Updates From the Art Deco Homefront

Many of you will recall our ongoing project for our client’s lovely 1930s-era Glenside brick Colonial. As we move through various phases of renovating this home, which the client calls his “Art Deco museum,” it continues to be a lot of fun both for us and for him.

In the image above, you can see the home’s newly finished library and a sampling of his vast black, white, and chrome Art Deco picture frame collection — which includes about 170 in all — filled with photos of his favorite actresses from the 1930s-40s, including Ann Sothern, Lauren Bacall, and Myrna Loy.

“I started collecting the frames in the 1990s, not long after I read the book Picture Perfect by Steve Starr, who owned a store in Chicago that specialized in deco frames and other collectibles,” he explains. “I bought quite a few from him and other dealers, mostly at antique shows in New York, Maryland, and other places.”

In addition, he has a vast array of furnishings, radios, lights, and other electrics, and fun figurines from the same era to display.

From a big picture perspective, we helped this client come up with a plan and budget for tackling a series of projects in the house. It includes everything from roofing to gutters, chimney, landscaping drainage problems, refinishing beautiful wood flooring, and unsticking and repairing the great original windows. We are planning the renovation of two of the bathrooms and a future kitchen to Art Deco-style specifications. Our first phase included removal of finishes that didn’t match the original house features, followed by a top notch paint job with a carefully curated group of new paint colors that highlight his collection. Behind the scenes, we updated electric, and then added more finishing details by changing all of the switch and outlet covers and replaced the outdated lighting with Art Deco fixtures the client has collected.

We love projects like these that enhance the passions and integrate the total lifestyle of our homeowners. We hope 2019 is getting off to a great start for you and your home.

P.S. It is not lost on us that the “power ladies” theme represented in this collection is a nice nod to all of the new Congresswomen sworn into office last week. (Rock on, ladies!)

New Year, New Home Resolutions

While you’re likely busy preparing for holiday celebrations, festive entertaining, and winter travel, this is also the perfect time to take a closer look at your home and plan for the repairs, maintenance, and redesign projects that need to be tackled in the coming year.

We don’t know a better way to celebrate the fresh possibilities of a new year than to breathe new life into a space that you use every day. Instant quality-of-life improvement!

We’re grateful for the trust our clients place in us, and we make it our goal to exceed their expectations for reimagining the spaces they share with family and friends all year through.

Call us today to discuss your needs. We’ll be happy to create a 2019 plan for your home.

Behind the Scenes: What Our Customers Never See

Being a design build general contractor working any given day on a variety of projects throughout the Delaware Valley means that there’s never a dull moment around here. Each day brings new challenges and opportunities to find creative solutions — and that’s one of the things we love about this business!

At Myers Constructs, our clients’ projects receive the attention of both company owners: Tamara and me. At the outset, most of our clients understand that we will design their projects and also manage the construction, as well as the complex processes that are involved. What they don’t know is that when the need arises, Tamara and I go to the job site to personally handle some portion of a project ourselves to ensure great quality control for clients. In fact, there are important things we do on a daily basis that most clients never see. For example, Tamara could recently be found personally installing knobs and pulls in a kitchen and overseeing the project’s demanding tile installation. A month earlier, I was handling the framing and cabinet installation for the same kitchen because it was a tricky execution in a very small space, and our staff was fully scheduled during the peak of our busiest season.

Likewise, it’s not uncommon for either Tamara or I to have to run to a supplier to get a small item that arrives after a backorder and needs to be on site right away just to keep a job on schedule. Case in point: We recently personally rushed to Ambler to pick up a light fixture we needed to install in a Center City project. On yet another project, there was a 600-lb load of tile for two bathrooms in the back of my SUV that I unloaded myself.

We take a lot of personal pride in the results that come from this kind of attention to detail — and the happy reaction from customers when their projects are completed on time, on budget, and exceed their expectations. As the saying goes, “When you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.”

In the Works: Glenside Colonial Goes Art Deco

One of our clients recently purchased this lovely large brick Colonial in the quaint and eclectic Philadelphia suburb of Glenside. His goal is to restore the home in a way that showcases his love for Art Deco styling, decor, and an extensive collection of art, ceramics, radios, and other electronics.

The home was built by a local developer in the 1920s, and it represents the best quality workmanship of its era — in fact, even the laundry room floor has the original aqua blue linoleum floor still in very good condition! However, the challenge presented by this home is that some of its previous owners made adjustments over the years that didn’t fit its style. For example, the large pantry and back hall, where you might carry in groceries from the rear parking area, was converted into a wine bar featuring faux stucco and brick accents applied to the plaster walls. The modest-sized kitchen had a dated pickled pink cabinet stain and a sandy-colored commercial tile floor. Throughout much of the house, wall-to-wall carpeting covered beautiful original fir and oak floors, and almost every room had heavy drapes keeping out the beautiful light coming through large multi-paned windows. Finally, updated bathrooms had vanities, tile, and accessories that didn’t mesh well with the home’s look and feel.

Our client, who has a very strong sense of aesthetics, called us in to restore the house to its 1920s style and include some of his preferred Art Deco finishes and selections, as well. In addition to helping him redesign a new kitchen to fit the house, we are helping him tease through what else needs to be changed and make a plan for updating the bathrooms, restoring the hardwood floors, installing new lighting and hardware, selecting new wall finishes, and even choosing window treatments and placing furniture — the “soft stuff,” as we call it in the business. Keeping the focus on his personal style preferences, we’ll also create solutions for displaying his collections.

We love projects like this whole house update that draw not only on our expertise in design build systems, but also on our unique understanding of art and style history.

Holistic Renovation: A Look at the Whole-House Tune Up

When it comes to renovating a home, our solutions are truly always greater when we look at the sum of the individual parts. It allows us and the clients to understand how they will work together over time in the context of an overall home design system. In an ideal scenario, any project we undertake involves looking at big-picture problem solving in a very holistic way. Depending on the project budget and the clients’ vision and needs, we can break projects up into logical sections so we can plan for future needs in the spaces we finish first. We are, in fact, doing this for several customers now. Here are a few examples:

  • A retired client recently purchased a beautiful, large brick Center Hall Colonial in Glenside that needs stylistic upgrades that match his preference for 1930s Art Deco-era styling. The first steps include removing carpets to expose the hardwood floors, updating bathrooms to period-correct fixtures and finishes, replacing some knob and tube wiring, and painting. Plans are in the works for a new kitchen.
  • An engaged couple purchased a newer rowhome in Philadelphia’s Bella Vista neighborhood. While the home was built in the 1980s and well maintained, it was never well planned, so lots of potential in terms of space and features were missed. We’re helping them develop the full potential of their house. For example, their basement level was not well laid out and ended up serving as a large mechanical room with no storage at all. With some good planning and problem-solving from Tamara, we were able to convert the space to include a new laundry room, a mechanical room, and two generously sized closets plus a media/TV room.
  • In addition, their existing modest eat-in kitchen needed some rethinking. The layout, function, and finishes were builder grade, and the kitchen soffit areas housed the HVAC ducting, so we could not change those. We redesigned the layout to include an island that will include a microwave drawer and seating for a new eat-in area, as well as better finishes for the counters and backsplashes. The clients chose a “tuxedo” color scheme of white cabinets on the walls and bases, and a pretty dark blue color on the island cabinets. The floor is a beautiful limed oak flooring that looks great with the color scheme selected. Future plans may include developing the interior master areas on the top floors of the home.
  • We just finished a smaller scale tune up in South Philly on a 2-story, 2-bed/1-bath rental house that was inefficiently renovated over many years. We gave the owners a new, level and sturdy bathroom (the old bathroom was 3” out of level!), new master bedroom closet, new drywall walls and ceilings, updated electrical work, and refinished existing flooring. They plan to continue renting the house as a family wealth-building asset, so the improvements we made will allow them to raise the rental fee, which will pay off for decades to come. Future projects in this home include a potential kitchen renovation and combined dining-living room space.
  • A repeat client of two decades called us to redesign her master bathroom. It’s a long, narrow room with an oversized dark wood vanity, dark blue walk-in shower, outdated tile bathroom floor, and a toilet stall. All of this makes for a tight, uncomfortable space that lacks natural light. We finished tuning up many other major spaces and elements of her Chestnut Hill home last year, so we are happy to return to execute new solutions for this troublesome master bath that mesh well with the ongoing renovations in the home.

Stay tuned to our website and social media for updates on all of these projects and more!

The Myers Constructs Team

A Trinity Renovation With Artistic Vision: The Bathroom — Part 2 in a Series

This week, we’re taking a closer look at the another space in our award-winning historic trinity renovation: the bathroom. The main challenge for this space was rethinking the modest footprint in a way that did not feel small, and our goal was to retain as much floor space as possible.

In planning the design, we created drawings that considered each elevation of the room at an extreme level of detail. Because we were working with older dimensional lumber sizes, we were challenged to square up and level the room to accommodate the tile and other finishes. Framing this bathroom required highly skilled carpentry craftsmanship, using individually ripped pieces of framing material, in both metal and wood of varying dimensions, and correcting compromised floor joists. Our solution allowed for dedicated space for HVAC ducting, an AC line set, a powerful vent fan ducted to the exterior, and other mechanicals — with enough space left over to gain a few inches in either direction.

The concept for the bathroom design was “reflecting water.” We incorporated beautiful mottled blue tile to provide texture and patterns that blend naturally with the crafted overall concept for the house. Custom glass and mirror add reflection, bounce light, and keep the room feeling open. The space now feels clean and welcoming and functions larger than it is.

Other Noteworthy Features

  • A custom vanity features a recessed toilet paper holder and full-size under-counter sink offset to create a large counter space
  • Two pull-out drawers provide access to an internal outlet that allows a hairdryer to stay in the drawer, plugged in, ready to use
  • A custom-cut wooden screen is used in the door panels, repeating the Moroccan screen motif found elsewhere in the house
  • A crisp white quartz base, shower niche, and curb add to the floating water quality
  • Large-format white tiles used for wainscoting add texture, while making the room easy to clean at the same time

About This Home

Our client purchased this pied-à-terre to create a unique second home that she could retreat to in the city. While located in a very walkable area — close to cultural activities, restaurants, and shopping — it is tucked away inside a shared courtyard with no street access and no legal parking adjacent to the site. The project was a true design build renovation that required extensive planning, with final drawing sets running well over 40 pages. We had regular meetings with our client and the decorator to collaborate on the details to make the finished space appear seamless. The result is a blend of our client’s vision, the decorator’s masterful use of color and texture, and our company’s design and construction experience, expertise, and background in fine arts. We were honored to be the team to execute this complex and unique job.

View the slideshow for this bathroom. To learn more about the project, view the kitchen slideshow.

A Trinity Renovation With Artistic Vision: The Kitchen — Part 1 in a Series

We recently took on an exciting whole-home renovation for this lovely historic Trinity in Center City Philadelphia. Originally built in the mid-1800s, the house footprint is just over 17’ x 13’. As is typical of this type of 3-story house, the kitchen is located in the basement, making this house four floors of occupied space with overall square footage totaling just under 900 square feet.

The homeowner felt the former kitchen was cramped, dimly lit, and inefficiently designed, and she was in search of help in bringing her artistic vision for the space to life, blending both old and new elements through an exciting mix of textures and character. High on her priority list was integrating her wonderful collection of objects gathered from her travels around the world.

We brought our design skills and construction experience to the team, working with the homeowner and the designer to develop a host of creative solutions, including the installation of an Indonesian screen (seen at the right in the photo above) as a sliding door covering a newly reconfigured utility area, which includes a new on-demand hot water heater, mounted next to a new full-size and code-compliant 40-position electrical panel with ample room for service and access.

Other Noteworthy Features and Solutions

  • New crisp drywall blended with original masonry wall textures and original exposed beams
  • Custom-glazed adler wood cabinets, beautiful fusion Quartzite and custom cherry counters, and a copper sink were selected for a wonderful interplay of colors, textures, and Old World feel
  • Small-space efficiencies designed for real-size humans, including built-ins wherever possible, limited free-standing furniture, and no upper cabinets
  • Built-in storage and appliances under the counter (refrigerator, freezer, washer, dryer, and microwave drawer)
  • Additional multi-function storage under stairs
  • Extensive lighting plan with multiple sources and types of light to make this partially below-grade space feel bright and cheery
  • Enlarged window well to bring much more light into the space
  • Insulation added to create sound buffer from the floor above

About This Home
Our client purchased this pied-à-terre to create a unique second home that she could retreat to in the city. While located in a very walkable area — close to cultural activities, restaurants, and shopping — it is tucked away inside a shared courtyard with no street access and no legal parking adjacent to the site. The project was a true design build renovation that required extensive planning, with final drawing sets running well over 40 pages. We had regular meetings with our client and the decorator to collaborate on the details to make the finished space appear seamless. The result is a blend of our client’s vision, the decorator’s masterful use of color and texture, and our company’s design and construction experience, expertise, and background in fine arts. We were honored to be the team to execute this complex and unique job.

View the slideshow for this kitchen project.

Creative Smallness: Thinking Big About Smaller Spaces

Tamara at KBIS/IBS
It’s January, and we at Myers Constructs are super excited about the year ahead. As we all reflect on the past decades and look to the new year, we are grateful for the many opportunities we have had to work on many really wonderful homes.

Of all the types and sizes of homes we work on, we have found that smaller houses often offer the greatest design and construction challenges. And, as is often the case, these challenges make it all the more rewarding when a project is complete!

I have drawn on these experiences to create universal principles that guide not only our design build/projects but also a new #TamTalk called Creative Smallness: Thinking Big About Smaller Spaces, which I presented this year as one of the Voices From the Industry at next week’s Design and Construction Week. Held at the Orlando Convention Center this year, this event is one of the largest gatherings of the trades in the world, combining KBIS – Kitchen and Bath International Show with IBS – International Builders Show. My presentation focused on some of the whys, whats, and hows for renovating small spaces — and looked at how many homeowners are choosing to downsize or live more simply. I reviewed principles, tools, products, and other resources, and I shared some great examples of successful living spaces that Myers Constructs has designed and built.

Traveling to Design and Construction Week each January offers me the opportunity to keep up to date on the fast-moving technology of the construction business, to exchange knowledge with other experts, and to see the latest and greatest products, designs, and technologies from major manufacturers. Stay tuned over the next few weeks to our website and social media feeds (see feeds at the bottom of our front page), as I post photos of these great products and new technologies.

As a real-life example of Thinking Big About Smaller Spaces, we will begin unveiling an exciting whole-home renovation for a lovely historic Trinity in Center City Philadelphia via our website and social media later this month. The Trinity Project is full of creative wonderfulness developed by utilizing my universal principles. I’m really proud of all the work we did on this historic renovation/rebuild, and I look forward to sharing it with you.

Why Project Management Is Not a DIY Job

Substantial home renovation projects come with equally substantial price tags — think new kitchens and bathrooms, updated energy and heating systems, whole home renovations, and the like. These are complex undertakings that involve big-ticket components and cut across many disciplines, including local permitting agencies, the EPA, engineers, a long list of contractors, vendors, suppliers, and specialists. Important details need to be coordinated, planned, and managed. Risks need to be anticipated and avoided. When problems arise, quick solutions need to be found so the project keeps moving along, avoiding time and cost overages.

So who is the right person to manage the details for a project of this scale? In some cases, contractors allow the carpenter or whichever sub is on site on any given day to try to manage your project between their daily tasks. In other cases, the homeowners attempt to handle the job themselves. In our opinion — based on decades of experience — project management needs to be handled by a dedicated project manager (PM) who has experience matching the type and scale of your project. As we’ve seen time and time again, a PM with little or no experience leads to frustration, headaches, or even project failure. Even those who might be experienced with new construction, commercial construction, or tract house construction are not suited to manage a residential renovation for an older home. These are all totally different disciplines with different project goals, complexity, design standards, and quality levels.

A professional and competent PM will handle all of the following vital jobs, and more:

  • Use proven processes and systems to create a tactical plan and construction schedule for building what is in your design drawings.
  • Ensure the subs are on site according to those plans, barring unforeseen events like weather, late decision-making, project scope changes, or illness.
  • Utilize intuition, experience, and knowledge to identify potential risks, pitfalls, and common issues that arise and get them fixed before they become big, costly problems. Generally speaking, the higher the price tag, the more complex the list of products and materials to be managed — and a mis-ordered or damaged item can take 6-12 weeks to replace!
  • Keep employees, subs, and even clients motivated.
  • Set the tone for the work site and direct everyone regarding safety, cleanliness, and orderliness.
  • Approve pay for subs when the work is correct, complete, and inspected (if required).
  • Keep stakeholders updated on progress, problems, and changes.
  • Proactively manage the many risks of a project so clients don’t have to.

When done properly, professional project management goes unnoticed by the homeowner because the project runs smoothly, stress levels are low, and everything feels easy. It’s when project management is absent or mishandled that it becomes a very obvious and vexing problem. Investing your money well in the services of a seasoned pro will pay dividends both now and throughout the life of your beautifully finished project.

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!