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v & V favorites - aggressive electric maintenance service LLC

Kimber VanRy - January 10, 2012

Running your own business needs to be founded on your own skillset, but you also need to know when to call in some solid back up. Having subcontractors on hand is key to making any home improvement business fly. Finding a solid electrician who can not only get work done well and on budget but also shares in experience and view of what a day's work means is a fantastic score.

Amelia Santiago, the owner of Agressive Electric Maintenance Service, is that electrician. Like me, Amy grew up working in a family who did the work she now does, so electricity is in her blood. As a small business owner, Amy clearly shares the views of us at V & V of quick, courteous, clean and skilled work. I've also been able to see her interact with her assistants who she not only keeps on top of to do quality work, but also coaches them to become more adept at their job with each project. Amy has done a bunch of projects for our clients, from running new circuits to replacing entire breaker panels, and I couldn't recommend her more.

So, if you need an electrician check out Amy at www.aggressiveelectric.webs.com or give her a call at 917.476.1659.

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fall 2011 - park slope bathroom renovations

Kimber VanRy - December 13, 2011

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Just ahead of the holiday season, we spent some time in a small duplex apartment in Park Slope where we did some wood parquet floor work last winter. This time around, we re-tiled the kitchen and gave a serious make-over to the half and full bathrooms.

With new tile, medicine cabinet, towel bars, ceiling fixture, pedestal sink and fresh paint on the walls and ceiling, the bathrooms were given a serious makeover from the worn and dated renovations of some years ago. We think this is a great example of how some quick work, simple design choices and a very reasonable budget can easily transfom a space and the life lived in it. 

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summer/fall 2011 - park slope coop

Kimber VanRy - October 23, 2011

While we were jumping back and forth between our larger painting projects over the summer, we were working along on a full duplex coop apartment renovation in a late 19th-century building in Park Slope, Brooklyn. This was a total renovation -- one-and-a-half bathrooms, two bedrooms, kitchen, living room and basement rec room. We tackled everything, from gut-renovating the kitchen and baths to a more cosmetic updating of paint, molding, doors and floors throughout.

Our clients chose a style ringing of a classic Americana palate of color and texture coupled with a slightly modern flair to be found in details throughout. Some highlights are below.

Entry Stairs

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The sagging front entry stairs were hidden behind a short half-wall and covered worn out carpet. We opened up the stairs to the living room by removing the half-wall and the old treads and risers. We built everything back up stronger than before (the one side of the stairs had been held in place by one nail), and new oak treads and painted pine risers were installed. Everything was finshed off with new painted ballusters and a newel post and railing tied in with the newly-sanded and finished floors. 

Kitchen

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The existing kitchen was ripe for an overhaul with existing rotting laminate cabinets, a deteriorated linoleum floor, inefficient appliances and general whiff of aging style. We took things down to the walls, framed a new pantry closet, installed wood floors and finished things off with new cabinets, countertop, tiled backsplash and appliances. Sitting at the entry to the unit, the revitalized kitchen space now defines the mood and style for the entire apartment.

Master Bathroom

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Like the kitchen, the adjacent master bath was a rich combination of existing cheap, worn out fixtures and materials. A full gut allowed for a more efficient reworking of the small room with a larger floor-to-ceiling closet and a pedestal sink to visually open the space. The new blue glass tile in the shower and marble flooring coupled with new fixtures and molding truly brought this bath up to date while sticking with some classic styles.

Bedrooms and Lower Level

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The bedrooms underwent a straightfoprward updating with new paint, moldings and doors, capped off with a refinishing of the floors. On the lower level, greying wall-to-wall carpet was disposed of and replaced with Flor tiles. The half-bath downstairs was also a complete gut with the decaying vanity replaced with a classic-looking pedestal sink and new tile and molding installed.

In summary, this multi-month project rasied a lot of the big wins to be gained in a total renovation before the clients moved in. Not only is the apartment updated and more liveable, but its value has certainly been increased.

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summer 2011 - cobble hill

Kimber VanRy - September 15, 2011

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Our other big painting job of the summer was in a tiny townhouse on Baltic Street just off Smith Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. Like a lot of places we've encountered recently, the house was a mish-mash of bright, garrish paint schemes (think "ketchup and mustard") dating the house's last painting foray to a time in recent history where taste was questionable.

We tackled all the drywall and plaster finishing and painted all walls and molding throughout, including a somewhat challenging two-story interior atrium reaching to a skylight. As the photos above attest, this historic home was given a fresh updated look of bright white that coincided nicely with the refinished wide-plank floors and other historic details.

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stairway to heaven in brooklyn heights

Kimber VanRy - August 31, 2011 

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We had the privelege to work on a small project at Pilgrims Church in Brooklyn Heights this past week which is pretty big for me in a number of ways.

Pilgrims Church is probably one of the most historically significant religious buildings in NYC, if not the country. Built in 1846 in a design by Richard Upjohn, the church and grounds are beautiful. However, it is Rev. Henry Ward Beecher's presence as the church's first pastor beginning in 1847 that elevated the building and its congregation to reknown. Beecher was a leader in the abolitionist movement as well as other radical 19th century social movements like women's rights, attracting a revolving door of some of the most significant thinkers of the day to speak at the church.

So, our project was repairing and levelling stairs on one side of the main altar. In the photo on the left below, the partial collapse of the steps can be seen. Access to fix the steps was from underneath which necessitated me slipping through a tight 11" wide access point under the altar and a very dusty claustrophobic space (see middle photo below).

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And finally, the steps were repaired as can be seen in the photo above at the right. But have a scroll up to the top of this post to the old illustration of Beecher preaching on a typical Sunday more than 100 years ago. There in the lower right hand corner of the picture are the steps to the altar, just as we repaired. This is the stuff that excites me about buildings. Yes, this is a set of steps. But it is a set of steps trod by some of the most significant intellectuals of the 19th and 20th centuries: Beecher, Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, Sojourner Truth, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Clara Barton, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Booker T. Washington and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

So, working at Pilgrims Church was huge for me in kicking off the relationship with a new client (with more projectrs soon to come). But, it's the relationship with the building and its history I absolutely love.

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summer 2011 - Crown Heights

Kimber VanRy - August 18, 2011

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Whoa. Where has the summer gone?

We obviously picked an opportune time of year to launch our business, as it's been a very busy summer at V and V. So, in order to get caught up on what we've been up to, I'm going to break things down by project.

Our first big project of the season was a c. 1928 single family home in Crown Heights Brooklyn. While electricians, carpenters and plumbers toiled on some of the less savory aspects of this project, we whisked in for the fun stuff. The whole house, inside and out, was painted by us.

On the facade, original metal and wood trim was treated and repaired from years of rot, rust and neglect. Below you can see a few of the steps along the way in bringing the decades-old facade back to life (which you can see in full view at the top of this post).

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Inside, we worked away on the historic walls, moldings, doors and built-ins. Include was this marvelous kitchen unit which came back to life after decades of neglect.

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And so it was with the rest of the house as years faded away to reveal just as the home must have felt to the original owners walking through the doors in the late 1920s.

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The best part was hearing the home has been rented to new tenants who will be living in this historic home and enjoying our work as part of their daily lives. Oh, and there's an identical house down the block awaiting our work this fall, so stay tuned..

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when in rome...

Kimber VanRy - April 27, 2011

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I was riding the F train the other morning with a neighbor who works in IT for a hedge fund and we were talking shop as we New Yorkers do. He asked me how I keep up with the changes in technology in my job and I answered, "luckily, not a whole lot has changed in tile since the Roman Empire."

If I had a nickel for every piece of tile I've laid in the past few months, I'd have hundreds upon hundreds of nickels.

My snarky answer aside, I did have a point. Having worked for more than the past decade in a tech-forward photo and film licensing field full of websites, bandwidth, megabytes and file sizes, it's refreshing to be working with technologies that have stood the test of time.

As we browse news online, check the latest blog posts or crack open a magazine on our Kindle, one would think that if you don't have a firm handle on the day-to-day changes in technology you will be forever left behind. Now, I can talk tech with the best of them, but is this really the reality for the majority of our lives? When we go home at the end of a day full of pushing the latest digital widgets, we sit surrounded by wood and masonry constructions (aka our homes) that have remained largely unchanged for decades (or even centuries).

When we curl up at night and see what's streaming on Netflix, we are just feet away from walls and floors that hide thousands of years of developed technology, materials and work that has been yet to be improved upon that much. Sure, we importantly gain a bit here and there in energy efficiency and enviro-friendly materials, but in the main not a whole lot has changed in the construction of our shelters.

So, when my hands are covered in wet dust at the end of a long day of cutting tile across a diamond-enrusted blade I feel glad to be a participant in the long-lasting technology of Tile 1.0 our craftspeople long-forgotten developed eons ago. And if you want to checks the facts, Google it.

(photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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little hands, big skills

Kimber VanRy - April 12, 2011

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The New York Times ran an article last month on a number of children's workshops and camps around the country focusing on teaching kids the joys and wonder of building things. In today's world where kid play is most often abstract and electronic (ie video games), the people who run these programs seek to teach children (and their parents) the value of handcraft.

In the article, Doug Stowe, a longtime woodworker and educator in Arkansas, says, “Up until the early 1900s, there was a widespread understanding that the use of the hands was essential to the development of character and intellect. More recently, we’ve had this idea that every child should go to college and that the preparation for careers in manual arts was no longer required.” He added, “we have forgotten all the other important things that manual training conveys.”

I can speak from experience. When I was 10, I began working summers for my father's home renovation business. Along with learning how to be safe and responsible around spinning saw blades and whirling drill bits, I expanded my math, engineering and problem-solving skills. I also came to appreciate the world around me as I brought to life objects which had not existed before (like the scale cannon my brother Graydon (L) and I (R) are seen building in our spare time in the photo above).

So, as spring turns to summer, grab some tools and some scrap wood and get those kids building something.

Have a look at the NY Times article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/31/garden/31kids.html

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tools never die

Kimber VanRy - February 2, 2011

NPR had a great piece on air this week asking the question "do tools ever die?" 

Kevin Kelly, a co-founder of Wired Magazine and creator of the popular blog Cool Tools (www.kk.org/cooltools) went on a journey to find if there were any tools, gadgets or pieces of technology that have ever faded from existence. Despite many challenges in obscure farm implements of old, stone age hand tools and other seemingly dated inventions, he was unable to find a single example of a tool that has not survived the test of time in some corner of the world.

So what does this tell us? We humans as tool-makers hold tightly to our technologies whether they persist as the fancy of historical hobbyists or in actual day-to-day use. Once we've made something, we continue to find inspiration and aid in using these items again and again, no matter how out of date they seem in our technology-forward society today.

Give the whole piece a listen here:

www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2011/02/02/133188723/tools-never-die-waddaya-mean-never

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top 10 ROI projects

Rick Ortega - February 1, 2011

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*with thanks from www.digiorgiinc.com - a ct. roofing a siding company

Call DiGiorgi for all your roofing and siding needs. Velez and VanRy has your interior covered.

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fascinated by fasteners

Kimber VanRy - January 30, 2011

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No matter how many times I've been to the hardware store and stared at a long wall of plastic bins full of screws, nails, bolts and fasteners, each trip seems like a new stage of discovery.

The nifty chart above (via www.boltdepot.com via www.boingboing.net) is akin to finding the instructions for cracking a secret code.

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the power of the tool box

Kimber VanRy - January 26, 2011

I've had a toolbox since I was 8-years-old, and that is more history than I would like to consider at times. Mind you, I never had one of those kid tool boxes with rubber hammers, plastic screwdrivers and fake saws. My toolbox was always full-sized, packed with sharp, hard, dangerous and actually useful stuff from the get-go.

So, when I stare into this same toolbox I've been hauling around for about three decades now, I see a whole lot of history amidst the dust, dings and spots of rust dotting my tools. My tools also tell my history of a treehouse built as a kid, roof shingles nailed into place under hot August suns during college, furniture joints carved, countless home renovations and more drywall hung than I would like to remember.

Scientists tell us our ability to use tools sets us humans apart from other animals. And so, each time I open my toolbox to pull out a tool for a project or add a tool to the existing population of metal clutter, I see history, I see possibility and I see power waiting to awaken anew.

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