August 20, 2020
By Carrie Whitney
An empty-nester couple in Atlanta had decided to downsize to an Above the Four Seasons condominium on the 42nd floor. Below the 1,607-sq.-ft. home sat hotel and office space, making access to the building even trickier than it already might be in a high-rise. The homeowners engaged Cruickshank Remodeling, a company that had handled two of their previous homes, for a total remodel of the space, including a new kitchen, two and a half bathrooms and a great room with extensive built-ins. Only the existing hardwood floor was to remain.
Going in, Bradley Cruickshank, a NARI-certified remodeler and corporate president of the Atlanta-based firm, expected to encounter limitations based on the location, but he had worked in high-rise buildings before and was up for the challenge.
Challenge #1 – Site Restrictions
At the time of the condominium renovation, the hotel in the building was undergoing a facelift of its own, which limited use of the service elevator shared by all building occupants.
“There were days and days when we wanted to use the elevator and just couldn’t get use of it because the hotel had priority,” said Cruickshank. “So, we had to reschedule our work.”
Even when the elevator was available, its size led to another challenge – it was too small to fit the cabinetry, which had to be brought up in pieces, and limited the length of the moldings, which had to be 10 feet in length rather than the 16-ft. length Cruickshank preferred.
Before even getting to the elevator, the renovation team had to be cognizant of exterior limitations, too. For example, pulling up to the loading dock with a trash trailer or sending a delivery truck at any hour was not possible. Everything had to be scheduled with the security office.
“In a high-rise, it’s really important to get to know and be friendly to the people in charge of the elevator,” said Cruickshank. “You need to know where you’re going and where you’re going to park. It is especially important to share this information with all team members – carpenters, laborers and all subs. One electrician we asked to bid the job was so frustrated by the lack of parking that he did not even visit the site.”
Challenge #2 – Wall Woes
The client asked for an open-plan kitchen with a wet bar and extensive built-ins for the adjacent great room. Cruickshank worked with Dove Studio to design the cabinetry, creating a new look for the space. However, fitting in all the features the client wanted presented a challenge because the kitchen footprint remained the same.
To install the microwave, which sits in the wall at the end of the peninsula, Cruickshank had to do some rearranging in the adjacent hall bathroom. He shortened the former shower space so they could thicken the wall to accommodate the microwave depth. The wall didn’t move, but its boundaries did. Inside the wall, they also had to rework cast-iron piping to gain more space.
A second issue in the kitchen, which is common to many condo units, had to do with the ventilation.
“Because it’s a high-rise, we couldn’t vent the range hood to the outside, but they wanted a feature hood,” said Cruickshank. “We ended up going with a stainless-steel recirculating hood liner with a custom hood cover that made an attractive focal point for the kitchen.”
The hood has an odor and grease filter, but unfortunately, it does not pull heat out of the building. Still, it was the best solution possible.
Challenge #3 – Plumbing Problems
A major directive for the bathrooms was to replace tub-shower combinations with walk-in showers. With a concrete slab, there was no opportunity to change the plumbing. Cruickshank widened the showers beyond the area occupied by the earlier tubs, which meant the outlet of the drain would be off center. To make it symmetrical, he raised the floor of the shower 2.5 inches to accommodate a trench drain.
To move sinks, Cruickshank built out the bottom of a wall in one bathroom to make a double wall where plumbing could be hidden, and in another bathroom, he accommodated a double wall by making the vanity top extra deep.
When it was time to lay the large, marble floor tiles in the master bathroom, Cruickshank noticed without surprise that the concrete slab was not level, which he said he and his team have run into before. In high-rise buildings, thin concrete flooring is made stronger by post-tensioning, however, these types of floors are often not level. A contractor can level the floor by mudding it up, but if Cruickshank had done that, there would have been a 2-in. transition at bathroom door.
“The alternative to leveling it up is flattening it out in a plane that the marble will sit on,” he said. “That plane is not going to be level, so it’s a compromise.”
Now, the floor is level at the door but has a slight slope in the bathroom. However, no one would notice unless they decided to roll an actual marble across the marble.
Despite significant challenges from the street level to the 42nd floor, the condo renovation project was completed on schedule. Because he had worked in high-rise buildings in the past, Cruickshank knew not to create too tight a timeline. Understanding that work would be completed at a pace that would not inconvenience other tenants, he knew to plan ahead for extra time.
Designer: Cruickshank Remodeling with Dove Studio
Photographer: Megan Metcalf, Mae Mae Studios
KITCHEN & BAR
Backsplash & Countertop: Namib Fantasy Marble
Bar Stools: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
Cabinet Hardware: Restoration Hardware
Cabinets: Dove Studio
Hood Cover: St. Udio
Refrigerator: GE Cafe
Undercounter Refrigerator: Marvel
Wine Cooler: Perlick
Drain: LUXE Linear Drains
Shower Enclosure: Drexler Shower Door
Shower System: Hansgrohe
Shower Valve & Sink: Mirabelle
Toilet: American Standard
Tile: Topcu & Walker Zanger