by Eric Metaxas
August 11, 1994
When you listen to Patrick Reddy talk about the painting business it doesn’t take long to realize you’re not talking to a novice.
His conversation on the subject is peppered with such disparate topics as the history of American restoration and some of its leading pioneers and proponents such as Jackie Onassis and John D. Rockefeller; the entrepreneurial theories of such business luminaries as Paul Hawkins of the celebrated Smith & Hawkins Company, Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s, or even Stew Leonard, who happens to be Pat’s uncle.
Sometimes he’ll make detailed references to a particular color he used on a job he did 22 years ago, when he was just getting started.
Mr. Reddy, 40, and a New Canaan, Conn. resident, today owns Pound Ridge Painters. He has been in the business of painting houses since 1972, when he dropped out of St. Michaels College to start what became the most successful house painting business in Fairfield County.
Two years later, at the tender age of 21, he had no less than 40 men working for him, ten crews painting nearly 200 houses per year.
“The business grew so quickly that, the management support of New Canaan accountant Louis Squitieri and his son Peter’s early IBM main frame, it got where I couldn’t give the personal attention I wanted to each and every house,” Mr. Reddy says.
The Big City
So, in 1979, he moved to Manhattan where for nearly a decade he painted the elegant interiors of upper East Side apartment houses, mostly pre-war buildings on Fifth and Park Avenues.
“It was a real chance of pace,” he explains. “Before the emphasis had been on the business management aspect of the job, but now it was on the craft itself.”
From 1980 to 1989, Mr. Reddy learned under the expert tutelage of many European craftsmen who’d brought their trade with them from the Old World. “Some of them had been painting since as early as 1915. They were incredibly meticulous, the best there was,” he remembers.
“With them it was an art form before it was a business.” Mr. Reddy became expert himself at plastering, and learned gilding and marbleizing. Much of the work involved restoration.
He recalls gold leafing an ornate mantelpiece in the very apartment building where Theodore Roosevelt married his young bride, Alice, in 1880, following his graduation from Harvard.
“It’s a landmark building,” he says, “a real piece of New York history.” Another memorable job involved restoring a 1910 mural of a Roman panorama in a turn-of-the-century building on 67th Street.
Since those days he’s taken his new found skills back to where he started, back to the saltboxes and colonials of Pound Ridge and New Canaan to be precise.
“It’s wonderful to be able to apply all I learned in Manhattan to some of the beautiful homes in this area.”
Mr. Reddy, a former Pound Ridge resident, waxes poetic talking about certain jobs, such as the Pound Ridge Community Church, a colonial-era structure rebuilt in 1786, which he painted 3 years ago. In the original white, of course.
Or a Federalist-era house on New Canaan’s Main Street which he’ll be painting later this season.
Today, Pat’s brother, Walter, who has been his partner during much of the last two decades, takes the lead in anything involving faux finishing, tromp l’oeil, or mural restoration.
Appropriately, Walter has a background in fine art. “It compliments what we are doing perfectly,” says Pat. Now when Walter’s not working on a series of 12 historical military scenes that he was commissioned to do by a Hawaii-based gallery, he’s putting French window where there isn’t one, or turning wooden columns into Tuscany marble.
“There are things that I learned in all of those years painting Park Avenue apartments that you can’t learn from books and videos on painting,” Pat says.
His most recent opportunity to apply his restorative skills involved the house of Michael Memoli, an imposing colonial Williamsburg style reproduction on Old Stamford Road in New Canaan.
When he came to see the house, he saw that the original paint was peeling badly. He investigated.
“The lower part of the clapboard had held its paint, but for some reason the upper part hadn’t. It seems that in the milling of the wood a dull sawblade had been used for one of the two cuts,” he says.
“Instead of making a nice, clean cut which would create a porous surface that held paint well, the dull blade sort of burnished the wood. It was so slick the paint had nothing to cling to.”
So to insure that his paint isn’t similarly spurned Mr. Reddy’s crew is going to strip and sand the clapboards first, to restore the wood’s original surface.
Mr. Memoli is glad for Reddy’s meticulousness and expertise. He is also thankful for the fact that pat tends to work to a definite schedule, because it turns out that Mr. Memoli plans to be married in that very house in a matter of weeks.
But Pat is confident he can get the job done well before the Big Day.
“The scaffoldings and drop clothes were out of the way when teddy and Alice got married,” he chuckles, “my customers deserve no less.”