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.