Relationship Building

Home renovations can be disrupting. For months on end, in the quest of a better future, your home becomes barely livable and you have a daily slew of houseguests — workers who arrive early and stay all day. Successful renovations can and do result from such displacement; but the truly successful ones end with the initial working relationship intact.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor Robert and Susan Fleming, a landscape architect and a “serious volunteer,” who hired Mind Hand to renovate a one-bedroom apartment on the 15th floor of a 1920s building on 72nd Street on the Upper West Side, that was exactly the case.

The renovation was a huge success. “We bought the attached windowed utility space,” Susan recounts. “So what had been a square little eating area, seven by seven, with one window, became a seven by ten eating area, with two windows. And then we put in a door to the hallway so we could have two exits to meet code. The work we did on the kitchen was major. What was a tiny creepy kitchen is just terrific now. It’s a galley kitchen and it’s totally practical. It’s only five feet across yet we still manage to have a decent refrigerator and a dishwasher and a sink and a stove. Everything worked beautifully.”

“I had the feeling that they cared about the apartment and how it was going to turn out as much as we did.”

Through it all, the Flemings found Philip and Dan welcome company. “I had the feeling that they cared about the apartment and how it was going to turn out as much as we did,” Susan says. “They were willing to spend as much time talking about everything we wanted to talk about as we were. It was almost like going to a school conference and having the teacher talk about how wonderful your kids are.”

Indeed, Philip and Dan even showed up in the Fleming’s Christmas letter. “I made a fuss about how wonderful our contractors had been,” Susan says. “One of our daughters, when I asked her to proof the letter, said it sounded like we loved our contractors more than we loved our daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren! I did a little rewrite to maintain strong family ties.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy her calculations, Ann Knight has worked with Mind Hand on eight different projects, including an apartment in Paris, several houses in Connecticut, and a townhouse in Colorado where Knight has retired after a career managing research at, in succession, Paine Weber, Solomon Brothers and Citigroup. She now teaches meditation and Dharma (when she isn’t fishing, skiing or hiking, she points out, happily). She remembers fondly the first project she worked on with Mind Hand — an apartment on Central Park West. “They came in on the day on the dollar, with quality that far exceeded even our very high expectations,” she says. “It was April and we walked into this amazing finished apartment and they had a bunch of lilacs waiting for us and a bottle of champagne.”

“They came in on the day on the dollar, with quality that far exceeded even our very high expectations.”

Knight says in addition to the other work Philip and Dan have done for her over the years, they have also compiled an inventory of her furniture and paintings. When it came time for her to move out West, she not only hired them to help choose her new place and renovate it, but to supervise the move and arrange her furniture when it arrived. “I would never have bought the place without them,” she says. “And the way the furniture fits in this place is beyond anybody’s ability to describe. It looks as though it’s built in. And it all came from the East Coast. Every bar of soap was in the right place.”