Ron Feley has been painting houses in and around Oak Park for more than a quarter century. While he and his crew paint pretty much everything — interiors, exteriors, historic homes and new construction — Ronbo’s Fine Painting Inc. frequently receives accolades for their work on older homes.
This year, Ronbo’s walked away with two awards in the Chicago Paint & Coatings Association’s 2021 Chicago’s Finest Painted Ladies Competition. Feley has been a winner in the competition in previous years, and while style, size and age of the property are not a factor in winning a prize, he thinks that Oak Park’s historic homes do lend themselves success in a competition that focuses on using craftsmanship in paint application to complement the structure of the building.
Ronbo’s was the grand prize winner for Best Professionally Painted Home displaying “best use of paint for a stunning appeal” for the paint job on the Victorian at 317 Clinton Ave. in Oak Park. The award focuses on homes whose paint jobs enhance their curb appeal.
Feley says that owner Ellie Sharp has been a client for more than 20 years and notes that paint jobs on historic Victorian houses like hers often involve far more than a few cans of paint.
“This one needed a ton of carpentry and replacement of cedar,” he said.
On top of that, there is a bit of artistry to the colors. While the clients often drive the color choices, Feley says of Sharp’s house’s palette of greens and purples, “You have to put the colors where they pop.”
Sharp says her home was definitely in need of a paint job when she called Feley. She has lived in the house since 1998 and went with the same base colors that were there when she purchased the home because she liked them. Over time, the colors had faded, and she was ready to breathe new life into the exterior.
It’s doubtful the house was originally green. Sharp says a recent visit to the Oak Park River Forest Historical Society turned up a few historic photos of the home, which although they are black and white, show that the house has been painted various shades over time.
The home was built in 1893, and the architect is unknown. Sharp says that several other homes nearby, including one a block north on Clinton Avenue, one on Oak Park Avenue and one on Home Avenue also have similar “onion” style turrets that mirror the turret on her home. She imagines that they all might be the work of the same developer.
The home’s claim to fame came in 1997 when a neighboring residence was filmed in the movie “Soul Food,” and glimpses of her home can be seen in the movie. Other than that moment in the sun, Sharp says her house her is like many that make up the historic fabric of Oak Park.
Ronbo’s also won an award for Best Use of Bold Color Combo for the exterior paint job at 146 N. Ridgeland Ave. Homeowner Kirsten Greshammer is a designer, so choosing a color to replace the faded beige was a priority for her.
“I don’t know the last time it had been painted,” Greshammer said, adding her family bought it in 2016. “There was evidence of a lot of patch jobs. It had sort of a beige and red palette, so we called it the Target house.”
Admitting that she hated the color “from day one,” Greshammer says that as soon as they prioritized it in their rehab budget, they called in Feley to paint the home. She said they chose to work with Feley because they knew he understood the prep work and technique necessary for the job.
Because the new colors need to work with the existing roof and aluminum-clad windows, which are in reddish tones, Greshammer says choosing a palette was a challenge.
“I’m a designer, so I did a lot of Photoshop trying different colors,” Greshammer said. “I also spent a lot of time on Pinterest looking at color schemes for Victorian houses. I saw a lot of olive green with red accents, but it just didn’t look right when I put samples on the house.”
In the end, she chose a blue color that is accented with red and cream. She recommends that people considering an exterior paint job spend plenty of time looking at the paint schemes of other, similarly aged homes in person and online.
Feley says that working on houses like these historic beauties involves focusing on two areas.
“It’s a ton of preparation and a lot of detail work,” he said. “That’s what these homes come down to.”