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Best of New York 2016 • Home & Help

Best of New York 2015

Best of New York Services 2016

Cheap upholsterers, sneaker refurbishers, and a dog-borrowing service.

  • Airbnb Cleaner

  • Handy Vacation-Rental Cleaning

    The Airbnb host’s dilemma: Do you clean the apartment yourself or hire help? With the Handy app’s new vacation-rental-specific service, that’s no longer even a question: About $70 gets a one-bedroom apartment professionally prepped and cleaned to your exact specifications. Because the app lets you schedule arrivals to the half-hour with Uber-like efficiency, there’s no worries about tracking down your regular housekeeper if you’re blessed with a last-minute booking. And unlike Handy’s regular cadre of cleaners (who have gotten mixed reviews), the Vacation Rental service employs only people who have been specially trained in the art of the Airbnb turnover — some of whom have years of hotel experience. In other words: The vacation-rental option is also a great Handy hack for the non-Airbnb-hosts who are just looking to deep-clean their digs.

  • Fancy Wallpaper Installer

  • Peter Rodriguez Interiors


    When de Gournay, maker of nonpareil hand-painted wallpaper, staged a showcase last year, it tapped this 36-year veteran to install the panels. But besides a paper trail that stretches from Gracie Mansion to Ralph Lauren, Rodriguez works mainly on high-end residential projects that can cost anywhere from $500 for a bathroom to $10,000 for a five-story stairwell. He specializes in high-end custom papers (from the likes of Flavor Paper and Maya Romanoff), and though top-shelf wallpaper is an investment, Rodriguez’s handiwork can last 20 years thanks to his meticulous surface preparation, priming walls and adding canvas liners for optimum peel prevention.

  • Japanese Plants

  • Green Fingers

    5 Rivington St., nr. Chrystie St.; 646-964-4420

    In Japan, Satoshi Kawamoto has built a plant-styling empire: He has five stores in Tokyo and two in Yokohama, and last March he relocated his tiny East Village outpost to a much bigger Lower East Side storefront. Satoshi purchases his plants from all over the U.S. but chooses varieties popular in Japan, like flowering pink Medinilla ($80), that are often hard to find elsewhere in the city. The store itself is like a plant gallery, with striped Aloe variegata ($40) propped on wooden crates, red moss ($40) hanging low along brick walls, and a Satoshi-designed outdoor garden in the back. But while there’s now enough space to sell Japanese homewares and vintage concert tees, those are really there just to show how his 200 plant options might complement your home.

The Laundress Store.   
  • Drop-in Laundry Tutorials

  • The Laundress Store

    199 Prince St., at Macdougal St.; 212-564-6788

    This laundry boutique’s raison d’être is its line of upscale ecofriendly cleaning products like non-fading denim wash and de-pilling sweater combs. But its die-hard fans — mostly downtowners and Japanese tourists — know to head here for free advice on everything from how to wash designer cashmere to removing smells and schmutz from workoutwear. The friendly staff are made up of a crew of well-trained stain experts who on Saturdays offer free drop-in lessons with rotating themes. On a recent afternoon, an instructor gave a tutorial on tackling spot stains like ring around the collar, for which the store had on hand a thick stack of dirty white men’s button-downs for demonstrations. (The solution: a targeted scrub with a soap stick, then a lengthy soak before washing.) But the staff are willing to offer advice any day of the week; people routinely bring in stained clothing for impromptu consultations.

Korinne Belock at Urban Simplicity.   
  • Marie Kondo Alternative

  • Korinne Kubena Belock at Urban Simplicity


    Korinne Kubena Belock’s organizational systems streamline not just your running shoes but your entire way of life. For a 30-something adman, at $125 an hour, Belock not only moved his unsightly heaps of jackets from sagging hooks to an out-of-the-way bin but, after digging into his habits, devised a laundry schedule that made him realize he needed several more shirts and socks to get back into an excuseless daily gym routine. For a harried working mom, she helped purge the kitten heels she hadn’t worn since college, then crafted a seamless daily exit plan for her kids, which led to less resentment toward her not-quite-helpful husband. But it’s as much about Belock — who is particularly lighthearted and warm for someone who’s made it her career to be anal-retentive (she has a decade of political organizing under her belt) — as any of her processes. People trust her to rearrange their lives.

  • Insider Upholsterer

  • Estilo Upholstery

    170 Rivington St., nr. Clinton St.; 212-473-1735

    Unlike nearby marquee upholsterers Zarin and Joe’s Fabrics, this basement-level workshop doesn’t stock any fabric in store — keeping overhead low and prices down. While customers can order almost any material, including cotton velvet and vegan suede, through a hefty sample book, this nimble three-person team (led by self-taught Hector Diaz since 1996) operates primarily on a bring-your-own-fabric basis, which cuts the wait time (jobs take an average of two to three weeks). The high volume Diaz bangs out — from firming up old pillows to grafting entire six-piece sectionals — allows him to charge around $475 for a job that might cost $800 elsewhere. Diaz’s attention to detail has made him somewhat of a cult figure among interior designers; when Noah Turkus of Weiss Turkus Projects needs a set of velvet bucket chairs reswathed in lambswool, he swears by Diaz’s tight handiwork and good prices.

  • Pet Owner’s Carpet Cleaner

  • Flynn’s Carpet & Fabric Care


    Nothing scares New Jersey–based rug doctor Michael Flynn, who specializes in getting out pet stains. Urine is notoriously clingy (animals often reoffend on previously marked territory), so Flynn uses special detergents that break down urine salts, then rinses the rug thoroughly to remove any trace of the scent. And Flynn solves a range of problems that come with dog-hair-strewn households, from housebreaking emergencies (he makes same-day house calls) to chronic allergies. While high-residue detergents and shoddy rinses can leave a carpet more soiled and sneeze-inducing than before, Flynn’s hypoallergenic carpet cleanse (cleaning for an eight-by-ten wool rug starts at $350) staves off dust mites for around six months, fighting indoor crud at the root.

  • Bike Repair–Slash–Coffee Shop

  • Off the Bridge

    105 Canal St., at Forsyth St.; 212-775-8599

    The ever-growing mass of cyclists pouring out from the Manhattan Bridge into the city on their daily commute now has an excellent — and excellently located, right off the bike-path exit — option for flats acquired on the milelong ride (from $15 to repair). Off the Bridge is a hybrid that’s home to arguably the city’s best bike wizard — and terrific summertime cold brew. Owner Qian Who is an incredibly thorough mechanic (come in to have your handlebars cut and he’ll point out that your brake pads are in dangerous need of replacement) and is skilled at custom work, like fashioning special wheels. He’s also personable: He’ll remember your name and repairs you’ve had done in the past, and he’ll learn about how you use your bike to inform the way he works on it. Plus: This summer he hopes to open a coffee window for on-the-go snacks and drinks so cyclists won’t even have to dismount to fuel up.

  • Friendly Movers

  • Sweet Lou Moves You


    Louis DeFabrizio and his crew at Sweet Lou Moves You are a bunch of good-natured straight-shooters — which is a rarity among movers. Prices start at $220 for two hours, and DeFabrizio makes it clear from the get-go that you’ll always get a three-man team, and no, the rates are not negotiable. (Expect to find three strong Brooklyn skaters and musicians in need of in-between gigs; Louis likes to hire “me, 10 years ago.”) And thanks to the FAQ section of the website, there’s no gray area. You’ll know exactly what you’re getting (they’ll cover furniture with blankets, but: “Do not be a P.O.S. Take the time to pack your stuff”) and how much they expect for a tip (“between $15 and $30 per person”). Plus, they’re just a nice group of guys: A colleague who used their services says they even shared their favorite restaurants and watering holes in her new neighborhood.

  • Loaner Dogs

  • Bark‘N’Borrow

    L.A.based entrepreneur Liam Berkeley founded his dog-lending app after a busy travel schedule stopped him from buying a pup on his own. In November, New York dog owners were invited to join by posting their pooches’ pictures and relevant information (age, breed, temperament) while, like Tinder, non-dog-owners with profiles of their own could swipe through to arrange playdates. On a recent Sunday afternoon, we met up with Tallulah (age six, poodle, “very chill”) for a long walk in Prospect Park while her interior-designer owner was stuck inside finishing a project. A few weeks before, she’d spent the weekend with another couple as they decided whether their schedules were flexible enough to provide for a little Fido of their own.

  • Sneaker Refurbisher

  • Retro Revivals USA

    831 Flatbush Ave., nr. Linden Blvd., Flatbush; 718-282-0500

    With sneaker releases shutting down city blocks and consignment prices skyrocketing into the thousands, it is more important than ever to keep those Air Jordans in tip-top shape. Recognizing the demand, 24-year-old sneaker collector Michael Curtis developed a set of techniques through trial and error on his own Jordans before hiring a team of artists — not shoemakers — to remove creases from Jordan 3s ($10), revive yellowing soles on Jordan 11s ($25 for three sessions), and erase surface dirt and oil stains ($20) on any pair in between. Clean kicks are ready within 24 hours, and his refurbishers will even paint custom designs (your initials, Freddy Krueger’s face) onto leather uppers, or dye the shoe to your favorite color scheme (from $15).

Horology 101.   
  • Watch-Tinkering Classes

  • Horology 101

    Horological Society of New York, 180 W. 76th St.; no phone

    Since February 2015, the 150-year-old Horological Society of New York has offered the only workshops in the city in which hobbyists can learn basic watch mechanics in a single session for the relatively low cost of $159 — other workshops are geared more toward professionals, lasting for days or weeks and costing thousands of dollars. Over the course of two hours inside a stately room in the society’s headquarters on the Upper West Side, watchmakers from big-name companies like Rolex oversee six students equipped with jeweler lenses, slender screwdrivers, and tiny tweezers as they learn to delicately remove each wheel and spring from a movement (the timekeeping piece) and put them back together again. These classes have been in such high demand — at one time the wait list ballooned to 1,000 — that they’re now offered three times a week. If you find yourself hooked after one session, the society offers more advanced workshops focused on specific parts of the timepiece such as the escapement and the gear train.

    Best of New York Contributors: Samuel Anderson, Joshua M. Bernstein, Arianna Davis, Rachel Felder, Kathleen Hou, Crystal Martin, Michael Musto, John Ortved, Alex Ossola, Rob Patronite, Adam Platt, Seth Porges, Robin Raisfeld, Rebecca Ramsey, Vanita Salisbury, Lauren Schwartzberg, Jessica Silvester, Alexis Swerdloff, Alan Sytsma, Sierra Tishgart, Diana Tsui, and Mary Jane Weedman.

From the 2016 Best of New York issue of New York Magazine