When Nick and Lee Ann bought their home in Richmond’s Fan district earlier this year, they knew it was solidly constructed but poorly finished.
“In my opinion, previous owners cheapened the house by failing to hire high-quality finishing contractors,” he says. “The bones of the house are pretty darn good, and the overall condition was good, but the house suffered for a number of years with poor paint jobs over poor paint jobs.”
Nick and Lee Ann were aware of H.J. Holtz & Son’s reputation, but they did their due diligence before calling the company for an estimate. “I went online to look at reviews, talked to a lot of people,” he says. “One of the things that caught my attention was a Holtz email newsletter that had an article about painting kitchen cabinets. I thought it was well-written and informative, and I knew there was a possibility we’d need to do that.”
In the end, the Holtz team did more than cabinets, Nick says.
“They painted every square inch of the interior: walls, trim, ceilings, cabinets, bathrooms,” he says. “There is not an original piece of painted trim or wall space anywhere in this house.”
Nick and Lee Ann had previously restored a late 18th-century home on a farm they owned west of Richmond. As a result, they know the importance of preparation.
“What is very difficult is understanding how to restore interior spaces – door and window trims, and wainscoting – before you even open a can of paint,” Nick says. “It takes a tremendous amount of restorative work that can only be done by true craftsmen, people who can come in and erase the bad stuff, and get the house ready to apply the correct amount of paint so the job is done correctly.”
In addition to the many layers of paint that had to be removed in places, the Holtz team also found trim work that was loose and in need of restoration. While work continued elsewhere, the Holtz carpentry division was called in to fix the trim so it could be properly primed and painted. “This was a service Holtz was able to perform in-house without losing any time on the schedule,” Nick notes. “I thought that was good, because you often find, with old houses, it’s not as simple as just painting. There are often other trades necessary, including finish carpentry. If you have a finish carpentry crew, that’s gold.”
Nick says he was also impressed by the manner in which the Holtz team approached the restoration project, with a clear step-by-step process that starts with estimating and continues through the job. “It’s a continuous process they’ve adopted and refined, and it works extremely well,” he says, praising foreman Nelson Bermudez for his leadership.
“He was obviously passionate and saw his work as a craft,” Nick says, adding that Bermudez’ communication skills were also excellent, which is essential to any project.
“As a homeowner, you can’t expect a painting crew to come into your house without becoming engaged,” he says. “You must advocate for yourself, and you must become an active partner with the company that comes in to do your painting, your carpentry or your flooring.
“Holtz made zero mistakes,” he adds. “They got in, they did their work, had no re-dos, and got out on schedule. That’s because we worked together.”
Shannon Thompson laughs as she recalls that H. J. Holtz & Son team members initially spent more time in her new home than she did.
Thompson and her husband, Christopher, bought the house in Richmond’s Westmoreland Place neighborhood at the end of December 2018. They were moving from New York City to Richmond to be close to family, but at the time of purchase were spending the winter in Florida. Their time away created the perfect opportunity to redecorate the house from top to bottom with little dislocation.
Relying on her sister-in-law, local artist Anne Blackwell Thompson, Shannon turned to H. J. Holtz & Son. It was a leap of faith.
“I had to manage [the project] from afar,” Shannon says. “But with [Anne’s] stamp of approval, I felt totally comfortable having them go at it without being there.
“The whole house [had] wallpaper, which was beautiful, but just not us,” she adds. “[The Holtz team] was here before we moved in and after we moved in. They’re just wonderful.”
Over the past three-plus years, the Holtz team has painted nearly every inch of the house, including cement floor in the basement and garage – “They made it glossy; it’s really attractive,” Shannon says. The home’s exterior got the Holtz treatment this year, prior to the home being open for April’s Historic Garden Week in Virginia. Additionally, Holtz master carpenter Jeff Nonnamacker was called in for a special project.
“Rick and Jeff executed a vision for my office,” Christopher says. “I wanted two walls in our office to be a bulletin board. Jeff not only executed the project with craftsmanship, he brought ideas that we failed to consider, making it look even better than I imagined.”
Shannon appreciates the Holtz team’s professionalism and attention to detail, and says the relationship between her interior designer, Suellen Gregory, and the team couldn’t have been better. Recently, while the couple was again in Florida but preparing the house for Historic Garden Week tours, they decided to remove a door between the kitchen and dining room. Once the door was gone, a small corner of countertop was exposed that didn’t match the counter the couple had previously installed. Holtz decorative artists painted the revealed area to match, a modification so seamless that it went overlooked for days.
“I think I was home for a week, then it crossed my mind [to look],” Shannon says. “I didn’t even notice it. It was only because I remembered [that we had to fix the problem] that I went looking for it.”
Shannon credits Holtz project manager Roxy Reyes for her diligence in making sure the home was in top condition for the thousands of Historic Garden Week visitors. “She was just wonderful,” Shannon says, recalling that Reyes came to the house just days before it was open for tours to repaint two small areas. “She told me they were okay, but she knew [the team] could do better.”
Calling the Holtz & Son team is always an easy choice, Shannon says.
“As the team [of home helpers] we worked with grew and changed to what would become my personal dream team, the one constant, from beginning to end, was Holtz,” Shannon says. “Their collaborative abilities among the trades are unparalleled.
“They’re also kind,” she adds. “You’ll come home and they’ll help you carry in your groceries. If you’re out of town, they’ll roll back your recycling bin. I commend [company president] Rick [Holtz] on his professionalism and his work ethic; I feel like that shines through in their final product.”
When Kristen Ziegler purchased her 1920 row house nearly a decade ago, she knew she had a project on her hands. While the house was solid, she wanted to make it her own, which included updates and a lot of painting – but not with H.J. Holtz & Son painters.
Ziegler turned to Holtz & Son last year, because the solo painter she had initially hired for the home’s interior had retired. She was ready to paint the exterior – “the icing on the cake,” as she puts it – and needed a trustworthy partner.
Ziegler admits she can’t remember how she found the company, but suspects a Google search and word-of-mouth recommendations played a role. “It could have been both, honestly,” she says. “[Holtz & Son] was highly recommended.”
Now, she says, she sees the benefits of working with an established – and sizable – firm.
“I had a much better experience working with a larger company,” she says. “There was so much accountability and communication. I had every bit of faith the job would be completed on time, on budget, and to my standards.”
And, Ziegler says, there was plenty of personal attention, noting that the team readily accommodated the time it took for her to select her exterior paint.
“I think I went through four or five colors,” she says. “I may have even delayed the project or they made a rush trip to get me a sample. They were so patient and helpful.”
Ziegler eventually settled on Benjamin Moore’s Kendall Charcoal, a dark neutral that paired well with the home’s slate roof. Her initial choice was black, because black is often used in Scandinavian design, her preferred style. After using a computer program to “see” a fully black exterior, she reconsidered.
“Then I actually was going to be safer and had [picked] a bluish mid-tone gray,” she says. “But once I saw the Kendall Charcoal, I knew that was the one. I have no regrets.”
Ziegler owns Minima Organizing and Redesign, a firm that specializes in helping people organize their spaces. Because she owns a business herself, Ziegler says she pays attention to workers she comes into contact with to see what she can learn as a manager. What she gleaned from the Holtz team was instructive.
“I could sense that everybody involved in my project really cared about what they were doing,” she says. “In a conversation with one [Holtz painter], he told me he had been at a personal event outside of work, and Rick [Holtz, company president] came to see him. That meant a lot to me.”
Because Ziegler also works with people who are shaping and redefining their home spaces, she maintains a list of home services that can be shared with clients. H.J. Holtz & Son is now the painter on her referral list.
“All of our [Minima] clients know we are meticulous and detail-oriented,” she says. “We cross paths with contractors a lot, and we know that when you hire Holtz, you’re getting good value, good customer service, and good communication. Holtz is amazing.”
Find Minima at minimaonline.com
Laura Strickler admits that she enjoys being a do-it-yourselfer.
“I’m confident in my own decorating skills, and I like to paint,” she says. “But I knew I couldn’t do all this.”
“All this” refers to the improvements Strickler wanted to complete before April 26, 2022, when her house will be open to the public during Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week. The Rothesay Circle tour is on Tuesday, April 26th.
Strickler says her needs were varied: a refresh on interior walls, repainted kitchen cabinets, and a full exterior paint job – plus accumulated carpentry fixes. Because she had worked with H.J. Holtz & Son on a smaller job years ago, she felt comfortable calling the company again.
“I knew they would do an awesome job,” she says. “I have used a lot of people in the past to do a lot of different things, but I knew Rick [Holtz, company president] could handle something of this magnitude in the timeframe we had.”
A decade ago, Strickler and her husband were ready to leave Richmond’s Fan district but didn’t want to go too far afield. They found a brick Georgian home on Rothesay Circle, tucked behind Windsor Farms and City Stadium. “It’s a big old house in a great spot,” she says.
Over the years, she’s managed smaller tasks herself, though she did bring in the H.J. Holtz & Son team to repair and repaint some plaster. “They did a great job,” she says.”
For this year’s Historic Garden Week, Strickler brought the Holtz team in again for a broader array of tasks: repainting the kitchen and its cabinets, the dining room, the front hallway, and an imposing stairway, as well as exterior painting. “It’s a house with not as much walls as there are windows and moldings and casements,” she says. “There’s a lot of fine detail work.”
Strickler had also noticed the company’s expanding carpentry services division and was thrilled to hand over items that had been languishing on her “to-do” list. “While I didn’t have anything exciting and new, like paneling, I had a laundry list of stuff that had been building up over the years,” she says. Those tasks included replacing several doors dating to the 1930s and fixing plinths of two-story columns at the rear of the house. “[Carpentry division manager] Jeff Nonnemacker facilitated all those tiny projects that have added up to one big carpentry project,” she says. “They’ve done great work.”
While there have been many moving parts, Strickler says work has gone smoothly.
“It’s been nice and seamless,” she says. “They’ve been popping in and out. When they finish a door, I know guys will come to paint it. I don’t have to coordinate six people, and I know they will do a good job.”
Strickler admits the company’s reputation for being more expensive than some other painting companies gave her pause before that first job, years ago. But after she saw the quality of the work the team provided then, she realized the cost reflected the quality of the work and after-care that Holtz & Son offers.
“It’s great to know that down the road, when my shutters look grumpy and my cabinets are scuffed up, I can call H.J. Holtz & Son,” she says. “It’s really nice to have confidence in a solid, respected company that will stand behind the work they do.”
H.J. Holtz & Son also provided Garden Week prep services at 4801 Pocahontas Ave., painting both the exterior and interior spaces. Garden Week ticket holders will be able to visit this home during the Olde Locke Lane and Westmoreland Place tour on Thursday, April 28.
H.J. Holtz & Son Production Manager Kelly Kutchey recalls a recent project in which the Holtz team was hired to correct painting problems in a brand-new house.
“The builder hired a painter for cost-efficiency, and we were called later to fix all sorts of issues,” he said. “The painter hadn’t properly prepared the trim for painting by filling in nail holes and caulking; some areas also clearly weren’t primed. Trim work should always be [painted] using a nice brush; this house trim was painted with a thick roller … it looked like it had 40 coats of paint. The homeowner wasn’t happy.”
The Holtz decorative arts team had worked on a project in the house, so the designer suggested the homeowner contact H.J. Holtz & Son to resolve the problems. One benefit of hiring a larger company, Kutchey says, is readily available expertise.
“Smaller companies sometimes want to take on bigger jobs and will cut corners or hire people who don’t really know what they’re doing,” he says. “They don’t always have the proper skills to do a job. We get calls all the time from folks who have something that needs to be fixed. They come to us because we have a reputation for being able to solve painting problems and wallpaper problems.”
Every job has its own specific set of considerations and challenges, Kutchey says, because every wall is different. There might be cracks caused by a settling foundation, nail pops from when the house was built, excessive moisture in the home, and dings and dents caused by everyday life. If surfaces aren’t prepared properly, there’s an increased likelihood that difficulties will develop later.
Common dilemmas with painted walls and ceilings include cracking, bubbling or blistering, and flaking or peeling. Wallpaper can be curling at the edges, separating at the seams, and showing dips or bumps under the surface.
“Customers will call, and we’ll send someone to assess,” he says. “Some situations can be repaired – like if paper is falling off a wall – but sticky paint just has to be redone.”
Most wallpaper issues require removing a wallpaper panel so the underlying issue can be remedied, whether that involves the surface of the wall or reapplying adhesive. Because wallpapers vary in weight and texture, the right adhesive is essential, as is a careful application.
Kutchey says the Holtz team was called recently to investigate why paint wasn’t adhering well to a wall. He discovered three layers of wallpaper underneath the painted surface. “Usually, the reason why [people] paint over wallpaper is because it was too hard to take off in the first place,” he says. “We take whatever we need to take off the walls; sometimes that means going down to drywall or plaster.”
Problems usually can be fixed, but that remedy comes with a cost. “It’s always better to take the time at the beginning to do it right,” he says. “It’s going to double your cost to call us in to fix something that could have been managed at the start of a project.”
Paula Holm called H.J. Holtz & Son because her contractor said so.
Holm and her husband, George, were working with Mark Franko, of Mark Franko Custom Building, to expand their kitchen and add a club room on the lower level, similar to the one they have in their vacation home. Holm said she had “nothing but time” thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, so she researched and planned the interiors herself.
“I knew I wanted to do the lacquer painting,” she says. “Once we started talking about that, Mark said [Rick Holtz was] who we have to talk with. Honestly, we didn’t even consider anyone else. They’re so knowledgeable.”
Using a color palette inspired by a painting they own – “Be the Hero” by Italian artist Marco Battaglini – Holm initially envisioned the walls as turquoise. She worked with the Holtz team, who prepared numerous sample boards, to “see” the color in the room.
“Holtz was amazing, because we had a dozen different colors we considered: four turquoise, then burnt orange,” Holm says. “But I thought, if we’re going to do it, we’d rather err on the front side than not have it right. They were on board with that.”
The final color choice was a Fine Paints of Europe match to Benjamin Moore Dragon’s Blood – a rich red-orange hue that changes with the light. (The match was necessary to use FPE’s specialty high gloss paint.) Holm wanted a warm tone, given the proximity to the outdoors via the room’s wall of windows, and wanted color to envelop the space. To that end, the trim and the ribs on the coffered ceiling are also lacquered in the paint.
“We had to do something different [above],” she says, noting the gold paint on the ceiling. “We wanted it to have an antique feel, a warm tone, not glitzy and shiny. We wanted it to look hand-painted.”
Holm is pleased by how the bright lacquer plays off the more subtle floor, which is natural stone with walnut inlay. “We have the same walnut up in our kitchen,” she says. “It’s a soft, natural finish; it gives a warmer feel.”
While painting the room took weeks, Holm says she didn’t mind, because she wanted it to be just right. And there were many elements to consider, including the trim and cabinets by KDWHome.
“I don’t want to rush that kind of work,” she says. “It’s so detailed, it would be silly to rush it.” She credits foreman Kenny Ebright for his masterful handling of the project. “I love Kenny; he’s the man,” she adds.
Holm says the project is exactly what she and her husband had hoped for, and that it’s already serving its purpose as a gathering space for the large family. “I had known Rick [through our children], but this was the first time we’d worked with the company,” she says. “When our builder told us to go with them, we knew the company was quality. With Holtz, you definitely get what you pay for.”