No matter how beautiful your home or gracious your lifestyle, life happens. Your kids make lariats out of the weights on your grandfather clock; a tropical storm pushes the bay onto your newly refinished oak floors; movers puncture your treasured Norman Rockwell painting. Whether it’s due to an accident or simply the passage of time, household possessions need fixing and refurbishing every now and then, and the more expensive or rare they are, the likelier you’ll need an expert to come to the rescue. Fortunately, Sarasota has a number of exceptional craftsmen who specialize in repairing and restoring items from granite countertops to Tibetan carpets—the challenge is finding one when you need him.
As we learned while researching this article, many of these experts don’t advertise or even maintain a Web site, and most keep busy just through word of mouth. (“Please don’t write about me—I can’t handle all the business I have,” several told us when we finally tracked them down.)
But they are well known to designers, who tend to develop and cultivate a small list of favorites and guard their names fiercely. We asked some top Sarasota designers to scroll through their BlackBerrys and give us the names of their favorite repair and restoration experts. It took some cajoling, but most of them finally consented. So here they are—Sarasota’s best “fixers,” a collection of men and women with the talent, patience and years of experience to restore your treasures and make your home like new.
Pauline Geraci and her staff at the Clock Gallery in The Landings Shopping Center have been repairing grandfather clocks of all types for 28 years.
“There are a large number in this area,” she says. They range from contemporary cable and chain movement clocks to the relatively rare antique English Bell and German wooden-works movement clocks and highly collectible Herschede tubular bell-movement clocks from the late 1800s (valued, she says, at up to $50,000). The Clock Gallery charges $125 to $225 to set up or securely pack away clocks and their movements, weights and pendulums for moving. “They’re delicate instruments that need to be moved and handled by professionals,” Geraci says. And for movements that go awry, they happily make house calls.
Another good repair source is Lindell’s Grandfather Clock Service. Gerald Lindell, who moved here from Delaware three years ago, is the third generation of his family in the business (the business is still operating in Delaware), and he repairs grandfather clocks from Spring Hill to Naples. It’s a disappearing art; Lindell is the sole remaining grandfather clock service in Delaware. Lindell's Grandfather Clock, (941) 927-9733.
“Unfortunately, most people wait until they have a problem to call me,” he says. “It’s a mechanical item which needs maintenance.” His most exciting Sarasota clock repair to date: “A huge clock over 10 feet tall, really ornate with horn-blowing cherubim carved in wood. The closest similar one is owned by the Smithsonian.” Lindell says it had been in storage 25 years because the owner never had ceilings that were tall enough; he finally bought a house with 16-feet ceilings that could accommodate the clock. The Clock Gallery, (941) 924-1122.
If the grandkids have roughhoused on your cane rocking chair one too many times, the good folks at Community Haven for Adult and Children with Disabilities can make it look like new.
Caning has been an integral part of the nonprofit organization’s occupational training program for more than 20 years because it strengthens hand-eye coordination and other physical skills, says spokesman Ryan Stoyles. Community Haven clients repair all kinds of cane seating (antique dealers are particularly good customers), but call before you bring in your damaged furniture.
“It’s a lost art; as far as I know; the nearest place for cane repairs is in St. Petersburg,” says Stoyles. “It’s very labor intensive and monotonous. That’s what’s amazing about our folks; they have the patience to sit there and do this beautiful work, and some of our people have been caning for 20 years.”
Prices vary, depending on what’s needed. Turnaround is 10 days to two weeks. One caveat, says Stoyles: “We don’t do staining or varnishing because we don’t want them to get in contact with the chemicals.” Community Haven, 355-8808.
When it comes to serious restoration issues with your Picasso or Chagall, our experts say to start with conservator Thomas Koether, president of Art Conservation Services of Sarasota. Koether studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Chicago and New York University and as an apprentice to various conservators; he’s tackled restoring everything from Sarasotans Roy and Susan Palmer’s old masters painting collection to historical maps for the Tampa History Center to aboriginal bark paintings in Sydney, Australia. For one client, he repaired a “very messy wound” incurred during shipping of a color field painting by a prominent artist after other conservators estimated a prohibitive cost of $50,000. (He tried some “unorthodox” procedures and saved it for just $5,000; smaller cleaning or revarnishing projects might range anywhere from $150 to $2,000.) Koether works in his studio on Hudson Avenue; call (941) 366-6194 or visit his Web site at art-conservation-sarasota.com.
For pieces that require less drastic intervention, you might also give art dealer Jerry Chaplain a call. Chaplain, a longtime art collector with 450 paintings hanging on his walls, learned the techniques of cleaning and relining paintings in part to save on restoration costs for his own works; now he takes on a few clients and says a basic cleaning (usually required only every 75 to 100 years in a painting’s life) might start at around $300, or “less than you’d think.” Call (941) 351-9405 or 400-9747.
If you find yourself frantic about failed faux, we have a few choices to make it all better, each with experience in fixing unfortunate blunders as well as creating overall designs. At Interiors by Erica Moore, Moore says she can work on everything from walls to furniture to cabinets (“anything you can put paint on”). In one project, she was able to correct the overly dark glaze of cabinets in a brand-new kitchen by stripping and repainting, without the mess of removing the cabinets; another recent case called for a complete turnaround for an El Conquistador Country Club home from off-white to a Venetian terra cotta look with faux wood in brown tones. Moore estimates costs by square foot, ranging from $1 to $3 per depending on the layers of painting needed. Interiors by Erica Moore, (941) 468-0303.
Jennifer Pace of Grand Illusion also estimates her fees based on square footage, and she can tackle everything from major scratches on a floor or marble fireplace to something as small—but significant to an overall look—as making the switch plates on your kitchen walls line up precisely in the room’s pattern of marble or granite. Jennifer Pace of Grand Illusion, (941) 360-0800.
You can also call Susan Nilon of Decorative Effects with considerable confidence; her team spent five months doing faux finishing during the renovation of the Sarasota Opera House, and one member has also done extensive work at Cà d’Zan. Nilon tries to stick with products you can find at local stores, rather than hunting for specialty products, and she says you can easily replicate texture when called for by simple use of latex paints. Susan Nilon of Decorative Effects, (941) 539-9596.
Whether your antique furniture is wobbly, water-damaged or just worn, Gene McCall is your man. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers recently entrusted Thomas Edison’s entire bedroom suite to McCall, who’s also refurbished globes made for King George III and a desk that belonged to Napoleon. With more than 30 years experience restoring antiques, McCall, who specializes in 18th- and 19th-century furniture, can handle everything from upholstery to gilt work, from mahogany to mother-of-pearl.
Priceless pieces are safe in his hands: Nearly 50 percent of McCall’s business comes from museums. Cost and turnaround time vary greatly from project to project, because, he says, “A piece from 1900 and a piece from 1550 might have similar problems and vastly different treatments.” McCall charges a one-time estimation fee of $100. Gene McCall, (941) 473-1348.
Another Sarasota pro with 30-plus years experience is Duke Clancy, owner of 16-year-old Victorian Rose. The son of a furniture maker, Clancy specializes strictly in wooden furniture repair, including re-gluing, stripping and refinishing. Expect a two- to three-week turnaround for most projects, and anywhere from $150 for a single dining room chair to $1,500 for a bedroom set. Duke Clancy of Victorian Rose, (941) 371-1942.
Rugs and carpet
Being constantly underfoot takes its toll on your rug—worn fabric, damaged edges and loose weave warp its shape. Our experts point to Rugs As Art for repairing and strengthening rugs—handmade or machine-made, Oriental or modern. Owner John Murse has been repairing rugs as long as he’s been selling them, more than 30 years.
“It’s all part of the trade,” he says. He’s also taught his family and employees the ins and outs of binding, side-surging, overcasting, fringe work, patchwork, even cutting and reshaping rugs—“just about anything you can think of,” says Murse.
That in-house repair team attracts clients from across the state and beyond. Though he admits it’s tough to make rugs look 100 percent new again, Murse and company can vastly improve your rug’s appearance while increasing durability and longevity. “People are surprised that the work can maintain the life of the rug—very inexpensively,” he says. Rugs As Art, (941) 921-1900.
Marble and granite
Sarasota may have almost as many acres of marble floors as it does of beaches, and that’s because nothing looks as beautiful in an upscale home, says Brice Keller of Marble Renaissance. Keller has been restoring marble, granite and other stone for more than 20 years. Early in his career, he flew to Rome so he could learn first-hand from the greats.
He’s done big commercial projects around the country and has worked on homes of every size, diamond-sanding and polishing the stone until “it looks like new.” He’s often called in to fix new floors that have been damaged by workers tracking in dirt or spilling solvents. (“The biggest enemy of stone is grit,” he says.) He also fixes shoddy installations, including one for a brand-new 30,000-square-foot mansion. (While redoing floors for the average home is just a few thousand dollars, his bill for that job was more than $50,000.)
He advises avoiding harsh chemicals on marble and granite and using “a good PH-neutral soap” or specialty product designed for cleaning stone. Both granite and marble should be sealed and polished every three years or so, he says. Above all, he tells clients not to stress about their marble floors. “They’re going to get some scratches and wear, but there’s almost nothing I can’t fix,” he says. Brice Keller of Marble Renaissance, (941) 232-4721.
What economic downturn? Chuck Hartman of Hartman’s Wood Flooring is so busy that he’s got his secretary out on the job working with his crew. Though most of his business is new floors, Hartman is deluged with requests for restoring and repairing old floors. As a 15-year-old, Hartman got a summer carpentry job and “took to wood floors like a duck to water,” he says. “An ordinary wood floor may seem like a simple thing,” but creating and restoring one requires craftsmanship, scientific knowledge and quite a bit of “creativity,” he says.
After a stint in the Air Force, Hartman headed to Hollywood and was soon doing floors for movie studios and moguls—including Sidney Poitier, Mitzi Gaynor and Gene Autry. In 1984 he moved to Florida; and in 1986, he opened his own company. He’s done six-figure jobs in Longboat Key penthouses, restored 100-year-old floors in historically registered homes and made battered pine floors in modest cottages shine like new. “Wood floors are natural, renewable and non-allergenic,” he says. With proper care, “they’ll last a lifetime—or several lifetimes.” Chuck Hartman of Hartman Wood Flooring, (941) 730-7347.
If you’re thinking of buying a piece of furniture that needs reupholstering, or your beloved cat has clawed a favorite piece to shreds, have no fear: Joy Abbott of Sarasota’s Upholstery Shoppe can help. Abbott, who’s been in business for 24 years, deals almost exclusively with interior designers and works on headboards, ottomans, pillows, table skirts and almost everything in between.
“We’ve done pieces of furniture that have had forklifts go through them,” Abbott says. “But we can reinforce the wood and build them back up.” To keep upholstery looking new, she recommends using fabrics that have been treated with Teflon or Scotchgard, and advises clients to shift their cushions so that the furniture wears evenly and less repair is needed.
But her most important tip? You get what you pay for. “Buy high-quality pieces, and don’t buy things that are trendy,” Abbott advises. “The furniture resale market around here is good, too; you can often find very good-quality secondhand furniture.” Joy Abbott, (941) 356-2591.
Doug Atha of Teknique agrees with Abbott. “Furniture is an investment,” he says. “If you buy a good piece, it can last 100 years if you take care of it.”
Atha, who’s been doing upholstery work for 20 years (his parents have been in the business for 40 years), tells people who are considering upholstery repair to make sure the person they hire will do the job correctly. “You don’t want to [cover] old fabric,” he says. “Some people try to cut corners, and if they don’t take the existing fabric off, you’ll end up with odor, dirt and bacteria.” And for those searching for a good craftsperson, be sure to look for someone with a good word-of-mouth reputation. “You want someone who’s going to stand behind their work,” Atha says. “Your business is only as good as you are.” Doug Atha of Teknique, (941) 377-7175.
The fun of purchasing a chandelier—whether new or from an antiques shop—is seeing it sparkle when it’s lit. But where do you go when your light needs repair or is so dirty it’s lost that sparkle? To Sarasota’s Lamplighter Shop, of course, where owner John Parker has been working on chandeliers for more than 15 years.
“A lot of people buy them in antiques shops or at estate sales and bring them in,” he says. “In this town, we see a lot of chandeliers and crystal lamps—we stay pretty busy.” Parker will dismantle his clients’ chandeliers, make sure the wires and sockets are in good working order, replace crystals if needed, and soak and completely clean each part. The cost? Anywhere from $100 to $400. “It takes a lot of work to do it right,” he says, “but people end up with beautiful fixtures that they’re in love with.” To maintain the chandelier’s shimmer after it’s cleaned, Parker recommends a spray called Sparkle Bright, available at The Lamplighter, which keeps fixtures looking new. “It’s not a heavy chemical, and it helps get the sheen back on as long as people are careful with their lamps,” he explains. “Part of the thrill of the find is the thrill of having it look beautiful.”John Parker, The Lamplighter Shop, (941) 953-4292.