The Full Monty – Remodeling the Manhattan Highlands

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Livingroom 2

Eclectic Builders has done their fair share of remodeling in Manhattan, what makes this apartment so different?

Eclectic Builders has been around for a while. They have worked on full-scale carpentry projects to modest remodeling jobs. Due to their exceptional skills and craftsmanship, the word has spread. They’ve now moved on to taking bigger and more involved projects – including this remodel.

Located in Manhattan’s buzzing and lively neighborhood of Chelsea, this full-scale remodeling encompassed every room in the what was originally a very small and cramped apartment.

The living room design and kitchen were modified to allow more light to come in from every angle.

The bedroom floors, walls and light fixtures were updated and modernized. Bathrooms were completely gutted and given a new contemporary feel – from minimalist bathroom fixtures to the custom-fitted shower. Even the hall received the attention it is not normally afforded in the form of custom floor coverings.

However, the crown jewel of this project rests on the kitchen – which included a glass door that needed to be fitted and modified to allow for the most light.

Each stage of the remodel was engineered to allow for the most light, the most efficient use of space and to create the illusion of more space.

Eclectic Builders achieved this goal while also working closely with the client, designers and other professionals necessary to the success of this project.

Please review all of Eclectic Builders projects to see their expert use of light and space.

Heart, Head and Hands

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A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.

-Louis Nizer

On a bitter cold morning under gray skies threatening snow I wedged a chock of wood under a diagonal 2×4 brace and swung my hammer, straightening a belly in a newly constructed wall with one short stroke. A guy in a suit and tie who passed by the jobsite each morning on his way to the train, stopped and said. “Man, I wish I knew how to do what you do.” I laughed, embarrassed, and snorted. “Be careful what you wish for.” A young man, and new to my trade, I was highly skeptical that a professional might actually envy a laborer’s skill. I suspected he was blowing the proverbial smoke.

I was introduced to the trade by an Englishman name Steve Crossley who saw some potential (for cheap labor mostly) in a cocky, slightly built teenager, of very limited abilities but endless verbal capacity. Steve was a Northern Brit who arrived in the States by way of Australia in hot pursuit of a girl and was known affectionately to his crew as “The Mate.” Fond of the occasional pint or two, the Mate could often be seen teetering around town on an ancient, battered Triumph Daytona, or behind the wheel of a Land Rover overflowing with dogs. Despite his comic tendencies, Steve was a meticulous craftsman who instilled in us a careful attention to detail. He was a stickler for tight tolerances and his love for the trade was evident and contagious.

I soon discovered I had a knack for finding the sweet spot of a hammer (except when the boss was looking, suddenly bending over nails whenever he appeared) and learned pretty quickly to use my body as a lever, once monkeying up through a stack of trusses to lift a boom crane’s “headache ball” off a man’s trapped leg to the delight of the crew and my own heart pounding amazement. I remember the foreman saying “NOW you’ve got something to tell your girlfriend!” I flushed with pride and embarrassment. Steve always had a way of putting me in my place though, barking out in a North Country Manchester accent “You’re as useless as a chocolate teapot!” Or “You’re as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike.” Or my personal favorite “My God! You’ve got to retrain him after lunch!” and other choice, colorful phrases I cannot repeat here. But when you excelled at something he was just as quick with a compliment and a hearty “Well done Young Squire! Young rapscallion!” It’s been over twenty years since I left his employ and I’ve had many teachers since, but it was under his tutelage that I learned a trade; a way to be useful anywhere, and a means to support myself and others with head, hands and heart.

A framing carpenter with any natural aptitude and curiosity soon graduates to trim work, doors, moldings and stairs and then furthers his education with shop work, appreciation of species, cabinetry, perhaps furniture making, finishes. Your love for the medium deepens and grows. You start exploring the tension between wood and worker. You start thinking you’re pretty good every five years or so, start to plateau at a certain level, then realize you really don’t know anything at all, never did, and start making the climb to the next level. I imagine it’s a lot like a violinist, or a fly fisherman, a surgeon even. It’s a continuum, and you never really get there, you just keep traveling, deepening your knowledge as you climb. And once in a while, faced with a cocky young helper (who seems so familiar), you get to say “Kid, I forgot more than you’ll ever know.”

I am proud to have on my team Randy the bookbinder, Mark the electrician who composes music, Dave who builds Danish Modern furniture, Drew the cabinet maker, Justin the print maker, Akira, an artist and a tile setter, Timmy and Eddy, the plumbers who see a creative way through every thorny difficulty. We are blessed with talent from our plumbers to our plasterers. These are men I admire and who bring to the work a breadth of knowledge and depth of attention that I think few other crews can match. Guys who have an insatiable curiosity about how things work and who are fluently conversant in a multitude of styles and mediums that only comes from long hours, days, weeks and years plying your trade with literal blood, sweat, laughter, head-scratching and tears.

Does this over qualify them for renovating? No way. Renovating in Manhattan, for some of the most discerning clients and the most creative designers on earth demands a special resourcefulness and focus. These guys tackle challenges on a regular basis that I’ve seen traumatize lesser tradesmen. “If you can make it here”…..indeed.

This is why we are called ”Eclectic” Builders. And this is why I believe our work sometimes approaches the “art” that Nizer speaks of.

I think even “The Mate” would be proud.

“Who wants business like this?”

……is a quote from a fellow New York City area remodeler who by noon on Wednesday had several major catastrophes on his company’s plate including a home that has been knocked down by Hurricane Sandy. He continues: “This is probably going to be an adrenaline shot for our industry in the affected areas but I’m not excited about it.” (from Daily5Remodel).

I share his sentiment to an extent, but I have always considered renovations at their very best to be a direct and tangible improvement of people’s lives, through the positive transformation of their immediate surroundings. As within, so without…and vice versa. So to put the pieces back together of a flood damaged home seems to me an act of healing and therefore an inherently more satisfying endeavor than, say, brightening a bath or improving the workflow of a kitchen.

Any contractor working in Manhattan will be happy to swap war stories about the logistics of moving workers, vehicles and materials in our fair city. It can be a daunting task even on a summery, low-traffic August day, but factor in winter weather and the potential for material and labor shortages due to the storm, and the puzzle becomes that much more interesting.

I am riding the A train downtown on Sunday morning the 4th of November, the day the marathon would have taken place were it not for a storm named Sandy. It is the first of many trains I will take to the Park Slope Armory to see if volunteers are still needed to assist the elderly and displaced. My truck is out of gas and there is none to be had uptown for love nor money. I left my bicycle at home after riding many miles in search of volunteer opportunities yesterday and my rear end is very grateful for the down vest beneath it on a smooth subway seat. I bought that bike during the transit strike and have unhooked it from the ceiling a lot less than I care to admit but it served me admirably yesterday. It was a fine, blustery autumn day and I was happy to be above ground pedaling past the National Guard handing out bottled water and the cops pumping gas to the cars snaked around the Lower East Side. I finally found a job in Brooklyn, helping Occupy Sandy hump supplies in and out of their ad hoc distribution center at St. Lukes church. They are moving an enormous amount of donations – and quickly too. And I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here to posit that they have more PPP’s (piercings per person) than any other relief organization in town.

(As I write, the city run shelter at the Park Slope Armory/YMCA is still accepting drop-in volunteers and I promise you many a fine Sandy escape story from some of New York’s original characters there. : )

WNYC’s link to how you can help: http://www.wnyc.org/articles/wnyc-news/2012/oct/30/how-help-hurricane-sandy/

——Sean Robinson

Built-in Cabinetry and Shelves

Cabinets are an integral part of organizing your home and making the most of the space you have.

It’s important to understand what what your options are: floor cabinets, wall cabinets, framed cabinets and frameless cabinets. The variety of cabinets may seem overwhelming at first.

In terms of kitchen cabinets, we have some choices between base cabinets versus wall cabinets.

Base cabinets are also known as floor cabinets, and are meant to be installed on the floor. Wall cabinets are, by definition, affixed to the wall. Typically, base cabinets include a countertop. This countertop can often act as the focal point of the kitchen and can be made from various materials, and everything from a solid wood chopping block to marble. Often, base cabinets are built around the existing plumbing in your kitchen.

Wall cabinets, are available in a multitude of sizes and shapes, and come in variations of everything from those with doors (glass, or classic wood) or open cabinets for easy reach. Most wall cabinets come built with adjustable shelving that are lined with peg holes on both sides of the cabinet walls. This option is functional and adjustable, but also not as stable as the custom built varieties Eclectic Builders excels in.

If you have unusual dimensions in your kitchen, however, or want to make the most of your space, consider talking to the master designers at Eclectic Builders in Manhattan for your custom kitchen cabinets. They’ll let you in on every part of the process on everything from the material used to the final positioning.

A Banquette Worth Remembering

As the benchmark of kitchen furniture and hard to fit spaces, banquettes are the perfect addition to any dining area. The most popular styles to teach you how a banquette can add extra seating space, storage, and style to your space.

Bench seating need not be reserved for breakfast nooks. Banquettes are also a great solution for small dining rooms. Here, the custom-built banquette seating sits in a modern LED-lit sitting room with contemporary upholstering and a black lacquer table.

Further, in downtown Manhattan at the ever popular Sushi Samba, one of Eclectic Builder’s general contracting projects, we were responsible for remodeling this sleek, contemporary dining room replete with banquette seating – the perfect setting with efficient use of space in the busy NYC restaurant scene.

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Banquette Detail with Glass Door


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Restaurant Interior Manhattan, NYC

Specialty Doors


There are hundreds of different types of door and material combinations, no matter whether standard or custom doors are required. Choosing the right doors for your home can be a time consuming process if you don’t know what your options and needs are. It’s important to get the choice of doors right.

From basic hinged doors to bi-fold doors, French doors, sliding doors, stable doors, trapdoors and more – learn about the many different types of doors.

Just as there are many different doors to suit various purposes, there are many different types of door hinges to accompany them. The average house usually has several different kinds.

The similarities may be many and the differences small, but having the right hinge for the right door is quite important. Here’s a few of the more common varieties:

Barrel hinge: Barrel hinges are the most common type of hinge on the market – this is the usual hinge type people think of when they hear the word. Barrel hinges consist of two halves that come together to form a thin cylinder or barrel, into which a pin is inserted. One half is screwed into the door and the other half into the door jamb, thus fixing the door in place. The hinge then rotates on the pin when the door is opened and closed.

Most standard doors will feature two or three of these hinges, which are easily replaced. These hinges normally get their roughest treatment when kids hang off doorknobs…

Pivot hinge: This is a simple bar protruding out from the top and bottom of the door, on which the door pivots to open and close. These are common in showers where another type of hinge may be impractical due to residue build up and difficulty of maintenance.

Concealed hinge: These hinges are hidden inside the door and may or may not have a self-closing and/or soft closing mechanism installed. These are usually found on furniture as opposed to room or exterior doors.

Continuous or piano hinge: On a continuous hinge, the hinge joint runs the entire length of the door, just like the hinge on a piano lid.

Balusters, Balustrades and Banisters

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What are they and what are the different types of Balusters, Balustrades and Banisters

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burnished oak baluster

They’re not all synonyms. So, what’s the difference?

A “baluster” is a molded shaft that most often supports the handrail of a staircase, but also can be used to support a parapet, which is a wall-like barrier often at the edge of a roof.

Balusters often are made of stone or wood, and sometimes made of metal.

A “balustrade” is a sequence of balusters that support a handrail.

A “banister” — also spelled with two “n”s — is another name for a staircase baluster, but many architects and interior designers prefer to reserve the word “banister” for a narrower, more-modern support.

Here in the United States, we also tend to use the word “banister” to refer to the handrail of a staircase.

So, in general:

– “baluster” refers to the support of a staircase handrail.
– “balustrade” refers to a series of balusters.
– “banister” refers to the support of the handrail.

And still know, some will use “banister” to refer to the staircase handrail!

Fifth Avenue on the Strip

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Crown molding combined with LED strip lights make this Fifth Avenue, Museum Mile home a masterpiece

Track lighting has undergone many changes in recent years. In fact, LED strip lighting, used combination with crown moldings, was used to create this light cove.

While the trend in track lighting is actually disappearing and not very much in vogue these days, LED strip lights, ribbons or tapes are one of the most popular LED products available on the market. LED’s do not require standard bulb shapes to work efficiently; however, this shape allows LED’s to replace bulbs in typical residential lamps.

LED stands for “light emitting diode”. A diode is an electrical component with two terminals which conduct the electricity only in one direction and the light emitted is not only more cost efficient, it is also very versatile in its applications.

Depending on your purposes, the following features may help you decide what to apply.

Of all the determining factors, the most important is probably the type and size of the LED, both of which determine its brightness or performance. How the performance of different LED technologies (low power, SMD power and high power) ranges, as well as the size of the diodes. Obviously, the more recent the technology of the LED is, and the bigger its size is, the brighter it will be.

In this elegantly appointed Fifth Avenue apartment, the trend has certainly been toward smaller fixtures, which are much less noticeable in the space. while the LED strip light trend is excellent for its flexibility and can provide ambient, task, or accent lighting.

The entire home has been remodeled, not only with specialized lighting, but with the installation of custom wall coverings, parquet floors, curved interior walls, and specialized doors and fittings.

In this Fifth Avenue home in Manhattan, LED strip lighting is used effectively. Situated in the famous Museum Mile neighborhood of central Manhattan, the apartment looks over Central Park. Stately accents to a well-appointed apartment.

Built-in shelving and customized lighting add accent detail, as well as wall sconces, which were used to create a visual glow, even in the dead of winter. In this way, the lighting is used for not only functional and dramatic effect with custom fixtures and fittings.
Also on display are classic attributes of a modern apartment softly lit by ambient lighting.

Re-designed walls covering NYC Fifth Avenue apartment plus interior wall coverings and lighting details make this project a place to remember!

Custom Showers

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Eclectic Builders has been involved in a number of bathroom remodel projects in Manhattan that require creative thinking for unusual spaces. It’s what they excel at.

For the ultimate bathroom remodel, consider a personalized, custom shower with all the features of a luxurious day spa for a total sensory experience designed to soothe both body and mind. Incorporate personalized settings and angles for wall and ceiling-mounted spray nozzles, pulsating sprays, and pivoting shower heads and panels for maximum coverage from above, below, front and back.

Transform your shower by combining components to match virtually any budget. Start by upgrading to a multifunction shower head. For a fuller experience, add sprays and jets that make more use of your existing water lines, or completely transform your shower into a spa-like retreat.

Enclosed shower doors are also extremely popular whether frame-less and hinge-less, sliding or with custom handles. All custom enclosed showers have been painstakingly measured and cut to fit the space. For the height of modern design, the custom-built enclosed shower creates efficiency and clean lines in a hygienic and easy-to-clean way.

Specializing in bathroom remodels with custom-fit showers in the sleekest of modern designs and the most technologically advanced features, Eclectic Builders is making over Manhattan.

Bathroom in Slates and Grays

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Slate and stone gray bathroom tile creates a restful atmosphere for this graceful Chelsea, Manhattan bathroom remodel

This bathroom is fitted with stone bathroom tile in varying shades of gray and earth-tones. The floor is tiled with modern slate slab bathroom tiles. A white porcelain sit-in tub with glass enclosures and a full vanity with double sinks ensures that this space is both restful for the mind and the body.

A full wall mirror and modern light fixtures lend to this unusual design.

Slate, long a popular building material, has seen an upsurge in its use in bathrooms and bathroom tile.

Slate, a very dense but soft and easily scratched material with low porosity, can be used effectively outdoors as well as indoors. Here, it’s used effectively to keep a smooth, uniform surface, helped in part by the natural cleavage into long, smooth sheets.

Most slate is gray to black, but the rock may be red or purple, depending on its mineral content. It has low to medium absorption of oils and other liquids and should be sealed with an oil-repellent penetrating sealer to prevent staining and reduce soiling as this one has been.

The walls are tiled in an offset pattern in an array of gray and earth-tones. The bathroom tile was cut according to specifications and fitted with modern mold resistant synthetic grout and sealed to ensure a long-lasting and easy-to-clean surface.

The tub seat is a custom-ordered design, refitted to the shape of this unique space. Both the double vanity sink and the tub provide the perfect counterpoint in clean, pure white glazed porcelain with stainless steel fixtures.