NYC Renovation Chronicles

NYC Renovation Chronicles: If the reno is for your mistress, it pays to tell your contractor

By Yoel Borgenicht  | March 14, 2012 - 7:50AM

As a general contractor working in New York City, I encounter a lot of strange requests and tricky situations.

Here's a recent sampling--and a few tips should one of these scenarios resemble your situation.

1. The love nest

When a wealthy, older gentleman hired my firm to renovate a small apartment on the Upper East Side, I could not figure out why such an affluent person would own such a relatively modest home.

When we were meeting on site to discuss some of the finishes an attractive, a younger woman came to the meeting and I assumed that she was the fellow’s daughter and this would be her home. The misperception was made obvious when the woman kissed the man passionately in gratitude for the renovation.

Needless to say, we were instructed not to mail invoices to his Scarsdale home, but rather drop them off in person to the job site. 

 2. The Hail Mary pass

You've probably heard warnings that a couple shouldn't have a baby to "fix" their relationship. Well, the same is true for a renovation. If your relationship is on the rocks, you might want to think twice before undergoing a major apartment redo.

Undertaking a renovation together can be difficult for certain couples. There are a lot of decisions to be made and sometimes one of the parties becomes emotionally involved with regard to a lifestyle choice, such as the size of the kitchen in relation to the size of the living room.  Decisions like that can crystalize other underlying couple-conflicts and deal the final blow to an already fragile relationship. 

We recently completed a project when the couple ended up going through a separation and subsequent divorce in the middle of the renovation. Of course the couple had a rocky relationship before the renovation began but the personal decisions needed when renovating a shared residence brought their irreconcilable differences to the forefront. 

The project ended up being frozen and is now hostage to the couple’s legal war with each other.  

3. Outside persons of undue Influence

With most projects there is usually an authority figure that makes the decisions regarding what type of renovations he or she wants performed. Sometimes this is a spouse, architect or interior designer.

Sometimes I assume that one person is the decision maker at the beginning of the project and quickly find out that it’s someone else who’s really calling the shots.

For instance, because of the exorbitant prices of New York City real estate, many parents help their children buy their first homes. Some of these parents insist on making the aesthetic decisions even though their children are adults.

On one recent project I couldn’t get over the strange sight of a young prosecutor -- who probably makes felons quake in their boots in court -- being bossed around by his mother regarding the color of the bathroom tiles.  My advice:  If your parents are helping you buy the apartment, be prepared to have them make renovation decisions (and maybe warn your contractor ahead of time).

A different client recently purchased a one-bedroom fixer-upper and proceeded to make decisions that fit his bachelor lifestyle, like removing closets to make the rooms feel bigger and leaving the old tile in the bathroom while spending thousands of dollars on a new plasma television and sound system.

Halfway through the project his girlfriend decided to move in and sure enough more closets were added and the expensive audio visual equipment was returned to pay for new tiles.

With this in mind, if you are a bachelor with a serious girlfriend, involve her in the renovation decisions from the beginning. It may help your relationship, and she probably has better taste than you.

Yoel Borgenicht is the president of King Rose Construction, specializing in residential and commercial renovations in the New York City metro area.    Related posts:


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