Archive for the 'Renovations' 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.

Our Own “Before and After Bath” Featured in This Old House Magazine

My sons, James and Henry, are rather excited these days…

Yes, it’s Christmas time and they’ve been busy composing their letters to Santa, but that’s not their sole source of passion and pride.

A few days ago we received our copy of This Old House magazine and found a pleasant surprise. On pages 28 and 29 is a full spread of our family bathroom, including a photo of the boys sharing the sink to wash their hands (an image that is not quite accurate, in that brothers at that age are rarely found “happily” sharing the bathroom sink).

Annmarie and I are rather excited too. It’s our second project published in This Old House magazine. Our dining room was featured back in April and being life-long fans of TOH, we are honored to be included in the pages of their publication.

As for our three year old daughter, she’s not at all disappointed. A little birdie told us that a future issue may feature her own bedroom with Charlotte posing solo.

Stay tuned…

Download a PDF of the article here.

Usonia For Sale

When our clients came from Brooklyn to the idyll of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonia community here Pleasantville, they fell instantly for the Aaron Resnick-designed house they found on Orchard Brook Road.  With a bold composition and blurred transition between inside and outside, they new they had found something very special.

Over the next eight years, they meticulously restored and respectfully enhanced the original house.

Bjorn Slate, Fivecat Studio‘s Director of Architectural Services, had the privilege to work with them on an exterior renovation. The project included straightening and reinforcing the house’s deep pronounced roof projection, swapping out inadequate pipe columns under the “cantilever” with new i-beam columns and steel-rod X-bracing, and adding a new Ipe deck overlooking Usonia’s thick green forest of trees.

Our friends are moving on, and we’re sad to see them go, but we’re grateful to have had the unique opportunity to work on such a wonderful example of mid-century modern architecture.

For more information on the house, or to inquire about it’s purchase, visit Houlihan Lawrence broker, Tom Goddard at ArchitecturalHomesNY.com.

Fivecat Studio in THIS OLD HOUSE Magazine

A few months back, I posted about the photo shoot for an upcoming article about our own dining room project. The piece is published in the current (April) issue of This Old House magazine, and this week, the article was posted on their website as well.

Annmarie and I are pretty excited about the whole thing. Its our first “national” exposure. We’ve been fans of This Old House since we were kids, so to see our hard work associated with TOH is a really big thrill.

Stay tuned for more Fivecat Studio work among the pages of TOH. We’ve been told that we may be reading more about our little cottage in the woods of Chappaqua.

Living Well Link of the Week: Custom Wainscot for $4.49 a Square Foot

Renovations Make a Comeback

You read it correctly. Let me write it again, “Renovations Make a Comeback”. The telephone is ringing again. The hammers are banging. Apparently, we’ve hit the bottom and the renovation industry is building steam.

Our Director of Architectural Services, Bjorn Slate, sent me a link to a NY Times article that is celebrating the comeback.

Let the church bells ring, Alleluia.

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.


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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.

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