For a head-spinning array of flooring options, the experts turn to Richard Glanzer of Carpet Resources Ltd. When Glanzer says "I have 400 stone samples, 300 wood samples, four leather lines, glass flooring, bamboo flooring, tortoiseshell vinyl tile, faux concrete, end-grain wood, cork, rubber flooring that looks like a basketball, base and crown moldings, and 100-year-old wood salvaged from the bottom of a lake," he's just getting started. "I've never installed a plain strip-oak floor," boasts Glanzer. "It's always something different, whether it's a woven-paper floor for Ralph Lauren's home or a Brazilian cherry for the Eileen Fisher store in SoHo." Compared with the intimidating atmosphere at many showrooms, Glanzer's regular-guy attitude is winning. He gets as excited about the luxe materials (like stainless-steel tiles and purple heart wood) as about the comparative bargains (like vinyl treadplate -- it's lighter and cheaper than real metal and comes in custom colors -- solid-wood laminates, or an eco-friendly sawdust tile that can be embossed to look like dyed ostrich leather). His favorite product these days? Woven vinyl that mimics sisal or tatami but is easy to clean, is long-lasting, and won't stain. "Recently, I shipped to Turkey a 25-foot-by-35-foot leather floor that was a jumbo backgammon board," says Glanzer. "Now, that's the kind of assignment that makes this job one of the best games in town."
(Carpet Resources, 37 West 39th Street, third floor; 212-302-1113. Flooring ranges from $4 to $40 a square foot.)
"We are not a business," says Hisao Hanafusa, owner of the Japanese custom-carpentry shop Miya Shoji & Interiors. "I have not raised my prices in eighteen years!" His store has been on the same block since 1951 and feels more like a private loft (most of the woodwork is now done in Queens), which is appropriate for this sublimely elegant craftsmanship. The screens, lanterns, tatami platforms, tables, and cabinetry are made (with few exceptions) without glue, screws, or other structural hardware. Each piece is held together by precise joints, wooden pegs, and gravity; most pieces disassemble, to be shipped flat internationally or easily moved across town. "These objects are not meant to be human statements," Hanafusa says, "so we conceal the construction." A polyhedron ceiling lamp of many intricate miniature joints, each a marvel worthy of display, will be rice-papered over when finished, so it's "mysterious and soft like clothing." And the slender verticals of the screens are always installed as the original tree would have stood in the forest, never upside down.
Miya Shoji has done traditional work for institutions like the Boston Museum, but Hanafusa clearly prides himself on his original designs, which he says "are nothing like what you would see in Japan." A raised double-tatami platform with a sculptural base, for example, "is an entertainment center," according to Hanafusa. "You can use it for a low dining table, a coffee table, a four-sided bench, or roll out a futon on it for a bed at night." An elegant answer to New Yorkers' multitasking needs.
(Miya Shoji, 109 West 17th Street; 212-243-6774; fax, 212-243-6780. Lamps start at $100, screens at $300, bed platforms at $4,000.)
For those who believe too much is never enough, the Evel Knievel of decorative finishes, the iconoclast who claims credit for inventing sparkle-faux-bois, is Garry Hayes. With a B.A. in fine art and training under Lee Ames (the muralist and former teacher at the renowned Isabel O'Neil Studio Workshop), Hayes has done plenty of conventionally elegant finishes for tony apartments. But he prefers full-throttle fantasias like those he's created for Deb Parker's haute-kitsch joints like Barmacy and Beauty Bar, or the basement of Meow Mix, where one can see his bold plaids, vintage-magazine collages, and walls drenched in glitter. Other finishes in his repertoire include glazing, faux metal, Venetian plaster, and snakeskin. His recent pride and joy is the blue-and-silver glitter walls for the East Village boutique Garo Sparo Apparel, which he describes as "cyborg meets hip-hop." Enamored of Paris's peeling billboard kiosks, he is currently working on a line of painted screens that will be multilayered assemblages of montage, silk-screening, and film.
(Garry Hayes, 212-463-0534. Depending on the job, his rate can be $400- $500 a day; large jobs priced as a whole.)
Raken Zielinski -- whose nickname, Raken Leaves, is also her studio's name -- is a third-generation upholsterer of Polish descent. Originally from Detroit, she grew up playing in her uncles' upholstery workshop. After getting an undergraduate degree in weaving and sculpture, she came to Manhattan to study fashion design at Parsons but dropped out one semester before graduation because she "didn't like the fashion scene." Eventually, she opened her own upholstery shop with her husband, Julius Klein, a painter and musician. Using her relatives' century-old tools, and trusty 50-odd-year-old industrial sewing machines, Zielinski is one of the few people left who know how to tie springs, sculpt horsehair, weave jute webbing, mold foam, and under-upholster in muslin. She can resurrect an eighteenth-century settee as easily as a mid-century Knoll chair.
In addition to doing private jobs for Phyllis Kind and Kenneth Cole, she has produced work for theater sets, including two chairs for Art as well as pieces for Jelly's Last Jam and Side Man. With her sculptor's eye, she has a knack for seeing makeover possibilities. For instance, a client recently commissioned her to transform a nondescript couch into a voluptuously overstuffed, rounded-arm number with two mood-changing sets of slipcovers. She and her husband have also devised custom pieces of furniture, like an ingenious newspaper-storage-and-clipping "station" hidden within a flip-top ottoman, upholstered to match a Deco armchair. Since expanding next door last month, they plan on launching their own furniture line. "Because everyone is so cramped in New York," Zielinski explains, "every piece of furniture has to do two jobs."
(Raken Leaves, 44 East 1st Street; 212-533-8189. Club-chair upholstery starts at $700, couches at $1,200, couch slipcovers at $900.)
Gina Bianco describes herself as providing "textile conservation and aesthetic services," but what clients actually get when they hire her is a fabric authority of near-psychic abilities. With eighteen years of experience, Bianco has been entrusted with many precious things, ranging from Abraham Lincoln's greatcoat to Dorothy's ruby slippers to the Calder Circus at the Whitney Museum. But Bianco also revels in applying her experience to those items precious only to their owners. She has restored clients' beloved Victorian piecework chairs and window treatments -- and can do ace reproductions, like a set of late-nineteenth-century Moorish chairs modeled on some that had once been in John D. Rockefeller's midtown living room.
Currently on Bianco's worktable is the kind of brainteasing project she loves: recently unearthed fourteenth-century cloth-of-gold ceremonial hats that a Hong Kong dealer has commissioned her to conserve and mount. Drawing on her early training as a couture milliner, she made a pattern of each hat out of stiff cotton, so that on a stand, the new inner hat would support the antique, without any pins or alteration to the original required. It's the perfect metaphor for what Bianco herself does: magically supports textiles in such a way that the conservation work disappears. When asked if this kind of monkish enterprise can get lonely, she replies, "Not with all that history present. When you're a conservator, you learn to listen to the object."
(Gina Bianco, 212-924-1685. Prices vary by the job, but approximately $50 an hour, $100 an hour on-site; consultations are $50-$100, and that fee is applied to any subsequent work.)