Into the Woods Getting Cozy with Architectural Woodwork

These days there's a virtually an endless array of building materials available, so why is good old wood still a perennial favorite? Maybe because it lends an organic warmth to any space. Maybe because it harkens back to another time and place, where things were simpler. Or maybe just because it's a beautiful and versatile design material - but any way you slice it, wood is still one of the most popular materials around.

Whether you're dealing with a lobby, common space, or your own home, here in the highly-synthetic environs of New York, quality woodwork is especially desirable and sought after - which makes it a great investment for co-op and condo owners.

The Nuts and Bolts

If you're planning a renovation - in a common space or private residence - the first order of business is setting your budget and assessing the scope of your renovations. Installing woodwork can be a tricky affair or a simple one, depending on the complexity of your project. You may wish to consult with a designer, engineer or architect for an elaborate project, but if it's a simple job, it might be unnecessary. According to Ed Negron, the owner of Ed Negron Fine Woodworking, a New York-based company specializing in high-end interior woodwork, "If you're doing a major renovation with several different specialists involved, you should definitely hire a contractor who can act as coordinator for you. Otherwise, you'll be trying to figure out if you should have the plumber first, or the electricians, and so forth - and things could get messy. If you're just doing woodwork, you can save money by going directly to the woodworker."

Shop around and get multiple bids. Just remember that if a price seems too good to be true, it probably is. "You get what you pay for," Negron warns. "There are a lot of people out there offering to do this kind of work, who don't know what they're doing. Usually you'll get a high, low, and medium bid, and if you go with the low bid, you're likely to have problems. Make sure to ask for references and pictures of their work. It can spare you a lot of trouble." If the estimate is too high, Negron suggests asking about alternate materials or changes in design. "There's a huge variety in the cost of materials, so switching to less expensive ones can help a lot. Also, sometimes even a slight change in design can significantly reduce labor costs, so don't be shy about asking."

Which Wood You Rather?

Of course, one of the biggest decisions you'll face during the whole design process is which kind (or kinds) of wood to use, and this issue deserves a discussion unto itself. According to Negron, it's largely an aesthetic decision. There's an overwhelming variety of woods and finishes, so start by considering the overall effect you're trying to achieve. Are you aiming for sleek minimalism or earthy charm? Do you have enough natural light to balance out a deep cherry, or do you need a pale, luminous pine to open up your space? Do you want a rich jewel tone, or a knobby grain that draws attention to itself as a design element? Or do you want your woodwork to play a supporting role, blending in supple harmony with the rest of your design scheme?

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