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Exceptional Decorating Wins Queenstown Company Master Painter Of The Year Award

A Queenstown company was named Master Painter of the Year at the New Zealand Master Painter Awards in Rotorua tonight after its portfolio of expert work in Central Otago won two other titles and four individual categories.

Mark Grieve from HiLo Decorating Ltd. in Queenstown was named New Zealand Master Painter of the Year for 2020.

Mark Grieve from HiLo Decorators Ltd

Mr Grieve also won the Residential Master Painter of the Year award and the Wallcoverings Applicator of the Year award.

HiLo Decorating won four individual categories at the awards – New Interior Residential Less Than $25,000; Rework Interior Residential Contemporary Home; New Residential Wallcoverings; and Rework Residential Wallcoverings.

The awards covered a portfolio of work at a home at Pisa Moorings, Lake Dunstan, a home on the shore of Lake Wakatipu and a Queenstown Marina apartment.

“Mark Grieve’s portfolio was some of the best quality decorating work the judges had ever seen,” Mr Miller said.

“It was a mix of outstandingly good painting work and exceptionally executed wall coverings,” he said.

All the master painters provided their customers with excellent work – it’s the smallest detail that divides these experts and an untrained eye could not distinguish the difference.

“The customers have received a very, very good job so as we consider the rankings for each category we are looking for tiny points of difference,” says Brian Miller, Chief Executive of Master Painters New Zealand.

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Everyone thinks decorating is easy, but it is a skilled trade, especially at this level.

“The amount of creativity involved and the skilled attention to details required in painting and wall covering surprises people,” Mr Miller says.

The judges visited every nominated property to critique the decorators’ work – that’s more than 130 properties this year – and the quality is fantastic.

To determine the winners, the tiny differences in points are from a minute detail on the hidden areas in a room, such as the skirting boards, the top of a door, or architraves, or a variation in the brush work sets painters apart. It’s nothing a customer would ever notice, Mr Miller says.

For wallpapering, the slight difference in points usually comes down to matching the pattern, trimming and finishing.

For exterior work, it’s often the underside of a weather board which tips the balance for the judges, and they’re inspecting all these hidden spots using their phone cameras on selfie sticks or getting down on their hands and knees.

The best of the best

The judges’ superlatives flowed for the exterior painting of the Government House in Mountain Road, Epsom – a faultless job on the Governor General’s Auckland home by JR Webb & Son, owned by Peter Jolliffe and Jim Dennis.

Government House Auckland

The firm won the Commercial Master Painter of the Year award.

“A significant variety of surfaces required attention, the work was executed at the highest standard and the presentation was immaculate,” Mr Miller said.

This year the Master Painters competition attracted 160 entries – the most in the contest’s history.

The effect of COVID-19 on the painting and decorating industry

As a consequence of the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, Mr Miller says there’s been a pause in commercial application projects, particularly in Auckland and Central Otago, with the accommodation and hospitality industries affected by borders being shut and consequent lack of tourists. Caution around future demand is a significant factor.

“At the same time, the residential part of our industry is hectic across the country as people reallocate money they would have spent on overseas holidays to renovate and decorate their homes,” Mr Miller says.

Trends in 2020

To rank the entrants in the NZ Master Painter competition, the judges visited over 130 homes and commercial premises around the country to compare the decorators’ work.


In 2020 they noted a large number of new character homes featuring architectural designs with traditional heritage aspects highlighted, Mr Miller says.

There was also a surge in the restoration of older character homes with homeowners discovering beautiful ceiling roses hidden in their homes and renovating these and other historical features as part of a revitalisation of their property.


In terms of colours, Mr Millers says the domination of white is waning.

This year the judges noted that shades of blue, particularly teal, and soft greens were popular and bold colours were often chosen by property owners.

Statement walls continue to be popular.


For wall coverings, nature and bold botanical wallpapers featured in many homes, while the geometric designs of recent years were less popular.

“People are making courageous choices of bold, large botanical designs,” he says.

New Zealand manufacturers produce excellent quality wallpaper, as good as anywhere in the world, Mr Miller says.


Oil timber stains are growing in popularity to bring out the natural colour of timber on interior walls in homes, Mr Miller says, and a slight tint is often added.

The judges noted more blonded timber inside homes than ever before, with the natural grain highlighted through the tint.


In 2020 more painters and decorators are using spraying machines to paint walls – it’s the way of the future for new homes, Mr Miller says.

For older homes, painting can be more difficult and to achieve the best finish hand painting is often necessary.

Top tips for home decorators from Master Painters New Zealand

  1. Dust, dust and dust again. Dust is the enemy of paint and wallpaper so get rid of any dust.
  2. Preparation is 95% of the work – don’t start until your surfaces are pristine.
  3. Don’t rush the process, drying times need to be adhered too.
  4. Never use heat to dry wallcoverings more quickly, it’s a recipe for opening joins.
  5. Cheap paint is cheap for a reason – buy the best you can afford.

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