Tim Glastetter

No one who saw the house that Tim Glastetter, Washington, purchased along the Bourbeuse River some 10 years ago would recognize it today — save for the railing design on the side porch.

In fact, when Glastetter, a decorative artist specializing in custom paint finishes, bought the house to use as a workshop and weekend getaway, everyone told him his best bet would be to tear it down and start over. It was that run down.

“The house had actually been condemned and the 14 acres it sits on had become a dumping ground for old appliances and junk,” said Glastetter.

But he could see beyond all of that.

“I could tell it had good bones,” Glastetter remarked. “It was solid.”

Today the house looks like new again, although so much of what has been used to give it new life has a past.

The shutters were made from old doors taken from inside the house. The rolling cabinet carts that make up the outdoor kitchen on the new porch feature the wood floor from the old porch paired with oak cabinets from the old kitchen.

“There’s lots of reclaimed stuff out here,” said Glastetter.

And nearly all of it has been given new life with Glastetter’s custom paint finishes — so much so that the river house now serves as a showroom for his work. Glastetter has brought interior designers, architects and other colleagues to the property to get a feel for all that he can do.

From Computers to Color

Glastetter’s interest in finishes goes back to his childhood. His first project was a wood bedframe he bought at an auction for $5. He refinished it alongside his mom, Wilma Glastetter, who also liked such projects.

After graduating high school in the 1980s, Glastetter went to college to study computer programming and later started a family. While he was working at a job in computers, Glastetter began playing around with paint finishes just for fun.

He was trying to copy the glazed finish he saw on picture frames sold by the studio where his daughters had their photos taken.

“I wanted to figure out how they did that,” he said.

So he played around with paint and water until he figured out a technique he liked.

“I was doing painting and glazing before I knew there were products to be used for that,” he joked.

Years later when they hired an interior designer to do some work at their house, the designer noticed the frames and asked who had done them. She liked Glastetter’s work so much she hired him to do some work for her clients, small weekend jobs like fireplaces, he said.

In time, Glastetter traded his job in computers, which he hated, to work as a decorative artist.

He began attending weeklong classes in places like Chicago to develop and hone his skills. He joined trade organizations like the International Decorative Artists League (IDAL) and Metro Artisans Guild (MAG) and began attending national conferences.

His skill continued to grow as he worked with designers and architects creating the look their clients wanted.

For Glastetter, the work has come full circle as he is occasionally asked to serve as one of the instructors at those same conferences.

At the same time, his work takes him all over the country creating custom finishes on walls, ceilings and furniture of all kinds, no matter if it is old or new.

“Giving new life to tired furniture and walls,” he writes on his website, www.timglastetter.com.

‘People Wouldn’t Realize’

There is no end to the examples of Glastetter’s work inside the river house. Much of the furniture and all of the cabinets and walls feature his custom finishes.

The dining table was made with wood planks from an old floor for the top and old metal that he had shaped into table legs. He purchased the old chairs for $10 apiece and he refinished them to look new.

To look at the chairs as they had been, most people wouldn’t have wanted them, said Glastetter. But he knew they could be better.

“I look for good bones, sturdiness,” he said. “I don’t want something that’s not going to hold up.”

The kitchen cabinets are new, but Glastetter gave them a metallic pearl finish.

“At night when the light is on them, it’s almost reflective,” he said.

A bench under a window in the kitchen was made using some of the salvaged wood floor planks from the old porch, the same ones used on the rolling outdoor kitchen cabinet carts.

Glastetter used scraps from outdoor light fixtures to build the lights over the sink. He painted them to look like metal.

“There’s a lot painted in here that people wouldn’t realize,” said Glastetter.

He transformed a cheap buffet cabinet into a media center by adding legs, swapping out the wrought iron grills in the doors for antiqued mirrors and painting the particle board top to look like a nice piece of reclaimed wood.

Although the piece didn’t have the look he wanted initially, it was the right size, shape and it was sturdy, he said. In his hands, the overall look was easily changed to match the style he wanted.

Glastetter has painted the front door of the house to look like wood, but it’s metal, which is much more durable, maintenance free and cheaper to boot.

The cabinets used in the bathrooms are either salvaged pieces that were taken from other renovation projects or damaged pieces. He added legs, hardware and the paint finish — a stainless steel look, in the one bathroom.

“I was trying to do stuff you wouldn’t normally do in a traditional setting,” Glastetter explained. “It’s not a finish you usually see on wood, but it looks really good. It’s the kind of thing that people can imagine looking good until they see it in person.”

The same is true of the wall finish, Glastetter’s custom Venetian plaster.

“Venetian plaster is usually a really, really high polish, almost glasslike, but I use a different base under it so you get a rustic feel with it,” he said.

Of all the finishes Glastetter works with, his favorite is glazing.

“I can take just a flat piece of something and make it look dimensional just by shading it,” he said.

Workshop and Guest House

In addition to providing a showroom for his techniques and ideas, the river house does serve as a workshop for Glastetter, as well as an event space and guest house. Glastetter recently hosted a couple of artists from The Netherlands who were touring America.

The property includes a main house and several outbuildings.

The workshop area, located in the basement of the main house, is where Glastetter will mix up sample colors for clients or paint furniture pieces. Most of his work for clients is done on-site.

Next month he’ll be in Sonoma Valley, Calif., for a job, but it also will be like a mini-vacation for him.

Amongst the sample boards and color swatches strewn across his workbench was a page torn out of home decór catalog showing one client’s inspiration for a particular job. That’s pretty common, said Glastetter.

On his website, there is a set of green wooden doors that he painted that began the same way — inspired by a set of doors featured in a Kate Spade ad.

In all the years Glastetter has been working, he’s proud to say he has never had an unhappy customer. There has been one recent job though where the customers decided they wanted a different look after Glastetter had completed the job, so he’s starting fresh for them on that.

Although many of his jobs are quite extensive, Glastetter said there is no job that’s too small. He once had a customer who hired him to paint an area of a bathroom to match some expensive wallpaper that had water damage.

Glastetter, who enjoys his work so much, said looking ahead he doesn’t envision a day when he will ever have to retire completely, because it’s not too strenuous or physical (although ceilings are already a pain in the neck, literally).

He could eventually ditch the walls and ceiling work to focus more on furniture pieces instead.