En­er­getic Ex­te­ri­ors

Victorian Homes - - Contents - By Stephanie Agnes-crockett

Take a peek at these two Vic­to­rian homes, re­vived with fresh new yel­lows and blues.

CHOOS­ING YOUR VIC­TO­RIAN HOME’S EX­TE­RIOR COLOR SCHEME CAN BE A CHAL­LENG­ING PROCESS. YOU WANT TO DIS­TIN­GUISH YOUR HOUSE FROM YOUR NEIGH­BORS’ WHILE ALSO PRE­SERV­ING HIS­TOR­I­CAL HUES. Pete For­tune of For­tune Restoration has been fa­cil­i­tat­ing this choice for 37 years, and took charge of car­pen­try and paint­ing for two Illi­nois Vic­to­ri­ans: a blue Down­ing and a yel­low clas­si­cal. Here’s how they did it.


Pete’s method be­gins with a care­ful paint se­lec­tion process that starts weeks be­fore his team sets foot in the cus­tomer’s home. “Usu­ally, we sign up the cus­tomer six to seven weeks be­fore we start and we im­me­di­ately sam­ple col­ors,” Pete says. “I some­times sam­ple 20-30 col­ors for cus­tomers.” While some cus­tomers may be am­biva­lent at the start of the process, both these home­own­ers had a def­i­nite pref­er­ence from the start of con­sul­ta­tion.


“The peo­ple who buy Vic­to­rian houses take great pride in them, and are look­ing for some­one to come in and re­store them back to their orig­i­nal glory.” —Pete For­tune

For Jess Sher­borne, who owns the blue Down­ing-style home, color se­lec­tion be­gan prior to hir­ing For­tune Restoration. “We worked with a pro­fes­sor at Univer­sity of Michi­gan who spe­cial­izes in his­toric house col­ors, and he gave us a se­ries,” Jess says. He sam­pled paint choices on 4"x 8" planks. “We held them up to our house at dif­fer­ent times of day,” he says. “Neigh­bors would drive by and call out their choices.” Once they had de­cided on the base color, it was time to choose co­or­di­nat­ing col­ors. Jess’s house, which was orig­i­nally gray, black and white, found new life in shades of blue and yel­low.

Pete brings in an in­tri­cate color wheel, fea­tur­ing thou­sands of color choices, which the home­own­ers can sam­ple around their ex­te­rior. “In some cases, the cus­tomer may not like the color once it is ac­tu­ally on the house,” Pete ex­plains. Jess rec­og­nizes the im­por­tance of sam­pling paint choices. “It’s re­ally dif­fer­ent to see how it’s go­ing to look on the house,” he says. “Don’t skimp on it. It’s not very ex­pen­sive, and it doesn’t take very long.” Err on the side of cau­tion, and pull out all the stops for planks. “Color is a huge de­ci­sion, and it is im­por­tant that cus­tomers are happy with their choice,” Pete says.

The com­pany is well equipped to meet sam­pling de­mands. “For­tune Restoration has 35,000 quarts of paint from Ben­jamin Moore,” Pete says. “We go through the process of pick­ing out sid­ing, trim and ac­cents.” He rec­om­mends darker col­ors for the base and lighter col­ors for the trim. Once the home­owner has cho­sen col­ors, Pete be­gins the process of in­te­rior and ex­te­rior paint­ing and ren­o­va­tion.


For­tune Restoration is re­spon­si­ble for in­te­rior and ex­te­rior work, so car­pen­try is a sub­stan­tial com­po­nent in the restoration process. Once the col­ors are in place, Pete scopes out his client’s home. “As a com­pany, we are able to match any ex­ist­ing car­pen­try on the home,” Pete says. “We get up on lad­ders and scour for any car­pen­try prob­lems.” They de­ter­mine what re­place­ments are nec­es­sary in ad­vance. “Peo­ple don’t like sur­prises,” Pete says, “so I find out ev­ery­thing I need to know at the be­gin­ning.” His team seeks out rot­ten wood and re­places it with cedar, a high-quality wood. They bring sam­ples of mold­ings into their own mill shop to re­store the orig­i­nal car­pen­try. Pete’s car­pen­ters also re­move, re­pair and re­place old win­dows.


Af­ter Pete and his car­pen­ters have com­pleted the pre­lim­i­nary car­pen­try, the next step is to prep for paint, but it’s still not time to grab a roller. Pete and his team start out with ex­ten­sive lead work, since old houses tend to have lead paint. Not only does lead paint present a health hazard, but it’s also the ob­ject of le­gal scru­tiny, with strict health codes in place to ensure its safe re­moval. In Illi­nois, the home of For­tune Restoration, con­trac­tors must be li­censed to work with lead paint and its re­moval. So when it comes to re­mov­ing the paint, Pete has to fol­low a strict process, down to re­mov­ing the top­soil sur­round­ing the house, be­cause even dirt is sus­cep­ti­ble to lead con­tam­i­nates.

In ad­di­tion to deal­ing with lead, For­tune Restoration also pre­pares the house by re­mov­ing the old paint and putty. “Our guys ba­si­cally come in space suits,” Pete says. They use san­ders with dust col­lec­tors and fil­ters on the end to get ev­ery­thing clean, level and ready for paint.


“Once the prep work is done, we wash the house out and let it dry,” Pete says. Then it’s time to ap­ply primer. Pete uses Ben­jamin Moore White, an oil-based primer. “If you prime in oil and use a wa­ter-based top­coat, the chem­i­cal opposites at­tract, giv­ing you the best at­trac­tion and seal­ing pos­si­ble,” he says. The bet­ter the seal, the more re­silient the paint.

Once the primer has seeped into the wood, it’s fi­nally time to ap­ply those de­li­cious choice col­ors. Pete and his team take pride in their work and de­light in cus­tomers’ happy faces. The restoration can be a long process, but cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion makes it worth the wait. “I re­ally en­joy mak­ing peo­ple happy,” he says. “When cus­tomers are smiling from ear to ear, that’s when I’m at my hap­pi­est.”

Pete’s method be­gins with a care­ful paint se­lec­tion process that starts weeks be­fore his team sets foot in the cus­tomer’s home.

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