Master Craftsman: Joe Badilla, Painter

Joe Badilla, Photo: Courtesy Badilla Painters, Inc.
Joe Badilla, Photo: Courtesy Badilla Painters, Inc.

Fascination is a funny thing–it’s not as all-consuming as an obsession but more so than an interest. It’s like a faint ringing in the distance, in the back of our minds, beckoning us to pursue it and answer the call. Joe Badilla, founder of Bridgehampton-based Badilla Painters, Inc., answered.

Emigrating from Costa Rica to the United States in the early ’80s, Badilla brought with him a fascination for paints and finishes. He followed that passion to a high-end Hamptons company where he developed a keen eye for aesthetics and an expert ear that could pinpoint what clients truly desired, even if they can’t communicate it. “I was always a good listener. When somebody would ask for something, I not only took what they were asking for, I also looked beyond that to find the intention behind it…connecting the dots for the end product,” he says, adding that he always maintains a “humble attitude in providing help to the person making the decisions [and doesn’t] impose as to what to do.”

A Melanie Roy Designs kitchen, made possible by Badilla Painter, Incs.; Photo: Melanie Roy Designs
A Melanie Roy Designs kitchen, made possible by Badilla Painter, Inc.; Photo: Melanie Roy Designs

When Badilla started Badilla Painters, Inc. in 1988, his Hamptons and NYC clients saw something special in the way he conducted his business. Holding his company to a Level Five standard, the highest level of finish quality, Badilla assures the designers, builders and customers he works with that his team’s work is free of surface defects and visual blemishes, requiring several extra steps to ensure that level of quality. “We are not a company that does commercial work–that’s what Level Three is,” he clarifies. Badilla Painters’ wide range of customized services include painting, staining, chrome finishing, cabinet refinishing, wall covering and plaster finishing.

Badilla invests a great sum of money in research into design trends and breakthroughs in finishing technology. “One thing we always try to do is understand the trends and who are the trendsetters, and to really take advantage of this beautiful opportunity–working with the best and most talented designers and architects in the New York area. By doing that early and by being fascinated by beautiful finishes, we knew that we had to evolve our business structure, looking for efficiency in the process and delivering on the best possible quality. One of the most challenging things is providing new tools to the designers. By their own nature, they’re always evolving and looking for the next new thing,” he says. “We are always doing research and looking for new products on the market. Doing that creates a great opportunity to provide designers with new tools, which allows them to provide their customers with new choices.” 

One of Badilla’s latest discoveries is magnetic plaster. Magnetic paint was introduced to the market a few years ago, but it doesn’t hold enough metals in it to produce strong magnetism. A new magnetic plaster was recently created in Europe that’s much stronger and paintable. “Just imagine painting every wall the same color, knowing that one of them is magnetized for you to use for presentations,” he says. “You go in, you use it for your presentation, then you remove everything, and it’ll look like nothing was ever there.”

Another unique service Badilla Painters brings to the table is custom chrome finishing, which can turn wood, plastic, glass and some other types of furniture and accent pieces into a major wow factor. “It’s all about chemical effects. We look at the substrate and need to condition the surface to make sure it doesn’t transfer humidity, so it has to be properly coated. Once we accomplish that, we chrome the surface, making the base look like a mirror. Then, through a combination of colors, we can create a bronze, gold, rose gold or chrome finish. It’s a great tool for interior designers,” Badilla explains. “If we can paint it, we can chrome it!”

During the pandemic, Badilla has placed added focus on making homes feel like lavish destinations, with kitchen cabinets and bedroom vanities that can be finished onsite with the use of UV light technology. This cutting-edge curing technique dries paint instantly and with increased durability. “In kitchen refinishing, we use a much better product than anybody else,” he notes. “I always find it fascinating to invest in something different that separates us from other companies.”

Theater by Barbara Ostrom Associates and Badilla Painters, Inc.; Photo: Barbara Ostrom Associates
Theater by Barbara Ostrom Associates and Badilla Painters, Inc.; Photo: Barbara Ostrom Associates

In most situations, Badilla recommends that kitchens need only be refinished, not replaced. “In a lot of the beautiful homes, people spend a lot of money on kitchens, but you don’t need to replace the whole thing. It’s a major investment! What you need to do is refinish it to give it a new life. By refinishing the kitchen and installing new hardware, the kitchen comes back to life!”

With any job, using green materials is a top priority for Badilla and his clients. “When people look for oil-based products, we try to tell them that water-based products are the best way to go, but a lot of our customers are environmentally conscious,” he says, adding that he is constantly on the lookout for new eco-friendly products that don’t contain volatile organic compounds (VOC). “Everything we use is either low VOC or zero VOC.”

At the end of the day, Badilla’s No. 1 priority is simply to guarantee that he and his team make the client happy. “When we go to a job site, we ask if the customer is smiling and if there’s anything we can do to make the process better,” he says. “We make sure we’re able to eliminate stress before it happens.”