PaintPRO, Vol. 8, No. 4
September 2006
PaintPRO, Vol 8 No 3

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Other articles in this issue:
Exterior Wood Primers
Interior Colors & Light Refraction
Choosing a Glaze
Painter: Mattingly Custom Finishes
Bidding on Fire Retardant Coatings
Technique: Stenciling Concrete
Toolbox: Extension Poles
Product Profile: CCFlex
Paint Industry News
Product News
PaintPRO — Painter of the Month
The Tuscan-look
This Tuscan-look is the #1 seller for most popular finishes. It comes in multiple colors and can either come as a wallcovering (as shown) or be created from scratch.

Ed Mattingly, LaGrange, Ill.

by Wendy Ardolino

Ed Mattingly
Ed Mattingly

Ed Mattingly was lucky enough to have two passions: percussion and painting. He was a good musician, but it was tough to pursue a music degree at the University of Kansas while working as a painter full time. After a year, he decided to follow family tradition and moved back to Illinois. He turned in his drumsticks and focused his attention on his paintbrushes.

A third-generation painter, Mattingly had learned the tricks of the trade from his grandfather, Ed Pieracci. "I puttied, sanded, primed, caulked, painted ceilings and closets in the summers. He also taught me how to eat my sandwich with my left hand while painting a window sash with my right."

Mattingly continued his education with his mentor, Bob Kieca, who was a coatings and color expert. “Painters, designers and DIYers traveled any distance to get one of his ‘perfect match’ colors," Mattingly says. After his grandfather retired, Mattingly started his own business — Mattingly Custom Finishes — in LaGrange, Ill., and continued to use Kieca as his trusted resource.

"Wide Band" an art installation piece
Mattingly worked on the black and white background for this art installation piece. It reads “Wide Band" in the background. The piece represents connectivity through the Internet.

Early in his career, Mattingly was happy to get a job whitewashing apartments or repairing fire and water damage because it kept him and his small crew busy year round. Now, 25 years later, he’s turned his business into a high-end operation with 29 painters, who are trained through on-the-job training, mentoring and classes. Fifteen years ago, he started a second business, No Limits Paint, a national company that offers custom and one-of-a-kind products and designs for wall decor, wall art and finishes.

A broad range of finishes
Mattingly Custom Finishes offers a variety of services, including interior and exterior painting, water-damage repair, faux finishes, wallcoverings, murals and custom designs. Mattingly says the company is known for its sophisticated, multilayered decorative finishes as well as metallics, Venetian plasters, crackles and gilding — and they have developed some of their own finishes as well. “Designers and clients come to us for our excellence in design and our team approach," he says. “Our art department is known for being great supportive listeners. Our opinions and favorites are left at home."

New Spaces as seen  on HGTV
Featured on “New Spaces" on HGTV, this urban loft redo showcases a taupe color wash on the back wall, with Ralph Lauren red suede paint brushed with metallics on the beams.
distressed cornice
Previously stained brown and varnished, this decorative wood was worked over to look more distressed and natural.

The most popular faux finish in the Chicago area is a “Tuscan" washed look, Mattingly says. The textures are created with “Armor Faux," a thick coating from Roman Architectural Finishes that can be applied with a trowel or sponged on, then “knocked down" or reduced. “Unlike Venetian plasters or drywall mud applications, this product allows us to get the color and the texture in one step — and cuts down on at least 50 percent of the labor. We then apply a tinted glaze and we are done."

Because of their innovative style, Mattingly says that on top of local work, the company gets four to six projects a year outside of Chicagoland for high-end clients. He says one of his most memorable trips was to San Francisco to create the “Tuscan" finish for a client. When he looked up rental and paint suppliers in the area, he realized they offered different products from what he was used to in Illinois, so he had to be resourceful to create the desired effects.

Mattingly has a high standard for his products. “Starting out as a painter, I used the top name brands in my region. I shopped where professionals shopped and used the premium paint of choice. At that time, the paint brand name helped establish me as a quality contractor." Now, Ed and his crew use whatever products are best for each job, focusing on product performance, accessibility, ease of installation and achieving the finest results.

multi-layered wall - before
multi-layered wall - after
These photos a before and after multi-layered wall in the 130-year-old home. The walls were textured to make them look like they were “found" underneath old wallpaper.

Spreading the word
Mattingly’s marketing budget is mainly spent to reach his target audience: interior designers. Starting out, he says, the process of attracting designers was painful. He would spend thousands of dollars in labor, time and materials to give an interior designer the chance to create a showhouse. This costly but effective technique promoted the interior designer, but also allowed Mattingly to show off his custom work and market his services through the designer.

“Trends in our business follow the interior design industry very closely," he says. “Interior designers are a continual source of high-end leads and innovative ideas. It has become our job to take a concept and turn it into a coating system that is achievable. Sometimes that means modifying the process and practicing the technique."

Mattingly says it’s essential to maintain a good relationship between the business and interior designers. He gives numerous seminars on how to do just that, such as one he taught at the PDCA convention called “Interior Design or Interior Disasters." There, he taught faux finishers and contractors how to interact with interior designers. He also presents the flip side to interior designers as well.

Belonging to a variety of organizations gives his businesses publicity and gives him a place to grow and continue his education in his trade. He is a contributing member of The Color Marketing Group, which he says is an incredible source of inspiration. He is also a board member of the Illinois chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and a board member of Designs for Dignity, a Chicago-based not-for-profit organization that allows designers, contractors and suppliers to donate their time and products to benefit businesses that help those in need.

Exposition, European Impressions
“Exposition" is a hand-painted wallcovering in their line “European Impressions." It comes in several colors and can also be created from scratch with 12 layers of paint.

Mattingly has won two personal awards he is very proud of. One is the “ASID National Merit Award," the highest honor from ASID for a non-interior designer and given to only 30 people in the last 25 years. The other award is from Designs for Dignity. He won the “Spirit Award" for his mentoring program that he offers through the organization. People who want to turn their life around work with Mattingly, his crew and volunteers to paint public housing units and other buildings. They also learn about the painting business and how to find clients on their own, so they can expand beyond the program.

Mattingly also helps Roman Architectural Finishes with product development and testing, training commercial contractors, and meeting with architects, designers and builders. He also has been working with Ralph Lauren Paints to develop a series of recommended application techniques to enable contractors to become certified in the Polo Pros program.

personal heritage piece
This personal heritage piece was created with several layers of paint, crackle medium, metallic and glaze. The pictures and type are archival copies of the owner’s own mementos, created with HP iron-on t-shirt transfers. It is done on removable canvas and acts as a keepsake when the owner moves.

Words of wisdom
Something Ed tells all contractors is that they should beware of processes that are too labor- and cost-intensive. Ease of application, deadlines, budget limitations and accessibility to products should drive contractors to focus on techniques and products that are readily available and easy to apply. “I am not suggesting that multilayered, super high-end installations are not important to have in your arsenal and portfolio, but realistically, those ‘niche’ processes are generally a small percentage of actual wall space installed," he says.

Finally, he says contractors should keep in mind their abilities and their likes and dislikes. “Go for that niche and don’t be afraid to let your potential client know that in that particular area of expertise you are the best," he says."Obviously, no matter how attractive the niche is, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. There are bills to pay.

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