Prairie School architects like Frank Lloyd Wright introduced an organic new American style to residential architecture in the early 20th century. Their legacy lives on thanks to devoted homeowners and the meticulous restoration work of contractors like the Illini Paint Company of Decatur, Ill.
Illini recently completed a repaint of a 100-year-old home on Millikin Place, a pastoral, tree-lined Decatur boulevard devoted almost entirely to Prairie Style homes. The 12-man firm lands high-profile jobs like this with a reputation built on quality workmanship and an extreme emphasis on detail – in this case power washing and cleaning the exterior, applying a stucco mix to the correct mil thickness, and making sure paint colors and sheens were historically accurate.
Two coats of Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint Exterior Latex Flat were applied to the side walls (color matched to SW221, James Moir Shop Fawn) and overhangs of single-family and custom homes, and foreman on the Millikin Place job. "That's important because we won't apply an inferior product." Foglia says the company has been fortunate because the Decatur real estate market has so far not taken as severe a hit as other areas. "Our sales fell 10 percent last year, which today makes up about 90 percent of his business.
"When working with single adult homeowners, we recommend the interior SuperPaint line," Foglia says. "For custom homes and for homes with children or grandchildren, we suggest Duration Home Matte. Its excellent washability is the selling point." Illini also counts on its supplier for quality exterior paint and primers, stain and deck products, as well as accurate and consistent color. "When a homeowner wants a custom color, our Sherwin-Williams store matches the color dead-on, in our preferred products," says Christopher Bracken, an 11-year veteran of the company (SW7040, Smokehouse), followed with a high-gloss finish on the doors and a satin sheen on the window openings (both SW418, Barraud House Green).
"Understanding the customer's needs and matching them to the Sherwin-Williams product line enables us to satisfy the individual needs each project requires," says Steven Foglia, who founded the Illini Paint Company in 1986.
Early on, for example, the company focused on property management accounts. "We worked with two local property management companies and had over 500 apartments to keep fresh for renters," he says. "ProMar 400 Interior Latex provided the perfect value for this market." Soon he branched into single family and custom homes, which today makes up about 90 percent of his business.
"When a homeowner wants a custom color, our Sherwin-Williams store matches the color dead-on, in our preferred products," says Christopher Bracken, an 11-year veteran of the company and foreman on the Millikin Place job. "That's important because we won't apply an inferior product."
Foglia says the company has been fortunate because the Decatur real estate market has so far not taken as severe a hit as other areas. "Our sales fell 10 percent last year, but are up 30 percent year-to-date at this time," he says. But they have also made their own luck by maintaining a strong marketing presence in all economic cycles, weak or strong.
The company sponsors a local Saturday morning radio home show and makes guest appearances on the show's real estate news segment. They take part in Decatur's Adopt-A-Street program and include a "Welcome to Decatur" message in every proposal package for new residents. They've also maintained a daily ad in the Decatur Herald & Review's service directory for more than 10 years.
"Allowing people to see it every day leaves an impression, a familiarity that clicks when they turn to the Yellow Pages for service," Foglia says. Reinforcing that with fine craftsmanship on homes like those on historic Millikin Place guarantees that the Illini Paint Company continues to stay positioned strongly at the top of customers' minds in the Decatur repaint market.