It looks like $1 million'
By Noreen Seebacher for The Journal News (Westchester Edition), Real Estate section, March 24, 2002

              Having $1 million to spend- just for remodeling- has its advantages.

          You get extensive attention to detail, only the highest quality materials and state-of-the art design and equipment.

          But the best reward may be what you can’t see. “It’s the ‘wow’ factor,” explained Jake Schneider, project manager for Murphy Brothers Contracting Inc. in Larchmont.  The company specializes in high-end remodeling: projects with budgets in the $1million to $3 millions range.

          The wow factor is the ability to provoke the envy of friends and relatives when they see your finished project. It’s the intangible sense of awe resulting from both your good taste and your good fortune- something every homeowner longs to create with a well-done remodeling job.

          Of course, not everyone has equally deep pockets. Only a few can afford the pleasures of importing wood reclaimed from antique Siberian railway cars for their newly built center island in their kitchen.

          But that’s exactly what one Larchmont couple did in connection with a job recently completed at their historic home near the shore of Long Island Sound.

          While most homeowner may not readily duplicate their project, it demonstrates what you can get when money is no object.

          “The intrinsic value that comes in the process is not only what you see, it is also the way in which the work is done,” explained Bob McCarthy, marketing director for Murphy Brothers.

          He described that as both the quality of the work and the “sensitivity to the needs of the homeowners” throughout the course of remodeling. Unlike projects of substantial lower cost, high-end customers get high-end coddling.

          That’s important, since remodeling can take almost as much time as money, often long as six to eight months.  It takes about two months alone for custom cabinets’ orders, more time for planning, order processing, shipping, demolition, installation, moving back into your kitchen and re-organization.

          High-end jobs should theoretically take the longest, but often they don’t. Chalk it up to the efficiencies a big budget provides.

          The jobs start and end when promised.  The workmen take pains to keep dirt and noise to a minimum. They give you only what you want, never what you least expect.

          The bottom line: A one-of-a-kind and generally extensive project created with minimal frustrations.

          As Sylvain Côté, president of Absolute Remodeling in Yorktown Heights, explained, “Clients consider more than just the cost of a project. They want the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their contractor runs a respectable, high-quality operation” and can “translate unique ideas to functional projects.”

          But what can money really buy? Think of the difference between a million dollar budget and the $50,000 to $100,000 most homeowners may consider extensive as the difference between a car and a Rolls Royce.  While both share similar characteristics, there’s a world of difference.

          For a big budget, you get the best in even the minutest details- from the types of wood used in the project to the hinges on the doors.

          On the Larchmont job, which cost almost $1 million, the contractor tried to restore and expand the house without losing its historic value.

          The Victorian-style property was built about 1800. The homeowners wanted to respect the integrity of the original design, but also expand the kitchen, breakfast nook and master suite.  For Schneider, wthat included replicating styles and materials similar to those in use when the house was built.

          “The owners are very interested in old houses. They wanted to buy a house and restore it as close to original as possible.” He explained.

           To extend the breakfast areas, the homeowners selected a five-sided sun room to match an original sunroom to match an original sunroom at the front of the house. The new one has a lead coated copper standing seam roof.

          The lead coating makes the copper look like tin, a commonly used building material in the 1800’s.

          The contractor chipped away several layers of paint on the exterior of the house to find a shade similar to the original. The result: The house was painted a Colonial green, with darker green and deep red accents on the railings and trim.

          The foundation of the breakfast room was built with identically sized bricks as those used on the existing foundation, and all of it was then painted to create a perfect match. “It looks original,” McCarthy added.

          The sunroom is directly off the kitchen, which was updated with state-of-the art professional appliances and a modern but historical appropriate design. Schneider used reclaimed antique heart pine for the kitchen floors and finished them with tung oil. The old timbers were actually pulled from a riverbed, where they had sunk long ago.

          The advantage is the detail. As part of an old growth forest, the timber has a closer grain than new wood. The planks were laid overran insulated sub floor with a radiant heat system designed to keep the floors toasty even in cold weather.  The floor of the adjacent sunroom is embossed terra cotta tile, also laid over a radiant heat system.

          The focal pint of the kitchen is a spacious enter island, with a top made from reclaimed antique Russian oak. The wood was once part of railway cars in Siberia, Schneider said.

          In high-end jobs with a focus on historical accuracy, contractors’ often uses antique and reclaimed materials, including wood. The practice gives even new constructing a vintage feel that can blend better with original details.

          The kitchen also has marble countertops, cherry cabinets, a tin ceiling and vintage lighting.

          The new master bath and closet is directly above the kitchen.  The bath has a claw footed tub, double sink and separate marble shower stall. The closet is larger than most Manhattan kitchens. It features built in mahogany cabinets and walls.

          Regardless of what you spend to remodel, it’s important to keep several facts in mind. Côté warns that the average person moves every six years, “no matter what an owner may intend.” That means what you spend has to balance what you’re likely to get back when it comes time to sell.

          “A house must be regarded as an investment- not just simply a home- with one eye on the real estate market,” he said. -



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