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Old But Not Out

A River Forest Victorian gets a face-lift
Chicagoland's Finest Painter - Ronbos Fine Painting

Ronbos Fine Painting, owned by Ron Feley (above), tackled this River Forest Victorian, recently earning the grand prize for Best Use of Color in the 2018 Chicago's Painted Ladies Competition.

When Vito and Mary Beth Ippolito purchased their Victorian home in 2015, they knew the River Forest house was in need of some restoration from the moment they first saw it.

“It was painted a rather unattractive shade of light blue,” Vito recalled.

The couple tackled quite a bit on the inside and also took on the unpleasant exterior. A few years into their tenure in the home, they are finding the home is worth all of the effort.

The couple hired Ron Feley of Ronbos Fine Painting, Inc. to help them update the exterior of the house, and the Ronbos paint job on the house was recently awarded the Grand Prize for Best Use of Color for a Victorian in the Chicago’s Painted Ladies Competition.

Vito Ippolito said they knew they wanted the exterior to complement the grand stature of the home.

“The old colors really didn’t do justice to the house,” he said. “They just don’t make them like that anymore.”

He said they wanted a bolder color that would accentuate the architecture, and thought the white columns and carefully chosen trim colors would make the details on the exterior pop.

Feley says that painting an entire house that is of a certain age and size is roughly a five-week process. A few of those weeks are spent prepping the exterior prior to painting, but he encourages clients to consider colors as soon as they hire him.

“Before we can paint, we have to prep it out,” Feley said. “We scrape off old paint and assess wood damage and then decide if areas of wood need to be replaced or if we can fill holes with epoxy and caulking. We do all of this before we get to the paint.”

He says that for a Victorian of the size of the Ippolito’s Keystone Avenue home, it is typical to test between five and 15 colors for an exterior paint job and experiment with placement for various shades.

Feley said that Mary Beth Ippolito knew she wanted a dark blue shade for the main body of the house, but they still tried out more than a few hues.

“She picked the darkest, brightest blue on the market that would work,” Feley said.

This particular color took three coats to reach its intended depth.

Calling colors a very personal choice, Feley says that communication with the client is key, and that people’s personal preferences play a large role.

“Everyone has a different favorite color, and everyone, even the neighbors, will weigh in,” he said.

In business since 1998, Feley says that he has seen color trends come and go.

“A new thing is to only use two colors on an exterior,” he said. “You used to see three to five colors on a house like this. The younger generation wants everything a bit simpler. We’re doing a lot of white, dark blues and dark greys right now.”

While the clients choose the colors, Feley’s years of experience help them make the most of their home’s historic architecture.

“I put up samples and accent trims to help them see how things will look,” Feley said. “A lot of the time, you don’t see the colors come together until it’s all done. I like to accent the architectural details to add depth to the house.”

The Ippolitos also took on a lot of restoration work on the inside of the home. The dramatic grand staircase was one the home’s selling points, and they restored the stained-glass windows on the stairwell.

Vito Ippolito recalls that the wooden floors on the second floor were so damaged, they almost snapped when walked on. The couple replaced the hardwood floors and were careful to use wood with a grain that was consistent with the original floors on the first story of the home.

The couple renovated the two bathrooms on the second floor of the home and added a separate heating and cooling system to the third-floor space to make it more comfortable in all seasons. The front porch wood was warping, so the couple replaced that as well. This past spring, they tackled landscaping on the property.

While the entire project took a few years to realize, Vito Ippolito notes that there were many benefits to doing the work with care.

“Because of the amount of work we had done, we were able to take advantage of the historic tax freeze,” he said. “That is significant. There is a lot of paperwork involved, but it is great that we have incentives to restore these types of homes and preserve them.”

Other benefits might not be tangible, but for old home lovers, they are just as significant, according to Vito Ippolito.

“These are the kinds of houses that are worth restoring,” he said. “It’s kind of a part of our history, too.”

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