RICHTERMAN AND HIS WIFE, WITH HELP FROM MAXWELL, ARE GEARING UP TO OUTFIT THE SPACE WITH FURNITURE, ART AND THE LIKE.

Doctor DIY

Over the years, About has featured many a spectacular home. This issue, we visit the home of Dr. Ira Richterman, a hand surgeon at Omni Orthopaedics.

Dr. Ira Richterman
Dr. Ira Richterman
Over the years, About has featured many a spectacular home. This issue, we visit the home of Dr. Ira Richterman, a hand surgeon at Omni Orthopaedics.

The Jackson Township home he shares with wife Kim is as beautiful and beautifully appointed as any that have graced these pages, but that’s not the story here.

For the past two years, Richterman has pulled double duty—performing tendon and nerve procedures by day, only to come home and spend evenings and weekends as a self-proclaimed “psychotic DIYer.”

THE HANDMADE BRICKS WERE FORMED BY PACKING CLAY INTO A FORM ONE AT A TIME, LEADING TO THE AUTHENTICITY-AMPLIFYING IMPERFECTIONS SEEN THROUGHOUT.
THE HANDMADE BRICKS WERE FORMED BY PACKING CLAY INTO A FORM ONE AT A TIME, LEADING TO THE AUTHENTICITY-AMPLIFYING IMPERFECTIONS
SEEN THROUGHOUT.

He has transformed his basement into an old-world wine cellar, the likes of which you’d unearth traipsing through Italy. One that had been built upon in little sections over the course of hundreds of years.

“I literally did it myself. Changed floor levels, installed Smart House wiring, the plumbing and electrical. Everything,” said Richterman.

Surgery and carpentry may seem odd bedfellows, but Richterman doesn’t think so. He likes hand surgery for the same reason he likes finishing the basement—variety. At Omni, he works in pediatrics to geriatrics, working in trauma, plastic surgery and neurosurgery. And at home, he’s carpenter, mason, electrician and plumber.

“Fix a bone, you’re just a carpenter. Fix an artery, you’re a plumber. That’s not to diminish the doctor or mystify the plumber, but if I can sew your finger back on I can put in a granite countertop.”

HIS VISION FOR THE BACK BAR WAS AN OLD GIANT WALK-IN FIREPLACE.
HIS VISION FOR THE BACK BAR WAS AN OLD GIANT WALK-IN FIREPLACE.

And that’s what is at the root of this and other projects: Richterman has inherent curiosity paired with incredible resourcefulness. He learned how to fix a tendon the same way he learned to build a cabinet frame—by doing.

And for those considering a DIY project of any size, he has just one piece of advice: Make sure you’re having fun.

“Too many people try to DIY it to save money or cut corners, but you have to do it because it’s fun and you enjoy it and it’s a challenge and it’s different. The benefit is that you save money but there’s a huge amount of self-satisfaction at the end. That to me is the greatest thrill in the world, to actually do the work and to look at what you created.”

MAXWELL SUGGESTED THE FUNKY, CONTEMPORARY ITALIAN CORNER IN THE MIDST OF ALL THE OLD-WORLD CHARM.
MAXWELL SUGGESTED THE FUNKY, CONTEMPORARY ITALIAN CORNER IN THE MIDST OF ALL THE OLD-WORLD CHARM.
THE PROCESS
To achieve the centuries-old built-upon look, Richterman consulted residential architectural designer Kevin Maxwell. When he told Maxwell he would be doing the construction himself, the designer was leery, to say the least.

“We started with a small project by the stairs to test my ability. We changed the heights of floors, constructed a curved stairwell, built curved archways inside the spiral staircase,” said Richterman.

RICHTERMAN USED IRREGULAR “WEEPING” JOINTS IN SOME PLACES, LETTING THE MORTAR BULGE AND DRIP IN A TIMEWORN WAY.
RICHTERMAN USED IRREGULAR “WEEPING” JOINTS IN SOME PLACES, LETTING THE MORTAR BULGE AND DRIP IN A TIMEWORN WAY.
He describes the process as a game of cat and mouse, with Maxwell perpetually challenging him a sketch at a time. As each sketch chipped away at the overall project, Richterman’s original vision for the built-upon, old-world Italian space was achieved in earnest.

THE DESIGNER
Richterman calls Maxwell a design genius.

“Kevin is absolutely amazing; all of his projects are unique with great personality. I can build but I don’t have the creative eye, or an eye for color.”

THE MATERIALS
house9071Unlike surgery, there are plenty of spare parts on the shelf in construction, and Richterman went through them. He offers his sincerest thanks to Mathie Supply (4215 Portage St. NW, Jackson Twp., mathiesupply.com), where he purchased his supplies. But he considers the staff at Mathie’s to be as much mentors as vendors.

“To figure out how to do this stuff, we researched it together. Everyone thinks you have to go to Home Depot or Lowe’s. That’s not true. You can’t go to Home Depot and talk to a mason, ask ‘what consistency do I need this mud to be? How do I use a trowel?’ ”

THE CUSTOM-DESIGNED WINE RACKS ARE MADE OF SOLID REDWOOD TO ENSURE THE WOOD DOESN’T ROT IN THE TEMPERATURE- CONTROLLED CELLAR
THE CUSTOM-DESIGNED WINE RACKS ARE MADE OF SOLID REDWOOD
TO ENSURE THE WOOD DOESN’T ROT IN THE TEMPERATURE-
CONTROLLED CELLAR
When Angelo Finelli of Finelli Iron Works in Solon (finelliironworks.com) came to measure the space for iron railings and discovered Doctor DIY, he invited him to come up to the iron works and learn the “art of the scroll.” Richterman worked with raw iron stock and made one section of the railings himself.