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.
TAKE A PEEK AT THESE TWO VICTORIAN HOMES, REVIVED WITH FRESH NEW YELLOWS AND BLUES.
“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.
DON’T LEAD ON
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.
PRIME FOR PAINTING
“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.