Author Archive

Creating Enduring Neighborhoods

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

Living Well Link of the Week: Charter of the New Urbanism

To Flip or Not to Flip

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

You can watch the TV shows every evening on HGTV and TLC…the home flippers buying a house in need of work, spending a few weeks of time, a few thousand dollars and selling for a easy profit. Being a residential architect, I watch these shows strictly as entertainment. Its nice to think that it might be that easy. I am here to tell you that it is not.

I submitted a proposal to perform architectural services for a local “flip” about 1 year ago. During the interview, I was very honest about the amount of time and money it would take to complete the scope of work for this residence. I lost the job.

I occasionally drive by the project. It’s still under construction, and from the looks of the amount of work being performed, the cost is way more than I estimated. If in fact it is still a “flip”, there is very little chance that the owner is going to make any profit at all. My guess is that, with the current direction of the real estate market, they will lose thousands on their investment.

Its just not that easy.

If you are considering a “flip”, the current issue of Oprah at Home magazine has a great article (written by Suzie Orman) on the subject.

Other shows, like ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition, are even more unrealistic. Unless you have few hundred thousand dollars in corporate sponsorships, a few hundred enthusiastic volunteer tradespeople and a very cooprerative building department, an event like Makeover is just not possible.

Television shows like these establish very unrealistic expectations for homeowners cosidering a renovation project. The average renovation project in Westchester County takes at least one full year from start to finish; about 4 to 6 months to design, at least 1 month for municipal review and about 6 to 8 months to build. Construction costs in the county start at $225 per square foot and quickly go up from there.

Major renovations take too much time, cost too much money and involve way too much risk. If you’re looking to “flip”, use the “4Re” rule. Stick to a house that can be Repainted, Refinished, Repaired and Re-sold. Paint the house inside and out. (Quick tip: Educate yourself well on home color or hire an architect to select the colors. Color will make or break you. Neutrals are NOT the answer.) Refinish the floors and woodwork. Repair anything that is visibly damaged or worn. Make sure the house is spotlessly clean and resell for a quick profit. Ten or 20 thousand dollars in a month or two is way better than risking big bucks on a unstable real estate market.

Sensational Color for the Holidays

Monday, December 18th, 2006

“Red and Green move over. This year it’s all about picking a holiday color scheme that compliments your home and your personality.”

“The holidays are a great time to add some color, sparkle and drama to your home’s decor, and while red and green may be the traditional choice, this year it’s all about picking a color scheme that compliments your home and your personality. Whether you’re hosting an open-house, opening up presents with your family, or ringing in the New Year with an intimate dinner for two, this is a great time to experiment with this year’s hottest holiday color trends.”

Read the entire article at the Sensational Color website.

Designing the Perfect Bath: Waterworks Style

Sunday, December 17th, 2006

Barbara Sallick, Co-founder and Senior Vice President of Design at Waterworks, released her second publication this November, titled The Definitive Guide to Designing the Perfect Bath.

The ideal shelf-mate to her previous book, Waterworks: Inventing Bath Style, The Definitive Guide emphasizes the importance of planning, meticulous installation, choosing and trusting your design professionals, and accessorizing as the finishing touch for the complete bath experience.

The Definitive Guide is the perfect tool for anyone building a new house, planning a major renovation, or making just a few small changes to the bath. It is the ultimate companion throughout the bath design process.
The guide provides useful worksheets and checklists, and defines important questions to ask before embarking upon your design journey.

Barbara says of The Definitive Guide, “A space will yield the most complete bath experiences when each decision that you have made about architecture and design feels right and the bath becomes a private retreat for your daily bath rituals.”

As arbiter of the Waterworks’ influential bath aesthetic, Barbara brings a lifelong background in design to her philosophy of modern bath style, employing formal principles of architecture and decoration to make this utilitarian environment as rich and livable as any other room in the home. Barbara has continued to build on this precedent for nearly 30 years, seeking inspiration in past design traditions as the basis of an evolving, modern bath viewpoint.

The book is available at or direct from the Waterworks website.

An Elegant “Backdrop for a Well-Lived Life”

Friday, December 15th, 2006

Living Well Link of the Week: Barbara Barry Realized by Henredon

Making Places in Chappaqua

Wednesday, December 13th, 2006

On October 14 and November 2, 2006, the Town of New Castle hosted “Placemaking” workshops in order to document the community’s vision of how downtown Chappaqua might be improved. These workshops were facilitated by Project for Public Spaces, Inc.; a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating and sustaining public places that build communities.

Click here to view the results from the Placemaking workshops, and to particpate by adding your own comments.

Pillows for Puppies

Monday, December 11th, 2006

In addition to creating the finest residential architecture in Westchester, one of Fivecat Studio’s missions is to make a difference in the lives of homeless cats and dogs. All of our family pets (five cats and a dog) are rescues and we do all we can to support the local animal rescue charities.

Every holiday season, Annmarie and the boys collect all our worn towels, pillows and blankets. Then they have a holiday party and invite all their friends to bring their unwanted linens to the house. They wrap it all up and put together a Christmas care package for the SPCA of Westchester. Its a simple way to make a difference and teach the young ones a valuable lesson on sharing and caring.

The following is a list of items that are needed at the SPCA:


  • Bleach
  • Pinesol/Comet
  • Sponges with Brillo Pad
  • Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap
  • Paper Towels/Toilet Tissue/
  • 45-55 Gallon Construction Grade Garbage Bags
  • Brooms and mops
  • Alcohol and Peroxide
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Q-Tips & Cotton Swabs
  • Medical Supplies
  • Newspapers
  • Sheets, Towels and Blankets
  • Pillows
  • Electric Can Openers


  • Plastic Sheet Protectors/ Postage Stamps
  • Avery 5160 address labels
  • 3.5 Computer Floppy Disks
  • Printer Cartridge Color — hp inkjet #57
  • Printer Cartridge Black —- hp inkjet #56
  • File Folders
  • Paper
  • Post-it notes


  • Cat Litter
  • Cat Food (Dry & Canned)
  • Dog Biscuits and Treats
  • Peanut Butter & Kong’s
  • Dog brushes and combs
  • Dog shampoo (good quality)
  • Leashes and collars
  • Dog Toys – plastic kongs, nylabones, hard rubber balls and rope toys
  • Cat Toys – ping pong and golf balls, plastic film canisters and feather toys
  • Crates and Vari-Kennels (All sizes)
  • Bowls
  • Wild bird food


  • New or Used Suburban or other SUV vehicle
  • Stockade Fencing
  • Foliage – Perennials and Annuals
  • Small Hand Tools
  • Screen for slide projector
  • Easels for special events

Cash gifts and larger donations are welcome too. Click here to see how you may help make a difference.