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The Pianist, The Painter, The Singer, The Statesman

Periodically, my mother’s interior design class toured Chicago area properties.

On one, day-long tour, they visited three luxury homes that set on Evanston’s high bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan.

One home featured fine examples of classic contemporary design: simple lines, solid colors, smooth finishes, subtle textures, geometric patterns, and sleek woods, tiles, glass, and chrome.

From its trimly landscaped and broadly sweeping circle driveway, to the double set of solid red lacquer front doors, to the nine-foot main hallway that trailed through the house, to the four glass doors at the rear, that overlooked the lake.

The sprawling, one-story structure suited its owners: a concert pianist and conductor, and his wife, an artist and author.

The music room stood out. Its two most striking amenities: the magnificent black lacquer Steinway concert piano and the 12-inch square, black and white marble tiles that covered the floor.

Features also included the following:

1. dome ceiling with a huge globular skylight;
2. solid black marble fireplace;
3. two walls lined with white-enameled bookcases, stuffed with books, bound volumes of sheet music, also wood and ivory artifacts;
4. couches and easy chairs upholstered in matching white-on-white striped damask.

All of the other sixteen rooms featured equally elegant, yet comfortable appointments. It was a home that clearly represented the personalities of the owners, and met their needs perfectly.

Shortly before the design school students’ visit, the owners had decided to retire in that house. And, they’d put their South Florida home up for sale.

Nearly twenty years after touring that home, my mother was led into the luxury apartment of a former opera star, Adeline Arrigo. Interestingly, she had performed with the concert pianist on philharmonic stages throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

Madame Arrigo resided on the second story of a red brick, three-story walk-up built in the early 1900s by her husband’s Sicilian family. The South Racine Avenue building, located on the southeast side of Chicago, set across the street from University of Illinois’s Chicago campus. And, the three-story building had five large apartments – all occupied by “Arrigos.”

The focal points of the two bedroom apartment were the portraits of Adeline and her husband, the late Victor Arrigo. On every wall, every shelf and every table top were representations of the owners famous lives. Adeline, the opera star. Victor, the Illinois statesman that drafted, then championed the Federal Fair Credit and Collection Act. (Note: A stronger version of the law is in effect today.)

The traditional apartment also featured:

1. 12-foot high, white-sponged stucco ceilings;
2. white plaster, also deep red painted, walls;
3. tall wood-paned windows in each of the eight rooms;
4. white marble, wood-burning fireplaces in three rooms;
5. crystal chandeliers;
6. lustrous hardwood floors; and,
7. large oriental area rugs depicting eighteenth century country scenes.

The apartment was appointed with elegant, yet comfortable seating in every room. In the living room: deep red velvet-upholstered sofas, and black leather fireside chairs. In the bedrooms: European-designed settees and chairs, covered in deeper pink or soft rose moiré. Plush velvet upholstery covered the dining room chairs. And hand-sewn satin, moiré, and crushed velvet pillows set on every piece of seating.

The two distinctive period homes – the sprawling contemporary house of the 1960s-1970s, and the large traditional apartment of the 1940s-1950s – provided a very similar peak into elegant yet understated living. In their respective spaces, the owners and residents had created environments that supported their need for creative thought, good taste, peace and contentment. All had surrounded themselves with meaningful symbols of who they were as persons. And, what they represented.

The Chicago area featured many architectural and design masterpieces. I never had the privilege to visit the residences described above. Yet, I have had the opportunity to work on many similar homes. In doing so, the greatest pleasure has been in meeting the unique persons that have lived there.

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Fine design deserves to be preserved with the hand of a fine painter-craftsperson.
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Thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

Copyright 2017. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

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Four Unusual Guest Rooms in Un-ordinary Locations

1. FOCAL POINT: Red iridescent 1967 Mustang life-size mural. Air-brushed and hand-painted on 42-foot north wall.

Lodging type: Private inn with 8 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms.
Structure: Former Amish farm house.
Location: Northeast Indiana.
Room’s description: Third floor attic suite. Dimensions: 24-feet wide by 42 feet long.
Light source: Two dormers on front and back sides, one on each end.
Floor: Smooth-planed, tongue and groove hardwood. Note: more than 130 years old.
Walls: Drywall. Finish: White Snowfall, Color No. SW 6000 semi-gloss latex.
Ceiling: Drywall. Finish: Two layers of clear faux glaze over white flat base coat.
Paint products manufacturers: Sherwin-Williams; also Liquitex Acrylic Artist Paints.

2. FOCAL POINT: Panoramic re-creation of rare books reading room in Newberry Collectors Library, Chicago. Custom wallpaper mural wraps around 32-feet north and 22-feet east walls.

Lodging type: Hostel catering to travelers ages 60 and over; 8 bedrooms, each sleeping 7-8.
Structure: Abandoned industrial warehouse.
Location: West side of Chicago.
Room’s description: Second floor. Dimensions: 32-feet by 22-feet.
Light sources: 4 large, 18-paned steel-framed swing-hinged windows.
Floors: Wall-to-wall commercial grade carpeting over hardwood. Pattern: Salt-n-Pepper-neutrals.
Walls: 3 – Bare concrete block, smooth floated. Finish: Stain: Softer Tan, Color no. SW 6141.
Mural wall: Drywall installed, then white latex base coat rolled on two weeks before mural hung.
Ceiling: Dropped 18-inch frosted tiles, grid frames.
Furniture: Twin-sized bed foundations made from shortened oblong library tables; small reading tables became bedside/night stands.
Paint products manufacturer: H&C/S-W (concrete block walls); Drywall base coat.

Personal note: At age twelve, I visited the Newberry Library for the first time. Six years younger than the required minimum age of eighteen. I filled out a form requesting a book to read, I was seated at a table. A library concierge brought the volume, and placed it on a small table-top easel in front of me. She showed me how to turn the pages by using a special wand with felt tips. Note: All works had to be read there.

3. FOCAL POINT: Two Brown bear cubs in Wisconsin north woods scene. Life-size mural covers 24-feet long wall.

Lodging Type: Extended-stay family motel, that accommodates traumatic brain injured children.
Structure: Former two-story elementary school.
Location: North Appalachian Mountains.
Room description: First floor. Dimensions: 24-feet by 32-feet, part of 3-room suite plus bath.
Light source: Skylights.
Floors: Wall-to-wall commercial carpeting. Pattern: Houndstooth. Colors: Med-to-forest greens.
Walls: Smooth-floated plaster. Three walls painted Emerald Line: Cotton White, Color no: SW 7104, tinted with Byte Blue, Color no. SW 6498.
Ceilings: Dropped white pearl frosted acoustical tile squares set into flat white grid frames.
Paint product manufacturers: Sherwin-Williams; Liquitex Acrylic Artist Paints.

The Process: I installed the custom woodland mural onto the 18-feet by 32-feet wall facing south. Then I hand-painted and air-brushed both cubs into the foreground, using the designer’s template. By the way, the woods scene was a reproduction of a photo taken by the property owner. He was a freelance nature photographer for The National Geographic Society.

4. FOCAL POINT: View from the top of Jack’s Beanstalk. Hand and air-brush painted.

Lodging type: City inn.
Structure: Former 23-room luxury apartment.
Location: West Central Park, New York City
Room Dimensions: 15-feet by 26 feet
Light source: 2 tall adjacent windows overlooking the park.
Walls: Drywall. Painted white semi-gloss latex base coat; then two layers of faux stippling glaze: 1 part White Mint, color no: SW 6441, 3 parts Cotton White, color no. SW 7104, semi-gloss latex.
Ceilings: Popcorn texture, pin-dot effect. Paint: Cotton White, color no. SW 7104.
Paint products manufacturers: Behr’s; Grumbacher Acrylic Artist Paints.

The Process: A graphic designer sketched the Jack’s Beanstalk design on paper first. Then, a projector shot the image onto the wall. The same designer used colored chalk pencils to “trace” that image. Next, she used an air-brush spray system to paint the design. The painted mural was allowed to dry and settle for two days. Last, the artist sprayed on a fine coat of clear glaze mist.
THE EFFECT: Like looking through the clouds.
Paint products manufacturers: Glidden’s; Liquitex Low-Gloss acrylics.

Most painters and decorators envision the unusual and unique projects they’d like to have a hand in creating.

A Few Tips for Getting Started in Design-Mural Painting

1. Explore these outlets during your off days, and hours.
2. Decide which type of creative project really interests you.
3. Practice the special techniques required. If you can afford it, take a high-rated class at your local art school. Opt for a professional artist-instructor. Check out background, credits, awards.
4. Study recognized designers-muralists. Their backgrounds, styles, methods, paint selections.
5. To start out, you may want to work under an experienced creative painter/artist on one of his or her projects. Recommended: Help on your off time. Keep the day job.
6. When ready to “solo,” work on these special projects on the side. Start with simpler designs.
7. Leave your regular painting job behind only if and when you have a solid potential client and project base established. And, if and when you want to make that career change.

My view: Hand-painted murals are a gift to the surface… the atmosphere… the viewer!

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Thanks for being here on this planet. And, thanks for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

Copyright 2017. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

Getting Unemployed Properties “Back to Work” – Part 1

One of my mother’s established clients, and two of his friends, purchased shut-down school properties. Then, the men transformed them into facilities needed in their respective communities.

 

A few examples…

 

  1. A one-story elementary school, near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, was turned into a summer camp for boys and girls from low-income families.

 

  1. A one-story elementary school in northeastern Illinois was remodeled, then licensed as a community-owned and operated nursing home and rehabilitation center.

 

  1. A small, two-story high school, in the Chicago area, was reconfigured to serve as the new home for an overcrowded orphanage.

 

During a twenty-year span, the three entrepreneurs saved over fifty abandoned structures from demolition. In every instance, their goal was to put the property to good use in its local community.

 

For every remodeling project, local people were employed to do the work.

 

  1. A large advance crew cleared out and cleaned up the property, before any other work could proceed.

 

  1. A general contractor handled the rest of the project. That included the employment of the different types of skilled trade and craft persons needed to pull off that particular type of project.

 

The abandoned properties shared many problems.

 

  1. The buildings had been closed up at least two years, usually over three.
  2. The seasonal elements – rain, snow, ice, wind, heat, mold and mildew, etc. – had taken their toll on both the interiors and exteriors of the building(s), also the land.
  3. Sand, wild plants, wild creatures, pests of all sorts, etc. had taken up residence – and in the most unbelievable of areas/spaces.
  4. Woods had warped, rotted, cracked, and separated.
  5. Paint had chipped, faded, crackled,  and washed off many, if not all, surfaces.
  6. Wood stain had paled and turned a greenish black, or black.
  7. Varnishes had cracked and turned ugly shades of grey, or weird shades of red or yellow.
  8. Commercial grade wallcoverings had separated from their backings, and/or peeled from the walls. Then, stuck to the floors.
  9. Exterior metalwork, rails, fencing, doors, windows, frames, etc. had been beaten severely by the weather, and years of neglect. Some of it before the property had been closed down.

 

Working on any of the projects was not an painter’s idea of a dream job. Well, not for most. Even when the pay scale was high, and his or her contractor-boss was likeable, fair and accountable.

 

In July, a retired commercial painter e-mailed that he’d worked on several properties purchased by Jerry’s group.

 

“I was a moderately skilled painter on my first project done for them. I needed the job. Jerry said he saw my drive and potential. By the time we finished that first school, I’d used every skill I’d learned in apprentice school. And, I worked into a steady job, helping to save abandoned small schools, hospitals, motels, etc. Gratifying work if you can fit into it!”

 

I never knew the inventor-entrepreneur that led the small group of property benefactors. He wore many hats.

 

But, his worn coverall appearance, and laid-back, no-nonsense approach to nearly everything that he did was legendary. And, respected. Even among the infamous street gangs – eg. Hell’s Angels – that terrorized and paralyzed older neighborhoods on the northwest, west, and southwest sides of Chicago.

 

Saving shut-down and abandoned properties has become popular, as the “GO GREEN” philosophy and approach grows in North America. And, around the globe.

 

Each of us, including painters, has a role in preserving and protecting the natural resources we have. In  restoring, reviving and revitalizing properties and buildings that already exist. Especially when they are restorable or revivable.

 

Welcome any opportunity to do what you can. One of those opportunities is to repair-renovate-restore-rejuvinate-retrofit-re-use our buildings. And, the lands upon which they set.

 

Read Part 2: Painting Them: Getting Unemployed Properties “Back-to-Work.”

 

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A painter is as entrepreneurial and innovative as the next person – including in the reviving and revitalizing of existing man-made resources.

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Thanks, everyone, for doing your part to make this world better for others.

And, thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

 

Copyright 2015. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved

Painting It: The Dresser!

You probably see your dresser every morning. “What am I going to wear?”

 

Does it appeal to you as much as the items in it? Or, does it leave a dull impression every time you are around it? Or think about it?

 

Over a course of years, your dresser may have lost its allure also. This can be fixed easily.

 

By washing, sanding and painting, your worn out-looking dresser can appear like new. Spend a few dollars. Apply a lot of elbow grease. And, it can become a major attraction in your home.

 

Follow these steps. And, you’ll be on your way.

 

1. Find a place you can work.

A. Select a place with good ventilation.

B. Lay a drop cloth or some plastic sheeting on the floor.

C. Place your dresser on top.

D. Also, place blocks of wood underneath, so the piece doesn’t rest directly on the floor.

 

2. Take a screwdriver and remove all hardware – eg. handles and knobs.

A. Wood: Clean gently with mild soap and warm water.

B. Metal: Clean gently with mild soap or baking soda and warm water. Polish with metal polish.

C. Brass: Clean gently with mild soap or baking soda and warm water. Polish with brass polish.

 

3. Wash the surfaces of the dresser.

A. Use a sponge, cleaning brushes, and a suitable detergent.

B. Pay special attention to drawer edges, molding and crevices on drawer faces.

C. Rinse with warm water.

D. Let air dry; or force dry with heat gun or hair dryer.

 

4. Sand entire surface.

A. Use #220 sand paper or sanding block.

B. Fill imperfections with wood filler.

C. Let dry.

D. Then, sand smooth.

 

5. Wipe the entire surface down.

A. Use a tack cloth to remove any dust residue.

 

6. Apply a thin coating of primer to the whole surface.

A. Use a brush, and a low nap roller cover, three-sixteenth.

B. Or apply by spray painting.

C. Using spray cans may render a very fine job – whether you’re a painter or consumer.

D. Conventional spray or HVLP equipment is recommended, and generally used, by professional painters. Consumers that do a lot of painting, including furniture refinishing, also rely on spray equipment to get the job done.

 

7. Lightly sand surface once more, when the primer has dried thoroughly.

A. Use #220 sandpaper or #400 wet sand until surface is smooth.

B. Wipe down with tack cloth.

 

8. Apply the finish (top) coat using same method as in step 6.

A. A hard enamel or oil finish is desired.

B. I have found that an automotive grade acrylic enamel works quite well, also.

Note: It is highly durable and has superior color retention and wash ability. It does cost a little more than conventional paint.

 

9. Let the dresser’s new finish dry completely. A full 24 hours is ideal.

 

10. Re-install your hardware. Slide in the drawers and you’re all set.

A. Your dresser will look as good as your clothes inside it.

B. New-style tip: Change the hardware: Hinges, knobs, drawer pulls, etc.

 

A THINK TWICE TIP: Is your dresser an antique? 

  1. Carefully and gently clean with a soft cloth.
  2. Repair only the necessary parts of it.
  3. Gently rub linseed oil into all wood surfaces. Apply with the grain.
  4. Do not paint unless the piece has lost all of its value.
  5. CAREFUL! Most antique pieces of furniture maintain, even increase, in worth because of their signs of age, and their imperfections.

 

Want to perfect your skills even more? Or, do you want to try a similar creative project?

Maybe, your child’s dresser needs a facelift, too.
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DRESS YOUR DRESSER FOR SUCCESS!
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Have a great day!  And, thank you for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

 

Copyright 2015. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

Painting It: “627” Bathroom

Some persons are so creative, that it flows into every area of their lives. Even to the most unchangeable things. Where nothing could be done to improve it. Or, so it may seem to you, or I.

 

In one quiet week-end, one of these creatives turned what was once a small, service station bathroom into a comedic conversation piece. And, a great place to hide!

 

Room: Utility bathroom.

Overall dimensions: 8 ft. length by 6 ft. wide by 8 ft. height.

Features: Solid knotty pine paneled wall (30-inches length); 26-inch sink vanity cubicle, built-in corner shower stall, lavatory cubicle, knotty pine paneling built-in wall.

Basic construction: Concrete block walls, and shower stall walls, poured concrete floor, drywall ceiling.

Post-construction upgrade: Pink and White, alternate set, 3-inch tiles glazed ceramic over: vanity wall, shower stall walls (inside/outside) and entry, also room’s floor; pink and white, alternate set, frosted ceramic mini-tiles on shower stall floor. Knotty pine paneled wall (8-ft length): built-in lounge seat (36-inches), 2-30 inch one-half closets, overhead blanket cupboard.

 

PREP WORK

 

1. Removed all door knobs and movable fixtures.

2. Gently washed all knotty pine paneled areas, baseboard, built-in mirror frame; also entry door.

3. Once dried, sanded above surfaces with No. 220 sandpaper.

4. Thoroughly dusted all surfaces with clean, soft cloths.

 

SURFACE APPLICATIONS

 

5. Brushed and rolled thin coat of red semi-gloss interior enamel (Gliddens) on all knotty pine surfaces.

6. Once dried, lightly sanded wall surfaces and door. Re-dusted all areas with clean, soft cloths.

7. Glued over twenty, 6-inch by 8-inch black and white newsprints of British ZIGGY cartoons on paneled walls and door interior.

8. Areas were left to dry.

9. Carefully brushed thin coat of clear gloss varnish, slightly tinted with same red paint coloring used in thin first coat application.

 

SOME POPULAR, AFFORDABLE DECORATING OPTIONS FOR AN OLD BATHROOM

 

1. Stenciling – Graphic shapes, large letters, silhouettes, on the ugliest wall.

TIP: First, lightly sand with No. 220 sandpaper. Then, brush on a fresh coat of paint. Examples: white, off-white, or white ivory interior latex. (Or acrylic latex).

2. Sponge random pattern onto that same painted wall and baseboard.

TIP: Add 1-2 drops of acrylic paint – a favorite color – to one-half gallon of the white base paint.

3. Do the reverse: First paint the entire wall, or half wall, with the tinted paint.

TIP: Then, mark one horizontal line one-half distance between floor and ceiling. Mark a second horizontal line 3-4 inches below that line. Use BLUE masking tape to tape along each line, with one edge of tape on line, other outside of stripe area.

4. Create your own vertical half-wall/board effect.

TO-DO TIP: Use yardstick, or metal tape measure to mark space, horizontally, into 4-to-6 inch vertical “wood” planks.

 

The Homeowner’s True Story…

 

January, 1972— Thirty-five stranded semi-truck drivers enjoyed the cozy and clean accommodations of that colorful bathroom. For nearly three days, they huddled together inside the concrete block house under major reconstruction and expansion.

 

The truckers drank hot, black coffee and ate thinned down, home-made chili or chicken-noodle soup from small Styrofoam cups. They made quick, long-distance calls home, to let their families know they were okay. They leaned against bare wall joists, and dozed off. Totally exhausted, and feeling unsettled.

 

Every hour or so, the truckers bundled back up and braved the miserable weather to check on their diesel-powered rigs. Kept running –in place on U. S. Highway 30 – to prevent the engines from freezing up.

 

Northwest Indiana was a living nightmare for those, and thousands of other, long-haul truckers. The massive ice storm and subzero temperatures had paralyzed the area. Closing all major north and south traffic: I-65, seven miles to the west, and I-149 to the east. Nothing was moving!

 

For over fifteen years after their unplanned visit, semi-drivers whizzed and roared by on U. S. 30. Saying “HI” with their loud TOOT! TOOT! TOOT! They filled the property’s mailbox with cards and notes. They told their own extended stories of the adventure in 1972. Ones they shared with their families and friends.

 

More than one-half of the truckers joked about the little red “cartoon” bathroom. They recalled their favorite cartoons. And, they told the homeowners: “Keep that bathroom just the way it is…Don’t touch it.”

 

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Family friendships are the best! Especially when made, or rekindled, unexpectedly – and/or when especially needed.

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

Copyright 2015. Robert D. Hajtovik. All rights reserved.

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