Features: The Ultimate Philadelphia Dream House: Get That Special Touch

We asked designers where they go to make their homes one-of-a-kind. They didn’t want to tell us, but we wormed it out of them. (We have our ways …)

Finding the house is one thing. Making it dreamy is a whole different can of paint. How do you elevate your home from fine to fabulous? Whom do you call to create an elegant gilded-silver ceiling? Who’ll hand-­hammer iron to craft a breathtaking railing for your grand winding staircase? Who’ll cover those windows you can’t reach — and put the blinds on remote control? If only you had an interior designer’s little black book, open access to what one designer calls her “secret weapons.”

Well, they’re not so secret anymore.

We asked a host of architects and interior designers to spill the beans about the experts they use for woodworking, paint, floors, windows, lighting and even metalwork: the specialists who make their projects — and them — look extraordinary. Here are their picks.


CBR Woodworking,
11 South Fairview Street, Riverside, 856-764-2422; cbrwoodworking.com
SPECIALTY: Very, very high-end architectural woodwork and furniture, in exotic species, veneers and finishes. The company has a staff of estimators, project managers and installers, and an entire drafting department.
COOL PROJECT: For cutting-edge designer Thom Crosby, CBR wove strips of wood together to make doors for a cabinet. For a Crosby living room, the staff concealed a home theater system by creating built-ins that opened and closed at the press of a button.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: Atlantic Cape Community College’s lobby’s very architectural-looking glass, maple and leather circulation desk.
WHO LOVES THEM: “I’ve worked with CBR for 20 years. The product is exquisite,” says Crosby.
PRICE: From $10,000 for a small, paint-grade entertainment unit or bookcases to $200,000 for custom millwork and cabinets.

Meline Woodworking,
162 West Lehigh Avenue; 215-426-2557

SPECIALTY: Architectural millwork, built-ins and cabinets. The staff of five will take on one cabinet or a whole house.
COOL PROJECT: For one apartment on Rittenhouse Square, Mike Meline fashioned the entire residence from scratch—doors, paneling and built-ins—in a Moroccan style.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: Bars and cabinetry for Stephen Starr’s restaurants; Vietnam’s first and second floors, with their mahogany service-station cabinets.
WHO LOVES HIM: “Mike’s work is of the highest caliber no matter what the job,” says Karl Peters, of Otto Design Group in Old City. “He has made everything from custom desks to fixtures out of reclaimed wood and custom cabinetry. He also works with us on custom finishes to complement the design, and installs everything he builds for us.”
PRICE: Residential cabinetry from $750 to $1,000 per linear foot, installed.

Michael Timmins,
140 Valleybrook Road, Chester Heights; 610-459-4422

SPECIALTY: Custom cabinetry in everything from paint-grade wood to exotic species like rosewood. Recently, Timmins fashioned a set of birch closets to match a contemporary headboard, and floor-to-ceiling raised-panel wainscoting for a billiards room. He also does wood repair work.
COOL PROJECT: A contemporary storage chest made of metal and birch veneer plywood.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: Timmins created the reproduction Philadelphia-style Queen Anne chairs and a corner cabinet at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation at Ridley Creek State Park.
WHO LOVES HIM: “Mike approaches cabinetmaking with the precision of an engineer and the hand of an artist,” says Marc Pinard, of Pinard Architects in Germantown. 
PRICE: $50,000 for a finished kitchen in hardwood.

James Van Etten,
124 North 6th Street,
Perkasie; 215-453-8228

SPECIALTY: Cabinets and built-in casework—armoires, vanities, dining room tables and entire kitchens. He has a line of contemporary furniture you can see by appointment, has shown at the ICFF show in New York, and was featured on the cover of Interior Design magazine.
COOL PROJECT: At architect Ellen Varenhorst’s home on Locust Street, he built the contemporary kitchen cabinetry and bedroom armoires of steamed European beech, ash and white oak. 
WHO LOVES HIM: “He does all of our custom woodwork. His built-ins become part of the design,” says Cathie Dopkin, of Stephen Varenhorst Architects in Conshohocken. “I draw something, and he cuts the shape I send him. He made an island recently without a base, so it looked more like furniture—a cabinet on legs.”
PRICE: An Art Deco curved-door armoire in an African wood, $16,000 to $18,000; dining room tables in curly maple, mahogany or African sapele, $3,000 and up.

Justin Wysock,
468 Laurelwood Road,
Pottstown; 484-571-6016

SPECIALTY: Making custom staircases, floors, doors, mantles out of reclaimed wood, mostly from barns. He does beam installation and timber framing, and will take apart a barn piece by piece and reassemble it to your specifications—whether you want to keep it a functioning barn, or want to live in it.
COOL PROJECT: Right now, Wysock is restoring an 1829 home in Berks County. 
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: The McBride & Murphy law offices, off of Sycamore Street in Newtown, are a former barn transformed by Wysock.
WHO LOVES HIM: Designer Ashli Mizell, of Center City, called on him to fashion a reclaimed barn joist into a mantel for a hip couple on Delancey Street. It’s surrounded by cool limestone. “The piece is the focal point of the room,” says Mizell.
PRICE: $5,000 to $10,000 for a staircase of recycled Douglas fir and white oak; $85,000 and up to move a 40-by-65-foot barn to a new locale, complete with a new foundation, ready to be made into a home.

Irion Company Furniture Makers,
1 South Bridge Street, Christiana, 610-593-2153; furnituremakers.com

SPECIALTY: Owners Kendl Monn and Richard Herzog restore and conserve 18th-
century American furniture, make made-to-order antique reproductions, and upholster traditional and contemporary furniture. Because they’ve restored the real deal, they can reproduce anything from simple nightstands to bookcases to high chests so that they look authentic.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: Their refurbished pieces are often on display in such venues as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Winterthur and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
WHO LOVES THEM: “I can go to them to make a copy of an antique pencil-post bed for a client at a fraction of the cost of an authentic one,” says designer Ann Arader, of Gladwyne.
PRICE: A Queen Anne balloon-seat armchair may go for $2 million at auction, but Irion can make a precise copy for $8,000 to $9,000.


Bob Gore’s Custom Painting,
1408 Diamond Drive, Newtown; 215-579-6946
SPECIALTY: A decorative artisan who specializes in gilding, Venetian plaster, murals, trompe l’oeil and color washing. He spends half the year in Europe, perfecting his craft and painting his way through homes there. Clients are from everywhere from Palm Beach to Center City to France.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: The Yardley Inn’s foyer floor.
COOL PROJECT: At the Dorchester in Center City, he fashioned a pure silver gilded ceiling, using 3,000 three-and-a-half-inch-square silver sheets.
WHO LOVES HIM: Susan Taylor, of Black Eyed Susan in Yardley, says, “He’s a fine, fine artist. He’s there to make sure you love what he does.”
PRICE: From $3.50 to $125 a square foot for a simple glaze to fine-art painting.

Charles Dickey, Inc.,
15 Lark Lane, Perkasie;

SPECIALTY: Dickey is a multi-craft artisan. He makes decorative concrete countertops (would you like coins sprinkled on them?), bars and tabletops (some with granite insets) sealed in ceramic. His other specialty is conversion varnish, a durable, scratch-
resistant cabinet finish.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: Dickey’s responsible for the concrete sunroom tabletops and the breakfront, cabinetry and hostess desk, all in conversion varnish, at the Yardley Inn.
COOL PROJECT: For Yardley designer Susan Taylor’s home kitchen, he painted over her cherry cabinets with black varnish, layer after layer, leaving rub-through colors to make them look old-world. He then sealed them with a durable factory furniture finish.
WHO LOVES HIM: “He’s really an expert in conversion varnish,” says Taylor. “He’s great—he always wants to be the hero.”
PRICE: From $600 for a small bistro table in concrete; a dining room table with granite inset starts at $5,000. For conversion varnish, from $5,000 to $12,000 a kitchen.

Great Finishes Design Studio,
812 North Easton Road, Doylestown; 215-348-5002

SPECIALTY: Co-owner Kelly Papinchak specializes in paint techniques on walls and furniture that involve glazes, metallics and plaster. Head to the showroom (open Wednesdays and Saturdays) to see what she and partner woodcrafter Chris Galdieri can do with wood and a paintbrush—European vintage lights, fireplaces and furniture. They’ll refinish a bed, make custom headboards, or turn a rustic armoire into a more contemporary one.
COOL PROJECT: For the owners of Crossing Vineyards and Winery, they made bedroom cabinets with a stain mixed with metallic paint. “It looked like it had always been in the house, yet it was elegant and sophisticated,” says Papinchak.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: In Washington Crossing, the Crossing Vineyards banquet room, with layers of patina, metallic and wine-colored stains on the walls.
WHO LOVES THEM: “We love that they can do both woodworking and excellent faux-finish work for us,” says designer Celeste Callaghan, of Bucks County.
PRICE: Wall finishes are $1,800 to $4,000 for a dining room; $4,000 to $13,000 for kitchen cabinet refinishing.


Dan Boruta Custom Wood Flooring,
96 Egerton Road, Langhorne, 215-968-5650; borutawoodfloor.com

SPECIALTY: Inlays, in walnut, silver leaf, stainless steel and copper, plus in-depth knowledge of exotic woods like African paduke and Peruvian species; also bamboo, cork, wide plank and antique floors.
COOL PROJECT: For one horse-farm customer in Washington Crossing, Boruta made an inlay of a horse’s head and the  name of the farm in a grand foyer, out of four different woods.
WHO LOVES HIM: “He knows all about exotic species that high-end customers love, and he’ll even come back and do touch-ups after the job is done,” says Center City designer Mary Ann Kleschick.
PRICE: Around $8 to $9 a square foot; costly wood can run $50 and up a square foot.

Inglenook Tile Design,
136 Stoney Hill Road, Quarryville, 717-786-1334; inglenooktile.com

SPECIALTY: Ceramic tiles that look like antique brick. They’re made of stoneware red clay, other clays and ash to make them look old; no two tiles are ever the same, and they’re stronger than real brick. Great for floors (each tile is only three-eighths of an inch to half an inch thick, so you don’t have to lower the floors as you would when installing real brick), but also an option for walls, walkways, porches, fireplaces, even arched ceilings. Homeowners can customize their tiles with fossil imprints, a pet’s paw prints, or kids’ names.
COOL PROJECT:  Easton designer Sheila Gallagher just used the tiles for a farmhouse kitchen with distressed cabinetry, and says they “made” the room: “It looks likes an old-fashioned brick floor, but it’s no different from laying a tile floor.”
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: The floor of Pemberton Hall in Salisbury, Maryland.
WHO LOVES THEM: Gladwyne designer Ann Arader discovered Inglenook and immediately chose the product for a mud room. “Real brick is too thick for most people to use in their homes,” says Arader. “This looks real, and it’s as strong as the real thing.”
PRICE: $8 to $16 per square foot.


DEL Motorized Solutions,
the Atrium, 2075 Byberry Road, suite 108, Bensalem, 215-639-3880; motorizedsolutions.com

SPECIALTIES: Affordable high-end motorized blinds, shades and draperies; home theater shades that reveal the screen at the push of a button; remote-controlled skylight shades. They can even rig motorized drapes with a timer so they’ll automatically close during strong sun hours.
COOL PROJECT: Ed Snider’s entire manse.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: The cafeteria windows at the Constitution Center.
WHO LOVES THEM: Architect Marc Pinard called on DEL Motorized to rescue windows in a loft that were 14 feet from the floor. “There was no way for the homeowner to even reach the shades,” says Pinard. The client had too much light: “DEL was able to come in and provide us with sleek electric roll-up, room-darkening fabric shades on all of the windows. It’s a neat, futuristic and accommodating feeling to push buttons like you have a dimmer switch on the sun.”
PRICE: Battery-operated skylight shades are $500, including remote; a 12-by-five-foot theater window with side channels for maximum blackout is $1,000 to $1,200.

Draperies by Design,
289 Lancaster Avenue, Frazer;
SPECIALTY: This small custom workroom with its six-person shop offers individual, personalized attention and one-of-a-kind window dressings. Choose from their high-end fabrics, or bring your own. (Or bring a swatch of a fabric you like, and the company’s scout will hunt it down for you.) Owner Maddie Hamilton can advise you on what’s best and most functional for your room; she’ll send out an installer to do the measuring, and even do a muslin mockup for tricky designs, so you can see and approve before a single thread of your expensive fabric is sheared. 
WHO LOVES THEM: “It’s hard to find a workroom that’s consistently good—that delivers a quality product on time,” says Linda Wiley, of Linda Wiley Interiors in Malvern. “They’re about to begin a 33-window home at the Shore for me.”
PRICE: Swags are $50 for labor, plus the fabric cost; a pair of jabots is $70 for labor, lined; single-width lined, pinch-pleated drapes run from $40 to $50 for labor.


Moore Designs,
54 North 2nd Street;

SPECIALTY: Custom architectural hardware and custom lighting, often with a Bauhaus or European feel.
COOL PROJECT: Steve Moore made an industrial steel ladder for designer Michael Murtha’s home that mimics a ship’s, leading guests from the fourth floor to the roof deck.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: He’s responsible for the wall sconces at Alma de Cuba and the table lighting at Morimoto.
WHO LOVES HIM: Karl Peters of Otto Design Group, in Old City: “Unlike our involvement with most consultants, we typically work with Steve from the beginning of the design process. His input throughout the project greatly improves the end result.”
PRICE: A completely custom light fixture is $500 and up.

BEAM Ltd.,
4101 Lauriston Street,
215-508-0400; beamltd.com

SPECIALTY: Innovative lighting design for interiors and exteriors that comes from an artistic approach, as opposed to a technical one.
COOL PROJECT: For one space, owner Adam Carangi stripped fiber-optic lights and arranged them in an all-glass pool house so that they reflected on the nearby pool.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: Carangi created the four-foot abstract lights that illuminate Locust Walk at Penn during the holidays.
WHO LOVES HIM: Architect Paul Macht of Rydal, for whom Carangi illuminated a swimming pool, reflecting pool and terrace so that the exterior looked “serene and high-tech at the same time.”
PRICE: $3,000 to $7,000 for design fees for a typical Philadelphia flat.

Fireplaces and Woodstoves

Dreifuss Fireplaces,
6610 Hasbrook Avenue, Lawndale, 215-924-3500, and 20 North Whitehorse Pike, Somerdale, 856-566-8400; dreifussfireplaces.com

SPECIALTY: The two 5,000-square-foot showrooms display wood, gas and electric stoves; wood, electric and heat-generating gas fireplaces; a myriad of mantels; and every accessory imaginable. They have everything from old-world stone fireplace surrounds from France to ultra-modern ones in slate, marble and granite.
burning fireplace at Beau Monde on Bainbridge Street, the fireplace in the lobby of the Phoenix, and the fossil stone fireplace at Ebenezer’s Olde World Coffeehouse in Mount Laurel.
WHO LOVES THEM: “They have great gas fireplaces for old and new construction, and all of the accessories for a fireplace,” says Cecelia Denegre, of CDA&I in Center City.
PRICE: French fossil stone fireplaces, $1,000 to $10,000; gas log conversions, $1,000; granite surrounds are $700 to $1,500.


Filippi Brothers, Inc.,
7722 Winston Road, Chestnut Hill; 215-247-5973

SPECIALTY: For more than 50 years, they’ve been perfecting their craft, brought over from Italy—ornate hand-forged wrought iron gates, as well as ornamental interior and exterior rails. They also do iron restoration. What’s in vogue now? Custom hand-hammered interior staircase railings, especially for circular staircases. “People like the focal point of their foyer to be their staircase,” says owner George Filippi. “They are building bigger houses, so the demand for what we do has increased.”
COOL PROJECT: Hand-forged gates and fencing at an estate in Gladwyne, which took four months to make by hand. 
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: The fence in Rittenhouse Square; the four driveway gates at the new main entrance to Longwood Gardens.
WHO LOVES THEM: “The Filippis have the real skill of the artisan blacksmith, which shows in the way they end their ironwork, with elements like tapered scrolls or buttons,” says Fred Bissinger, of F.L. Bissinger Architects in Villanova. “Filippi not only carries out the design faithfully; they’ll suggest improvements on a design I’ve made.”
PRICE: It can take 300 hours to create an estate gate. A custom iron circular stair railing runs $300 to $1,200 per foot. You’ll pay from $5,000 to $35,000 for a driveway gate.

Worthington Forge,
3959 Stump Road, Doylestown, 215-249-0188;

SPECIALTY: Anything metal. Owner Edward Worthington will make ornamental fencing, railing, gates, even cabinets.
COOL PROJECT: Stair railings in a luxury penthouse condo in New Hope that were forged in an organic look, with vines, leaves and branches.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: Worthington is responsible for all the hand-forged door handles and hand-hammered jewelry cases at Anthropologie stores, as well as the early-1800s-looking hand-wrought fencing at the Doylestown Historical Society, with unique cube-top posts.
WHO LOVES HIM: Designer Mary Ann Kleschick works with Worthington because he does things the old-world way. “There are so many people who tell you things can’t be done. Ed never does, and he works with the most difficult medium—wrought iron.” Michael Ryan, of Michael Ryan Architects in Loveladies and Old City, has used him for a modern look—to make dining room table bases (with lava, marble or granite tops), end tables, fireplace enclosures, even tea carts. Worthington once made Ryan a 1,150-pound dining room hutch.
PRICE: From $5,000 to $20,000 for driveway gates; railings are $200 to $500 a running foot; dining room tables from $3,000 to $9,000.

J.M. Caldwell Co., Inc.,
322 E Turner Lane;

SPECIALTY: Bringing old metal back to life, or creating new custom pieces.
COOL PROJECT: Owner Jim Caldwell is currently making an iron and steel driveway gate for a Mar-a-Lago-like estate in Chester County; each 12-foot door weighs in at 1,800 pounds.
WHO LOVES HIM: “Jim has made everything from knobs and light fixtures to tables out of metal for us,” says Barbara Gisel, of Barbara Gisel Design in Haverford. “When we’re doing a renovation, he will take down all of the brass fixtures in the house and polish, lacquer and reinstall them. He’ll also do that with light fixtures and decorative gates. It’s hard to find someone to do that.”
PRICE: Iron fencing from $100 on up.

Veyko, 216 Fairmount Avenue,
215-928-1349; veyko.com

SPECIALTY: Architects Richard Goloveyko and Lisa Neely not only design cool spaces; they use metal to make customized modern, clean-lined gates, railings, staircases and furniture for other architects, including Wesley Wei, Cecil Baker and Amburn Jarosinski. Neely calls their work “big jewelry,” because it’s the one element that in the end sets off a space. They also have a line of ultramodern furniture you can order online. (Check out the fabulous pivoting screen with translucent panels that rotate open and closed.)
COOL PROJECT: A one-ton dining room table made of steel for Calvin Klein.
WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT: A pair of car gates for the Lippincott building on Washington Square; benches at Penn’s School of Architecture; stone fixtures for Barneys New York and Calvin Klein in New York; bronze window frames for the largest synagogue in New York.
WHO LOVES THEM: Amburn Jarosinski Architects, of Old City, can’t get enough of Veyko. “They did a rear deck on Spruce Street for an art-collecting couple, out of painted steel with perforated steel screens. It had an Asian feeling to it,” says David Amburn.
PRICE: $300 a foot and up for custom stainless steel railings.  b

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