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This is a wood ceiling with faux beams.  However, we made the faux beams.  They were not bought.  They started off as a 2” thick, 4’ x 8’ piece of XPS that you see standing up in the insulation isles at the home centers.  Beams this size (even faux ones) would have cost about $800 a piece.  Plus the shipping would have been huge unless they were made to 8’ or less, but then they would have had to have a “bracket” attaching the two pieces together.  I wanted a continuous beam and didn’t want to pay an additional $700 in shipping…accordingly I just made the beams.  For the curiosity seekers:  extruded polystyrene was ripped into the appropriate widths.  Foam adhesive was used to glue the pieces together.  At the 8’ long seam (which I alternated on each leg of the u shape of the beam…remember this beam is 13’ long) I installed 2’ threaded rod to connect each piece.  Fiberglass mesh and a 1/16” PVC spline was then epoxied into the joint.  An hydraulic cement was used for smoothing out the seams of the pieces.  EIFS (very rough) sand paper was used to rough up the texture.  A heat gun and a hot knife were then used for detailing.  A khaki base coat was applied and then the finishing (which may have included the sprinkling of some other items) concluded the project, but that is being kept a secret!

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This is my kitchen in progress.  Of course my cabinets are all 3/4” plywood.  The other thing about making custom cabinets (if one has the foresight to think about this) is that they can be made without fillers. For instance, most cabinets will have a 1.5” face frame but somewhere along the install the cabinet will need to be pulled away from a wall or have a filler next to the dishwasher, etc.  So, another piece of wood needs to be attached next to the face frame.  I don’t have any of those here.  These were all incorporated into the face frame measurements.  So that one face frame might have the right side at 1.5” wide but the left side would already be at 3” wide.  Again, this picture shows a kitchen far from complete.  Side panels need to be installed on each side of the window, there needs to be crown molding, a light rail, the doors of course, applied moldings in between each cabinet, a skirt board, etc.  I’m showing the picture for two reason.  First to show about the custom made face frame.  The corner base cabinet has a face frame left stile of 5” wide and a right stile of 1.5”.  Typically a filler would have had to be attached to this cabinet on the left. Secondly, I want to show the attention to detail on the countertop outlets.  Notice how precisely the height of all the outlets and switches are.  That is how a backsplash should look with the electrical devices.  Also notice how precisely the distance is the same on each side of the window.  I am not always for symmetry but if something is not symmetrical it needs to be way off (a picture 36" from the left and 60" from the right…but not 47” from the left and 49” from the right).  Unfortunately, electrical outlets in a backsplash are noticeable.  This was the proper way to do this but it is rarely, if ever, done. 

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Although a very small kitchen, it still looks pretty nice.  We made the arches in the openings and made the cabinets.  The tiled niche by the sink was a simple way to give some additional character.  When we make our cabinets, we use a catalyzed lacquer Maple interior with 3/4” thick plywood walls for the carcasses (cabinet boxes).  Unless you are paying something like $75K just for your cabinets (so say a $150K-200K kitchen remodel in say a $4 million house) you are not getting cabinets made like this (and sometimes not even then—horrible!)  Do you know how much extra the cost is over the typical 5/8” or 1/2” plywood or particular board…certainly less than $200.  I forgot what this job cost (it was done many years ago) but even if it was only $15,000 that’s $200 extra for $15,000!  Moreover, I can tell you that if the customer didn’t want to pay for these better cabinets we would eat the $200 on $15,000 just to have bragging rights. And this is why we also offer consulting services: to pass along information like this.  Although I seem to keep doing it for free!


Some floating shelves made by us; final touches would include some bed molding along the inside corners. Some floating shelves made by us; final touches would include some bed molding along the inside corners.

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A basement with custom cabinets, a 3d wall panel, and a concrete countertop with fiber optics;  we did NOT do the floor nor did we fabricate the 3d wall panel.  This would normally go without saying but if one has read some of these descriptions you will see that we actually make many of the products most contractors and builders buy (trim, countertops, doors, hearthstones, mantels, beams, etc.)  This is a drywall basement with a drywall ceiling.  While we do not recommend either of these, we always are more interested in doing what the customer wants than acting like sales people.  The reason I say we do not recommend drywall in a basement is explained in detail under our Beyond-Basements site.  There is no question the drywall free systems we have are infinitely better than drywall.  There is no question that a drop ceiling is more practical than a drywall ceiling.  The reason some customers eventually choose drywall is simply a matter of price and the unfamiliarity of the systems.  Drywall does not have one benefit over our systems except that it is cheaper.  A drywall ceiling has the advantage over a drop ceiling in that it is cheaper too and the perceived thought that it is better looking.  But again a drop ceiling provides many more benefits.  While this is not an endorsement for drop ceilings, they can be made in a way to blow a typical  flat, basement drywall ceiling out of the water in terms of looks.  To further expound about this, a drop ceiling also provides the elimination of access panels in the ceiling for various components;  for instance, any junction boxes, valves for the refrigerator water supply lines, unions for water or gas, clean outs for the DWV, etc.  All of these need access covers when using drywall.

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Custom cabinets for the garage; an infrared heater for the garage, coated floor and modified gas curb and step.

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The true mark of good remodeling is knowing it is not remodeling.  Here, the far right box is actually covering a drop down for HVAC.  Rather than just making a box to cover it up, 4 additional architectural elements were made and randomly placed throughout the ceiling, with a second layer of drywall added, and then connected with beams on a progressively increasing width.  So, rather than now just seeing a box which clearly would indicate it was covering up something mechanical in the ceiling, there is a very unique design element in the ceiling.  Far too often, builders and remodelers forget about ceilings.  Let’s not forget about dressing them up too!

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This was a drywall basement.  Lots of decorative lighting.  We built out the wall and used corner stones for the illusion of depth.  Many times you will see contractors using manufactured stone applied flat against the wall.  Two things wrong with that.  One, it shows the unfinished edge of the stone and thus that it is fake.  Two, it just looks bad—even if the edge was finished—because it would be way too thin.  

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A coffered ceiling in a family room.  The shadow boxes were made with custom casings for the windows for future planation shutters.  A footnote on this. Plantation shutters are composed of louvers in a door, and a door hinged to a frame, and a frame which is then attached to the wall around the window.  That frame is of a standard design.  What we wanted to do here was have the frame match the casing throughout the house.  To accomplish this we had to custom make this frame.  All that is needed are the louvered doors attached to this custom frame and the plantation shutters are done.  The fireplace and brick was existing.  We made the Walnut mantel.


A LR/DR showing a triple layered ceiling with curved crown; compare this pronounced depth to what you typically see with that single, silly looking 2” layer in most houses.  This was designed and drywalled by me, as usual.  There are raised drywall panels for the lower part of the walls.  What you cannot see is the 10 hours of math used to evenly space all these panels around the room—even taking into account the openings and window spaces.  Also, all electrical outlets are spaced precisely underneath the center of a panel and equally spaced as well.  While this is not necessary except for the most extreme anal customers (this is my house BTW…lol), it is completely unacceptable to have an outlet cutting into the design or molding of a wainscot panel (which one sees all too often.)  The crown was designed and milled by me as well as the chair rail.  The pillars were existing, cut to length, had an EIFS coating to look like limestone applied, and then had a custom base and capital made.

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The hardwood floors are Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba), Brazilian Walnut (Ipe) and American Maple on a diagonal with a 5 piece border on a Herringbone pattern.  A close-up shows the chamfer corner bead and custom baseboard along with the custom window casing.  Again all milled internally.  Another view.  You may recognize the newel post from another picture.  Yes this is my house.  The kitchen is now under construction and some pictures of that progress are shown here. The cobbler’s children never have shoes!

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This is a  Beyond-Basements Structural Insulated Panel System (BBSIPS).  NOT DRYWALL.  One of the rare instances where the cabinets are supplied by a manufacturer, although we had to make the support columns for the free standing counter. A close-up of the concrete countertop.

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This was a LR which was remodeled.  The cabinets were designed and made by us.  Like virtually everything we do, the work—even the most custom—is done internally.  Take note of the arches and cabinet doors.  The countertop is acid stained concrete with a chiseled edge.  The wood floors are hand scraped (store bought of course)!


These are the kitchen cabinets we installed.  This was not final.  I am submitting it to show a couple things.  We made that 3 piece baseboard to match the existing 100 year old trim.  I would have replaced the microwave and range with new.  While they look ok here, up close and personal you can see how used they were.  Also those are crumbs on the countertop.  The homeowner took the picture.  Guess they forgot to clean it off!  Also I still had things to fine tune.  The cover plates need straightening and the lower window casing needs some putty and more paint.  How many of you have outlets which are not straight like this  This is why I showed this picture.  How difficult is it to fine tune these items?  Anyway,  this was a full rehab comprising many structural elements.  Leveling a floor at the joist area.  Removing a load bearing wall.  Removing a 100 year old cast iron, 500 lbs (???) radiator and replacing it with toe kick heaters.  Reconfiguring the boiler, removing and reworking 1.5” galvanized water lines.  It is interesting to note that this is one thing I wanted to sub out to a plumber but I couldn’t  even get anyone who wanted to tackle the job.  Luckily I knew a State of Illinois Inspector who helped with the final hookups to the boiler and I know how to do plumbing—even major plumbing like this.


Another example of our stone work.  Again keep in mind that this is not subbed out.  We do all this work internally.  This is a L.R.

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The Beyond-Basements Acoustical Soft Wall Finishing System​ (BBSWS).   We built out the walls and added side pieces of wood to cover the edges of the manufactured stone.  This way it gives the illusion of depth.  The other alternative is to get corner pieces but in this case it put the budget over.  The simple Oak mantel is custom.  The F.P. is vent free.  We have a special picture hanging clip we invented to hold pictures on these fabric walls.tom tiled shower. 

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A close-up of the concrete countertop.

Another close-up.

An extreme close-up.  Yes concrete can look this shiny.

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Another concrete countertop.  This one had the colorant mixed into the pour.  It has an embedded granite cutting board and brass bars on a sloped drying rack.  The bar wall is also solid concrete and the back is a slate water wall.  Although you can’t see it entirely, the picture frames are evenly spaced across the wall with a 3” increase in width dimensions.  This all became necessary because of the recessed one which only could be placed in the location it was due to pipes in the wall.  The slate randomly cut for a unique backsplash adds some additional character.

This picture was taken many years ago (sorry about the quality); it is a concrete countertop and my very first integrated concrete sink

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A custom pole wrap doubles as a drink ledge; although most of cabinets were stock, a good portion of them, as well as all the fillers, were custom made to match the store bought ones (getting a matching finish is the tricky part); this drywall basement had the added benefit of a very open minded customer who worked with me and I worked with her on many design elements and unique features.  NOTE:  We did NOT do the concrete floor.unter.A close-up of the concrete countertop

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The Beyond-Basements Acoustical Soft Wall Finishing System​ (BBSWS).  NOT DRYWALL.  This is a fabric wall. The bar was custom made by us as we usually do.

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The Beyond-Basements Acoustical Soft Wall Finishing System​ (BBSWS).  NOT DRYWALL.  This is a fabric wall. This has a horizontal, chamfer divider strip in the fabric and not a chair rail.  These were 9’ ceilings.  The Oak bar was custom made.  It has a double wall angle.

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The same basement with another view.

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The same basement with another view and showing our prefinished wainscot walls.

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Another view of the bar.  This is still during construction. The pictures here are more highlighting traditional construction.  For specific pictures of the Beyond-Basements Finishing Systems, see that site directly.

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Custom tiled shower.


EPS custom designed and made to look like limestone, complete with real mortar joints; fiberglass door stained to look like wood.

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I thought this was an interesting take on a stone wall; the cost would be certainly higher than standard, but for my patio I actually grinned the outer stones around this inlay (in other words the profile was carefully followed rather than just a straight cut from a brick saw—this is not done normally but I wanted to show the attention to detail we can do if instructed too).


Newel post has custom designed and milled pieces, 99 total; notice the chamfer corner beads and how the skirt board is hand scraped to follow the angle and slope with that same termination piece and then the plinth block under the door casing; built up Brazilian Cherry (Jatoba) stair treads with Brazilian Walnut (Ipe) nosing.


A basement showing some detail which is usually forgotten; to keep as much headroom as possible a flat, flexible ceiling tile was used with some decorative ones, add a floating box and it becomes more attractive than usual; the wall buildups and soffits are mimicked on each side of the bathroom entry for symmetry (one is enclosing an I-beam and support column); custom baseboards and a chair rail with an EIFS material as a wainscoting complete the look; the built-ins are custom made in Hard Maple with some Jatoba inserts .

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These are three smaller versions of the large newel post at the bottom of the stairs; notice small accents like the faux square bolts securing the post to the wall; another feature are the custom wall rosettes for the railings.


Transition piece from custom baseboard to custom skirt board.

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All openings were arched with a chamfer corner bead (not bullnose); custom designed and milled door casing and build ups on head casings; although the lighting doesn’t appear to make it so the electrical devices (switches/outlets and covers) are actually done in a way no one else seems to do;  two of the major electrical manufacturers actually make outlets and switches impregnated with various colors (about 30); most are familiar with white, black, ivory, and gray…but there is blue, stone, red, and so on; we like to find the device most closely matching the paint color for installation and then we spray the device cover with the actual paint and coat with a lacquer for a match as close as possible.

Some stamped concrete on a front walkway.


My outdoor kitchen; shows the initial framing which was made all in block and not wood or steel framing; true wood burning complete with a clay flue and fire brick.


My outdoor kitchen.

Showing detail of the niches; these stones were cut and fabricated into smaller ones.

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My outdoor kitchen; showing the concrete countertop made by us.

My outdoor kitchen on another angle; showing the “VINO” inlay out of crystals and the wine bottle imprint (looks great with some water and a floating flower in the summer).

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