Archive for the ‘Remodeling’ Category

Service of Leave it Alone, Already

Monday, July 11th, 2016

Waldorf Astoria

Waldorf Astoria

I thought, “Why did they have to pick on this house to ruin?” I’ve written before about the Brooklyn Heights house that had one thing going for it: All of the original plaster and woodwork were intact, which was unusual. We didn’t get the house but revisited it during a house tour. The new owners had stripped away every trace of original architectural element and transformed the 19th century brownstone into a 20th century monument to the innocuous and bland.

Wall Street Journal Urban Gardner columnist Ralph Gardner Jr. similarly mourned the news of the Waldorf Astoria’s conversion to condos and reminded us of the Plaza’s—that took the soul out of the place. In “Another Condo-Conversion Casualty The Waldorf Astoria is going the lamentable way of the Plaza,” he spells out his prediction.

He pointed out that Paris and London have their grand hotels and now New York no longer will have any. Like fortunate people of a certain age who grew up in NYC or visited, he reminisced about having lunch at the Plaza with his father when he was a child. I remember tea with my mother.

Vintage photo of Plaza Hotel. Photo: boweryboyshistory.com

Vintage photo of Plaza Hotel. Photo: boweryboyshistory.com

“These days the Plaza feels like the victim of some genteel version of a neutron bomb—the property remains intact but the people are largely missing.” Gardner wrote, and he asks: “Aren’t there enough shiny new billionaire condo developments rising along 57th Street and Central Park South to satisfy demand? Must we squander our inheritance?”

A few days before Gardner’s article, the New York Post covered the demise of the Campbell Apartment. In “Cocktail Shakeup at Grand Central Terminal,” Julia Marsh and Laura Italiano reported that the 1920s glam office-turned vintage bar–and Mark Grossich—lost the lease after 17 years. Grossich’s rent was $350,000/year and he offered $800,000 on a 10-year lease, but  Scott Gerber, who said he was approached by MTA advisors and didn’t seek out the property, will pay $1.1 million/year. Grossich said he’d counter offer on the highest bid plus 2.5 percent. He said the MTA told him: “They way overbid you. We can’t do that.”

The reporters wrote that last year “the MTA began aggressively overhauling Grand Central’s restaurants and bars hoping for higher rents and ever-more-high-end lease holders.”

Campbell Apartment. Photo: alamy.com

Campbell Apartment. Photo: alamy.com

After years of neglect, Grossich restored the space almost two decades ago. It had served for a while as a “pokey; a cell for all the wastrels and drifters that came through Grand Central.” He spent $millions. Marsh and Italiano described him as a “master of the timeless, intimate cocktail lounge, temples to single-malt scotch, fine cigars and tufted upholstery.”

The new lease holder “plans to modernize.” Marsh and Italiano described what Gerber—who runs “hip, jangly and galvanic lounges”—has in mind. It will be “something less Brooks Brothers, more limited edition sneakers and Gucci-T-shirts.” He caters to athletes, musicians and celebrities who don’t wear jackets. The space is landmarked, so he can’t touch the walls, ceiling or windows. “But he’s installing a costly new stone bar top, new bar and kitchen equipment, a new heating and air conditioning system.” He’ll add chandeliers, high-tech lighting and instead of big band tunes Gerber promises “eclectic music.”

Funny. Americans travel the world to visit and admire ancient ruins, churches, mosques, estates, chateaux and celebrated historic landmarks but they don’t seem to have the same sensibility about their own history. Increasingly the past is considered fuddy duddy and proponents are fatally old fashioned and terminally wrong. And there are fewer and fewer places for them to enjoy around here. Why is this? Will we eventually be sorry? Will you miss NYC’s last grand hotel? Does the city need yet another luxury condo?

Fendi leather Bugs, $1,000

Fendi leather Bugs, $1,000

 

Service of Asking the Right Questions

Monday, June 24th, 2013

 

Ask Me questionsI’d like to share a few questions to ask in a range of circumstances that might save you from costly mistakes in time and money. Asking the right questions will serve you far better in evaluating a vendor and ensuring a positive outcome than depending on websites that direct readers to the best ones.

Agency

Marketing StrategyWhen hiring a marketing, PR or advertising agency, ask to speak with four or five former clients. There are countless legitimate reasons a company changes vendors. The test of the character and smarts of the principals can often be found with those with whom they are no longer associated professionally.

You’ll learn if the counsel was sound and the work top quality; if the account people fit the company’s culture and how responsive they were as marketing needs changed. The fact that an agency is still in touch with its former clients—or isn’t–also says a lot.

Contractor 

ContractorHiring a contractor? Ask for contact information for his/her last three to five jobs. You’ll likely have a more accurate picture of the good and the bad when you call these people for recommendations than if you let the contractor make the picks. My first encounter with a contractor was disappointing and shocking because we thought we’d done our due diligence. We’d spoken with the homeowners and visited nine jobs: Three for each contender. But all the choices of jobs were the contractors’.

Hotel

Booking a hotel with a lineup of ballrooms? Ask who is scheduled for the adjacent rooms and what their entertainment plans and schedules are. This became obvious one night when nobody could hear the speakers in our room because the relentlessly earsplitting band next door wouldn’t take a break even though hotel staff and event producers pleaded with this uncooperative neighbor-for-the-night.

hotel ballroomThe cocktail hour at another event took place in the generously proportioned hallway in front of the ballroom. The hotel had proposed this concept to all its clients. Trouble was the women at the event on the way to ours were dressed as southern belles, with huge hoop skirts that took up all the floor space. We had a difficult and uncomfortable time reaching our destination. The hotel should have put the belles at the end of the hallway, not near the elevator. Nobody asked.

Buying or Renting a House

Ask about weather anomalies. In North Dakota I lived on an Air Force base in the last house in a line of two family homes. Wind on our–and on all corners–was so fierce that far more snow piled up in our driveway than in anyone else’s.

I wonder how many of these questions are universal and if they would apply in any culture. Did any of them surprise you? Hope you’ll share your tips for questions to ask in these or other instances.

house in snow

Service of Bathroom Blogfests Revisited

Monday, October 29th, 2012

blogfest-2012-tiles-sm-01

I’ve joined the Bathroom Blogfest again–this is my fourth year for the event that’s in its seventh. Christine Whittemore, Simple Marketing Now LLC, is directing it as always and asks that we list the blogs of all the other participants so you can see additional interpretations of this year’s theme, “Still Climbing Out.” There are 19 of us this year, listed below the post.

badremodelingRegardless of economy, nobody wants to climb out and dust themselves off from a disastrous bathroom remodeling experience and according to the National Kitchen and Bath Association, [NKBA] there are more bathroom and kitchen remodeling projects than any other and since 2009, more bathrooms go under the knife than kitchens.

Before launching such a project, the first place I’d look is Google under “mistakes in bathroom remodeling.” Even if the information is self-serving, written by or for a remodeler or manufacturer, there is often valuable information there.

Based on common mistakes, the servicealley website suggested such things as to treat a bathroom remodel like your body [my words]-select a specialist contractor, not a generalist; make sure finishes and fixtures match; take care where you cut corners or you’ll end up paying plenty for cut-rate decisions; don’t install tile in a shower to the ceiling; put your money in the right underlayment, backer boards, sealant and hardware; replace shutoff valves; use a licensed plumber and invest in a bathroom designer.

medicinecab-21Looking at results of the NKBA 2012 survey, my advice is not to fall blindly for trends. I was taken aback to learn that medicine cabinets are making a comeback.

Comeback? Where and why did they go? How could such an essential part of a bathroom, regardless of size, have been replaced by decorative wall mirrors?

According to the NKBA press release highlighting results, “However, as homeowners look for more efficient use of space, most designers are now turning toward medicine cabinets as an effective way to gain additional storage without having to increase the footprint of a room, attenuating the need for separate shelving, cabinetry, or other storage options.”

The “NKBA Reveals Top Kitchen & Bath Trends for 2012” Remodeling Market Index continues: “After being specified by 43% of NKBA member bathroom designers leading into 2010, medicine cabinets dropped to 36% last year. However, as we enter 2012, some 66% have recently incorporated a medicine cabinet into a bathroom remodel.” Spend all that money on everything else and skimp on the medicine cabinet?medicinecab-1

I’m a fan of interior designers and always have been and hire them myself. But I don’t admire despot designers of any kind, whether of hair style or fashion or home fashion. The one way my way types exist in all industries including healthcare, diet advice, politics, PR and marketing-you name it.

I feel sorry for home and apartment owners who are bamboozled into bad decisions that will affect their lives and comfort, the look and function of their home because they think that they must bend to the advisor and to fashion. Have you seen or read about similar examples in bathroom design or in other aspects of life?

bad-design

Name Twitter Username Blog Name Blog URL
Susan Abbott susanabbott theIdeaStudio www.theideastudio.ca
Laurence Borel blogtillyoudrop blog till you drop www.laurenceborel.com
Bill Buyok AventeTile Avente Tile Talk http://www.aventetiletalk.com/
Jeanne Byington jmbyington The Importance of Earnest Service blog.jmbyington.com
Nora DePalma steamtherapy The Mr. Steam SteamTherapy Blog http://blog.mrsteam.com/
Mr. Steam noradepalma OR-DP POV www.oreilly-depalma.com/blog
Stacy Garcia kbtribechat kbtribe http://kbtribe.wordpress.com
Diane Kazan dkazan Public Bathroom Blog http://thekazan.blogspot.com
Arpi Nalbandian Arpi_Nalb Avente Tile Talk http://www.aventetiletalk.com/
Victoria & Shelley Redshaw & Pond scarletopus Scarlet Opus Trends Blog www.scarletopus.com
Sandy Renshaw sandyrenshaw Purple Wren purplewren.com
Bruce D. Sanders rimtailing RIMtailing http://rimtailing.blogspot.com/
Paige Smith none Tile tips from installation professionals http://neusetile.wordpress.com/
Todd Vendituoli TALV58 Thebuildingblox http://www.thebuildingblox.com/
Shannon Vogel cyswebsites From the Floors Up http://fromthefloorsup.com
CB Whittemore cbwhittemore Content Talks Business Blog http://simplemarketingnow.com/content-talks-business-blog/
Irene Williams crossvilleinc Elevate Your Space http://elevateyourspace.wordpress.com/
Linda Wright skiptotheloo Skip to the Loo! http://lindaloo.com/

Service of Nostalgia

Monday, October 25th, 2010

bathblogfest-2010-madmen-logo-v3This is my second year to join this blogfest which Christine Whittemore, Simple Marketing Now LLC, directs.

I list Christine’s blogs and those of all the other bloggers below, should you want to see a smattering of takes on the topic and to meet some super bloggers.

The theme for this year’s participants in the Bathroom Blogfest “Still Stuck in the 60s?” is inspired by Mad Men. So the second thing I did after determining my approach was to Google “1960s bathrooms” figuring I’d not find much given that some 50 years have passed. I was surprised to see so many entries about remodeling ideas for 1960s bathrooms. Either buyers through the years have loved pink ceramic tile or they didn’t have the money to remodel or didn’t know how to go about it…….who knows.

Something else was clear: I found this information in a snap when goodness knows  how long it would have taken anyone in 1960 to learn much about bathroom design in 1910.

Chances are Don Draper and Pete Campbell, two of the Mad Men characters, would have  lined up in the morning to take a turn in the bathroom as houses and apartments had fewer of them then. The New York Times, October 22, featured a New Jersey modern classic that was listed as one of America’s 10 best in the 1960s and it had four bedrooms and two baths in 1,200 square feet on 10 acres.

According to the Kohler color timeline, the 1960s “was a decade of rule-breaking styles and colors. It was a time of rebellion as men burned draft cards and the sexual revolution was in full swing. Hot pink, day-glo orange, and acid green broke with conventions for color in dress and home decor. With its introduction of vivid accent colors – Blueberry, Citron, Antique Red, Coppertone, Expresso, and Jade – Kohler captured the energy of the times.”

On to more of my interpretation of the blogfest.

hudsonhomeRichard & Greg from Hudson Home, www.hudson-home.com, a stunning shop and  interior design business in the Columbia County, NY located in midtown Hudson, listed some excellent tips in “Simple Changes for Your Bath,” most of which I agree with.

I’ve commented in green where I don’t or when I want to add something and when I can, I give a nod to the 60s in pink.

De-clutter – This sounds obvious, but it’s true. If you’re like most people you have a collection of products you no longer use; half empty bottles of shampoo, conditioner and hotel soaps. If you haven’t used it in a month then toss it out. I think a month is hasty. I’d make it a year. Some people like to change shampoos so they might have a few open at once and given the huge sizes available, why waste? Bathrooms in the 1960s were tiny in comparison with the spa-sized spaces in today’s leftover McMansions so being tidy was even more essential 50 years ago. Modest sized bathrooms today often have two sinks and a separate shower and bathtub.

homeforblogfest-007Paint – A fresh coat of paint can brighten a tired looking room like nothing else. Since the bath is usually a relatively small space it’s hard to go wrong. If you really hate the color when you’re done just repaint. We painted one bathroom a succulent, saturated orange. It cheers on the dreariest, gray day. But what about wallpaper, a product I represented for eons? It’s no longer as popular as it was in the 1960s and could be a lifesaver if you buy a house with horrendous bathroom tile colors and/or fixtures and you don’t want to live through the remodeling mess. To distract from the tile color, pick a busy, multi-colored wallpaper pattern where only the tiniest accent picks up the tile’s hue. Voila!

Scent – Scent is powerful and transformative. It can bring back fond memories, help melt away the stresses of the day and transport us to a better place. Stickwith scents that are light and fresh; lemon verbena, lavender and rosemary are all good choices. Buy the best quality scented candles, bath oil, potpourri or air essences you can afford. The better brands use pure essential oils, they cost more but the fragrances are truer and they last longer. Verbena is my favorite, but some people get tremendous headaches from scented candles so take care. A splash of a perfume from a sample [I may not care to wear] shaken into running bath water also works. We’ve gone nuts with scents in my opinion though I bet the Mad Men and their entourage would have adored it especially if they’d thought of it.

Towels. In the living room we tell people “invest in good upholstery”. In the bath, “invest in good towels”. If you’ve never had Egyptian cotton towels before you don’t know what you’ve been missing. Good quality towels get softer with each laundering and will last for years. You’ll thank yourself every time you use them. Anything would last longer than the bargain towels I buy. The edges begin to unravel in record time. Bet the Made in America cotton towels of the ’60s at all price points lasted too.

Shower curtain. After the walls, the shower curtain is usually the largest block of color in the room. This is a good place to add a splash of color or pattern to the room. Custom shower curtains can be made with just a few yards of fabric. Add a contrast border for added interest. Outdoor fabrics are especially well suited for this purpose. People weren’t so germ-phobic in the 1960s as they are now. Some prefer fixed shower stalls because of the potential of mold in plastic shower curtain linings so best change these frequently.

homeforblogfest-003Mirror and sconces. This is a good place to update an otherwise dated looking space. Find a mirror with an interesting frame and add some good lighting. Bad lighting is a sure way to make a bath depressing; good lighting will brighten and open up a space. While you’re at it, put the lights on a dimmer switch so you can adjust the light; bright light for hair and make up; soft light for a relaxing bath. To enhance the walls, along with sconces and a mirror noted in the subheading, I’d add decorative plates and objects that aren’t bothered by humidity. I don’t think much wall decorating went on in most bathrooms in the Mad Men era if only because there wasn’t much empty wall space given the small sized rooms. Further, my bet is that wall tile covered a lot of each wall making it hard to hang things. Today, plasterboard helps keep the price down and achieves a less shiny look.

Richard and Greg conclude: So as you can see, there are many simple changes you can make to transform your bath. Look through books and magazines for color and style inspiration and go from there. You’ll be surprised at what big difference small changes can make.

What would you add to Richard and Greg’s bathroom sprucing tips? Do you watch Mad Men? What would their ideal bathroom look like?

bathroom1960

Blogger Blog Name Blog URL
Susan Abbott Customer Experience Crossroads http://www.customercrossroads.com/customercrossroads/
Paul Anater Kitchen and Residential Design http://www.KitchenAndResidentialDesign.com
Shannon Bilby Big Bob’s Outlet http://blog.bigbobsoutlet.com/
Shannon Bilby Carpets N More Blog http://blog.carpetsnmore.com/
Shannon Bilby Dolphin Carpet Blog http://blog.dolphincarpet.com/
Shannon Bilby From The Floors Up http://fromthefloorsup.com/
Shannon Bilby My Big Bob’s Blog http://blog.mybigbobs.com/
Toby Bloomberg Diva Marketing http://bloombergmarketing.blogs.com/bloomberg_marketing/
Laurence Borel Blog Till You Drop http://www.laurenceborel.com/
Bill Buyok Avente Tile Talk Blog http://tiletalk.blogspot.com/
Jeanne Byington The Importance of Earnest Service http://blog.jmbyington.com/
Becky Carroll Customers Rock! http://customersrock.net/
Marianna Chapman Results Revolution http://www.resultsrevolution.com
Katie Clark Practial Katie http://practicalkatie.blogspot.com/
Nora DePalma American Standard’s Professor Toilet http://www.professortoilet.com/
Nora DePalma O’Reilly DePalma: The Blog http://www.oreilly-depalma.com/blog/
Leigh Durst LivePath Experience Architect Weblog http://livepath.blogspot.com/
Valerie Fritz The AwarepointBlog http://www.awarepointblog.com/
Iris Garrott Checking In and Checking Out http://circulating.wordpress.com/
Tish Grier The Constant Observer http://spap-oop.blogspot.com
Renee LeCroy Your Fifth Wall http://yourfifthwall.com/
Joseph Michelli Dr. Joseph Michelli’s Blog www.josephmichelli.com/blog
Veronika Miller Modenus Blog http://www.modenus.com/blog
Arpi Nalbandian TILE Magazine Editor Blog http://www.tilemagonline.com/Articles/Blog_Nalbandian
Maria Palma People 2 People Service http://www.people2peopleservice.com/
Reshma Bachwani Paritosh The Qualitative Research Blog http://www.onqualitativeresearch.blogspot.com/
David Polinchock Polinchock’s Ponderings http://blog.polinchock.com/
Victoria Redshaw & Shelley Pond Scarlet Opus Trends Blog http://trendsblog.co.uk/
David Reich My 2 Cents http://reichcomm.typepad.com/my_weblog/
Sandy Renshaw Around Des Moines http://www.arounddesmoines.com/
Sandy Renshaw Purple Wren http://www.purplewren.com/
Bethany Richmond Carpet and Rug Institute Blog http://www.carpet-and-rug-institute-blog.com/
Bruce Sanders RIMtailing Blog http://rimtailing.blogspot.com/
Steve Tokar Please Be Seated http://stevetokar.wordpress.com/
Carolyn Townes Becoming a Woman of Purpose http://spiritwomen.blogspot.com/
Stephanie Weaver Experienceology http://experienceology.blogspot.com/
Christine B. Whittemore Flooring The Consumer http://flooringtheconsumer.blogspot.com/
Christine B. Whittemore Simple Marketing Blog http://www.simplemarketingblog.com/
Christine & Ted Whittemore Smoke Rise & Kinnelon Blog http://smokerise-nj.blogspot.com/
Christine B. Whittemore The Carpetology Blog http://carpetology.blogspot.com/
Linda Wright LindaLoo Build Business With Better Bathrooms http://lindaloo.com/

Service of Jobs with Many Layers

Monday, February 8th, 2010

I used to take a Brooklyn to Manhattan subway to work from a station that was the first stop in and the last one out of the borough. One rush-hour morning the subway heading to Manhattan arrived at the same time as the station filled with smoke. Soon, across the platform, an empty train came from Manhattan and I jumped in it just to get out of what was an alarmingly dangerous situation.

This wasn’t a standard station in which you could run up some stairs to get out on the street. This station was so deep down that it required stairs plus a very slow elevator to get out. We could all have been trapped.

Neither the conductor nor the motorman in the middle of the train used the loudspeaker to advise passengers to get on the other train. It seemed as though they didn’t understand that their job also consisted of communicating with passengers about safety issues. Perhaps they saw their function was simply to get the train from station to station.

How many other people we work or conduct business with or count on have the same lack of understanding about the depth of their jobs and responsibilities? A doorman does more than open the door, accept packages and sort mail. A pleasant greeting is essential and reacting with common sense to emergencies are just as important as the obvious parts of a job.

Even though we increasingly specialize, nobody is exempt: There are many layers of responsibility and expectation with every job. People who don’t get this [should] lose theirs.

A fabulous PR writer I know couldn’t juggle projects or cover various topics simultaneously, key to working at an agency. Another former colleague wrote brilliant PR proposals and press releases but fell down on client contact. His arrogant attitude with heavy doses of–  “if you don’t work in NYC you aren’t worth my time”– turned off clients most of whom were far smarter than he and from elsewhere.

Contractors who don’t get that the updates about disruptions to a remodeling schedule are as important as impeccable workmanship; haughty or disinterested restaurant wait staff; collaborators who don’t share and customer service people with chips on their shoulders have all missed important layers.

What are some less conspicuous aspects of the job you have–or the jobs you’ve observed–that must be done as well as the obvious and in a timely fashion? Do you think employers don’t always point them out? Should they have to?

Service of Remodeling a Business Model

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

Nancy Farrell, a fundraiser for a non-profit and a home improvement enthusiast–who says she “knows when to bring in professionals,”–shared a recent experience researching a home remodeling project.

It makes you wonder who is in charge of some companies and who is-and who isn’t-paying attention to business realities.

Nancy wrote:

You’d think with the economy the way it is that customer service would get better but it seems to be getting worse.

**Could it be that because of layoffs staff is stretched thin?

**That there’s bitterness over colleagues being let go in the first place?

**Or, indifference because people know that they can lose their jobs through no fault of their own?

**Maybe large companies are breeding workers who give canned responses and are not prepared to reply to different scenarios?

**General lack of training and supervision?

**Greed (companies that only want large, profitable jobs)?

“Here’s what happened to our family this past month. We went to a large home improvement store. Our powder room commode needed a new seal but we decided to take the opportunity to expand the room, replace the commode and the sink, replace the vinyl floor with stone, add beadboard and paint and recessed lighting and get the room up to code.

“We actually got help at the first place we went to but when we said we wanted the company to set up the contractors, the employee balked saying there needed to be a $5,000 minimum purchase on materials before we could be let into the “program.” In addition, we should be prepared for four months without the powder room.

“I’m not sure how many people buy commodes and install them themselves but rest assured that I do not possess the plumbing know-how. I’m not sure what the ‘program’ is either because we weren’t applying for or even using credit. And four months and $5000 in materials for less than 20 square feet of space-what are they thinking?

“The next large store we visited was devoid of help. So we left.

“On a whim, we stopped at a very small, independently-owned store specializing in kitchens and baths. The owner helped us choose materials and came to our house on a Saturday and discovered some extra space we didn’t know we had. He’ll be the contractor for the job and if all goes well we plan to ask him to bid on gutting and remodeling the kitchen. And with a house that is approaching its 100th birthday I have a lot of other jobs in mind.

“Note: Staff at the big store alluded to the fact they might have to ease up on the $5,000 minimum because of the economy while the small store guy said ‘business is great’ because people aren’t selling their houses-they’re updating them instead. I think his business is good because he doesn’t turn down small jobs.”

Have you come across inflexible businesses that are conducting commerce as though it was 2007 when the economy was relatively hunky dory?

Better yet, can you name and describe some that have benefited by welcoming opportunities, large and small, and figuring out how to make them profitable with an eye to the future?

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