best of new york 2019

The Best of Home and Help

Monstera maintenance, not-hideous babyproofing, and banjo tune-ups.

Merenda Wallpaper. Photo: Marvin Orellana/New York Magazine
Merenda Wallpaper. Photo: Marvin Orellana/New York Magazine

Whether we’re ordering copper pots from Amazon Prime, pho on Caviar, or grenache from any one of those subway-advertised wine-delivery start-ups, New Yorkers are really just a couple of apps away from being complete shut-ins. And yet there’s still so much to do in this town — like sampling garam-masala-spiked lamb chops in Long Island City, trying on leopard-print Alaïa coats in the Seaport, sipping fresh-pressed sake in Industry City, and scrambling up the city’s tallest rock-climbing walls in Bushwick. (You’ll find those and more in our yearly best-of review, rolling out this week. Read the fun, food, shopping , and health and self lists now.) This year’s best-of list in the home and help category includes a financial planner, a green sofa cleaner, temporary walls, and more.

Museum-Quality Upholsterer

H&A Upholstery

When a Met curator needed to spruce up a 19th-century Biedermeier sofa and the Brooklyn Museum acquired an Isamu Noguchi “cloud” sofa in a slight state of disrepair, they called up Hector and Ana Barbacone’s Brooklyn Heights–based H&A Upholstery. They’re also beloved among big design firms, like textile giant Cowtan & Tout. While this family business is known mostly for “fancier” work — like salvaging horsehair antiques — it’s equally great at breathing new life into thrift-found footstools and mid-century Scandinavian club chairs. With your own fabric, a dining chair starts at $120, and a three-seat camelback sofa might go for $2,500.

H&A Upholstery. Photo: Courtesy of vendor

Sticker-Wallpaper Applier

Merenda Wallpaper

Sticker wallpaper — for those who don’t want to commit or pay a premium for expensive sheets of the regular stuff — has seen a boom in the past few years with new start-ups like Wallshoppe and Flat Vernacular. It’s often cheaper than its traditional counterpart, but getting the perfect hang still requires an exacting technique. This is why, years after learning from her uncle how to install wallpaper, Sarah Merenda, who owns the Queens-based studio Merenda Wallpaper, made sure to master the sticker variety as well. She starts by priming the wall — her secret for getting peel-and-stick wallpaper to stay — then leveling the first piece. Her clients range from Financial District renters to artist Daniel Buren (for shows he’s had at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and Paula Cooper Gallery). Merenda charges the same amount for applying either type of paper, typically $5 per square foot, since each involves the same time and labor. And if the wallpaper’s tack proves defective, she will handle replacements from the maker.

Green Sofa Cleaner

NYC Steam Cleaning

Be it a newly acquired Room & Board sofa from Craigslist or your own ratty couch that’s looking a bit worse for wear, calling a cleaner to hose it down is not a terrible idea. But when there’s no way to know what weird chemicals are being deployed, the idea of introducing fumes that linger for days makes this solution a lot less appealing. For NYC Steam Cleaning, using effective cleaning products free of allergens and potential carcinogens is a point of pride. Owner Reuven Noiman and his staff have established themselves as experts in cleaning and reviving velvet couches or specialized fabrics like temperamental Haitian cotton. And they’re no slouches: Noiman & Co. regularly attend seminars to keep up with the latest brush techniques for maintaining fabric fibers or the most efficient tannin products for breaking down coffee stains on jacquards. For tougher jobs, they can recondition the piece at Noiman’s facility. A three-seat-couch cleaning starts at $190, and 24-hour service is available (albeit for a higher fee) in case last night’s dinner party left something in need of immediate attention.

Baby Bodyguards. Photo: Courtesy of vendor


Baby Bodyguards

Babyproofing, while nonnegotiable, isn’t always the most home-beautifying exercise. People like, say, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, who don’t really want to deal with sticky, adhesive child locks or unsightly plastic gates that don’t blend in with the décor, turn to Courtney and Fred Ilarraza of Baby Bodyguards, the company that helped the Carters secure their Hudson Street penthouse for Blue Ivy. Their secret is to focus on gear that either locks from the inside or retracts. During in-person (or newly offered FaceTime) consultations, the Ilarrazas will walk clients through the potential dangers before discreetly securing tippable furniture to the walls, locking up knife cabinets, and, in one hyperminimal house with metal stair rails, adding polycarbonate panels that look like glass. The consultation and installation start at $350 for a single floor and $700 for a duplex; they also advise potential home-buying parents on making a new apartment more child-friendly.

Stringed-Instrument Repair

Brooklyn Lutherie
232 3rd St., nr. Third Ave., Gowanus; 347-987-3835

The formal term is luthier, but Chloe Swantner and Mamie Minch, co-founders of Brooklyn Lutherie (in a very male-dominated field, theirs is one of the city’s few women-run operations), are essentially stringed-instrument doctors. From setups (bespoke adjustments that include changing string height to help playability are generally $85, for guitars, violins, and banjos) to fractures ($50 to $200) to complete restorations, they’ll fix whatever ails your stringed equipment. At their workshop in Gowanus’s Old American Can Factory, the pair, who met while working at guitar store Retrofret, have become known for their exceptional attention to detail and craftsmanship (they also build custom instruments on commission), reasonable turnaround time, and affordable prices. One evening a month, their shop hosts the Changeling Concert Series, becoming a makeshift venue for local musicians.

Christopher Satch. Photo: Courtesy of vendor

Plant Whisperer

Christopher Satch

Blame it on Big Houseplant, but about a third of American households sprang for dangling pothos and Pilea peperomioides in 2018. But tending to cacti in Bed-Stuy is different from doing it in, say, Silver Lake, which is why many in the city are turning to Christopher Satch, the former head of plant science and education at houseplant-delivery start-up the Sill. When he’s not misting the 90-plus flora in his Manhattan apartment or teaching at the New York Botanical Garden, he’s on call for houseplant consultations. After feeling out his client’s vision and getting a read on the apartment’s ambient-light conditions, Satch will outfit a sun-flooded east- or west-facing living room with potted geraniums and calatheas, for example, or a dimly lit garden-level bedroom with artificial lighting and monsteras. And if your plants’ leaves regularly turn yellow or are less than lush, this self-identified “orchid guy” will diagnose ailments via email. Rates start at $100 per half-hour, plus the costs of plants and pots.

Surfboard Storage

Locals Surf School
190 Beach 69th St., nr. Rockaway Beach Blvd., Rockaway Beach; 347-752-2728

Locals Surf School offers the best surf camps and lessons in the Rockaways, and it recently expanded to include a combo board-storage facility (with showers) and café one block from the beach. Located in a sleek ground-floor space in new luxury-condo complex the Tides, the facility solves a number of traditional hassles of Rockaway surfing: hauling your board onto the subway or the roof of your car (not to mention trying to store it in a cramped apartment and get it up and down the stairs), changing out of your wet gear on a freezing sidewalk, heading back to a midday meeting with salt-plastered hair. Unlike other options in the area, the Locals’ blond-wood space is ultraclean, temperature and humidity controlled (for faster wet-suit drying), and has towering vertical lockers that can hold up to seven boards. Storage rates start at $150 a month and $1,380 for the year. Electronic key-fob entry means members can get in for the earliest dawn-patrol sessions. Wi-Fi and good espresso may even help you get some work done.

Pamela Capalad. Photo: Courtesy of vendor

Financial Planner

Brunch & Budget

Pamela Capalad, who had been with a wealth-management firm since 2008, was the only one of her friends who “worked in finance.” So after fielding money-related questions from her social circle, Capalad, a credited CFP, started to answer them in a semi-formal environment, at brunch, where she regularly traded money guidance for food. In 2015, she decided to make a full-time go of her rapidly growing financial-consulting side gig, which she named Brunch & Budget. Now a typical day of meetings could involve eggs at Le Petit Café on Court Street or a homemade “breakfast salad” in Harlem. For first-time appointments, potential clients pick up the meal tab but walk away with an hour-plus of quality financial help. To work with Capalad on a full-time basis, the income-based rates start at $199 a month, with the option to check in monthly (from $299) or quarterly (from $199 a month); each plan includes ongoing email correspondence. Once a financial plan is put together — from cash flow, debt repayment, and credit assessment to estate planning — Capalad helps many of her mostly young clients work toward specific goals, like buying a first home, joining finances with a partner, moving to a new city, or shifting to full-time freelance.

Temporary Walls

Wall 2 Wall NY
152 W. 36th St., nr. Seventh Ave., Ste. 405; 646-837-7300

Welcoming a new family member or bringing in a roommate generally requires more space, which generally requires getting a bigger apartment. For those who want to stay put, there are temporary walls. But if that brings up visions of some accordion-paneled thing on wheels, know that we’ve come a long way. Wall 2 Wall NY supplies a wide variety of apartment-enhancing room dividers — seamless double French doors, sliding-door walls, or freestanding bookcases, to name a few — along with the option to customize built-in wardrobes. Frosted glass, should you want it, and Roxul sound insulation add a touch more privacy. And compared with multiple competitors, it offers the cheapest rates: $975 for a standard white wall with a door and lock in a Manhattan walk-up. Removal takes a few hours and is free for the first two years (as long as you give 30 days’ notice); after that, it’s around $350.

*This article appears in the March 4, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

The Best of New York Home and Help 2019