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September 2004
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November 2004

Affordable Craftsman Furniture

Many people keep asking me to write about affordable (what a subjective term!) Craftsman-style furniture. Anything made by a craftsman with excellent materials won't be cheap - it can't be. And I hesitate to call some of the reproductions out there, made of fruit woods and veneers "Craftsman," even if they look it - that's an insult to the great craftspeople who today are creating pieces that will be passed down for generations. BUT! There are pieces out there that you can afford. With the aesthetic (if not the spirit) of the A&C movement in mind, let me suggest a few options.

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Found in a Wall

ShoeA recent thread at a private online forum that I sometimes visit asked homeowners & renovators to list interesting or weird items they had found during remodeling & demolition projects. The more interesting responses included:

dozens of old empty liquor bottles (in a Pastor's house, connected to a church); an intact 20-year-old tin of Vienna sausages; dozens of antique beercans, which were then sold for $20 - $50 each on Ebay; empty demerol bottles inside the ceiling of a dentist's office; a coffee can full of jewelry, including over 100 gold rings, earrings, fillings - which was sold for scrap for $4000; a human skeleton; a 9-year-old can of shrimp, which the finder presumably refrained from consuming; and my own entry, a woman's undergarment that was somewhere between 60 and 80 years old.

What kind of neat stuff have you all discovered?

the Historic Chicago Bungalow Initiative

The City of Chicago created the Historic Chicago Bungalow Initiative to combine architectural education, financing resources, marketing and code enforcement in an effort to preserve and restore its rich bungalow tradition. The city's non-profit Bungalow Association was chartered by the state to administer the initiative, and its many (and very vocal!) members produce a number of events, including bus and walking tours, refinishing workshops and lectures.

Their excellent Bunaglow of the Month program is also worth checking out, as they document a different home every month through photographs and a short history of the property.

built-in cabinetry & interior architecture

Creative and technically adept cabinetmakers used to be the norm, and they still exist, albeit in small numbers compared the the number of new homes being built every year. Unfortunately, we see this craft becoming more and more the sole purview of kitchen design firms and very high-end contractors who specialize only in kitchen and bath work. Most homes are not made by the same sorts of craftspeople who built our old bungalows; they're assembled from pieces made in factories all over the world. There are, however, a number of fine woodworkers specializing in casework and other forms of built-in furniture for all parts of the home and various other types of interior architecture working across the North America today, and I've spent a little bit of time reading up on a few who have their work up on the web to peruse.

This list is, of course, very incomplete and totally subjective; please feel free to append other listings in the comments, below.

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Arthur Stern Studios

Arthur Stern opened his architectural and art glass studio in Oakland in 1976, after studying architecture and environmental design at the University of Illinois and CCAC in Oakland. After a few years of teaching at CCAC, he relocated his studio to an 8500 square-foot space in Benicia, about 40 minutes north of Oakland, just over the Carquinez Straits from the East Bay, and has been producing a wide range of really exceptional work there since 1994. His work is squarely in the Prairie tradition, and Stern specializes in the restoration of Frank Lloyd Wright glass. Please take a look at the galleries at his site, including the work for sale (especially the amazing screens and sculptural pieces - he also has some brilliantly-colored oil pastels and very textural mixed-media pieces using similar geometric forms).

One particular highlight of Stern's career - well-illustrated on his site - is the Pearson Residence in Mill Valley, California, recently featured on Home & Garden Television.

Roycroft Copper

Roycroft Copper is the most complete (and interesting!) resource out there for owners, collectors and aficionados of Roycroft copper goods. David Kornacki's extensive knowledge on the subject is a huge boon to anyone evaluating or researching their own collection, and the excellent image gallery he's compiled is the best overview of the range of Roycroft copperware that I've ever seen in one place. History, interesting facts about the Roycrofters, tips on collecting and estimated current values of a huge number of Roycroft items are all available on the site; Kornacki even has some especially good looking items for sale.