Sunday, July 25, 2010

The epic saga of a Build-Out

What is a build-out? It's when you finally, after many years, find the perfect space and the realtor says, "But you have to build it out." You get a cement shell, a front door and that's it. No electricity (how do they plug in the paint sprayer?), no water (where does the electrician go to the bathroom?) and no lighting (how do you judge paint colors?). Just a whole bunch 'o dust and dreams.

Speaking of dreaming - you'll enjoy this: I committed to the space in early November and told them "but I have to be in by December 15th. " It was ski season after all and clients were, understandably, clamoring to get on the Endless Slope. As a special treat to my personal dignity, they did not stumble over laughing. Didn't even break a smile actually. I finally signed a lease on March 21st. And we'll be open July 30th. And no, it doesn't make me feel better that Kirkwood was open for skiing on July 4th; snow season is over and the loud sobs I emitted in April as the lifts closed and clients put their skis away have long since died down.

My recovery was aided by the beautiful color palette chosen by designer Sabra Ballon. It says winter skies and warm surf breaks at all once.

And the lighting makes me happy. To be fair, the original fixtures Patrick suggested did actually fit into my budget; I saw the sketch and said fine. Looking into a neighboring suite on our way out, Sabra said "and Sarah, those are the fixtures you'll have. " I said, and I quote, "Oh Sabra, I will die. Seriously, that level of ugly will kill me." Again to be fair, I did tell Sabra we'd be going very industrial. But then when I saw them - oh it just said parking-garage, not even oil-change-waiting-room. So we embarked on three rounds of lighting research and showroom visits with Sarah saying either "too expensive" or "not working for me." And then Sabra found them - such cute pendants lights, and the ceiling puffs. They're actually called puffs; someone like me must have named them.

What was electrician Patrick doing during all of this? Waiting patiently. And explaining that we would really need two lit Exit signs, a strobe light in the bathroom, and probably the rolling garage door opener should actually work. It doesn't? Oh right - there's no real wiring there. Who could notice distracted by all this lovely lighting? The building owners suggested that I should pay to complete the garage door installation, and while I had my checkbook out, might as well cover the installation of the fire alarm system. What??? "AS IS" does not mean as-much-as-we-felt-like-finishing-as-we-ran-out-of-money-completing-the-building. Yes, actually, the building owners did run out of money on completion. Went bankrupt even - hence the lengthy wait to get a lease out of them, although this was not apparent at the time. So, inspired by my friend Lori, whose boat is named Pushy Broad, I pushed back. But really I think they finally caved because General Contractor Russ used his honey-coated diplomacy and a few rational arguments. (Not within his scope for sure - another reason we love him.) And so, many things got completed while I tried to breathe deeply and remain calm.

This calm was made infinitely easier by painter Rich Quinn. My original dark ceiling plus 2 colors became 6 colors, plus a brush treatment on the cement entrance, sealing the stairs and can we make these 2 walls magnetic? He did it all and somehow to our dynamically changing specifications.

Miraculously, we found benches that fit the space perfectly. Even more of a miracle, my friend Anneke Seley was remodeling and handed over some large storage pieces that were perfect. (Although Sabra said "oh honey, we're going to have to switch out that hardware.") So now we have space for trip bags, the Shred-Sleds for kids' camps, and all the boots and boards for clients orders. Plus the barware for parties of course.

So there you are. The story of a simple build-out.

Balancing (the budget) on High Steel

Five stairs, that's all I needed. But not ugly stairs, strikingly stunning stairs. They're the center of the Studio, after all. They can't say "dusty storeroom" or "forgotten warehouse." Admittedly, after you back into a budget requiring a bathroom, maybe some paint and carpeting and a few light fixtures, you don't have a lot left over for stairs. I'd heard all the discouraging news: "Stairs cost ten thousand dollars, Sarah. That's just what they cost." (But not from my new designer Sabra Ballon. Oh no, she was game.) Less that $4000 is what I had. So we visited several interesting places in South San Francisco. Not that I'm complaining, industrial steel fabricators shouldn't be expected to have flagship showplaces in Union Square. But I'll just say that there was a lot of stepping over large rusty materials and reviewing old binders of circa-1930s industrial-not-chic stair railings.

And then, Daniel Umilie showed up in my universe. He saw the bare Studio space, and I gave him the bad news on my budget complete with a detailed spec. Ultimately, we visited his facility in South SF - leased by the proud Umilie family back in Cinque Terre of Italy. Daniel, 3rd generation of Umilie Steel, owns the family mission of expanding to the US. Apparently, there are several Umilie brothers available to build steel structures and they need to be kept busy. So they're willing to work with us.

At their fabrication facility, I manage to back into a large beam being painted the color of the Golden Gate Bridge - apparently, it's popular for steel. Not as popular on my black shoulder bag. (To be fair, I was clearly warned to avoid the freshly painted material; I got all distracted by the lovely options for railings.)
After we've chosen our materials, Daniel muses about his grandfathers back in Italy, forging steel after the usual 2-hour Italian lunch complete with ample red wine. And many small children running around the factory, casually playing among red-hot pokers. Yet still - beautiful work and a multi-generational profitable company. (Please, someone confirm that red wine is part of the business formula; that's the key variable I'm looking for.)

The installation day arrives and Daniel drives up with a few brothers and some pretty large steel pieces on his truck. I let them into the studio and leave the installation to those with more courage than I. Turns out they are a pretty passionate bunch. My general contractor told me later that he stopped by to finish up some sheetrock, but had to exit for a later return.The profane passion of the stair installation was more energy than the studio could contain.

But they got it done. And it looks fantastic. Umilie America - they have arrived and they're ready to build the stairs of our nation.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sports Studio: the build-out Heros

I have to admit, the build-out of our new Sports Studio has actually been fun. Even with the unexpected costs, the permit process at the Department of Building Inspection, and the bear of avoiding expensive carpet installation - it has really been a rewarding process. Probably because I had such a great team. My original architect, Peter Braun, created the right drawings for the budget structure I needed and the all-important permit approvals. General Contractor Russ Murphy is an absolute dream - why he worked on this small of a project I'll never know. (But that's what you get from an ex-dancer with the SF Ballet - good karma.) He brought in eternally patient electrician Patrick Golden and Madden Plumbing (Madden I met exactly once because he did his magic in about 1 day). A steady stream of willingness-to-please-under-all-circumstances...and color changes...was supplied by delightful painter Rich Quinn. The Italian storyteller Daniel Umilie (3rd generation Italian steel fabricators from Cinque Terre, thank you very much) designed, fabricated and installed our fabulous looking stairs. Kris at Conklin Brothers answered endless carpet questions and managed to find an inexpensive remnant that looks superb. And did we ever get lucky finding Efren Martinez to install the carpet - even the funky wave edge by the stairs. Skilled, gracious and flexible - I'd recommend Efren to the Queen. (Well... if the queen had a tight budget.) And most of these wonderful things came directly through my beloved architect-designer, Sabra Ballon. Her talent is endless and her demeanor is fun, funky and unflappable. I mean it - we went through so many rounds of research to find fabulous things for our tiny budget, but she never blinked. Sabra just made it happen with humor and a big smile.

So here it is, our new Sports Studio at 650 Florida Street, looking beautiful and ready for Final Inspections.

The Studio is proudly sporting 220volts of power for the Endless Slope ski & snowboard deck, and has been patiently storing 6 surf simulators which are now being painted Adventurous purple.

Final steps? The huge surf poster for upstairs and de-rigueur mountain mural for the Endless Slope. A few storage racks for boards & boots, and speakers for the music mix. (I'm thinking clients should be able to plug in their own ipods - what could be more conducive for learning & conditioning?)

Then we'll be ready for Endless Slope lessons, after-school training for kids, and ski & snowboard parties. Plus all the surfing trips we'll be starting in November. Yes, I am pretty excited.