The H.J. Holtz & Son decorative arts team is excited to try something new.
At last fall’s International Decorative Artists League (IDAL) convention, the team – Brian Smith, Logan Porter, and Eli Smith – attended a full-day class on Diamond Coat, an epoxy resin surface that can be used for countertops, flooring, and even walls.
While the technology has been available for a few years, its appeal to homeowners is on the rise, because of its aesthetic appeal and durability.
“It’s super trendy,” Brian Smith says.
The class was important, all agree, because of the technical aspects of applying the resin. First, a base coat color is selected. To that, metallic colors and even mica flakes are added to create the desired effect, which can be as classic as marbling or as intricate as the rippling colors of a creek bed. The mixture is then heated to a specific temperature range and applied quickly, before it hardens.
During the day-long training, each member of the team created several test panels, experimenting with color and material combinations, and learning the best way to apply the resin to ensure an even surface.
“You have to stay on your feet,” Brian Smith says.
Eli Smith adds: “You have to mix it right and pour it fast; it’s really quick.”
According to the company website, Diamond Coat is five times harder than concrete, 100 percent non-toxic, and has zero volatile organic content (VOC). Additionally, the resin is poured over top of existing surfaces, so demolition isn’t necessary, and can withstand temperatures up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
“People don’t like dust in their homes,” Brian Smith notes. “We can skip all that with this. It’s a fast installation, and it’s ready in 24 hours.”
As a follow up to the decorative artists’ team training, Holtz & Son is seeking to become an approved installer for Diamond Coat, which signals to clients that the team has the expertise necessary for a quick and successful installation.
Brian Smith says the team appreciates the opportunity to learn new skills at professional events.
“It’s nice that Rick [Holtz, company president] is willing to send us out to these meetings,” he says. “It really reinforces our team.”
For the H.J. Holtz & Son decorative arts team – Brian Smith, Logan Porter and Eli Smith – attending the annual International Decorative Artists League (IDAL) conference is a highlight of their year.
The annual gathering, which was held Oct. 14-19, 2019, in Charlotte, N.C., gives the craftspersons a chance to learn new techniques and connect with other artisans.
“It’s good to meet people in the same field as us – people from all over the country,” Porter says. Eli Smith adds: “It’s hard to find people who do what we do [locally].
The conference is structured to include classes as well as time for attendees to socialize and visit the vendor fair, where companies advertise new products and practices. Brian Smith –who recruited brother Eli to the firm – says attendees “flock” in the vendor hall, visiting and exploring.
In prior years, Holtz decorative artists have focused on faux painting – making a painted wall look like it’s covered in grass cloth, for example. This year, the three took a two-day class learning a new process in which epoxy is used to create a hard surface that can be made to resemble natural granite or a surface that is purely artistic.
With all three taking the same class, the team is able to rely on one another for ideas and trouble-shooting.
“It’s not a brand-new technique, but it’s something we weren’t familiar with,” Brian Smith says. “It helps the process along to have three people who know what to do.”
The team appreciates that they are sent on company time and paid as though they were working their regular jobs. Porter notes that most of the other attendees are company owners, not employees. “We’re one of the few company crews there,” he says. “It’s nice to have the opportunity to learn new things.”
Eli Smith, who joined the Holtz decorative arts team this year after spending time with the company as a painter, says the IDAL conference was an “art world” experience designed to spark creativity.
Even with busy days, Brian Smith says, the conference was like a shared “mini-vacation.”
“It’s pretty unique for [company president] Rick Holtz to be willing to send us out,” he says. “It really reinforces our team.”
“There’s no limit to how much profit they can make once we meet our [goal],” he said. “I’m a firm believer that our company, in the last five years, would not have done as well without this program.”
Homeowners looking for impact will be delighted with the high-gloss finishes offered by Fine Paints of Europe, which are used exclusively by H.J. Holtz & Son for gloss jobs.
“There’s nothing better,” says company president Rick Holtz. “People just can’t believe what these paints can do.”
Fine Paints of Europe (FPE), headquartered in Vermont, is the sole U.S. importer of paints and finishes made in the Netherlands by Wijzonol Bouwverven B.V. In Europe, the parent company’s focus is on pigments, which are sold worldwide.
Why We Use Fine Paints of Europe
What sets the company’s paints apart is their base paste, says FPE’s Emmett Fiore, color strategist and paint consultant. Every FPE paint has a foundation that is 100% titanium dioxide. Other manufacturers use chalk and fillers to build content in their paints, which destabilizes the mixture, leading to poor outcomes. By contrast, FPE paints have intense, luminous color, and the high-gloss finishes last for years.
“You can pay three times in 15 years, or once in 15 years,” Fiore says. “You pay in the beginning, or you pay down the road.”
Where to Use Gloss Paint
Many homeowners seek out high-gloss paints for their front doors – looking to create a great first impression – but gloss paint can be used anywhere in the house. Fiore says handrails, kitchen countertops and cabinets, walls and even ceilings all good locations for high-gloss paint.
“High-gloss rooms are the new stained glass,” Fiore says. “The ‘accent ceiling’ has replaced the ‘accent wall’ in popularity. All phenoms like this are an actualization of our inner selves and aesthetic sensibilities. When it’s done correctly, it looks awesome.”
Preparation Pays Off
“I know a lot of homeowners who do their own painting,” he says. “Nothing looks worse than a high-gloss job done poorly. You have to deal with dust, divots in the surface…every imperfection will show.”
While Fiore consults with DIY homeowners, the company also trains contractors and maintains a list of those qualified on the FPE website. Fiore notes that H.J. Holtz & Son holds a Master Certified Painting Contractor designation, a mark of how much experience the company has with FPE products.
“Rick [Holtz] was ahead of the curve on discovering us,” Fiore says, adding that Holtz & Son began ordering paint directly from FPE more than a decade ago and now purchases through Palette Paint & Home in Richmond. “Holtz folks care, and they know their stuff. Plus, they are really nice people. That’s the bonus.”
In the end, Fiore says, the average person needs to rely on the contractor they’ve hired. Even if the job is as simple as a piece of furniture or a front door, that job is important.
“It’s the little things that make you happy in your house,” he says. “It’s leaving part of yourself in that project.”
H.J. Holtz & Son decorative artists Brian Smith and Logan Porter want to talk about Venetian plaster.
What is Venetian plaster? It’s a lime-based plaster that includes ground marble or quartz aggregate. The plaster is applied in thin layers, using a trowel – or multiple trowels, depending on the finish that is desired. When complete, the plaster is a hard, smooth surface that can resemble marble, metal, wood or stone. Using other tools when the plaster is wet, the artist can create patterns or ridges as well.
Smith and Porter’s enthusiasm for Venetian plaster deepened after they attended a training earlier this year at Firenzecolor, the largest importer of Venetian plasters and decorative products in the U.S. The all-day class, held at Firenzecolor’s New York City location, had fewer than a dozen participants, which allowed for plenty of individual instruction. Over the course of the day, the two practiced with the company’s traditional finishes as well as new offerings.
“The possibilities [with Venetian plaster] are endless,” Porter says.
Smith adds: “We try to suggest Venetian plasters [to customers] because it’s cool. We want to show people what’s possible.”
The goal for traditionally-painted walls, both note, is for the appearance of perfection – an even surface. Venetian plaster, however, brings movement and fluidity to a wall. In fact, Smith says, “You have to make it look organic as you’re applying the plaster; you don’t want straight lines.”
“You don’t want things to be uniform,” Porter adds.
Porter, who has been with the company for seven years, and Smith, who joined Holtz & Son 13 years ago, agree they appreciate each project’s individuality.
“Every day, it’s like walking into a magazine,” Porter says. “Being a part of creating that is very satisfying.”
Smith adds: “Every single day is different. We are the only company [locally] doing this kind of work; it’s fun to have customers who give you a little more freedom.”
For more images of these artists’ creations, visit Instagram: bsmith_bs_art and logan_porter804oh.
If, as interior designers tell us, the ceiling is the fifth wall of a room, then certainly the floor is the sixth wall. It may not be at eye level, but the floor – and whatever covers it – is integral to a space, either supporting an overall design or making a statement all by itself.
“We love decorative floor projects,” says H.J. Holtz & Son owner Rick Holtz. “They give us the chance to show off our detail work and creativity, whether we’re executing someone else’s design or creating something entirely unique. We bring the same care and attention to a floor as we do any other job.”
In a larger room, such as a kitchen, dining room or living room, a decorative floor may mimic the appearance of a rug, perhaps in a geometric or repeating pattern. When considering what to do with a decorative floor, clients may elect to complement or match colors already in the room, whether on walls or furnishings.
In a smaller space, such as a bathroom, foyer or pantry, designs can be bolder, because they are contained and in areas where people don’t spend much time.
As with painted walls, the floor can set a tone for the space.
“In more formal rooms, we might use darker colors and a pattern that is noticeable but doesn’t compete with everything else in the room,” Holtz says. “But some customers really like to use a painted floor as a conversation starter, because it’s something that people don’t expect.”
When it comes to design, the Holtz painting team may use stencils, removable tape (to create crisp lines), or draw freehand, as they would on a ceiling. With any technique, the goal can be a floor that is modern or antique in appearance – whatever the house requires. In the past, customers have hired Holtz & Son to create zig-zag lines, faux parquet, even a stunning compass rose.
“Sometimes, people don’t realize that the options are the same as with any other project,” Holtz says. “We are happy to work with a homeowner or an interior designer to create just the right look.”
Owner Rick Holtz says he’s happy to contribute to RFM because of its broad appeal and readership.
“We’ve written for RFM before, and we always hear from people in the community how much they appreciate our ideas,” he says. “It’s another way for us to reach out and educate people about what’s possible in their homes.”