2013 Upper East Side Apartment Restoration

One of our favorite recent projects was restoring the pre-war plaster walls in a sweet apartment on the Upper East Side. Years ago, we’d worked with this homeowner on a full restoration of their house in Hudson, NY. But this job was different; the client needed to move in in a hurry. We had to work fast and within a very tight budget. We wound up developing a decorative plan that went along with the repairs.

The project started in the first week of December. After a two-week break for the holidays followed by some finishing touches, it’s finished and the client moved in in February, that’s a quick turnaround!

The biggest part of this project was to refinish the walls and ceiling with distressed colored plaster. But the condition of the walls and ceilings was rough, meaning we needed to correct the structural damage before we could apply any new plaster.

In order to meet our time and budget constraints we knew we would have to use far fewer coats than would normally be required for a venetian finish or a variation on specially plaster. To that end, I came up with a lime based mix that would cure quickly and handle heavier application, and tinted the plaster itself. We mixed it roughly, troweled on the top coat and then we burnished it.

The colors and finishes were a team effort. My crew and I collaborated to achieve a simple, fast, cost effective solution that made sense visually and got the job done.

Another large facet of the project was to hide the radiators and create some additional storage space. We achieved this by installing a cabinet that runs the length of the room under the windows. It also does a great job of hiding the television, cable boxes and sound equipment. I sourced the deco grates from a salvage vendor.

The floor treatment and curtains were the choice of the clients. Curtains hang from a black plumbing pipe which runs the length of the space.

The final puzzle piece was installing the client’s art collection to best effect.

In total, it was a two-month project covering both the structural and finish plaster applications. Cost effective and beautiful, we achieved just the right balance of raw and refined qualities. This is no longer a crumbling loft, it’s glamorous UES!

The story of our clerestory

As you may have read in our last post, we’re adding a clerestory to our current upstate project. And those of you who read that last post may have been left wondering—what in the world is a clerestory? The definition is pretty simple, and while you may not have known the word ever existed, you’ve probably encountered more than one clerestory (or clearstory, clearstory, or overstorey) in your day.



The clerestory at Rokeby Mansion designed and built by Stanford White

Continue reading

Paneling progress!

Our project upstate is bustling along. In spite of the recent snow, we’re managing to still make progress. Materials that will be used in the house (like Waterworks bath fixtures and beautiful new porcelain tiles) are being dropped off daily, and the project is in that phase where it’s just on the brink of gelling: windows are about to be installed, rooms are about to emerge from the tangle of 2x4s, and the second floor clerestory is thisclose to giving Rokeby Mansion a run for its money (more on the clerestory story in a later post!)



Top: Before the paneling went up in the master bedroom.
Bottom: After the installation of some of the pieces of Cherry paneling.


Continue reading

Transforming “the den” into “The Study”: the wonders of architectural salvage

Our project up in the Albany area has been chugging along for a couple of months now. If you receive our newsletter, you saw progress being made on the geothermal system that is being installed. That portion of the project is now in the home stretch, and work inside the house is ramping up.


Demolition of concrete basement floor
We’re not kidding about the pickaxes flying.

Continue reading

Preserving the character of history

As anyone who has every renovated a home (or who just watches a lot of HGTV) knows, you gotta whip everything up into a great big mess before you can make it pretty again. We’re currently in the thick of this backwards-to-go-forwards demo stage at one of the projects we currently have chugging along in the Hudson Valley: the walls no longer exist, and the ceilings are being peeled back. Piles of wooden beams lay like fallen soldiers on the demo battlefield. Old cabinets, bookcases and vanities are huddled together in the middle of what used to be a room (you know, when there were actually walls) like refugees trying to escape. Intense.



Bye bye walls


The refugee pile


Continue reading

Fort Greene “Afters”

Remember this surreal restoration that threw a few surprises our way? We officially closed the book on it at the beginning of the summer, when the homeowners debuted their new digs with a Memorial Day BBQ. They shared some “after” pictures they took personally, but we just received some pro ones from our good friend Nelson Hancock (who also took some unbelievably gorgeous shots of this lobby restoration we did), and we just had to post them!
Continue reading

Respect the home, respect the homeowner

Most of the time when we are called in to do a job, we’re the first on the scene and we begin the restoration from scratch. Sometimes, though, we’re asked to finish a job that another had started. Unfortunately, this usually means that the previous contractor abandoned the job and left a mess in their wake. We have seen some absurd messes in our day, from the mundane (like using Portland cement in masonry or the painting over of brownstone with moisture locking paint) to the just plain stupid (like coating a 1780 Federal style mansion in pink driveway paint). The point is, we’ve seen it all.

Pink paint
Why would anyone paint their driveway this color, let alone their 18th century Federal?

Continue reading

It’s official: dogs are taking over the carpentry game

…or: What to do when the stairs in your brownstone are falling off the wall!

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: stairs in older homes always seem to have the same problems. This staircase we encountered on our latest project managed to go above and beyond the normal range of issues.

Not only did we have to stabilize it, repair delicate railings and fix broken spindles, but we had to literally tear the whole thing out and start from scratch.
Continue reading

Nora’s tribute to Colorado in mural form

Our very good friend and partner Nora Johnson recently completed a stunning scenic mural of the Colorado landscape, and we can’t wait to show it to you! The 8′ x 50′ mural was presented at the 2012 Denver Home Show, but was then donated to Brent’s Place, which is a non-profit home for families with children with cancer in Aurora, Colorado. Such a beautiful mural, and an even more beautiful gesture. Oh Nora, how do we love you? Let me count the ways…
Continue reading