By Mark Sidgwick
When we last met Dan Mailick and Lydia Read in the fall of 2014 in the midst of their renovation at 127 Manor Lane, who could have predicted the big changes that have occurred in the design and execution of the work since then? Elan Sober, their designer, and architect Herb Feuerstein had to be on their toes to deal with a number of issues that came up and also take advantage of unexpected opportunities to improve on the original plans. This is an interesting case study in how owners and designers can cooperate during the renovation process to make changes on the fly, and also an illustration of how creative solutions can have a vital impact on the end product.
Elan estimates that his new floor plan design proposal resulted in about 40% more work than was initially called for; however Dan and Lydia are more than happy that they have gone the extra mile. “Elan found ways to save (money) in one place so that we could spend in another so the budget has been incredibly unaffected by all this,” says Dan. For instance, custom-designed wood paneling was used in bathrooms rather than the proposed tiling, a cheaper option that is nonetheless just as attractive (see main bathroom photo). Elan’s new proposal allowed for the entire first floor to have an open floor plan, including new white oak flooring spanning its entirety (see dining area photo).
“At first we were just going to build out the back and not touch the front,” explains Elan. But the decision to fix the house’s framing opened up a whole new series of options. Here’s how it happened.
When the second floor was jacked up to level it, a central steel pillar supporting the steel cross-beam was only made possible when the architect and designer discovered a solid footing in the basement; this allowed them to dispense with other supporting walls, especially adjoining the kitchen, which then made a separate 13-foot island with seating possible (see photo). “It feels very spacious now,” says Lydia.
When it came to the kitchen, which is Lydia’s domain, she worked closely with Elan on the layout, and the fact that they had done so previously on the renovation of the kitchen in their previous house in New Rochelle helped immeasurably. Lydia says, “He showed me a lot of options, but we came to a decision pretty quickly.” The addition of an island was a huge plus. The cabinets are cherry with a natural wood finish, and the countertops are Caesarstone engineered quartz (see photos). Lydia found that the granite she had previously used was becoming prohibitively expensive but was delighted to find what she wanted in an affordable material. A built-in Whirlpool fridge, Wolf range and Bosch oven and dishwasher make up the list of appliances. The clear pendant lights over the island are fitted with new-design chandelier-style LED bulbs. Elan is always on the look out for new and interesting fixtures.
Another major change was in the HVAC design, planned at first to be single-zone with additional baseboard heating, but now a two-zone hydro-air system. This required serious reconfiguring in the basement but results in short-run ducts and tremendous efficiency, with the other air handler located in the unfinished attic. Also, Elan installed a through-house audio speaker system and a steam shower in the master bathroom.
Design details abound throughout the house; these include corner caps on the crown molding, extended window moldings, decorative tile and rosette features in the bathrooms, stairway wall paneling, clever angled corners to hide pipework, cathedral ceilings in the newly constructed library/office and master bedroom, and oak bookshelves to match the floors. Elan stresses how important it is to him as a designer to keep the original “old-world” feel of the house while using all the tricks of modern construction and design methods to bring it up to date. His insistence on fine craftsmanship and design detailing, as attested to by Dan and Lydia, is in sharp contrast to the “cookie cutter” remodeling techniques that we often see elsewhere.
Replacement windows throughout are by Anderson and the second floor sports eight new solid-wood doors and is also the location for the new washer and dryer, saving those perilous trips downstairs to the basement.
A whole month was unexpectedly lost due to a snafu with the incoming power line, which, when it came time to reinstall permanently, was found to encroach on the neighboring property, as it had done for many years without complaint. New codes and regulations made this a no-no, and it took Con-Ed a while to go through their process of making it right. The worksite was nearly two months without power, and only the use of gas generators allowed some work to continue through the brutal winter. Between this unexpected problem and all the changes, it is hardly surprising that the job took a few months longer than anticipated. “We’d made these little design decisions that aren’t expensive… but they take time,” points out Herb.
Dan and Lydia divide their time between the U.S. and their other house in Israel. Dan is a retired bank executive whose patch was in the Middle East). They were over there in December and January, but kept in touch with the work’s progress through regular Skype calls with Elan. Dan, who kept a close watch on the budget and payment schedule and visited the worksite just about every day when in the country, could also rely on his new neighbor and old friend Adam Abehouse who kept an eye on proceedings and reported back to him. Freeing up funds at the rate proscribed by the construction contract proved no problem for Dan when abroad, using his bank’s online direct transfer facility.
Attention to design detail and clever use of available space is what separates this renovation from other projects of a similar size. What had started as a fairly simple bump out and refurbishment has turned into a major reconfiguration and total restoration. However, in this case there is no disappointment that things did not turn out as planned, in fact quite the opposite. Dan and Lydia, with the help of Elan’s creativity and talent in custom design, alongside the expertise and support of Herb Feuerstein, have ended up with much more than expected and a house to enjoy for many years to come.
Note: Articles on home improvements will appear periodically on Pelhams-Plus. If you have a project you would like to be considered for a feature, please contact Mark Sidgwick at medullap@AOL.com.