For a long time I wanted to write about another muse of mine: Loree Pringle from Homestead House Paint Company. If there’s one lady who knows paint inside out, it’s Loree. I’ve been lucky enough to learn a lot from her in the past years.
Loree and Scott are the mom & pop-team that started Homestead House, the manufacturer of Homestead House Interior and Exterior coatings, Homestead House Milk Paint, Miss Mustard Seed’s Milk Paint & Fusion Mineral in Toronto, Canada. Their daughter Jennylyn Pringle is now the president of the company. I personally think that Loree was and is very important in the development of the painting furniture movement. Behind the scenes she does a lot of important work people may not know about.
I have an interesting connection with Loree she might not know about. Around the time I started exploring the possibilities of painting techniques on furniture, a new tv channel started in Belgium. It was a lifestyle channel that gave us sudden access to many North American shows about interior, decor, gardening and so on. It was there that I was introduced to Debbie Travis’ show. At that time I didn’t know that Debbie and Loree worked together for a while. In one episode Debbie talked about ‘milk paint’. It caught my interest, I went to our general paint store, asked for milk paint and they answered ‘that doesn’t exist’. I looked online for milk paint in Belgium and the Netherlands, but I quickly gave up. 10 years later I learned about milk paint from Homestead House on Miss Mustard Seed‘s blog and started selling it. All that time I didn’t realize that it was the same paint/company Debbie Travis had mentioned on her show.
Beautiful picture! A hot summer day, but Loree is happily painting away in the warehouse. Food wrap and paint, seriously! She thinks out of the box!
Let’s chat with Loree now!
Loree, I’m very interested to hear how you started Homestead House Paint Company?
I’m not actually the one who started it from the absolute beginning but Scott Wallace and I were silent investors for the first year while it was getting its feet off the ground. The original person is an artist at heart and does not have the desire to be involved in the business part. All the investment money of the five parties involved was spent on equipment, advertising, staff, colour brochures, warehouse leasing consultation fees, … the list goes on and on. All the investment money was spent at the end of one year. I was working full-time as a registered nurse and Scott was working full time driving truck for the main purposes of delivering within a very large company non-related to paint. There were quite a few ups and downs and everybody walked away from what seemed to be at the time a failed business venture. Scott and I stuck with it working 2 jobs for five years as there were plenty of bills that still needed to be paid and we were slowly growing the company. We got busier so I left nursing to be able to put more hours into the company. At this point we had 22 colours in our milk paint line as well as had an oil base collection and we were just starting in with acrylic paint.
How adorable is this house? Painted in several Homestead House Milk Paint colours.
Homestead House Paint Company – the early days
What’s your special connection with milk paint?
My special connection with the product is the fact that I have loved it since day one! Anytime I could use it for a project I would – even on things when it was not recommended, excellent learning here. Milk paint is great to do some really funky effects by watering it down for washes or mixing it thicker for texture — it is limitless. I have done some rather large projects such as kitchens and large reproduction furniture finishing such as armoires. This kind of furniture finishing is brand new solid wood furniture and make it look like it is a couple hundred years old, and truly the only paint that you could get an authentic appearance of this would be by using milk paint. Another enjoyable part was doing research on historical colours in different areas and being able to re-create them in our product lines. Scott and I were also the ones that would be mixing the powders in 10 or 15 pound batches, weighing the little baggies and putting them into the packages to be able to sell – we pretty much did everything – very hands-on!
Can you tell us a little about your work with Debbie Travis?
That was a lot of fun! I went to Montreal a couple times to work on some projects with her. I remember one was pretty unique, it was a kitchen with a plaid floor and lightly distressed milk painted cabinetry. Also, I assisted with information regarding milk paint as she was doing many small projects and had written a couple of books. *Check out Debbie’s book ‘Painted House’ here, on p.143 where you can see the kitchen with the plaid floor.
You know a whole lot about different paints, pigments and colours. What is your absolute favorite colour and why?
Yes, I literally spent years doing research on types of paints and the colours that were popular over certain periods in time from Colonial , Craftsman, Edwardian, Victorian etc. Ingredients that are used in paints is constantly ever-changing and ongoing as technologies get better and new suppliers come into the marketplace or leave, pricing is also always changing so need to keep up-to-date with that as well. Most favourite colour …… I have literally spent days trying to pin down an answer here. I really love the warm muted sage greens and the grey-blues. I really had a hard time with this question so I ended up with two.
Here we go:
Inglenook ( Crafstman Collection 2001) This particular colour lends it self to a soft blue during the day and then seemingly has a green tone in the evening. I find it quite soothing and calming and goes very well with yellows such as Prairie Sunset, Buttermilk Cream and Mustard.
Champlain ( Canadiana Collection 1992) I have painted everything from walls to furniture using this muted warm off-white as it goes with every other colour so well. Also, when I was unable to decide on a colour for a particular project that was always my fallback colour of choice. Champlain works in just about every decor setting.
Your daughter Jennylyn is the president of Homestead House Company. She grew up between paint swatches and has learnt a lot from you all those years. What did you learn from her?
What I have learned from her is to think big and just do it. Planning is great but half the time things change along the way and you just need to go with the flow. I’ve always been ultra cautious and only taking baby steps. She definitely challenges people and inspires them to go the extra mile and not to take no for an answer.
When I went back to nursing I was quite burnt out from running the business and also wanted to have a consistent stable income to be able to pay off some bills and possibly even take a vacation!. Between the years from 1992 until 2012 we went on vacation once ( in 1997 down to Florida for a week and some camping). Being self-employed does not allow for annual vacations unfortunately.
I returned to nursing when Jenn graduated from Ryerson and was able to run the business. I continued to do the bookkeeping and Scott continued to handle production, Jenn took on the store, marketing, etc… She approached us with a couple of ideas and at first I must say I was an anchor because it involved Scott and I putting all of our assets on the line as initially we were unable to acquire a business loan from the bank. Doing any kind of expansion or drastic change in business always requires an infusion of a lot of cash and because there were no other investors that meant that everything that Scott and I had worked for over the past 20+ years was now at risk if it were to fail. So in the beginning I was not as enthusiastic as Jenn was. Since I was nursing full-time with the hopes of using that income to finish a renovation that was now over 10 years old and I also wanted to put money towards the mortgage on our house. So, we had to stop the renovation process as all the money had to now again be put back into the company.
Her enthusiasm that she has is the enthusiasm that I had in the beginning with Homestead House. I believe it has rubbed off because I feel reenergized and have since stopped working at the hospital to go back into Homestead House full-time ++!
Thank you Loree for this very interesting and open interview!