Home Wizards

A comprehensive compendium of home-related pros and resources.

In Westchester, there are two blood sports: divorce and home renovation—with the stress of the latter sometimes leading to the inevitability of the former. Home remodeling often is so unpleasant, many of us would rather stare at the hideous wallpaper until our retinas throb than hire someone to banish it to the hell from which it came. Still, when home remodeling is done right, the rewards are very gratifying. So if you’re contemplating updating that dingy kitchen, redoing the bath, or finally tackling the peeling paint, not to worry. While there are scores of talented, experienced, and dependable home-design and -renovation professionals in our county, here is a list of a select group who can save you from virtually any domestic peril.


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Closet Design

California Closets
16 Saw Mill River Rd. (Rte. 9A)
(914) 592-1001; www.calclosets.com

A fraid to open the door to that scary space known as your closet for fear of triggering an unwanted avalanche of who-knows-what? Let us introduce you to the largest California Closets franchise in the country.
Founded 15 years ago by Robert Westenberg, Sr., and Robert Westenberg, Jr., this Westchester franchise custom manufactures its every project (no prefit or prefab here). One phone call will bring one of its 14 closet designers to your home, usually within two days, for a complementary consultation. The designer will measure your storage space, ask you how you use it—or would like to (e.g., “Do you fold your pants?” “How many pairs of shoes do you own?”). After promising not to divulge that last number to your other half, your closet consultant will, on a laptop, design a closet for you and help you choose materials, finishes, hardware, and accessories. You will also be given an estimate, and, if time permits, a drawing. Total time from initial consultation to installation? Usually two to three weeks.
Cost varies according to size and accessories but can range from $80 to $500 per linear foot. Until you make the call, Marketing Director Laressa Gjonaj offers these tips: double-hang your clothing, store seasonal clothing elsewhere if possible, and periodically purge your closet of unwanted or unused items (to make room for new stuff.)

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Also Consider…
Alternative Closets Co.
657 E. Main St., Mount Kisco
(914) 666-5665; www.alternativeclosets.com

This family-owned business, founded in 1988, specializes in high-end custom storage units. It fully guarantees its adjustable “storage systems” for 10 years. The company vows that each component is handcrafted of fine wood or high-quality, three-quarter-inch melamine laminate and maintains that a storage system can be installed in one day. The cost to design and outfit a typical eight-by-ten-foot master closet ranges from $1,000 to $3,000, depending upon finishes and accessories, with in-home estimates and designs provided at no charge. Implementation often can be scheduled 10 days to two weeks after designs are approved.

Tile Installer
Mike Fitzsimmons
(914) 962-3379

Desperately seeking a tile installer who’ll leave no stone (or tile) unturned (and no dust, dirt, or dripped grout, either)? Michael Fitzsimmons is your go-to guy, say trusted local tile store owners. “He is very attentive to detail,” says Susan Gasch, owner of Terra Tile & Marble of Briarcliff Manor. “I’ve known him to come into the store to look at a particularly intricate tile before installing it.” Chuck Boettcher, tile and stone supervisor for Best Plumbing, Tile & Stone of Scarsdale and Yorktown, is also a Fitzsimmons fan. “His workmanship is excellent,” he says, “and he is someone you would feel comfortable leaving a key for.”
Fitzsimmons, who has more than 30 years of experience installing tiles, laid tile in Carl Icahn’s Bedford kitchen and Peter Frampton’s bathroom in his former Ossining home. He even once tiled a horse stall in a Bedford stable for a champion stud. His fee? The cost to tile a 100-square-foot bath, for example, runs between $3,000 and $5,000, depending upon the complexity of the design and the type of materials used. On-site estimates are free.

Also Consider…
John Russo
J.R. Marble/Tile
Yorktown Heights , (914) 248-6209

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“If I tell you I’m going to be there, I will,” declares John Russo, a former instructor of ceramic and marble installation for Northern Westchester’s BOCES (Board of Cooperative Educational Services), an adult continuing education program. Bedford interior design photographer Philip Ennis (whose work has appeared in this magazine) can vouch for that. “He’s extremely reliable and does impeccable work,” says Ennis, in whose post-modern Colonial Russo worked. Typical bathroom projects can range anywhere between $3,000 and $8,000.



Custom Woodwork & Furniture
Culin & Colella, Inc.
632 Center Ave., Mamaroneck
(914) 698-7727

Husband and wife Ray Culin and Janis Colella are artists. Their medium? Wood. “We design and build anything in wood for the home,” Colella says. “Everything is custom designed.” Give them mahogany, cherry, oak, butternut, and a new hybrid wood called lyptus, and watch them. Their “art” graces many gorgeous homes, including that of designer Tommy Hilfiger. Together, the couple bring 55 years of work experience. Colella, who has a BFA in woodworking and furniture design from SUNY Purchase, apprenticed under renowned artist Stanley Bleifeld of Westport (former President of the National Sculpture Society) and renowned Italian-born sculptor Bruno Lucchesi. Culin, who majored in architecture and furniture design and is a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design, spent three years designing outdoor structures for the acclaimed landscape architect, the late Armand Benedeck of Benedek Armand & Glenn Ticehurst Landscape Architects (see Landscape Architect, page, 109).
Before developing a design and estimating a fee, Colella meets with potential clients. A $2,000 deposit (which is applied to any subsequent work) is required for completion of design plans and for detailed drawings.



Bathroom & Plumbing Fixtures
Best Plumbing, Tile & Stone
3333-1 Crompond Rd.
(Rte. 202) Yorktown Heights
(914) 736-2468
830 Central Ave., Scarsdale
(914) 723-2002
1989 W. Main St., Stamford, CT
(203) 975-9448; www.bestplg.com

Whether you’re remodeling one bathroom or outfitting a new home, working solo or with a decorator, Best Plumbing, Tile & Stone offers the service and expertise afforded by small, high-end shops, with the lower prices and larger selections found in big-box discount stores. “We try to simplify what can be an overwhelming process,” says co-owner Jonas Weiner. Each of Best’s three showrooms has, on average, 18 sales associates.
Best’s stock includes $5 bathroom cabinet knobs and $10,000 custom shower systems—and most everything for the bath in between.
Prices to outfit a basic powder room range from $300 to $15,000, including fixtures, tiles, and fittings but not labor. And thanks to its new 130,000-square-foot warehouse, 80 percent of Best’s merchandise is in stock. Delivery costs $50 per truckload.

All Baths International Inc.
163 Saw Mill River Rd. (Rte. 9A)
(914) 969-2777

Know what you want for your bath? Good. Buy direct from no-frills All Baths International, and save up to 30 percent off manufacturers’ prices on fixtures and faucets. All Baths carries toilets, pedestal sinks, and bidets by American Standard, Kallista, Kohler, St. Thomas Creations, etc.; spas by Artesian Spas, Jacuzzi, and Saratoga Spa; hydrotherapy tubs by Jacuzzi, Kohler, Americh, and Vita Bath; saunas and steam showers by Helo, Amerec, Steamist; and faucets by Kohler, Rohl, Grohe, Watermark, Perrin & Rowe. There may not be a fancy showroom, but there are operating, heated, and sanitized tubs and spas available for you to try before you buy. Evening and weekend appointments are available; call for price quotes.


Kitchen Designers
Bilotta Kitchens
564 Mamaroneck Ave., Mamaroneck, (914) 381-7734
525 N. State Rd., Briarcliff, (914) 762-3432
175 E. Main St., Mount Kisco, (914) 242-1022
1-866-BILOTTA; www.bilotta.com

When Jim, Maria, and Regina Bilotta were growing up in Mamaroneck, they’d often watch the projects of their dad, a builder, take shape. “We’d take pencils right to our Formica kitchen table and draw our dream houses,” says Regina, who co-owns Bilotta Kitchens with her siblings. The Bilottas are still drawing. “We really put our hearts into the creation of spaces that people will live in,” Regina says—people such as celeb chef Emeril Lagasse for whom the company created a kitchen in his New Orleans home.
Founded in 1985 as an adjunct to their father’s construction firm, Bilotta Kitchens is touted for its top-of-the-line products and top-rated customer service. It has a team of more than 15 designers backed by full construction and drafting departments.
In addition to its own custom Bilotta Collection, the company’s traditional cabinetry offerings include those of English company Clive Christian (displayed in its Greenwich showroom), as well as cabinetry by Habersham, the Rutt and Wood-Mode brands, SieMatic, and the European design-influenced Artcraft line. Appliance brands offered include Viking, Sub-Zero, Wolf, Miele, and the super-high-end La Cornue from France.
Homeowner Susie Siegel of Harrison is certainly pleased wth the company and its service. “I was really picky,” she admits. “But Bilotta was great at dealing with my requests.”
Costs for a typical, 350-square-foot kitchen range anywhere from $70,000 to $130,000, although these figures can double depending on the client’s selections.

Window Treatments
Fabu Fabrics
35 Adams St., Bedford Hills
(914) 244-9041

Fabu Fabrics offers a full spectrum of interior design services, everything from a curtain for a bathroom window to motorized drapery for a home theatre, to refitting existing window treatments for homeowners who move. But its most important resource is owner Joshua Katz.
“We may have thousands of fabrics but only three or four are going to work for any given project,” he says. “My job is to steer clients towards fabrics that will function and look good.”
In-store design consultations are complementary; home design visits cost $75 for up to an hour-and-a-half. A single window treatment can run anywhere from $500 to $7,000. Fabu’s fabrics are priced from $30 to $300 per yard; customers can choose to supply their own fabric if they wish. Labor charges depend upon the complexity of the project—the detailing, sewing, and installation. And bigger, says Katz, does not always mean more expensive. “A small powder-room window might need a more elaborate treatment.” Also important to consider: decorative hardware. “Someone might spend twice the amount of money on decorative hardware than they do on the fabric,” he says.
Most orders take between three and four weeks, but, says Katz, “We can accommodate rush deadlines.”

Wallpaper Hanger
Thayer Alhafid
Thayer’s Improvement, Inc.
(914) 835-1595

Hanging wallpaper can be a particularly sticky proposition. “It’s like origami,” maintains decorating guru Lyn Peterson, author of Real Life Renovating and co-founder of Motif Designs in Mount Vernon. Her secret resource? Thayer, the wallpaper man. “He’s the best,” she declares. And, like a select few who have achieved super-celeb status, e.g. Madonna and Cher, he’s known by his first name alone.
Thayer is a wiz with paper, fabric, grasscloth, vinyl, and European wallcoverings, and he also offers painting services for everything from trim and moldings to walls, ceilings and exteriors. In business for 20 years, Thayer, who studied architecture and surveying at Westchester Community College, has come to “specialize,” he says in correcting the mistakes of other wallpaper hangers.
Thayer, who prides himself on being “available for any needed repairs,” charges between $30 and $60 a roll to hang wallpaper. A typical 16-by-20-foot room requires between 16 and 20 rolls and, he says, takes about eight hours to complete. On-site measuring and price estimates are free.



Lighting Fixtures
Patdo Light Studio
25 S. Regent St., Port Chester
(914) 937-6707; www.patdolight.com

Ask most any home decor shop for where to go for lighting fixtures, and odds are good you’ll be told, “Patdo.” The reason? You need only visit the shop once to know. The inventory is breathtakingly beautiful: iron chandeliers from Ironware of France; Murano glass pendants and sconces by Mazzega of Italy; handmade iron sconces and chandeliers from Studio Steel in Connecticut; formal table lamps hand-painted in China by Bradburn and Frederick Cooper; recessed lighting by Lightolier and Iris; and landscape lighting by Kim and Hadco. And if for some reason, you don’t see what you want, the shop offers custom design.
Co-owner Gary Novasel, who teaches landscape lighting design at the New York Botanical Garden, charges $200 per hour for designing lighting plans. Co-owner Mari-Lou Nania, skilled in selecting designs and plotting locations, charges $150 per hour. Fixture prices range from $300 to $5,000, with discounts extended to designers, architects, and electricians.

Hi-Light Decorating
2455 Central Ave., Yonkers
(914) 779-6628

This 30-plus-year-old, family-run, 7,500-square-foot lighting showroom is chock-full of tabletop and floor lamps, crystal chandeliers, wall sconces, and track and recessed lighting systems from Schonbek, Murray Feiss, Quoizel, Fine Art, Kichler, etc. The prices are great, too: expect to pay 20 to 50 percent less than manufacturers’ list.

Grand Concourse Antiques
205 Lexington Ave., Mount Kisco
(914) 244-1568

This antiques emporiuum spcializes in vintage lighting. Don’t despair if you can’t find someone else’s heirloom to adopt from the hundreds of English, French, Italian, and American chandeliers, sconces, and lamps in its 1,600-square-foot showroom and 4,000-square-foot warehouse. Owner Pamela Goldman will be on the lookout for one for you on her travels to estate sales and shows throughout Europe.

Wallpaper Store
37 Maple Ave., Armonk
(914) 273-4485

You can get run-of-the-mill wallpaper—and even some nice designs—at any paint or hardware store. But for a broad range of selections and optimum quality, check out this charming 15-year-old Armonk shop owned by Carol Levy and Joan Sattler (a former wallcoverings and fabric freelance designer for Ralph Lauren). The store has an impressive collection of wallpaper and fabric books. Design houses represented include Osborne & Little, Cole & Son, Nina Campbell, Zoffany, Colefax & Fowler, Lee Jofa, Brunschwig & Fils, Stroheim & Romann, Kravet, Schumaker, and more.
Prices are competitive and often discounted, depending upon manufacturer, 15 percent to 30 percent off retail; a single roll of wallcovering typically sells for between $35 and $45, but some go up as high as $200. If a selection is in stock, it can be obtained within a week. Design consultations are offered either in-store or on-site for $125 per hour.



Decorative Painters
Laura Reed
(914) 693-1843

Decorative artist Laura Reed says she can do “anything on any surface that takes paint”—and neatly, too. “I’ve worked near 18th-century Chinese wallpaper and over Aubusson rugs, and never got any paint on them,” she says proudly.
While she has had no formal art training, Reed has been honing her craft for more than 20 years. Her first job after graduating college was as a nanny for an autistic child. “The family had a private jet, so they flew us all over Europe, to St. Tropez and to England,” she says. “I started noticing the finishes on the walls and realized that it wasn’t plaster but paint.” Back home in Boston, she “pestered” a local decorative paint firm for work and worked on perfecting her skills there, before moving to New York, where she worked as an assistant to the highly regarded Manhattan decorative painter James Alan Smith for three years. Thirteen years ago, she went out on her own.
Painting one door faux bois (which may take eight to 10 hours to complete) can cost from $600 to $1,000. Faux-painting walls costs between $1,500 and $3,000, and floors between $3,000 and $4,000. Murals, often requested for foyers and dining rooms, are the most labor-intensive projects Reed says she undertakes. Costs range from $3,000 to $40,000.

Roman Kujawa
Miro Art Incorporated
Mount Vernon
(914) 663-8350; www.miroart.org

If he’s good enough to restore the 19th-century ceiling of the White House’s Blue Room and gild 365 leaves on its crown molding, just imagine what he can do at your house. Roman Kujawa’s decorative painting is drop-dead astounding. Educated in classical art and conservation, the Bronxville resident (Full-disclosure: Kujawa’s wife, Marta, works in the art department at Westchester Magazine) has worked on art treasures in the museums, palaces, and churches of Europe before relocating to the states from his native Poland. Kujawa’s decorative painting; faux finishes; and conservation and restoration of antique paintings, sculpture, and gilded and painted furniture, are sought out by private collectors and auction houses, including Sotheby’s.
Hand-painted murals run from $20 to $50 per square foot, depending upon complexity; faux painting a floor runs between $1,000 to $4,000 for parquetry (wood) or $5,000 to $8,000 for mosaic, depending upon size; and glazing four walls of a room in strie or linen style typically costs about $3000.


Hardware Fixtures
Katonah Architectural Hardware
143 Katonah Ave., Katonah
(914) 232-7796
Architects and designers know that it’s the details—e.g., cabinet pulls, hinges, and doorknobs—that often help give a home a cohesive look and, in the case of restorations, an authentic one. A typical hardware store lacks the breadth and depth needed for a high-end design project. That’s why professionals swear by Katonah Architectural Hardware.
A few years after the Baren family bought Katonah Paint & Hardware, Inc., in 1981, it began carrying doorknobs and related items. Four years ago, sons Andrew and Ian opened this 1,300 square-foot showroom specializing in architectural hardware.
Showroom manager Jamie Cook estimates that the majority—80 percent—of her clients are trade professionals, i.e., architects, builders, designers, and contractors; the remaining 20 percent are homeowners. And while most of the shop’s knobs and pulls end up in residential homes —including those of Morgan Freeman, Paul Shaffer, Mariah Carey, Oprah Winfrey, and Bill Gates, plus a stable for Martha Stewart, its hinges and knobs can also be found in commercial spaces, including scores of restaurants, Ralph Lauren boutiques, and Abercrombie & Fitch stores.
Prices range from $8 for a cabinet knob to $6,000 for a front-door hardware set. Kitchen pulls start at $8 and go up to $65, although some sell for as high as $200 each. A typical kitchen project might require 40 to 60 cabinet pulls and/or knobs. Orders can take from as little as a week to three months to fill. Appointments are recommended for those who need some guidance navigating the extensive selection.



Paint Color Selector
Peggy Fortuna
Pound Ridge
(914) 764-1757

Tired of white walls but can’t choose between one of the 75 shades of blue offered at your local paint store? Peggy Fortuna is a “color coach,” a consultant for those among us lacking color confidence. “Paint is one of the cheapest ways to redecorate,” Fortuna maintains, “but a lot of people are afraid of color.”
Not Fortuna. Armed with four-inch paint-chip samples, she’ll pay a home visit to quell a color-phobe’s nerves. “People have innate likes and dislikes,” she says. “If there is no blue in your home, I know to stay away from that color.” After you select colors, Fortuna will mail you larger samples to hang up on your walls and look at various times throughout the day since changing light affects color. Indeed, Fortuna maintains, the worst mistake people can make vis-a-vis a paint color is to choose one after viewing it on a tiny paint chip under the fluorescent light of a paint store.
Sharon Hill of Pound Ridge turned to Fortuna after living “too long” with a room color she hated. “We used every one of Peggy’s first recommendations and everything was perfect,” she reports. Fortuna charges $90 per hour with a one-hour minimum, though a consultation typically lasts two hours. Appointments often can be scheduled within a week, although Fortuna has been known to run right over for paint “emergencies.” “I’ve had calls from people while they’ve had painters in their house,” she says.



Landscape Architect
Glenn Ticehurst
Armand Benedek & Glenn Ticehurst, Ltd.
448H Old Post Rd., Bedford
(914) 234-9666; www.abgtla.com

Sometimes the grass really is greener on the other side. So if your idea of landscaping is paying a neighborhood kid a couple of bucks to rake up the leaves, you might want to skip this section: we’re not talking about mowing the lawn and trimming the hedges. Landscape architecture is a whole different category, as much an art as it is a science. And Glenn Ticehurst is a true artist.
Founded in the ‘60s, Glenn Ticehurst’s firm, Armand Benedek & Glenn Ticehurst, Ltd. (Armand Benedek is now deceased), offers landscape architecture and site planning with a specialty in residential properties of at least two acres. “The ideal situation is to be involved very early on so we can master-plan an entire project and deal with planning and zoning, wetlands, and environmental issues,” says Ticehurst, who has a Bachelor’s of Landscape Architecture from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse. “I have no signature look, per se,” Ticehurst continues. “I design depending upon the residence and the client’s desire.”
A project usually goes through three distinct phases: 1) design of the master landscape plan and establishment of a budget ($5,000); 2) development of construction documents for execution (requiring payment of approximately 10 percent of costs for plantings, fencing, lighting, driveway, tennis court, pool, etc.); and 3) on-site supervision of implementation (billed at $150 per hour). Construction costs typically range from $250,000 to more than $1 million. Phases 1 and 2 usually take one to three months, and the actual implementation about a year.



Bathroom Design
40 E. Parkway, Scarsdale
(914) 472-3991

Waterworks is certainly not the place to go for off-the-racks bathroom faucets and fixtures. Pick up just about any shelter magazine, and you’ll know what we mean: Waterworks’ products have been featured in all the top shelter magazines, from O at Home to Architectural Digest. Scarsdale interior designer Carol DeBear calls the 2,300-square-foot Scarsdale showroom (one of 40 nationwide) “a complete one-stop shopping store for the bathroom.”
Waterworks carries its own line of bath products, including hundreds of fittings, fixtures, furniture, and surfaces. It also has a line of textiles (Egyptian-cotton towels and linens, which can be customized with monogramming and colored piping), and apothecary products (French milled soaps and candles). All Waterworks fittings begin as raw brass and are embellished with precious materials such as crystal, ebony, and porcelain. Fixtures are made out of materials such as cast iron, copper, porcelain, vitreous china, marble, and acrylic. Many Waterworks fixtures and fittings are fabricated in several small factories in Normandy, France.
Waterworks bath furnishings are produced domestically by master cabinetmakers who use 18th-century French polishing techniques. Surface offerings include glass tops made exclusively for the company on the Venetian island of Murano, ceramic tile from Southern California, imported granite and marble, and glass and stone mosaics. If you don’t find something you adore, you can always opt for made-to-order.
Waterworks is not for bargain lovers (real crystal and ebony don’t come cheap). Those who’ve worked with the company say materials for a master bathroom frequently start at $20,000—and some homeowners spend that much on tile alone. Materials for a smaller powder room could start at $10,000. Waterworks does not provide installation.



Floor Covering
Carpet Trends
5 Smith St., Rye
(914) 967-5188

When decorating doyenne Chris Madden needed floor coverings for her newly renovated house in Purchase, she went to Carpet Trends. She is not alone. “We do everything for every budget,” says third-generation owner Rob Rogers. While no job is too basic, “our niche is in the high- end residential market. We do a lot of home theatres, and have even done some yachts.”
“We like to say that we offer service you can stand on,” conti-nues Rogers. The store’s specialty? Installing floor covering in difficult spaces such as elaborate winding staircases and open galle-ries. “Our installers are experts at matching patterns correctly,” says Rogers, who started out working in the family business’s own cleaning plant at age 14.
A staff of seven trained salespeople guide customers through the process. The selection is extensive (15,000 carpet samples), ranging from builder-grade carpet ($19 a yard installed) to high-end wool decorator product ($90-plus a yard installed). The store’s average carpet price is in the mid $40s for every square yard installed with padding (but not including pickup and removal of old carpet). Wall-to-wall and area rugs can be customized for color, design, and size.
Carpet Trends offers every type of flooring—except ceramic. Most floor coverings arrive in two to four weeks, although imported rugs take longer. And, in addition to offering at-home cleaning priced from 30 cents to 75 cents per square foot, the shop will pick up a rug, cut it down if needed, clean it, rebind it, and deliver it back to you. If you are moving and want to take your carpeting with you, it will even resize and/or rework it to fit at your new address.



House Painter
Bruce Robertson
(914) 698-2635

Any competent painter can roll “Linen White” onto four flat walls, but when it comes to painting Larchmont’s “Gingerbread House,” a historic home dating from the 1880s (and one of Robertson’s commissions), well, that takes skill. And Bruce Robertson has it. A member of the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America and past president of the Westchester chapter, Robertson and his staff of five full-time painters provide plastering, restoration, patching, wallpapering, pressure washing, and carpentry repairs in addition to interior and exterior painting. Estimates are complementary; pricing is usually a flat fee, although some projects are estimated by the hour ($35 to $50 per hour) plus the cost of materials needed. Prices for interior rooms start at $400 and go all the way to $3,000 and beyond; painting can take less than a day to up to two weeks, depending upon scope. Painting the exteriors of small homes can start at $2,000 while prices go up to $50,000 for large homes.


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