Working in expensive homes is an art. Anyone in the trades or service industry knows we all become doctors when we walk into a multi-million dollar estate. We become surgeons and our credo is:
Do no harm.
Challenges are specific for different individuals. Imagine being a cable guy and having to run cable into a master bedroom with hand-plastered walls faux painted by an artist. Imagine being a plumber and having to drill through a ten thousand dollar piece of marble to install a hot-water dispenser. Imagine being us, a stone restoration company, polishing marble in the midst of ultra-high sheen cabinets and waxed Venetian plaster walls.
We have a metaphor for this kind of work. We call it swinging hammers in a glass house. It’s been said the true measure of a man is how he reacts in times of crisis. We like to bring down the anxiety level and scope out the situation beforehand so we have a plan to deal with any and all eventualities. We like to measure ourselves by being prepared enough to avert the crisis altogether.
Short of a having a legion of attorneys on hand, the best way to navigate the degrees of difficulty presented with these unique homes is talk to the homeowner about their specific concerns. We listen to their knowledge—most homeowners are well-versed in the materials and techniques of application that surround them every day. Once we get an overview of the challenges presented in doing the work, we come up with a plan to get the work done. Every surgery is rehearsed in the mind of the surgeon before he picks up the scalpel. We, likewise, consider the pros and cons of doing the job a certain way. It helps tremendously to have experience in working in homes with plaster and other wall finishes, high-end cabinetry, stainless steel appliances and surfaces, glass, and of course, every type of stone.
The picture above is an example of a job with a higher-than-normal degree of difficulty. Waxed Venetian plaster surrounds the work area. Venetian plaster is difficult to patch convincingly, as the finish is overlayed and the color takes on a life of its own. Water, solvents or cleaners will stain the finish. Compounding the challenge is the wood element, in this case high-sheen lacquered columns that land on top of the marble to be polished. This means there is a possibility that water will contact the columns. Wood is an agent of capillary action, and if the water used for polishing is allowed to stand, it will be drawn up into the wood causing it to swell and blister. Refinishing these columns is extremely difficult as they are round, vertical and match the cabinetry and mirror frame finishes. In this photo, we have removed the tricky taping that is required (you can see another it in the bottom right corner which lands on the bathtub surround).
Appleby successfully polished the marble countertop, the onyx floor and the combination marble and onyx shower, along with the bath surround and pillow top limestone in the main area of house without incident.
We did no harm!
How did we do it?
By using a careful approach after consulting with the homeowner, masking correctly, limiting our water use and protecting all vulnerable areas.
We salute all the trades, from skilled workmen to mechanics to glaziers. Working in a high-end home—or even on a Rolls Royce!—is a challenge, and choosing the right company makes all the difference to your home.