D.B., BRYN MAWR, PA  ›  NOV. 11, 2008

My wife and I renovated a home in the past and we were ready to complete the second and final phase of our current home in Bryn Mawr, a stately and good sized Walter Durham from the 1950’s. We had detailed plans already drawn up by a Philadelphia preservation architect that included the joining of two spaces into a large classic English country kitchen, a handsome new finished basement with exercise room and spa bath, and a major enhancement to the rear elevation and garage area of the house. Not to mention, we had a laundry list of ”while you are here’s” - things that needed professional attention but were not emergencies.

Since we were not adding space to our home, we needed a builder who felt very comfortable with the subtleties of re-working previously finished spaces. Our plans called for complex rough carpentry elements such as installing several flush beams and framing two large exterior pent roofs. But the plans also required extensive detailed finish carpentry, including the complex integration of kitchen cabinetry with custom built-ins, wainscoting, a detailed ceiling plan and trim elements. And we wanted the home to look as if Durham had built it this way in 1953.

To find a builder (our prior builder had moved to Florida), we initially sought advice from architects in the area and spoke to sub-contractors we trusted. Several sub-contractors, architects and even other builders spoke highly of RKA (Andy Kerns and Greg Ranieri). While we interviewed a number of Main Line builders before hiring them, we immediately liked their highly detailed construction budgeting process. It proved that Andy and his team had taken the time to understand our project and absorbs our plans even though renovation is generally more difficult to grasp than new construction. The project started on time. And we always felt we could trust the sub-contractors who came to the job site.

Andy and his team were also very patient with our many special requests and complex design elements. The kitchen required careful coordination between RKA, the cabinet makers, and the architect who provided most of the kitchen design elements. There was an extensive plumbing and lighting plan, intricate installations of statuary marble, fabrication of a large island top from aged walnut stock, and structural beams wrapped in stained pine. RKA installed a whole home water filtration system, unique vintage brick flooring, and even oversaw application of hard-to-work-with grass cloth wallpaper. Even though we had architectural plans, RKA suggested a key design enhancement.

In looking at costs, RKA consistently helped strike a balance between cost and benefit as we made decisions and alterations to the plans. For budget items big and small, they solicited competitive bids from a range of sub-contractors and vendors to achieve price efficiencies. And for smaller items or decisions that could not wait to be made, they always made intelligent choices. Since we had engaged RKA under a highly flexible cost-plus arrangement, it involved a lot of trust. But it also greatly reduced the final project costs by freeing up unused budget allocations for other deserving expenditures. Still, as construction usually does, our project went a little over budget, mostly due to the substantial upgrades and additions to the original designs. However, the final product was well worth the money and more than a few knowledgeable friends and family have told me as much.

With the project now finished, it was recently featured in a Main Line kitchen tour to rave reviews. We also had our first major party for the first time in the finished house just last week. People who had seen the home before we owned it were in awe of the finished product. Those we see it now for the first time not only love the design, but the craftsmanship. Much of the credit for the success of our project belongs to Andy, Greg, Tom D’Amico the job foreman, and the rest of the crew at RKA who brought the plans from the page to reality.

To anyone in need of a detailed reference concerning RKA, I would be pleased to provide one.

– D.B., Bryn Mawr, PA

See the entire project here…