Part I In a Series: When Vintage Decor Meets Modern Renovation – and a Giveaway!

If you follow our blog regularly, you may already know that we’re doing a long-awaited renovation of the master bedroom suite at our 1950s Sputnik-era split-level rancher in Flourtown. Happily, the construction phase is over, and we’re now on to the finishing touches and decorating stage. This is when we get to install all of the shiny and pretty bits. Shopping for just the right decor is, for me, one of the most fun parts of the project. Because I love old, quality crafted furniture, I really enjoy the process of combing the local antique and high-end consignment shops to find pieces that will not only fit the space properly, but also tell the right story about our home.

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Irene’s Local Effects

By all accounts most of us in and around Philadelphia dodged the very serious potential effects of Irene. Our hearts go out to those who were not as lucky as we were.

Here are some snaps of what I saw the day after in my own neighborhood;

  • Local streams and rivers were 5-10 feet above normal causing low lying areas to flood. Some people even had to be evacuated by boat.
  • Because the storm threw weather at us from unusual directions, new leaks were discovered;
  • At our house some water came behind the brick screen wall and into the house via the window below.
  • Crawl spaces got wet because the ground outside was so saturated.
  • Tenants at our rental house let us know the old chimney let some moisture in and it stained the plaster ceiling.
  • A customer called to let us know she too got some rain in through her very old worn brick wall, a place that doesn’t normally leak.
  • Tamara reported that a light fixture in her house was dripping too, again with the rain coming in from a new previously unknown leak source.

We were well prepared for much worse. You can see in the photo one neighbor boarded up his large living room window to protect himself. Like many in my neighborhood, I was on my roof the day before the storm clearing gutters and checking caulking.

If you have experienced storm damage we are here to help.

Time for a Home Checkup!

Just like you need to go to the dentist for regular routine maintenance, your home needs ongoing T.L.C. to keep it looking and feeling well. And just like delaying medical checkups, if you put it off these maintenance checks, your house will surely suffer for it in the long run.

We have been in business a long time, and we find that some folks simply don’t know where to get started with their routine maintenance plan. Luckily, we do! We offer the following programs to keep your home healthy, energy-efficient and in good order between larger projects. And we work with you to establish a schedule for prioritizing these tasks.

Base-Line Maintenance

Every home requires annual base-line maintenance. This includes everything from cleaning gutters and touching up varnish, paint and caulking, to power cleaning and oiling decks. We can also fix minor items like sticky door locks and broken screens. We can also identify and repair compromises in your home’s exterior to keep it in good order and prevent water from sneaking in. Keep in mind that these mini projects will have your home’s parts working better and looking cleaner, making them ready for full enjoyment all year round.

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What a Difference a Door Can Make

Many times, a small change to a home can make a huge improvement.

In the case of this city home on a very old alley-sized street, we changed a whole lot of what is inside. But from the street, all you can see is the change we made to the front door.

The “before” photo shows that it used to have a solid slab door with bland and broken knobs and locks. This was not an original door. There was nothing nice or welcoming about it. It also leaked horribly.

The “after” photo shows the pre-hung walnut door and new brass hardware we installed. It’s not an expensive door, by any means. We also installed some puck lighting at the top of the jamb at the transom window.

Now, when guests visit or the homeowners come home, they are greeted by a warm, well-lit, shiny new door that says “Welcome Home!”

You can see some other nice examples of doors in old homes here

Fit and Finish

Being in the design to build business, I have a keen eye for when construction or design is not done “right.” This means that I catch a lot of details that most homeowners don’t. For example, I can see when a run of cabinets is out of level or square by even a small fraction of an inch. It’s also very clear to me when sections of wall are not square.

To illustrate, I’ll share an example here of what I call “Fit and Finish.”

Today, I visited a home that is less than 10 years old and located in a fairly pricey neighborhood. The people who live in this home have great style and taste, and they keep their home spotlessly clean. I love that. But I get so mad when I see how this newer home, like many others in its age range, are detailed. Disclaimer: I have every sympathy with an older home that shows bumps and rolls because of its age, but I have none for a new home that shows poor workmanship. There’s just no excuse for it. And if the walls aren’t square or the cabinets not straight, what about the other non-glamorous stuff in the building, like the roof or insulation? How good will they be? How long will this home and its components last? How will they perform?

If stock kitchen cabinets will be used in a newer home like this, the walls that contain these cabinet runs must be built plumb, level and square. The cabinet runs and rough ins must also be centered and allow for use of spacers at each end so the result will be “fitted.” In the case of this house, not enough room was provided for the cabinet run during the framing layout and plumbing and electrical rough ins. The result was that cabinet spacers were not used properly, so cabinet doors and drawers were not given adequate space to function properly.

In this kitchen, the very top of the line fridge was also supposed to be “fitted” into a small enclosure. But because the framing here was not properly done, the fridge and complementary cabinetry did not fit properly and were not symetrical when they should have been. So this very expensive fridge was not level and stood out to my eye.

Most people know that when you buy an article of clothing off the rack, you will probably have to take it to the tailor to have it fitted to your shape. A great tailor can make even an inexpensive article of clothing look great.

It’s the same with housing components like cabinets and appliances. It’s the job of the designer and carpenters to make sure these stock items fit a home properly. If they don’t, it’s a lot like bad tailoring.

Trust: The Cornerstone of the Contractor-Homeowner Relationship

A female homeowner recently confided in me that she is uncomfortable with allowing male contractors she doesn’t know into her house when she’s home alone or with her young children. “I personally get creeped out by it,” she explained. “Trust is everything, in that respect.”

I don’t think this is an uncommon sentiment because it is one we’ve heard many times before. After all, these contractors interact with homeowners’ families, children, pets, and personal spaces and items during a home-renovation project. People want to know that the companies they hire will treat them and their belongings with respect.

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