Designer Howard Singleton and one of the displays at Custom Home Interiors. Photo by Diccon Hyatt.

By necessity, the inside of Custom Interiors of New Jersey, at 1640 N. Olden Ave., is ludicrously swank.

This is not “custom design” as in a van with a picture of a dragon airbrushed on the side. This is custom as in two-seat granite hot tub with attached fireplace that when you touch a button a plasma-screen TV drops down.

“Oh, and the fireplace is also remote-controlled,” notes designer and business owner Howard Singleton, a Ewing native who is still busy preparing the showroom, which is already open, for a grand opening party in May.

“Another million dollars worth of work and it will be ready,” he said.

A year and a half ago, the building that now houses posh kitchen and bathroom displays was abandoned by all but a small group of vagrants living in the basement. It had been part of the Colonial Auto Complex before being hit by a tornado in 2003. The building languished, empty after the storm despite its prime commercial location.

Meanwhile, across the Delaware River at another home interior company, Singleton had grown tired of his work as a designer at other peoples’ studios. He had been doing the job for more than 10 years, and felt it was time to strike out on his own.

So, with $43 starting money and his years of design experience, he set out to start his own business. Singleton thought the Olden Avenue location would be perfect for finding clients with incomes ranging from the middle of the road to the ultra-high end.

“As a Ewing resident, I felt it was time to come home and make good,” he said.

Singleton said many people have asked him why he decided to open a business in Ewing aimed partially at customers who can afford $12,000 sinks. (There were no million-dollar homes sold in Ewing Township last year.)

“That question troubles me,” he said. “Everyone says, ‘Why Ewing?’ I say, ‘Why not Ewing?’”

If you’re good at what you do, he said, you will attract the clients from around the area, and Singleton has – from Princeton and Hopewell, from Newtown and Yardley, Pa.

“I’m proud of being a Ewing resident and there’s no reason to build this in Princeton,” he said.

To prepare the showroom, Singleton worked nights between his full-time job for other designers and as a part-time student. The building needed doors, structural steel and an HVAC system before it was even ready for the displays.

Now, stainless-steel appliances gleam in model kitchens. However, none of the displays is an off-the-shelf solution. Everything from the self-closing drawers to built-in wine refrigerators is customized. The floors are lined with exotic woods, and there are samples of stone on the walls from all over the world.

A plasma-screen TV can display computer renderings of your home, and the proposed

design for remodeling. The design work is free as well as the customization, Singleton said.

A basic kitchen remodeling from Custom Interiors will set you back $40,000, about half that for a bathroom. With the exception of the electrical and plumbing work, it’s all done by Custom Interiors, and Singleton makes a point of personally supervising the work.

Though most of Singleton’s business so far has come through word-of-mouth, he plans to draw new customers to the showroom with free events like cooking classes, food cooked by celebrity chefs and bus rides to vineyards.

For more information, call Custom Interiors of New Jersey at (609) 620-9200.

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Diccon Hyatt is business editor of U.S. 1. He has worked for Community News since 2006 and was previously community editor of the Ewing Observer, the Hopewell Express, the Lawrence Gazette, and the Trenton Downtowner. From 2003 to 2006, he was a general assignment reporter for the Middletown Transcript in Middletown, Delaware. In 2002, he graduated from the University of Delaware, where he was features editor of the student newspaper, The Review. He has won numerous awards from the Maryland-Delaware D.C. Press Association and the Association of Free Community Newspapers for features, news, and opinion writing. He is married and lives in Marlton, NJ.