Ouch!

Some of you perhaps recently saw that one of our company trucks was crushed by a tree in Wissahickon Park on Christmas day. We are happy to report that no one was injured. The passengers were walking in the park when it happened.

The truck, however, is done. It is something of a testament to the model — a 2008 Land Rover LR3 — that it was not completely flattened. It was a very large tree.

We wish everyone a healthy, safe and successful 2018!

Renovation Procrastination: Getting Ready to Be Ready to Begin

I sometimes tease when someone I know is obviously procrastinating. I say they are “getting ready to be ready to begin.” But teasing aside, many of us can use a little help getting started from time to time, especially when it comes to planning a big remodeling project.

We all know a big renovation will be painful in many ways: cost, time, displacement, noise, disruption, commitment, change, anxiety, and dust all come to mind. I know because I have renovated my own house, and I have felt the same pain my clients have felt. I too have put off making necessary improvements because I wanted to avoid the pains of renovating. What helps to minimize these inconveniences is to actually begin the “getting ready to be ready” part. The following is a list of some things you might do to begin your own “get ready to be ready” to renovate process. And you can feel better knowing that since you are reading this, you are one step closer to BEING ready!

1. Put Your Thoughts on Paper — Write a simple description of the look, feel, and type of renovation you’re hoping to achieve. Divide your list into “wishes” and “must haves.” This helps you organize your goals for the project, and tells us a tremendous amount of important information as we begin designing your solutions.

2. Get on the Same Page With Your Partner — Quite simply, we don’t want to be the arbitrator of conflicts related to your renovation. Make sure you both agree on all major choices ahead of time.

3. Get Packing — Clearing out the space to be renovated is one of the biggest hurdles some folks have. None of us believes we have a lot of stuff until we have to deal with packing it up. You can never start too soon — even before calling us.

4. Manage the Money — Let’s not sugarcoat it: Spending money is an emotional decision. Some remodelers call it “investing,” which is an attempt at making a spend feel like it doesn’t hurt. Yes, you are investing in your family’s quality of life, and yes, your house will gain some measure of value and hopefully be easier to sell down the road. But you have to spend money to make it happen. Establish a reasonable budget and determine how you will pay for the renovation. Are you going to do a HELOC? Use some savings, a bonus, or a dividend? Did your Aunt Sue leave you a large inheritance? You may want to talk to your accountant about how to get your money ready, or the bank or relative who is going to be giving it to you. It often helps to start this process early to take advantage of tax or interest benefits.

5. Manage Your Stress — Is your dog or cat the type who will escape if the door is open? If so, you will want to arrange for pet day care or get him/her crate trained. Most pets hate the sound of construction and constant intruders into their domain, and they will act out with destructive behavior, urinating in the house or worse. And while we can’t blame these animals who are only trying to protect their territory and families, we do need them out of the way so we can be productive and safe while we work in your home. The humans in the house will also be stressed out. Consider booking a vacation or some spa time during the worst parts.

6. Take a Leap of Faith — A big renovation will demand a big investment of your precious time, money, commitment, and attention. Once the design is completed, you will have the necessary trust in both the design and us to move into construction.

7. Move out — If you can, and in some cases you really must, move into temporary housing. This takes time. Explore your options early so you can make the move before construction begins.

The time you spend managing these steps will help you feel ready to get to work with us, even if you’re still a little nervous about the process. It’s OK. We understand because we do this all the time — and we can help every step of the way.


 


Image: Nicolas Huk

Operation Organization — Everything in Its Place

Fall is the perfect season to think about nesting, de-cluttering, and organizing your home to make sure all of the odds and ends you accumulate throughout the year have a proper home. To that end, we’re offering a roundup of some the special customized cabinetry insert options that are available in the Myers Made™ cabinetry line to help you. See the slideshow below for some of our most popular solutions, along with details about how they can assist with your needs.

How can you choose which options are right for you? You’ll need to clearly define your goals and wishes in order to create a beautiful and well-organized space that matches your home and taste. Of course, we can work with you to cover all of the basics you’ll need — whether it’s a kitchen, bath, library, or entertainment/media room — and add value with these and many other internal solutions that help make everyday living a bit easier and happier.

Narrow but tall spice storage drawer: easy access for cooking, and out of the way when you are not.
Simple flatwear drawer with attractive maple dividers — eliminates the need for cheap, plastic flatwear organizers.
Wooden peg storage drawer with dishes.
Wooden peg storage drawer with dishes.
Just one of many recycling and garbage pull-out combinations available.
Wooden peg storage drawer with dishes.
This 2-tiered cutlery drawer organizes everyday and special-occasion flatwear and takes up no more space than a typical flatwear drawer.
A deep drawer with moveable pegs that can be configured as desired to accommodate many pots, dishes, and serving bowls without the risk of edges banging together or heavy dishes being dropped from an upper cabinet.
Drawer base cabinet with standard top drawer. The middle drawer is divided into general use on the right and storage for utensils on the left in cans, which come out for easy dishwashing and keep the countertop free from clutter.

One Great Project Ends; Another Begins

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Over the next couple of weeks, we will be winding down an extended multi-phase whole-house renovation in a historic twin home in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood. While the last of the subcontractors are scheduling their trim outs, the painters just finished up inside. We expect the exterior paint, gutters, and roof details to happen soon now that the temperature has warmed up. The deck is complete (see Facebook for photos ) and ready for the homeowners to put plants in the beautiful custom planters. We have our punch list items to complete and are ticking off our list. Meanwhile, the homeowners have scheduled their cleaners and movers and are thrilled to be able to move into their newly renovated historic home.

As that project comes to a close, a new whole-home renovation at a pied-à-terre across town is picking up steam!

Before the demolition phase, we applied for and were granted street space for our dumpsters. This is pricey, but very necessary in the city, where most houses don’t have driveways. While some contractors avoid city projects due to challenges with historic agencies, neighborhoods, L&I, and other agencies, we embrace it.

Demolition is now already underway on the first floor, and the rest of the house will be cleared out later this week. Long-lead items like cabinets have been ordered, and the various subs are scheduled. Stay tuned to our website and FB page for more updates as this project progresses!

New Projects Spring Into Action: Center City Pied-à-Terre

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This week, we began an exciting new whole-house makeover for a lovely pied-à-terre in Center City Philadelphia. This charming 2-story, 2-BR, 2-BA house was recently purchased by a couple who is downsizing from their prior home on the Main Line, where we did renovations with a large addition over 10 years ago.

The home was previously renovated sometime in the 1990s by its owner-occupant, an architect, who did a lot to enhance its good bones. Now, our clients want to really bring out the charm and style of this small house and make it one they can enjoy for decades to come.

The project involves adding a half-bath just off the new kitchen space on the first floor, so the homeowners’ aging parents can visit without having to climb stairs. We’ll also renovate the existing bathroom on the second floor, reconfigure the bedroom with a walk-in closet, and transform the TV-viewing area into an occasional guest room, music and relaxation space. And we’ll also redesign the kitchen so our customers, who love to cook, can do so enjoyably with family and friends. The new kitchen will feature a custom booth with storage, custom table, a sous chef station in the kitchen and, of course, our high-quality Myers Made™ custom cabinetry.

Throughout the project, we will be replacing leaky windows and doors with new, high-quality historically sympathetic units and building in many custom furniture items — including TV and eating areas, storage cabinets, shelves, and walk-in closets — so they fit this space in the most efficient manner possible. Our work scope includes options for furnishings as well as color and fabric selections that will bring the project together.

We always bring thoughtfulness and care to our projects. When we have a small-sized house like this one, everything has to be what we call “boaty.” Just like in the cabin of a fine boat, everything serves double or triple duty, it’s built in, and it’s beautiful.

Be sure to check in on our Facebook page and sign up for our newsletters to receive updates on what promises to be a charming and fun Spring/Summer project.

Basement Theater Remodel Wins NARI Award!

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Most of you will remember the Mt. Airy basement renovation we recently completed for clients who wanted to transform a previously underutilized space into a beautiful theater and entertainment room. We’re thrilled to announce that this project just won a NARI 2016 Regional Contractor of the Year (CotY) Award in the category of Basement $50,000 to $100,000 — Region 1/Northeast! In this national competition, regional awards are presented first, with national winners announced in April at the National Business Meeting of NARI in Austin, TX. We’re really proud to be honored in this way by The National Association of the Remodeling Industry, which sets the standards for quality and professionalism in our industry.

Project recap: Previously an unfinished basement, this space now has lots of different areas to relax, think, be entertained, and play music and games with family and friends — including a library with reading nook and a movie-viewing area that seats 10 in reclining leather seats with cupholders. The viewing room is framed by custom theater curtains, and the lobby features a gallery of large-format photos of our clients’ travels to libraries and theaters around the world. The walls in the new space are painted in deep, rich colors, and we worked with our homeowners to select new carpet, draperies, and light fixtures to pull the entire room together. We called in our A/V pros to set up the TV and audio and tweak the home’s wireless router system to ensure that all of the elements work together seamlessly.

Adaptive Reuse: A Space Fit for a Diva

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Part II in a Series on Adaptive Reuse, the basis of an upcoming presentation by Tamara Myers at the 2016 Las Vegas NKBA Kitchen and Bath Industry Show and NAHB International Builders’ Show.

In moving towards a more sustainable future, we already have a head start with claiming some adaptive reuse successes. Already integrated into our everyday thinking about what type of building can be turned into a home: the loft and the barn. Indeed, some of these transformations are so woven into our current vocabulary of building stock that ironically you will see elements of the form affecting new home design, including “barn-like” great rooms with exposed trusses, and new “loft” apartments with large windows and polished concrete floors.

Like all buildings that were originally built for another purpose, barns and lofts often come with some missing elements that need to be remedied for a successful transformation. Of course, each space is different, but it’s fairly typical to see limited sources of light and air. Understandably, buildings that were built to contain animals or farm equipment, or serve as a warehouse or manufacturing facility typically focused more on being a protective shell with limited openings to the outdoors. Letting light and air into an old building typically requires some creative infrastructure reorganization, enlarging existing openings, adding interior wells and courtyards, and so on. Those critical evaluations make all the difference when determining whether a warehouse or barn can successfully become a comfortable home for the long-term.

I recently was thinking through some of the lofts that I’ve seen in films or have visited over the years — some primitive, some quite lovely and inviting. And I asked myself what made the inviting ones successful. I laugh when I remember the loft space I romanticized from Diva, a French film from the early 1980s. Set in Paris, it had a full cast of wonderful characters, including an opera singer who didn’t believe art could be captured in a recording, and a Vespa-riding mailman named Jules that was obsessed with her. There were bootleg recordings, good guys and bad guys, lots of suspense, and, of course, wonderful arias. What I remember as much as the people are the buildings, the deteriorating opera house, and especially the loft space where the artist lived. The loft was dark with minimal appointments, and the space was open enough that one of the characters regularly roller-skated around, circling the bathtub that sat in the middle of the space. Truth is, taking a bath in middle of a cold loft is not all that fun, having had the chance to give that concept a test run on more than one occasion. Like many young art students, I coveted a space like that, but I came to understand over time that if there isn’t an intervention into these spaces to bring the vital elements of intimacy, some privacy, and essential light and air, that the building will only provide shelter and not sustenance.

We want folks to thrive in their spaces; we want their buildings to thrive. Therefore, we aren’t afraid to take on some strong design work and make the critical changes that will carry those spaces into a sustainable future.

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Sustainable Choices: Critical to Our Collective Futures

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Part I in a Series on Adaptive Reuse, the basis of an upcoming presentation by Tamara Myers at the 2016 Las Vegas NKBA Kitchen and Bath Industry Show and NAHB International Builders’ Show.

Earlier today, I stopped by one of our job sites to admire this stack of reclaimed lumber peacefully acclimating itself to its new home, waiting to be installed as our new finish flooring. How exciting that this lumber is gaining a new life and that we can bring an older material into the renovation of this older home. Great choices that will give both the material and space a new, long life.

Many of you already know about our passion for reuse and sustainable choices. We have built our business on bringing our brain trust of collective creativity and years of experience and relationships to make solutions that really create a difference in our clients’ lives. Woven into our our approach to renovation is the belief that sustainability issues are vital to our collective futures. It’s exciting stuff! The opportunity to transform our clients’ spaces continually shows us that renovation is a great choice, whether it’s on an older or newer home or a building that was originally built for another purpose. Long-lasting design and material choices are critical to our approach, which nets designs and spaces that our clients retain and enjoy for many years to come.

We can look at the sustainability issue on many levels. I often talk about the larger view of how it is critical to renovate and maintain existing buildings to support our blocks, our neighborhoods, and our communities. We all have seen urban blocks that have what we call a “missing tooth,” that blank space within a block where a building has been torn down. Once torn down, the missing building tooth affects the fabric of the whole block and greater neighborhood, and it typically takes much longer to bring that block back up to wholeness. Paying attention earlier and supporting ongoing renovation can help retain strong communities.

On a smaller scale, we can look at the individual components that make up a building. Essentially, we examine a material’s life from beginning to end, including what it takes to create and transform it into useable form. Analysis of life cycle starts by looking at what resources are needed in order to mine, mill, smelt, or use other processes to turn raw materials into a form that can then be used for manufacturing. Then, you add the manufacturing typically on multiple levels, and between all of these steps, you add in the impact of transporting and final installation of these materials. At the end of its use, we can choose to reuse a material or send it off to the landfill. Ideally, we look to extend the life cycle whenever possible.

There are lots of resources out there showing the impact of keeping an existing building vs. building new, and one of my favorites provides a good blend of research presented in both text and graphics compiled by the Preservation Green Lab and National Trust for Historic Preservation with some other partners. Within the report is a study that compares an existing building to a new building that is 30% more efficient, and it found that it takes between 10 to 80 years for a new construction building to catch up and meet that 30% more efficient metric and counteract the negative climate change impact created by erecting the new building. The 10- to 80-year spread came from the wide range of areas and building types. Specific case studies show that a single family residence in Chicago will take 38 years, and one in Portland will take 50 years to reach the equalizing point. A pretty important picture for us all to keep in mind.

Happy New Year,

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