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Posts tagged ‘Chicago’

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.

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

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

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!

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

Copyright 2017. 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.


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: Painting in Office Ingenuity, Inspiration and Integrity

What office style and environment motivates and inspires you?

Before we worked in modular work stations, we functioned within offices. Rooms with visible walls, soundproof ceilings and windows with views. Spaces that accommodated real wood desks and bookcases, and allowed them to be rearranged when we wanted or needed a change. Environments with a sense of atmosphere, individuality, privacy, and permanence.

The private office settings described here existed prior to 1993. Three of them set in office complexes, that included modular work stations. Each of the spaces had been personalized with photos, drawings, cartoon drawings, travel souvenirs, vases of flowers, candy containers, etc.


1. Whimsical and Productive

The director of production, Kiver Communications, sat in a custom-designed pink and white office. Hard-core corporate clients melted when they entered. Every year, the employee helped her technical publishing company exceed its sales record of the previous year.

Two features stood out in her office. One was the thick, cotton-candy pink carpeting. The other was a huge white rocker in which sat a life-sized Miss Piggy.™ A custom-made gift from Anita’s boyfriend. He had gotten special permission from Muppets’™ creator, Jim Henson, to have Piggy re-created.

Painting it: Regularly, a staff painter cleaned, then touched up the office. Every two years, he gave the two-room suite a fresh paint job. The 12-foot high ceiling was sponge-washed, then re-textured in bright white interior enamel. The walls got a fresh coat of light pink interior latex. The baseboards, doors, and door and window frames were sanded lightly, and repainted with interior bright white enamel.


2. Subdued and Professional

The founder and ceo of SHS, Inc., a health industry recruiting firm, watched from his blue-gray office, as boats cruised by on the Chicago River. Sports memorabilia and framed photos of his young family added personality and warmth to the large modern suite on West Wacker Drive.

Few of his pharmaceutical and health communications clients visited him in the office. The persons that he was recognized for recruiting – marketing, advertising, communications, and public relations job candidates – visited his office only when necessary, and convenient. The atmosphere was always welcoming and friendly, yet very professional.

Painting it: Painters, employed by the property management company, maintained the high-rise office building. As needed, they touched up the walls, woodwork, and trim. Especially in the front lobby and offices. Every three years, they repainted the high white ceilings, and soft blue-gray molding and trim. The commercial wall vinyl required only a periodic washing down with warm, sudsy water and a sea sponge.

My sister visited the office once during a school vacation. She seemed more excited about the recruiting professionals and “creatives” that she met there. Less impressed by the expansive size of the suite, and its contemporary décor.


3. Corporate and “Welcoming”

The director of sales, Marriott of North Michigan Avenue, seemed relaxed in his office appointed with classic soft gold, burnt orange and brown paint, and matching commercial wall vinyl. Photos of family, favorite vacations and hobbies set in his area of the sales suite.

Among them were framed newspaper and magazine clippings of his sister at Academy Award and TV Emmy events. (Already, she was a rising star.) At times, he shared his two-door, “Grand Central Station”- atmospheric office with sales associates. All seemed comfortable working amidst their director’s photo gallery. They had their own desktop personal photo and memorabilia displays.

Painting it: One of the hotel’s full-time staff painters kept the office suite in pristine condition. The commercial wallcovering, that had replaced the semi-gloss paint, always looked fresh, clean and uplifting. Quite a feat for one of the busiest offices on the hotel property.


4. Opulent and Ostentatious

In complete contrast, Mr. Kutner sat behind his imported, hand-carved antique desk on the top floor of the original Continental Bank Building. The colorful, and most-published, international attorney was the author of “The Living Will,” and “granddaddy” of the World Habeas Corpus Law.

He surrounded himself with black walnut paneled walls, plush crimson red carpeting, matching red velvet draperies, and marble fireplaces. His open lobby was appointed with polished black and white marble floors and carved walnut “courtroom” banisters and railings. Ornate bust sculptures of Aristotle, Plato, Strauss, and Beethoven set on marble-topped, hand-carved pedestal tables. The door to his nearby private vault set open when he was in the office.

Painting it: Once a year, two commercial painters and decorators, contracted by Continental Bank, revived the entire 4-office suite, lobby and private baths. They repainted the 12-foot white ceilings. Above the wall paneling, they painted the crown area in a softened crimson. They cleaned the stained glass windows in each office. They gently cleaned and linseed-oil treated the paneling, doors, window frames, woodwork, and trim. Also, the desks, lawyer’s bookcases, tall hand-carved Romanesque chairs, and carved frame of the cut-velvet settees were revived.

A retired painter that worked on the picturesque property called it “classic luxury.” He said the office suite maintained its original beauty and style. “The same as when Mr. Kutner still served as chief counsel for Continental Bank… He had many famous clients…”


5. Extravagant and Colossal

Real estate magnet Arthur Rubloff set a gold standard in extravagant office design. His “taste for the best” in everything carried over into the concept of first-class designs in executive offices.

Often, these offices took over one-half to an entire penthouse-level floor. Their private lobbies and elevators were decorated in paneling crafted from rare, imported woods, or wallcoverings. The wallcoverings were custom-designed papers, flocks, foils, textures, woods, or expansive, scenic murals. The brick, stone, steel, and glass/granite structures often housed a major real estate corporation and its staff. Fortune and Inc 500 companies took up most of the space.

Painting it: A specially-trained team of painters kept the Rubloff office suites, at each location, looking like prime real estate. The decorators re-coated the  accoustical textured ceilings. They cleaned, repaired and replaced the wallcoverings. They cleaned and treated the wood paneling with a special-formulated oil from Europe. They redecorated the lobbies, executive secretaries’ offices, and also private bath suites. They restored the interiors of each elevator.

The painters and decorators paid special attention to the unique cabinetry in each suite. It had been built to house a part of Mr. Rubloff’s world-famous collections of miniatures and crystal paperweights. (See Chicago History Museum and School of the Art Institute exhibits.)


The environments of closed-wall office spaces always differ from the open-walled ones. Aesthetically, they tend to be much more personalized, private and cordial. Physically, they lend themselves better to open communications. Even with their private entry doors left wide open.

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Enjoy your space! Enjoy your life!  Thanks for visiting “Painting with Bob.”

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