I was on a ladder stripping paint until 9am the morning the painters arrived. I was also on a ladder stripping paint and installing reconstructed woodwork the following day before the painters had finished their prep work and priming. To say that we ran up and until the last-minute is a bit of an understatement. You may remember that the front of the house used to look like this on the day we bought it:
That distinctive triple gable somewhat obscured by its plastic wrapper, but still a strong visual identity for our little house. As I often do, I picked Steve Jordan‘s brain on painters he would recommend to do the job. After receiving several bids and raised eyebrows in the early summer when I proudly told the painters I would be stripping the whole front of the house, we selected Andrew Struble Painting to do the job. Andrew and I graduated from the same high school (although a few years ahead of me) and worked for a well-known and established painting contractor before breaking out on his own in 2014. After delays due to injury and weather, everything started the first week of October. What follows is a photo by photo transformation of the facade…and I apologize in advance for the scrolling!
Leading up to the painting, Kit and I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out our color scheme.We limited ourselves to the Colonial Williamsburg and Historical Collections by Benjamin Moore because we wanted to make sure to pick something historically appropriate and fitting for the house. Although I had fleeting desires to do so, the concept of restoring the house to its original “Dixie White” scheme as described in 1928 newspapers was not appealing to either of us. I had driven around town and taken notes of particular Tudor Revival style houses that I liked, who didn’t employ the standard of dark, almost black, brown color for the half timbering.
One of the limiting factors on our choices was that we never had any intension of painting over our beautiful tinted stucco, however that mean that we would need to coordinate our choices with the unique dark brown and red coloration of it. Eventually we settled on a craftsman style palette of cream, green, and red….or Moore specifically, Bracken Cream : CW-105 for the shingles, Great Barrington Green : HC-122 for the trim, and Carriage Red CW-250 for the windows. Due to the need for our windows to be reglazed and refinished we held off on doing that work until 2016, so the red you see in the photos is the older existing color and not the dark and richer tone of the Carriage Red. We made our own large color swatches and even put some paint on the garage to figure out the final palette. At the time of the below photos we were still debating between two different greens,. Great Barrington was the darker of the two, and we originally thought it would not work at all until we saw it on the wall of garage and adjacent to the stucco.
I also cannot stress enough how important it is to be careful about the materials and prep work you do for painting the exterior of a house. The last thing we wanted was a typical low quality paint job that started peeling in 5-10 years. So we stripped almost all of the paint off the house, and specified that our painter sand and clean all surfaces before application of paint and then apply a three coat system of the highest quality paint you can buy. Just to really go the extra mile we specified that Benjamin Moore Freshstart Moorwhite long oil primer be used on everything. It takes 12 hours to dry and therefore develops a strong and lasting bond with the wood. When you look at the breakdown, spending an extra $100-$200 on paint is nothing compared to the labor, which doesn’t change, regardless of the paint quality…so buy top of the line materials and nothing else!
During all of this you may have noticed our front door. It is quite unique being a monolithic slab door with gumwood veneer and ebony inlay. The previous Owner unfortunately had not taken particularly good care of it. Due to the door dragging, from sagging loose hinges, the bottom edge of the gumwood veneer was ripped, shredded and curled. We stripped the majority of the door to figure out if the gumwood and ebony seen inside lay beneath the paint outside…and it did!
This left us with a conundrum…where do you get 1/16″ thick gumwood veneer and was the door originally stained? I was able to find a veneer supplier who sold gumwood, however they rarely had non standard thickness veneers in gum. Also, the grey primer haze on the door was oddly similar to the primer we found on the shingles and surrounding woodwork. And last, but not least, our door is mostly unprotected and is located on the south face facade. Keeping all of this in mind we made the decision to buy a piece of 1/16″ thick cherry veneer and to paint the door in Carriage Red ( I have always had a thing for red doors). Needless to say all of this decision-making brought us too close to the cold weather of winter to have enough time to re-veneer, prime, and paint the door, as the original screen door lies in wait in the garage to be restored and rehung itself. So our front door will remain unsightly until the spring.
Stay tuned for some discussion on the finishing touches for the front…reinstallation of the original house numbers, new period wall sconces, new old stock McKinney mailbox!!!, bay window flowerbox, second story decorative shutters…and of course the reglazing and refinishing of the windows.