Archive for the 'Additions' Category

Expect a Huge Problem With Your Renovation

The design is complete and you LOVE the plans for your house revised. The bids were all within budget and your building permit is hanging in the front bay window. You’ve hired the best general contractor around and the sun is shining. Life is good.

As construction begins on your renovation project, remember one thing… Expect a HUGE problem!

With every renovation project we complete, something unexpected occurs. Renovation is unpredictable. Thirteen plus years of experience has taught us to expect the unexpected. Every Fivecat Studio project is guided by a documented process that includes the expectation that something bad is going to happen. Something hiding under that thick layer of wall plaster will be completely different than we expected… and that’s OK, because we expect that.

When providing construction management services, we include this “surprise” in the construction schedule and a contingency fund in the budget. We set the expectation with our clients and explain that the contingency is part of the budget. It’s not a separate “emergency fund”. The money will be spent, we just don’t know yet where, when or on what. When the expected-unexpected occurs, we are well prepared to handle the situation with professionalism and without crisis.

Did you expect the unexpected? Click “comment” above and share YOUR stories of renovation surprise.

5 Rules to a Successful Architecture Project

You dream of a home where everything is as it should be. There’s room enough for each member of your family to have a space of their own and a great social kitchen adjacent to a space where the whole family comes together.

You dream of a house that’s just “big enough”. It’s not too large and not too small. It will have traditional authentic styling with innovative contemporary details. It’s a house for a modern family.

Your savings account has finally met the goal set so many years ago. You have built up your courage and have decided… it is time to make your dreams come true.

Whether your dream is a new house or your home, just better, there are five rules to every successful architecture project.

1. Find a compatible architect. The firm you select to design and guide you through your project can break your bank or make your dreams come true. Spend the time to find the right firm for you.

Meet with several firms and trust your instincts. Is “the vibe” right? Are the personalities of the people you meet compatible with your personality? Does it “feel right”? It matters. You’ll be spending several months with these people and trusting them with your savings. You don’t want to be dealing with someone you don’t like.

Find a firm that provides complete architectural services. They should help you consolidate and coordinate your ideas, develop them into a proper solution, prepare a thorough set of construction documents and assist you in getting the project built. Don’t skimp on services thinking that you’ll have more money to spend on your project. The best projects are fully developed and built with the architect actively involved in its construction.

Don’t shop for price. The old tenet holds true when hiring an architect, “you’ll get what you pay for.”

2. Be Prepared. You’ve been thinking about your project for years. You’ve been planning it and walking through the spaces in your head. It’s already yours. It just needs to be built.

Be prepared though. With a talented architect, the designs presented may be very different than what you expect. A skilled architect will use a process of pre-design discovery to learn what you like, what you don’t like, what you need and what you hope for. The designs developed will be what you want, but surprisingly, very often they’re not what you expect.

3. Budget enough. This is the single most important piece of advice I will pass on to you. Be realistic with your budget.

Buildings are expensive. For most of the additions and alterations projects in our portfolio the construction costs range from $250.00 to $300.00 per square foot for non-kitchen floor area. Our typical kitchens range from $400.00 to $500.00 per square foot. (Use these numbers as a “rule of thumb”. Every project is different and construction costs vary.)

Projects with unrealistic budgets take months longer to develop, rarely meet expectations and often end with disappointed clients. By far, our most successful projects are with those clients who have budgets that are compatible with their projects.

4. Be honest. Don’t be secretive with how much you really want to spend. Incrementally expanding your budget throughout the development, or worse, throughout construction, may result in a clumsy, awkward design lacking the integration and order that results in a well-developed design. Your project will be infinitely better if your architect designs with your complete budget in mind.

5. Trust. Let your architect do what they do best. Trust them. You will not be disappointed. Looking back at our portfolio of projects, our happiest clients granted us their trust.

Our training, experience, talent and skills as licensed architects allow us to design projects that not only meet our clients’ requirements, but very often exceed their expectations.

Handing someone your hopes, dreams and life savings is not easy, but if you follow the rules listed above, granting trust to your architect will result in a successful architecture project and your dreams finally coming true.

Project Update: 761 King Street

A multi-phase residential project, 761 King Street is progressing well. The snow has delayed the stucco installation, but much of the interior is nearing completion.

We have been working with this client since late 2004. A master plan was originally developed for a new entry porch, a new family room / kitchen and a new accessory workshop.

A few years back, we completed the entry porch. The family room / kitchen project is currently being constructed. Hopefully, the workshop will follow soon after the completion of the current phase.

This home was originally part of the Ginsberg Estate. The Ginsberg family owned a large tract of land at the south end of Chappaqua. The main house was lost to fire, but 761 King Street and 718 King Street both remain. These two homes were the private “cottages” for the Ginsberg sons.

About 10 years ago, we completed another multi-phase project at 718 King Street. You may check it out here and here.

Project Update 021710: Sulgrave Road, Scarsdale

I visited our whole-house renovation project on Sulgrave Road in Scarsdale this morning. Taconic Builders are doing a great job.

Fivecat Project Manager, Bjorn Slate’s design skills are beginning to show themselves in the details. I look forward to seeing the place finished. It’s going to be amazing. (Stay tuned to this blog for an upcoming announcement regarding Bjorn.)

We’re looking at the home stretch now. The insulation installers are doing their thing and the drywall is scheduled for next week.

I posted some construction progress photos over on Fivecat’s Facebook. Let me know what you think.

Our Interior Architecture Specialist, Karen Sidel is coordinating delivery of all the fixtures and finishes. Karen has worked very closely with the owner and has selected some very special finishes for this project. I will post again when the fixture and finish installation begins.

I have written many times before regarding successful projects and trusting clients. The Sulgrave Road project is another great example of this crucial relationship. Thank you to Bonnie and John for letting us do our thing.

New EPA Lead-Safe Rules

Another federal regulation that will require you to have a bigger budget…

The Rule: As of April 22, 2010, renovations conducted by professionals in pre-1978 housing must be performed by Certified Firms using Certified Renovators, trained in “lead-safe” work practices.

Who needs to be “certified”? Any contractor must comply who does renovation, repair or painting for compensation in pre-1978 housing…if the work will disturb 6 sq. ft. of painted surface in any room or 20 sq.ft. of exterior paint, or does any window replacement or any demolition.  This includes the following trades: general contractors, alteration, remodeling and renovation companies, painters, flooring contractors, restoration contractors (mold remediation, fire & water damage restoration), weatherization companies, demolition companies, maintenance companies, landlords or their employees, property managers, etc.

For more information, visit EPA Lead, Renovation, Repair and Painting or check out this article from Fine Homebuilding magazine.


Thanks to Michael Murphy, Murphy Brothers Contracting, for the heads up.

Share this Post

Lake Katonah Project


I visited our project at Lake Katonah this morning.

Unfortunately, due to a slightly uncooperative contractor (nice guy, but a bit too slow), it’s not yet complete. With that said… I am loving it!

It’s so great to see our designs come to life.

Natural light floods the interiors through skylights, large windows, glass doors and strategically located openings at interior partitions. The custom maple built-in cabinets visually integrate the new spaces with the original kitchen and living room. The interior is complete, minus a few punchlist items.

The exterior is looking better and better every time I see it. The stainless cable rails were installed during the past few weeks. The standing seam metal siding still needs some attention to the details, but I love the modern look. The mahogany decks, and painted horizontal strapping below, beautifully integrate the new additions to the original cedar shingled structure.

Bjorn has done an outstanding job keeping everyone on the same page, focusing on the details. Our clients have been patient, understanding and very positive throughout the process (thank you J & I). We can all see the light at the end of the tunnel. A few more weeks of consistent work and it’s done.

It is truly an amazing house. I will share more when it’s complete.

Share this Post

Prefab Additions?

What are your thoughts on pre-fab additions? Here is an interesting article from the LA Times.

Contact me via Email

Subscribe to my Blog via FeedBurner

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 49 other followers

Subscribe to my Email Newsletter

Visit my firm’s Website

Follow Me on Pinterest

Follow me on Twitter


Add to Technorati Favorites
Add to Google
Home and Garden Blogs -  Blog Catalog Blog Directory

Legal Notice

Living Well in Westchester is a trademark owned by Mark R. LePage, AIA, LEED AP | © 2006 - 2013 Mark R. LePage, AIA, LEED AP | All Rights Reserved.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 49 other followers

%d bloggers like this: