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Painter’s World: Lars, Luxury Home Painter – Chicago Style

Lars lives in a 3-story walk-up (no elevator) apartment building off West Grand Boulevard, in northwest Chicago. He paints and also installs wallpapers in luxury “owner” apartments and condominiums on the in the North Shore and northeast side neighborhoods overlooking Lake Michigan.


On the average, he works on the same residence for seven to eight full days at a time. When one of the properties is sold, he is usually the first painter that the new owners contact to redecorate the home to their specifications.


These redecorating projects fall into three levels of work.


1. Minimal redecorating. Repainting one or two rooms (often the living room and master bedroom); touching up painting throughout the home. Owner involvement: Owner/client is minimally involved during the work. Approximate completion time: 1 to 3 days.


2. Some redecorating. New painting often needs to encorporate new owner’s color preferences into existing color scheme. Requires repainting of front hallway; main living, dining and entertainment areas, bedrooms and bathrooms. Owner involvement: Owner checks in on project fairly regularly. Approximate completion time: 7 to 10 days.


3. Remodeling & redecorating. He works under project contractor, based on the architect’s and interior designer’s plans. Entails extensive surface prepping, following new color scheme and applying paint, special finishes and wallcoverings, also detail work. Owner involvement: Very little directly with painter and other craftspersons. Approximate completion time: 1 to 6 months.




NOTE: Labor costs for Level one and two are figured at a materials plus hourly labor rate. Level three are figured on a three-part project basis: (1) materials, supplies; (2) repairs and prep work; and (3) finish work.


1. Projects-Level one. Materials and supplies: Lars asks the owner to pay out front for all. Or, the owner gives him a cashier’s check or money order to purchase what he needs. Labor: Owner pays one-half out front, and one-half at completion.


2. Projects-Level two. Property owner and Lars sign 2-page agreement, which includes the approximate itemized cost for project. Materials, supplies, equipment rental: Property owner pays Lars out front. Labor: Owner pays one-third before work begins, one-third half-way through project, one-third upon inspection and completion.


3. Projects-Level three. Lars signs contract agreement with project contractor, that bonds Lars. Materials and supplies, special tools, equipment rental: Lars receives debit card or access to special checking account, and purchases everything he needs out front and as needed.

Labor: Lars, like all tradespersons on project, receives “project employee” pay check on bi-weekly basis. Craftsman bonus: Upon completion and final inspections, Lars receives a bonus check, if his work is rated at A or A-plus level. That means premium craftsmanship, coming in before his deadline, and under painting and decorating budget.


NOTE: Lars’s bonuses are never based on the productivity level of other tradespersons on the project. They do, however, take into account the quality of the finished work of everyone on the project. Thus, Lars and the different tradespersons have an added incentive to work together, consistently, toward achieving high-end results!


By the way, Lars worked as an IUPAT/IBPAT painter for over fourteen years. He moved, got caught in the union’s new vested hours rule determination, and lost all fourteen years of his vested worked hours toward pension.


So, in late 2002, he struck out on his own. He became a one-man paintshop. Plus, he farms himself out on larger projects.


He says that he has never regretted the switch. “During rough times, I’ve had to take on temporary staff painting jobs with hotels and resorts… Also, I’ve worked for a non-union contractor on and off, installing wallcoverings.”


With a Dutch twinkle in his eyes, he adds, “I do what all professional painters do. What is necessary…what makes sense.”


Right you are, Lars.



CONGRATULATIONS and a big “thank you” to our Chicago Cubs for  winning the 2017 World Series. We’re all very proud of you.


Thanks for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

Copyright 2016. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

Ewauld and Eva of The Drake in Chicago

Ewauld and Eva Meitzner worked over forty years at The Drake in Chicago. Ewauld served as Matre’d of the world famous Men’s Club, or Coq d’Or. Eva served as hostess with the Arcade’s elegant Gift Salon.


The Coq d’Or was a gentleman’s bar for gentlemen only. Local men of prestige, renown, and wealth, or men of equal stature from out of town.


The bar’s appointments were, indisputably, the very finest in any hotel between Chicago and New York City to the east, or San Francisco to the west.


* Hand-carved, imported black walnut front door, entered from the hotel’s marble corridor.

* Rich marble and dark walnut foyer entry.

* Finely polished ceiling-to-floor paneling.

* Small collection of original oil paintings by masters.

* Custom-made tables, chairs and bar stools.

* Sparkling, gold-edged mirror behind the curved bar.

* Velvety plush deep crimson carpeting,

* Philharmonic-quality music system.


Many of the harvested woods had been hand selected by The Drake’s eminent architect Benjamin Howard Marshall and co-founders and brothers, John P. Drake and Tracy Corey Drake.


Ewauld seemed to know every visitor by name. On sight. Without introduction. Instinctively, he knew what to say to each man, and how to say it. He knew much about each man that visited the Coq d’Or. He knew how to respect them, and protect their privacy. (This was before Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)


He ensured that the Coq d’Or, at all times, represented The Drake at its best. In kind, the owners of the international hotel treated Ewauld with the utmost of respect and appreciation. (Including financially.)


Ewauld had the kind of personality that made everyone feel welcome, respected and relaxed.


Ewauld was a man of short stature. His distinguished wavy silver hair nearly as famous s the hotel that he served. His uniform: Impeccably-fitting black or dark blue pin-stripe suits, white pleated dress shirts, matching or deep-red silk ties. And, black dress shoes that shone!On occasion, he wore a European-cut tuxedo suit, but never a dinner jacket.


Eva served as hostess and manager of the Gift Salon in the Arcade. Its elegant amenities featured:


* White and white-gold marble-veined floor.

* Glass cased, lined in red or ivory velvet.

* Gold damask-upholstered settees, and carved arm chairs, imported from Paris.

* Crystal chandeliers that lent a soft glow, that complemented the fine jewelry sold there, and the fine ladies that shopped there.

* Dainty china tea cups, and elegant tea service.

* Red, Velvet-lined gold gift boxes, and white-gold satin ribbons bearing The Drake emblem.


Every aspect of the Gift Salon’s operations was handled by Eva, personally. Displays, items sold, pricing, “client services,” boxing and wrapping of purchases, Salon’s stationery design, hand-written “Thank you” notes to clients, etc.


Her business mind was sharp, and almost photographic. Her personality: warm, friendly, “endearing.” She possessed a subtle wit, her eyes always sparkling with glee. She knew how to treat fine ladies, because she was one.


Like Ewauld, Eva was short. Petite and elegant, in a country-manor way. She wore her silver-blonde hair short, with soft waves around her delicate face. She dressed in tasteful, one or two-piece dresses, or finely tailored suits. Fine fabrics, soft and basic hues. Two-inch pumps, always in a neutral shade. One strand opearls, or a simple gold necklace around her neck, matching ear rings, a ladies Bulova watch, and her gold wedding ring.


One of the Meitzner’s “perks” was their upstairs apartment at The Drake. An apartment that set unused, except during the busy holiday season at the hotel, and in very inclement weather. Days off- always taken together – were enjoyed at their cozy apartment on North Lincoln Avenue. Vacations were spent at their cottage on Lake Geneva, north of Chicago. A place as cozy as The Drake was elegant.


Ewauld and Eva never had children. Ewauld and Eva took my mother under their wing, when she worked part-time at The Drake. A design student and alone, she appreciated the watchful eye of the Meitzners, and other regular staff members.


A Surprise from The Meitzners


In May of 2015, my mother received a custom-made carton, bearing a shipping label with The Drake’s newer logo. Inside were two small wooden boxes, each bearing The Drake’s original emblem design. Both hand-carved, each box had brass hinges and a brass lock and key. Each box had a brass plate on its lid. One was etched with Ewauld’s name, the other with Eva’s name.


It had been over 50 years since my mother had worked at The Drake. Both Ewauld and Eva had died before 1990. Mom’s last one-on-one communication with anyone at the five-star hotel had been in with the former general manager: Sir Patrick Kane.


Who had sent the little boxes? Someone knew how much Ewauld and Eva still meant to their former co-worker, and “little duckling.” And, cared enough to find her, and make certain that those keepsake boxes were placed in her hands.


Historical Note: The Drake was founded in 1919-1920. In December of 2014, The Drake joined the Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Since 1980, the hotel has been a part of Hilton International.



The Drake is located, off of North Michigan Avenue, at 140 East Walton Place,

Chicago, Illinois. Phone: 1.312.787.2200. Reservations: 1.800.553.7233.


Thank you, everyone, for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

Copyright 2016. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.


Painting In and Dining en Glass

Recently, I sat around a glass-top dining table with five ladies. All were retired, but hardly sitting around nursing their arthritic joints and less than 20/20 vision.


Among the group were three career educators and education writers, a corporate office administrator, a writer/editor/consultant, and me: a painter and decorator.


Each lady present was well-educated, traveled, articulate, and opinionated. Did I mention also that each lady was hilarious!


They’d lived in well-known places like New York City, Manhattan, Village, Bronx; Chicago; Boston, Martha’s Vineyard; New Jersey; Washington, D.C.; Miami Beach, and Fort Lauderdale. They’d lived in less common places, too – eg. the Caribbean, London, Athens, Sicily, Pakistan.


We discussed everything, from writing and publishing fiction…to political and social unrest…to police protection and brutality…to employer-employee law…to gourmet cooking and restaurant eating…to eating healthy, and for fun…to dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons…to auto design and mechanics…to fashion design and men’s clothing styles…to fine art and folk art. (What did I leave out, Ladies?)


We even hit upon interior design, restorations and painting. We even covered how to repair and reinstall front door latches and knobs.


We were supposed to eat at 2 pm. By the time that we enjoyed our Pear Sparkling Water, cheese spreads, and variety of crackers – and got to the table, it was nearly 4 pm.


No problem!  All of us were having a great time! Including the hostess!  Including me, the only person there that was male, and far from retirement age.


Why bring this encounter with the aging up at all?


If you want to take a crash course in a lot of subjects, accept an invitation to dine with a group of your elders.


If you live far away from your own parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. – or they’re deceased – fill in with the elders wherever you are planted!


“Go ahead!  Make their day!”   Go ahead!  Make your day, too!


Postscript: By the way, the family secrets are safe!  If you’re a teen-to-middle aged relative of one of these fine, dynamic women, breathe easy!  Your 21st Century matriarch of the family – mother/grandmother, aunt/great aunt, cousin  – is savvy about protecting your – and her own – privacy!


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Many thanks for visiting “Painting with Bob.”


Painting with “SYMPHONY SAM”

My mother told me recently about “Symphony Sam.” That’s the name she gave the homeless man that played virtuoso-quality music with his violin, in Chicago’s Pedway. And, he handed out free copies of the official Vietnam Veterans of America newspaper.


She met him one morning, in the Pedway between Randolph Street and Michigan Avenue, and S. LaSalle Street. She took the underground walkway, when Chicago’s temperature dropped to the 30s (wind chill factor 20 degrees or lower), and freezing winds bit into one’s cheeks.


“Symphony Sam” was a Vietnam Veteran. He suffered from PTSD, the debilitating effects of Agent Orange, relentless pain from the shrapnel still in his back and legs, and major depression. He always wore “a frayed, dark blue suit” when he played in the Pedway. And, a “subtle smile of absolute acceptance.”


Prior to serving three tours of duty with the U. S. Marines, “Symphony Sam” taught music at Julliard. Also he played Second Violin, part-time, with the New York Philharmonic, and violin in the orchestra of an on-Broadway theatre.




After “Symphony Sam” was released from the military hospital in Japan, he returned to the United States. The only job he could get was painting sublet apartments for a New York City real estate company. He lived with a fellow Vietnam Veteran and his wife, in a small, three bedroom flat.


One Christmas, he ended up on a Greyhound Bus, as it pulled into the main terminal, in downtown Chicago. He told my mother that he never remembered buying a ticket, and getting on that bus.


He said that he checked into a cheap, but clean hotel on Randolph Street. He carried a few clothes in a small suitcase, and his Stradivarius violin. No painting tools.


The hotel’s manager helped “Symphony Sam” get little painting jobs at other small hotels, located in the Loop.


One night, he suffered a severe PTSD episode. He said that he’d been fortunate. All of his previous attacks, in New York and Chicago, had been mild ones. He ended up in Michael Reese Hospital on the South Side.


Since then, he’d been unable to work regularly. When he had enough money to get by, he stayed at that cheap hotel, managed by the friendly Sicilian. Usually, though, he “lived underneath the city…with a few friends…also Vietnam Vets.”


My mother saw “Symphony Sam” for the last time in 1989. The week before Christmas. “He wore a newer, used suit, and a pair of polished black boots,” she told me.


He told her that he had been living back at the hotel. He worked part-time doing repairs and painting for “a list of steady customers.” He called them “small hotel people.”


“Symphony Sam” seemed content,” Mom told me. But, her eyes told me a different story. A major concern of hers, over twenty-five years later.


Did “Symphony Sam” make it? For how long? In 1989, when she saw him last, he was over 55. PTSD and Agent Orange’s lung effects had become less manageable. Several common medical conditions had set in. “His newer suit hung on his frame, always very bony,” my mother recalled. “His eyes an eerie tornado green. . .”


“Florida has ‘Symphony Sams,’ too,” said my mother recently. On “FLASHPOINT,” two Central Florida homeless coalition officials were describing the modern housing facility to be built for the homeless in the area. A plea was made for major capital support from corporations.


What about the “foreclosure-bound” hotel that a church congregation and volunteers converted into studio efficiencies for the local homeless? (“Painting It: A Multi-Family ‘Home for the Homeless,” posted December 11-12, 2014.)


What about the abandoned mansion, turned into a transitional residence for the homeless? (Watch for: “Painting It: Existing Home for the Homeless,” to be posted December 23-24.)


What about “Symphony Sam?”


“I would offer these people a much quicker solution.” I told relatives during Thanksgiving.


“Constructing a new structure – a large transitional housing facility, for millions of dollars – could take a couple of years,” I explained. “The groups involved in the Central Florida project – facility – haven’t even selected the land yet.”


Here’s one proposal to help people like “Symphony Sam” have a safe, clean home – and a chance at a better life.


  1. Rescue a few smaller hotels and motels along U. S. Highway 192. The ones plagued by low occupancy rates, disrepair and damage, and the threat of foreclosure.
  2. Repair them. Reconfigure their rooms and public areas. Set up a central dining area for the homeless residents.
  3. Recruit homeless persons, who once worked as skilled construction workers. Put them to work. They can help in making certain repairs and reconfiguring the rooms and common (public) areas. Give them a chance to regain some of their dignity. Their basic skills, like riding a bike or typing, will come back to them.
  4. Offer these workers future housing there, when the property opens for occupancy.
  5. Give the homeless residents a good reason to take care of their respective room, and the overall property.
  6. Keep the housing as simple and practical as possible. Recycle whatever furniture, desks, fixtures, appliances, window treatments, kitchen ware, dishes, etc. that are in good condition. Repaint, re-stain and refinish all surfaces.


By the way, expensive wallcoverings, flooring, furniture, and state-of-the-art systems are unnecessary. Research and reports about homeless shelter accommodations show that “pricier” amenities tend to make persons just off the streets nervous, self-conscious, apprehensive, distrustful, and even ill.


Every community has a “Symphony Sam.” A person who still possesses the skills and abilities, the passion, and the interest to give back! To get off the street! To once again become a more productive part of the universe.


Every community has do-able options to meet the dire housing needs of the homeless. Every community has at least one existing multi-unit property, that can be converted in a time-cost-manpower efficient manner.


Our local hotel GMs and their staffs can do only so much. They can help only so much. Their resources are very limited. Their ability to use their properties – which they do not own – is very, very limited.


What needs to happen to provide safe and clean housing for the “Symphony Sams” in our respective communities? To get this job done sooner than two to three years after they become statistics?


Local entities such as the Central Florida Coalition on Homeless and Central Florida Foundation ( are proactive, and motivated.


Special projects such as the “Reconstruction of Housing for the Homeless in America Project” focus on providing safe housing promptly.


Professional and trade projects like the AIA’s new redesign/rebuild internship project tap young talent. Among other things, they offer fresh, new approaches to “reconfiguring and retrofitting” solid existing structures into great multi-occupancy housing.


What is your community doing to get your homeless adults and children, into safe and clean housing?


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“Best wishes for a healthy, safe and peaceful holiday season – and Year 2015.”


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Thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”



Painting It: Chaotic Office with a Million Dollar View

The office overlooked South Michigan Avenue and Lake Michigan. It was located on the fourteenth floor of the historic sixteen-floor Conservatory of Music Building. And, it came as part of the package agreement for the woman to manage the literary services division of Cosmopolitan Translation Bureau (CTB).

At first glance, it appeared that the view was the space’s only asset. The 15-foot by 42-foot open space featured very tall, unobstructed windows; a 15-foot high, discolored white ceiling; faded light green walls; chipped wood molding and wainscoting; and, badly scuffed green asbestos tiled flooring.

Discarded, outdated office furniture crammed the space. Every piece showed signs of extreme wear. Bulky steel, also antique wood, desks, chairs, file cabinets, and bookcases. Hidden behind and under some of the clutter were two leather sofas, fireside chairs, and two large upholstered arm chairs.

Before the work could start, the space had to be emptied. Most of the furniture was sold, or donated to smaller tenants on other floors of the building. Also, the building’s janitorial crew went in and thoroughly swept, cleaned and mopped the floor to get rid of built-up dust, dirt, sticky substances, etc.


PAINTING IT: CTB’s founder Professor Steen hired my father to re-paint the space. Four Saturdays, he drove into the Loop. He supervised the painting and decorating of the office. It turned into a modified restoration.

My father’s “crew” consisted of (1) Armando, CTB’s senior translator and an Encyclopaedia Britannica consultant; (2) Ed, CTB’s resident security officer and delivery/pick-up person; and, (3) me, the “go-for.” (I was ten.)

The project was divided into four Saturdays, and ten phases. Each work day ended with a clean-up of the area. All products, supplies, tools, etc., that would not be used again on the project, were packed up, and removed from the space.




  1. AM. Cleaning and washing: Ceiling, walls; doors, windows, frames, sills; molding, wainscoting, dado, baseboard; fixtures.

Products used: Degreaser in warm sudsy water; vinegar in warm clear water.


  1. PM. Prep work: Spot patching, caulking, filling; two light, gentle sandings.

Products used: Restoration fillers, shellac stopping (eg. wax fillers), animal glue (for wood repairs), extra fine sandpaper (320 grit to 400 grit).


* End-of-day Clean-up. During the following week, the building’s janitorial crew went into the work area. They vacuumed, then mopped the tile floor again.




  1. AM. Priming: All surfaces, previously painted.

Products used: Painted surfaces – custom-composition, thinned paint blend, developed by my father. Note: In the paint can, the product looked nearly clear. It went on like a white watercolor. By the way, commercial products were too costly.


  1. PM. Staining/sealing: Wood doors and frames, window frames and sills.

Product used: Special stain (formulated in 1887) used for furniture restoration; also large or built-in wood amenities. My father “thinned” the product using a formulation used by restorers with the Museum of Natural History.

Color: Edgewood Walnut.


* End-of-Day Clean-Up. Then, area was sealed off till Saturday 3.




  1. AM. Light sanding and buffing: All surfaces, except ceiling.

Product used: Sheets of finest grades sandpaper (gotten through friend at Museum of Natural History), attached to sanding block on extension poles. Note: Very labor intensive; required very controlled light touch.


  1. AM. Surface dusting: All surfaces and areas.

Product used: Clean, very soft cotton t-shirt fabric. (My mother purchased a bolt from fabric store.)


  1. PM. Finish painting: Ceiling, walls.

Products used: Ceilings – Antique white; walls – Mint green.


* End-of-Day Clean-Up. Then, area was sealed off till Saturday 4.




  1. AM. Finish painting: All molding, trims, wainscoting, dado, baseboard.

Products used: Sherwin Williams Antique white, special blend, semi-gloss; artists brushes, ½ to 2-inch brushes.


  1. PM. Finishing varnishing: Doors, frames; window frames, sills.

Products used: Clear, low-gloss varnish; polishing mop (brushes).


  1. PM. Painting and decorating clean-up.

Much of the clean-up had been done on Saturdays 1, 2 and 3 after each work day. Still, the final clean-up took time – and special care.


The varnish was still drying. And, some of the trim paint was “sticky.” So, we had to watch that we didn’t kick up any particles (eg. dust), or touch any of those wet surfaces.


On-site tool and equipment cleaning was kept to a minimum. Used paint and varnish brushes were wiped off with clean cotton rags. Then, they were placed into their respective wet-solution carriers. Paint and varnish cans were wiped clean, and sealed tightly. Materials, supplies, tools, and equipment were packed up, and placed on carts in the hallway. Dropcloths were folded carefully and also put onto the carts.


One week later: Moving Day!


The following Friday, A&S’s managing editor moved into the office space. Already in place were the furniture pieces that had been rejuvenated or restored by the furniture crew.


The pieces included one leather sofa (forest green), one arm chair (dark green slipcover with white piping), both leather fireside chairs (black), three wood desks with pull-out typewriter shelves (mahogany-stained oak), three swivel office chairs (repaired by Ed), two smaller bookcases (mahogany finish), two floor lamps (circa 1950s), and, two table lamps (one of them a Tiffany, retrieved from an unused office next door).


Two faded 12-foot by 12-foot oriental area rugs appeared one week later. Professor Steen sent Ed out to purchase a solid area rug (dark green) for the narrower entry area. Ed donated a wood-trimmed upholstered settee from his apartment on the 16th floor.


Over seven years later: Law firm moves in!


The space kept its restored look for over seven years. At one point, Professor Steen sub-leased the space to a young law firm. By that time, he needed to retire. And, A&S had been merged into a full-service communications firm, located two blocks north.


The law partners turned the space into a modular-type office suite. They maintained the restored ceiling, walls and trim. Plush wall-to-wall carpeting – a soft blue-green – was laid throughout the space. Then, they used a custom, wood-grained paneling wall system to create four lawyer’s offices – two with that Lake Michigan view. A secretary’s office and front reception set near the front entry.


The “million dollar view” from those tall, tall windows was preserved. The open window treatments featured dark green velvet tie-back drapes, with matching cornices and tie-backs.


Final note: Eventually, the building owners (Conservatory’s board) invested in the total restoration of the historic property.


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This blog is dedicated to my father – and to the historic Conservatory of Music building, South Michigan Avenue, Chicago.

Thanks, everyone, for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

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