Normally built-ins are utilized to transform dead zones into functional space, such as under stairs or windows, or between fireplaces and corners, but with our most recent project, there were a couple of other objectives to achieve besides organization, storage and display.
Because my wife and I would be moving from a historic home with architectural detail in each room, such as chair rails and corner cupboards, to a new condo where, basically, we were dealing with clean, sleek lines and plain white walls, we wanted our built-ins to add that missing architectural definition, especially in our great room.
We also wanted them to have a more organic feeling as though they were planned as part of the construction, rather than an afterthought. In essence, we wanted to treat the room as an empty stage set and utilize the built-ins to give it definition.
There was another need. There was no fireplace in the model we liked, and having always lived in houses that featured one as the gathering place for entertainment, we knew that we would want to incorporate one into the project. We planned for a traditional mantel with a fireplace insert, not wood-burning or gas, but one of those amazing new electric versions where you dare not test the illusionary flames with your hand to test if they’re real.
And, finally, because our new great room was to be the repository of collected things from several rooms from our former home, we needed shelving for more display space. We wanted to be able to sit on our sofa and look straight ahead at many things we love, while enjoying the fireplace or watching TV.
To help us realize our dream, we called upon Jan Efraimsen of Woodtronics Millwork Corp., of Yorktown Heights. Efraimsen’s story is one of a fortunate change of career some thirty years ago from an electronic engineer to a self-taught cabinet maker, based on his hobby in woodworking. “I started out with only a skill saw in my basement, making wooden jewelry boxes,” he says. From there, he secured residential building projects by going to construction sites and offering to do finishing cabinetry work.
Today Efraimsen runs a large operation in a 7,000 sq. ft. work space with 10 cabinet makers and enough heavy duty tools and machinery to build projects for large commercial projects, including restaurants and offices, as well as residential jobs.
It was a collaborative process working with Efraimsen and his designer Christine Keating. On his first visit, Efraimsen took exact measurements and, within a couple of weeks, Christine had created a set of drawings that perfectly reflected our vision. With a few adjustments of the details, primarily to the type of molding, dentils, and fluting to be used, we agreed on the final styling of both the mantel and the bookcases.
As for the wood to be used, Efraimsen suggested cherry for its hardness and ability to finish and stain beautifully. During the process, I was invited to the shop to discuss details as the mantel and bookcases were being fabricated and sanded. When it came time to choose the stain color, it was suggested that we match the color used on the kitchen cabinetry, which could be seen from the great room. Three different mixes were created and I was shown samples until the color was matched perfectly.
On the day of installation, the modules constructed at the shop were moved into place and anchored seamlessly.
Now whenever I sit in front of my masterful great room built-in, whether to enjoy the flicker from the fireplace, to enjoy TV from the set positioned at one end, or recount my years of memories from all the things we’ve collected, I find myself thinking of the fun that went into the creative process of bringing this beautiful project together with true artisans.
To know more about Jan Efraimsen’s work, visit http://www.woodtronicsny.com/. For an appointment to discuss your own built-in dream, call him at (914) 962-5205.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc., the longest running public relations agency in Westchester (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru team to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.