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How to Hire A Painter

I never understand why people say “it’s just paint”, or “painting is easy”, that “you can just change it” or that “paint is cheap”, etc etc. People who say that must not have gone through the process of choosing colors, hiring painters, having your home covered in tarps and smelling like weird plastic for a week. True, painting is cheaper than moving, but it’s not inexpensive either. A good paint job takes time to accomplish and should last at least ten years, and if you are going to go through the above mentioned process, you want to be happy with the final result. The best way to achieve this? Educate yourself a bit on the painting process, determine what results you want to see, and learn how to communicate your needs effectively so that you and your painter are on the same page from day one.

How do you find a painter for starters? Ask for recommendations from people that you know and trust. Ask them what was the best thing and worse thing about the experience, and what they would have done differently had they the chance. Once you’ve narrowed down potential painters then set up individual walk throughs. The walk through is going to be the most important part of the process. Take time to do a thorough walk through. Trust me. This is where the communication comes into play and sets the tone for the whole process going forward.

Start with your walls. Are your walls drywall or plaster? If plaster, how much repair do they need? Do you want the painter to simply fill in cracks, or do you want him/her to smooth your walls so much that they look brand new? A level five drywall finish is when your walls look perfect. Do you need your plaster walls to look like drywall? Or do you want your plaster to retain some character? Decide what you’ll be happy with, and the quote you receive from the painter will reflect this.

Next, move on to millwork. Millwork refers to baseboards, crown, door casings, window trim, bead board, chair rail, any detail on your walls. Painting millwork is time consuming and therefore can add a lot to a painter’s quote. Sometimes it’s necessary to paint to get a finished look. Decide with your painter what millwork, if any, that you want painted.

You also need to discuss doors. A painter may paint your crown and baseboards but do not assume he/she is including doors. If they are in good shape, you may not need them painted. But if your millwork is getting painted, will your doors match? Will your painters paint both sides? And what about your closets? You need to specify if you want the inside of your closets painted. Most painters will not assume to paint the inside of closets unless asked.

Now on to ceilings. Ceilings that are in good shape and do not have signs of cracks or water damage don’t necessarily have to be painted. But if there is damage to them, will the painter fix it? If you have stucco or popcorn ceilings, will the painter paint them so that they look seamless with the rest of the ceiling?

Do you have kitchen or bathroom cabinets that you want to see painted? Cabinets, like millwork, require a different types of paint from wall paint. Make sure you understand the product that your painter is going to use on your cabinets, as well as the process to prepping and painting cabinets.

Now on to paint. There are many different types of paint out there and you need to educate yourself a bit on the types of paint because there can be big differences in cost. The most basic level of paint offers the minimum of coverage (called hide) and is generally used for commercial purposes, like landlords needing to repaint after a tenant leaves. Paint companies offer products up from here and they can range in coverage and VOCs (volatile organic compound) and specialty, such as moisture resistant paint, primer and paint in one, etc. You must specify with your painter which type paint you want to use because painters will usually buy the paint for you and include it in the overall cost. I don’t want to be alarmist here but I’ve heard of painters charging a client for a higher level product and then purchasing a cheaper paint and pocketing the difference. And the difference in cost can be significant. Imagine paying up front for ten gallons of paint at $50 a can but your painter then uses your deposit to buy $25 gallon paint and hopes you don’t notice the difference. To avoid this scenario, tell them you want to see the cans, and tell them that you want the cans left at your home when the job is done. Don’t assume they will – I have heard stories of painters taking cans purchased by one homeowner and using them on another job, all the while charging the second homeowner for the same can of paint!

Once your colors and the type of paint you want to use are chosen then you need to specify what sheen you want on your walls and millwork. Flat? Matte? Eggshell? Pearl?Satin? If you are not sure, pick up a sheen chart at your local paint store. You know how your home is used, not the painter. If you have lots of kids in high traffic areas, put a sheen on the wall that can be easily wiped off. If you hate the wet look on trim, make sure to tell your painter you want a more matte finish.

Compare quotes. You should get at least three detailed quotes from the painters and compare them, apples to apples, on what is to be painted and which product and whether paint and materials (drop cloths, brushes, etc) are included.

When will they work? 9-5? Do you want them in your home on the weekends? At night? Early in the morning? Specify when you want them in your home. Ask them how long the project will take. Will they call you if they can’t come that day?

Specify low VOC or no VOC paints if you want them. Most paints are low VOC these days, but not all, so make sure you are on the same page. Primers have VOCs in them, so make sure you know how much odor the primer will give off.

Educating yourself on the painting process will insure that you are 100% happy with the finished product. And believe me. Once the job is done, you’ll be happy you won’t have to repeat it for a long time.

What color should you paint your ceiling?

This is an old post but I got asked this a few times recently so thought I would repost for today.

The short answer? It always depends. Some decorators use the 8 foot rule: If your ceiling is less than 8 ft high, then paint it 2 tints lighter than the wall color. (Tint just means the color has more white in it and is therefore lighter. If it had more black in it, you’d say it was a shade darker).

If your ceiling height is more than 8 feet, paint it 2 shades darker than the walls.

Other decorators feel that painting a ceiling white always makes it feel lower than it is. I disagree with this. It’s true that when you break up the color  –  when the wall color is different from the ceiling color – your eye notices the change. But if the ceiling is lighter than the walls, and especially if it has a semi gloss finish to it, it actually looks more expansive and higher.  But you may need to play with this a bit,  because if your walls are really dark, then the change from dark (walls) to light (ceiling) is much more noticeable and therefore the ceiling appears closer.

Another trick to make that ceiling appear higher is to bring the ceiling color down the walls a bit: paint the same color on the ceiling a foot or so down onto the wall. This makes the ceiling appear taller than it is.

Painting a ceiling is definitely a personal choice. There really is no wrong answer. Just decide the effect you want and go from there.  As I always say, if you don’t like it, you can always paint it over!

 

Even decorators get the blues

Lately I’ve been working on a project of my own: updating our sun room. We’ve lived in the house for almost three years now, and with the exception of hanging some embarrassingly cheap window treatments, I’ve done zero in here.

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The room faces east and gets amazing sunlight due to windows on three walls (hence the name). We use it mainly as our computer room, but because the back door is there, it also serves as our dumping ground for shoes, bags, etc.

Last weekend I finally had enough of the white walls and the hideously-old- and-terrifyingly-dirty berber carpet. We (the room and I) needed a change.  The rest of the house is fairly contemporary with lots of neutrals, so I decided it was time for color. It’s a small space and not seen from the rest of the house, so why not just go for it.

First, the design. Because the room has exposed rafters, a ceiling fan, and lots of light, I went with cottage. But I wanted a bold cottage, not a muted shabby chic kind of affair. I want Caribbean, or West Indies, or something hot and tropical. I wanted turquoise, to go with all my red accents (it’s my relationship corner, so the red accents had to stay. Well, the red is mostly in the adjoining bathroom, which is a terrible place for a relationship corner, but that’s another discussion. Sigh.) There isn’t a lot of wall space here, so I could use a big color without overwhelming the room. I chose Benjamin Moore’s Laguna Blue. This is a serious blue. This is an all out, better have your coffee before you enter, take no prisoners kinda blue.

On to the floor. Buh bye Berber. I think I pulled about 1,000,000 carpet staples out of my floor in the past two days. I mean, it was like the carpet installers thought that the carpet was going to suddenly take flight at night and run off, never to be seen again. This carpet was locked down. But after several hours of hammering, pliers and lots of internet radio, I finally said goodbye to the carpet and hello to…fake brick linoleum. Fake brick plastic floors. You know, I wasn’t holding out for wood floors per se, but this really threw me. I mean, fake brick.  Like, was brick in such hot commodity forty years ago that everyone was running out and getting imitation?  But whatever. It’s there and I have to deal with it.

My first choice was to cover the floor with a lovely seagrass carpet. The neutral tones and the texture would go so wonderful with the bright walls. But seagrass carpet wasn’t in the budget, so I went with my second choice: Flor carpet tiles in 2 of Hue Cream. It has the same color and texture as seagrass, as well as being as eco friendly, but it was way cheaper.

Before I can lay the tiles though, I need to address the giant gaps that now exist between my floor and the walls. The old carpet hid the gap somewhat, so now it’s gone I can really see the major difference. I first filled the gaps with some aerosol insulation but now I need to replace the wimpy baseboard with something more substantial (and prettier). I decided on 4 inch baseboards. They add some interest to the room as well as cover up those gaps.

While waiting to get the baseboards, I went ahead and reupholstered an old favorite chair of mine. A discount coral fabric was all this chair needed to make it into the new space. This chair is going to look awesome against the blue walls.

My budget was tiny and I used all the existing furniture. The only piece I bought new for the room was the fan. I really like the room now: it’s pretty and interesting and a nice place to sit and have coffee and check emails.

Seeing Things

Howdy. Just a quick post today with a tried and true painting trick for all you Spring decorators out there!

To make a narrow room appear wider: paint a wide horizontal stripe  in the middle of the wall. The stripe should be a color slightly lighter than the walls.

Another option is to paint the end walls of a narrow room a shade darker than the other two walls. It helps to bring in the walls visually, so the room doesn’t appear so long and narrow.

Happy painting!

Focal Point

The headboard wall in my bedroom is 100 year old plaster. And it shows. Unfortunately, I  did not have the painters skim coat the wall before we moved in. I didn’t ask him to leave drip marks on the wall either, but there you have it. So now this wall really bugs me, and my first thought was that I need to hire someone new to fix the cracks and repaint.

But on second thought, do I really want another wall of paint? I want this wall to be a true focal point, since the bedroom really doesn’t have any. So forget the paint! I’m going paper! Not just any wallpaper: I will be using this fabulous bamboo motif from Farrow and Ball:

Farrow & Ball Bamboo Wallpaper

The hue of the paper matches the existing color on the other walls. If it didn’t, I could repaint using colors from Farrow & Ball, because their paint matches their paper.  A whole room of bamboo would be too much, but as a focal wall behind my headboard, it’s gonna be great. I’ll post before and after pictures when I’m done.  Whee!

What the Bleep is Redesign?

Hiring a decorator to spruce up your space may be a lot more economical than you think. Most decorators – myself included – offer redesign solutions. What is that you may say? It’s a fancy term for more affordable but still fabulous design. It’s more affordable because the decorator uses what you already have and usually charges a flat fee per room. Most of you have wonderful pieces in your home – furniture, accessories, art, rugs, lamps, etc – but you aren’t sure what to do with them or how to arrange them. A decorator uses his/her expert eye to make those pieces work together, then give suggestions for color and accessories that would work well with your stuff.

It’s also a great excuse for getting rid of things, like your spouse’s smelly chair from his first apartment. Just say, “It wasn’t me. The decorator made me do it.”

Disappearing act

A friend of mine was painting her living room and she had a problem: her fireplace mantle was outfitted with 70’s style enamel baby blue tiles. She was in the process of restoring her home to its original Arts & Craft style and the tiles had to go, but the custom-built wood mantle she was envisioning was budgeted for Phase Two…or Phase Three…or Phase Four…You get the idea. So what to do? Solution: paint the tiles the same color – same hue AND same value – as the walls surrounding the fireplace. This helped the tiled mantle to visually “disappear”.  The fireplace is still a focal point of the room, but the blue tiles are no longer taking center stage. Plus, the beautiful stained glass windows, once barely noticed,  now pop! Exit, stage right.

Before paint

After paint

Inspiration

Choosing colors can be daunting. There are thousands out there. Untold numbers of combinations. Even if you find a hue (color) you like, there are tints. There are shades. There are varying degrees of intensity. So where do you begin?

Begin with what you see around you. What inspires you? As a decorator, I often ask clients to show me a painting or photograph in their home that they love. Usually a favorite print is a favorite because the colors inspire a mood. Use that favorite print as a starting off point for decorating your room. A decorator can help you take those colors and extend them to all corners of a room. Inspiration realized. So lovely.