PaintPRO , Vol. 7, No. 3
May/June 2005
PaintPRO Vol 7 No 2

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Other articles in this issue:
Primers of the Future
Coloring Concrete
Deck Stains: Using Low-VOC Products
Painter Profile: Phillip Emmerling
Manufacturer Profile: Smith Paints
Product News
Product Profiles
Faux Techniques: Lusterstone
The Perfect Coverup
Painting Tips
Toolbox: Painter's Gadgets





PaintPRO Archives — Painter of the Month

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Philip Emmerling



Philip Emmerling, Emmerling Studio, Portland, Oregon
by John Strieder

When faux finishes first attracted Philip Emmerling in 1982, he could find only two books that taught technique. “No magazines, only these two books,” he says. “And the books in those days were not very detailed.”

He and a business partner made pilgrimages from Portland, Ore., to San Francisco to take classes from Joanne Day. They dug through stacks of old “Architectural Digest” magazines at the big Powell’s Books store in downtown Portland, buying the ones they wanted at 50 cents apiece.

Because they had no examples of their work, they would submit a portfolio of pictures from the magazines. “We would make appointments with big interior design firms,” Emmerling says. “They didn’t know what a painted finish was.”
Times have changed. “So many people are doing faux painting anymore,” he says. “Some are good. Some aren’t. It’s quite competitive.”

Hilton Hong Kong Mural
Gold Leaf Cabinet Painting
Black Faux Marble
Top: Mural from the Hong Kong Hilton; Center: Cabinet with faux marble and gold leaf; Bottom: Faux marble at retail store.

The competition doesn’t seem to faze Emmerling, 54, who offers his skills as a creator of faux finishes, decorative finishes and murals from his Emmerling Studio, based in Portland.

Emmerling kept on after he and his business partner parted ways in 1986. He worked in Vancouver, B.C., New Zealand, Australia and Hong Kong. While overseas, he scored his first big-time gigs, a series of jobs for five-star hotels.
The Pacific Rim hotel market is big budget, very competitive, and always looking to make that big splash, he says. Once the right people knew him, more work followed. “Every time I’d go over there I’d make some new contacts,” he says. “There were not that many people doing decorative work at the time.”

He would be hired one or two years in advance to do a specific decorative faux paint or gilding project. But he would actually do the work only one or two months before the scheduled opening date of the hotel. As the grand opening loomed, problems bloomed with other aspects of the hotel painting. And Emmerling would pick up the emergency work, calling home for help if needed.

“A one-month project would become a two-month project for four people. Whatever they needed, we would do it, solve their problems.”

The superintendents on high-end hotel jobs often took the highest bid, not the lowest, he says. They reasoned that a high bidder would be the least likely to cut corners. But that didn’t stop him from keeping his fees reasonable. “I charged what I’d charge in Portland plus expenses,” he says. “I just thought, what’s fair?”

Emmerling says he really hasn’t raised prices much at all since he started. “Just a little bit,” he says.


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