Interview with Nik Palladino of Phinney Ridge Painting

By February 3, 2015 No Comments
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Lindsey: What is the wackiest color you seen someone choose to have painted on their house?

Nik Palladino: We painted a house, probably 12 different shades of green, orange, and yellow. It was like four different shades of green, and then a couple different shades of yellow, and a couple shades of bright orange.

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a non-Kermit paint job by Phinney Ridge Painting

LR: On the outside?

NP: Uh huh. Capitol Hill Victorian.

LR: Wow. Sounds…Kermit-y.

LR: “Phinney Ridge Painting”, do you only do projects in Phinney Ridge?…obviously not, based on what you just told me. So how did you get that name?

NP: I felt like I needed something that provided a geographic location, credibility, something that communicated that we were local…that we weren’t from a fly-by-night operation who was going to come and do a mediocre job and just take off. And also that’s where I was living, and I figured this was a great name.

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photo courtesy of Phinney Ridge Painting – green works for this porch.

LR: What role does an interior designer play in your life?

NP: Interior designers allow us to add more value to our services. For a project of a certain size, we’re happy to actually pay for the interior design consultation. It can give people the extra incentive to work with us.

LR:  Do you feel like when a designer helps pick the paint colors for a project, the project turns out better?

NP: It always does.

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Some of the exterior paint schemes Lindsey Runyon Design has helped Nik’s clients select

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Leonardo da Vinci was a badass

LR: What is the highest ceiling you have ever painted and did you feel like Leonardo DaVinci?

NP: The highest ceiling Phinney Ridge Painting has ever done…would be like…what’s that called?…where they hang like, silk and ropes, and different things from the roof?

LR: Trapeze…?

NP: A trapeze club type space…Yeah, there’s one in Phinney Ridge in this old building where Pelayo Antiques used to be.  If you go up into the second level in that building, there is a ceiling that is probably 45 feet high, and we painted the whole ceiling – the whole room, actually.  It took several days and we sprayed it all out and it was…it was insanely high…. And I did not feel like Leonardo DaVinci, because it went all blue.

LR: OK, you didn’t paint, like, angels or anything up there?

NP: No, they didn’t have that in the budget.
LR: What kind of training process do your painters go through?

NP: We do a lot of on-site training. We put experienced guys with less experienced guys and have them basically show them the ropes. We’re in the process of creating a painter’s manual, or a ‘bible’. We call it ‘The Bible’. That basically goes step by step through every single expectation; from how to clean a brush to how to cut a window to how to spray out a 40 foot ceiling. We were also able to hire several of our top people who already had training and experience. We provide year round employment for our painters, and our competitors do not; we scrape and scrounge for winter work so that we don’t have to lay off a whole bunch of our employees. Some of our competitors will lay off  ¾ of their labor force in November and then hire them back five months later. In that timeframe, we’re able to pick those people up and retain them.

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photo courtesy of Phinney Ridge Painting

LR: So, tape or no tape?  I’ve heard the best painters don’t tape for moulding or corner cuts, do you guys do that?

NP:  Tape is something we use when we’re spraying. If we’re going to spray the outside of a house, we’re going to mask all the windows, all the fixtures…everything that we want to keep paint off. And then we spray. For interiors, if the homeowner wants a spray finish then there’s a lot of masking, and then we’re spraying the trim. But, in most cases we’re freehanding everything [with no tape], because it is just faster, it’s more efficient, and it’s cleaner. Tape doesn’t prevent paint from getting under it.

LR:  What is your ideal thing you’d like to be hired to paint?

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photo courtesy of Phinney Ridge Painting

NP: Our ideal project is a single family residence.

LR: The whole outside and inside?

NP: Inside and out. That would be ideal. However, I would love to do more commercial projects like concert venues, museums…A public library would be really fun… I’d especially like to do historical buildings.

LR: What do you believe is your part in helping to save the environment?

NP:  That’s a difficult one in our industry. We try to do everything we can to cut down on waste while also following the EPA mandated rules. The Environmental Protection Agency mandates that we put everything in the dump.

LR: What?!

NP: When we prep a home that’s a hundred years old, it’s covered in lead based paint. What used to happen is a lot of that debris would end up on the property…

LR: …And it would soak into the ground and it would contaminate all the flowers…

NP: Right. So that was bad for the environment and especially bad for the homeowners. Adding to the amount of waste that’s going into landfills is also bad for the environment, but that’s what’s now mandated. So, if you’re talking about a 2,000 square foot 1910 Craftsman, we paint a home like that and there’s probably six to ten full contractor bags of plastic and debris that goes into the dump.

For me, it further reinforces the necessity to provide a really high quality product that will last. Because if the homeowner has to do that every five years, it’s so much more wasteful. If I can provide a paint job that will last 15 to 20 years, then they’re only putting those garbage bags in the dump every 15 to 20 years. If a painting company comes in and doesn’t do a job properly, their soil is going to get contaminated, and maybe they’re re-doing the work in five years and having to put that waste in the landfill again.

LR:  What about the actual VOC levels in paint?

NP: Yeah, so when it comes to interior paints, we only use low VOC paint.

LR: What about zero VOC paint?

NP: Zero VOC paint is, in most cases, a good option. In some situations and with certain brands, we’ve had some issues with color retention, but the products are getting better and better each year. From a homeowner’s perspective, we really push low and zero VOC paint mainly because there’s no chance of in-taking Volatile Organic Compounds. There’s something to be said for that. There’s no off-gassing.

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LR: What’s one surprising fact about you, personally? 

NP: I grew up overseas.

LR: In which country?

NP: I grew up in Bangladesh.

LR:  Very cool, so you have an international perspective?

NP: Yeah, and I studied diplomacy and foreign affairs and I intended on working for the State Department and I got involved in that and I decided that was not the direction that I wanted to go. I didn’t want to spend my life doing that. And then somehow…

LR: And then somehow ended up painting…

NP: Yeah, I fell back on the family business. I grew up doing this. My dad owns a painting business, so it feels very natural.

LR: And how do you feel about being in the business?

NP: I really like being a business owner, and I like providing high quality services to my neighbors, my friends, and the community at an affordable cost, ethically and responsibly. I get a kick out of figuring out ways to be a better business owner, to run a better business and to serve, not only my clients and myself, but my employees and their families, and the community. As a business owner, you’re in a position where you get to write the rule book. So, we do a lot of things that I care about and that my staff cares about. We work with the food bank, we donate time and energy to the Phinney Neighborhood Association. We help senior citizens in our neighborhood. So, we give a lot back and then in return we get good will and a lot of great referrals.  It’s a good system.

LR: It’s a good gig.  Awesome!  Well, thank you Nik!