Contractors / By Anne Zhou / June 28, 2016
Meet the Contractor: Louie
Sweeten handpicks the best local general contractors for major renovations. The screening process can be a bit technical (licensing, insurance, references, portfolios, experience and beyond…!) but we love getting to know these experts and want to share their stories with you – where they’re from, what they love most about construction, and what renovation challenges they face. Today, meet Louie!
Where are you from?
How did you get into construction?
It’s a great story. In 1985, I was working as an artist’s assistant for a couple who bought a commercial building on 29th and 5th and rented it out. They kept the top two floors and roof for themselves and sold entire floors to people from the eighties Warhol “Interview” crowd. They went through three contractors for the top two floors, and the wife came to me and said, “Louie, can you come upstairs and give me an idea of what you would charge to finish what Joe didn’t?” I went up and that started my career – pricing things, fixing this and that, and dealing with really difficult people. And that’s how I started.
Who is your ideal client?
My ideal client is somebody whom I just met through Sweeten the other day – she called me and said “I want to work with you because you mentioned things that I didn’t even think of myself”. Basically, my ideal client is someone who is looking for interaction. You like to feel like you serve a purpose, so it’s nice to meet somebody who wants input. That’s why she’s a favorite and I know she will be, even though I haven’t started yet.
Describe your favorite project.
My favorite project was not the easiest project. I was working for a really well known French designer, and he and his partner had a really amazing duplex in Chelsea. They were really particular and spent so much on things like ‘Starphire’ glass and custom stainless work, but it was really amazing. If I could survive that, I could do anything. Their budget was out of this world and it was fun and pretty much one-of-a-kind, because it doesn’t happen often. That probably was a favorite.
What do you love most about construction?
People – I love dealing with them and meeting them.
What is the biggest challenge for you guys renovating in New York?
It’s the paperwork. It’s just amazing, but you get it all together, and I don’t even have a staff. Working in the suburbs is like a vacation for me. It’s like, oh, I can park in a driveway and not worry about being towed! Getting in and out of the building with the workers going to lunch and having to wait for a service elevator that closes between 12:00 and 1:00…you have to be aware of your building’s personality. Before you even start anything, you’ve got to have a little understanding of what it means to actually work in the building because they all vary so much.
What do you like about Sweeten? How has it helped with your business?
Sweeten has really transformed my business. I’ve been doing this for so long and the vast majority was always word of mouth. After a generation—because it’s been that long—things change. Sweeten’s been amazing as an outside source. They’ve found me some really good projects.
What do you think is the biggest misconception homeowners have when starting a renovation project?
How expensive it can be. It’s such a pain in the neck, the regulations are amazingly complicated from building to building. It’s not only the managing agent, it’s the building full of lawyers that make it very difficult. You have to expect it: a real estate agent is not going to tell you when you buy an apartment for X amount of dollars, “Oh by the way, if you’re even thinking of changing the kitchen sink, you know, of course, that this building requires new valves back to the main riser, not to mention waterproofing the floor for an all-out re-do.” They’re not going to mention that and you have to break the news to them.
Favorite New York City neighborhood?
The West Village.
Favorite New York City building?
Grand Central Station.
Check out a recent renovation by Louie in the East Village.
Sweeten handpicks the best general contractors to match each project’s location, budget, scope, and style. Follow the blog for renovation ideas and inspiration and when you’re ready to renovate, start your renovation on Sweeten.