladly hired us to do her next house painting project! In the short-run, our painting prices are higher than many others. However, in the long-run, we are the best value – she knows it well!

Using Faux Painting Techniques to Expand a Painting to the Scale of a Room

Decorative finishing skills, on occasion, get called on to bring about unusual results. As an example, a client had a striking painting in his master bath. The painting used essentially only three colors: blue, gray and white, and created the impression of water, land and sky by using those colors. On the water, laid the curvaceous naked body of a woman.

The client had the idea of enveloping the room in the colors and style of his painting. On his own, the client had the room painted using the same color gray as in the painting, but the result fell short of accomplishing his purpose. So he called on Painting in Partnership and our team of decorative finishing experts to complete his vision.

Decorative Finishing Magic

Decorative Finishing Magic

Using our color design expertise and our faux painting skills, we were able to blend those 3 colors, using paints and glazes to produce the desired effect. Voila!

Manifesting a client’s vision in this way, using our decorative finishing and painting skills, is very fulfilling. This is the reason we call our company Painting in Partnership.