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Bloggers on the Gamble House

"Homefront Six" has an account of her May 2006 visit to the Gamble House on her weblog. Especially notable are the photographs, some from the official Gamble site and some, I think, which she must have snuck in during her tour - they don't allow you to take pictures, but of course plenty of people do anyway. And as far as no flash is used (flash can certainly damage textiles and other surfaces in the house), I doubt anyone would be severely castigated.

Japanese blogger Minabako also visited the house not long ago, and if you read Japanese you can review her experience as well.

Matt Jalbert developed and maintains the Gamble House website; his own weblog includes some fantastic images of the exterior that capture the late-afternoon light better than any I've ever seen.

The Spurious Plum has visited the Gamble House and several other G & G properties in the area, and includes several photographs in her report.

Finally, "Ridiculous Authenticity" visits the Gamble House and writes a bit about his / her visit in an article titled "misadventures in architechture," which does not apply to this particular property.

Home Matters: House With a Past, and Now With a Future

from Julie Foster's Home Matters column in the July 2006 issue of Inside East Sacramento, and republished here with the publisher's kind permission. Note that other images of the home, all courtesy of that publication, are available on Flickr.

Curtis Park is home to a house with a past.

The structure at the corner of Portola Way and 26th Street was built in 1917 to serve as a volunteer fire station. It later did duty as a Boy Scout headquarters, from 1950 to 1970. Over the years, it was neglected and fell into disrepair. Following a total makeover, it’s now a stunning one-of-a-kind home that’s reclaimed its history.

Several years ago, while riding their bikes through Curtis Park, Cindy Bechtel and Rich Baumhofer spotted the dilapidated firehouse and dreamed of restoring it. But it wasn’t on the market.

“Friends called us a couple of years later and said, ‘Your house is for sale. That’s what they called it, because we’d been talking about it for so long,’” Bechtel said Baumhofer, a general contractor, has a soft spot for the tough job of remodeling old houses.

“New construction is easier and cleaner — your subs are happier and you probably make more money. But then I get drawn to these old things and I just like the work,” he explained.

It took seven months for the city to grant all the building permits, and a year to gut and rebuild the structure. The couple moved into the house in November 2005.

Originally, the building was 3,300 square feet. By adding a dormer and a stairway, the couple created a secondfloor living space with three bedrooms and a bath. They built a new garage and also created a 750-square-foot apartment from a structure that was added during the Boy Scout period. Now, the 1917 firehouse is a stylishly renovated 4,400-square-foot Craftsman-style home.

The couple did most of the work themselves. “He’s the general contractor, I’m the designer and we are the architect,” Bechtel explained. As owners of a beautiful but derelict shell, they had the opportunity to exercise choices. “We really could have done anything in here. We could have gone urban or really modern, but we like the Craftsman style and Rich has experience with that, so we decided to go that way,” Bechtel noted. While they had some leeway to choose a style, the existing building materials imposed limitations. The structure is built of interlocking clay tile brick nine inches thick, with a stucco exterior and plaster interior. Bechtel explained, “You don’t add or move many windows or doors, but work with the existing openings.” The search for windows sent them to Urban Ore, a Berkeley salvage yard.

“This is a really cool place where people from the Bay Area bring their stuff when they tear down their houses,” she said. “There are thousands of windows and they have tried to sort them by size and shape.” It took several trips. While looking for windows, they were sidetracked by other treasures, including a salvaged laundry sink of which Bechtel is especially proud.

Several years ago, while acting as general contractor on a project to remodel Sacramento’s only Greene and Greene house, Baumhofer salvaged some architectural gems: two doors, which he was able to use in the firehouse.

The couple’s great room once housed two fire engines. They converted what could have been a large, dark space into a room filled with light and warm color. They poured a new concrete floor, which Bechtel and her daughter stained to look like worn leather. Dividing the sitting area from the kitchen is an alder bar, topped with a spectacular piece of honey-colored onyx that’s illuminated from below. This was an element Baumhofer badly wanted to incorporate into the home - the couple had seen a similar bar at San Francisco’s Fog City Diner. Four pendant lights are suspended over bar. A Craftsman-inspired skylight, installed in the 15-foot-high ceiling, allows light to pour into the room. The original entrance for the fire trucks provided a challenge.

“We looked at airplane hangar doors and barn doors, but none of them would have worked,” Bechtel said. They ended up with four custom doors made by a company in Oregon. A local shop made the jambs. What had been the firehouse office is now a stunning living room topped with a new tin ceiling. It boasts a beautiful bay window with an oversized window seat.

The ceiling remains an in-the-works project.

“It was too shiny, so we wiped it with muriatic acid to tone it down,” Baumhofer said. “But it’s still changing slowly so now we have to put something on it to stop the process.”

And though Bechtel’s color choices in most of the house are in the warm family, including autumn vineyard, restrained gold, chamois and bamboo shoot, she took a different tack in what was the firehouse kitchen. That room is now her office. She left one wall of exposed clay tile alone, along with the brick chimney. She painted the other walls a cool blue. The upper level was attic space. They considered staying on just one floor, but history got the better of them.

“We couldn’t have had a fire pole with just one floor, and the attic space was just too good to not use,” Baumhofer explained.

In the entry, visitors are greeted by a 16-foot-tall brass fire pole. Historic photos of the firehouse line the staircase. A mosaic made out of floor tile bears the Boy Scout motto “Be Prepared” and eagle emblem. It’s inset in the landing beside the fire pole.

They discovered it in the floor during the demolition of the building. Baumhofer explained it had been covered by plywood, linoleum and funky shag carpet.

For those considering the restoration of a historical structure, Bechtel offers this advice. “Try to maintain the building’s original integrity, since you will encounter some unforeseen obstacles and limitations,” she said. “Try to enjoy the process of overcoming them while you’re transforming the space.” “This was a lot of work and a lot of fun, and it came out the way we wanted it.” Bechtel said. “There’s really nothing that we would’ve done differently.”

Everett House, San Francisco CA

Nancy and Richard Everett bought their Bernal Heights home in 2000, and it had been owned by just two families previously. The original owners built it in 1908; the Italian family had moved to Bernal Heights after the earthquake, upon noticing that no homes in that neighborhood fell down during the earthquake.

Luckily, not much of the paneling or moldings had been painted over, and as you can see from the many photographs of the home in our Flickr set, it was a lot of work to turn (or return) the home to its current / past glory, but less than it could have been, had previous owners not been sensitive to these types of details.

The wonderful detail in the fir paneling and other details throughout the home were one of the selling points for the Everetts, who fell in love with that and the various other built-ins. It's lucky they bought it when they did, as the folks they bought it from - contractors who were trying to flip the property as quickly as possible - had intended to whitewash all the wood features within a few days!

Every room has been restored - gone are the bright tropical colors that the previous owner had been so proud of; bubblegum-pink paint was sandblasted off the fireplace, which is now visible in its original beige. Richard, a museum curator, began the meticulous process of restoring the woodwork, using dental picks to remove old paint chips from mouldings and other architectural woodwork. The underside lips of the moldings, of course, had been damaged by so many layers of paint, so wood tape stained to match were ironed onto the lower surface - talk about improvisation! Bradbury & Bradbury paper was installed on the dining room walls, and a B&B frieze was installed in the living room. Two years later, Bradbury & Bradbury's William Morris designs were installed in the hallway, as well.

All the fixtures but one upstairs light were purchased by the current owners, and most are  reproductions, although  a few - those in the living room and hallway ceiling - are antiques. Lundberg Art Glass in Davenport produced the sconces around the fireplace, and their Nouveau shape certainly works with the house, which incorporates elements of Italiante Victorian and Craftsman.

for sale: Bainbridge Island Eco-Craftsman; $720,000


Jane Martin is selling her beautiful Bainbridge Island "Eco-House":

Green Modern Craftsman sounds almost like a contradiction in terms, but that is how the 2400 square foot Eco-House on Bainbridge Island, Wa., is best described.

The house was designed and built by Bainbridge architect David Balas, whose modernist training at the Illinois Institute of Technology is evident in clean, minimalist lines of  the Craftsman bungalow.

As Balas explains, “I used a small footprint and compact plan, to make efficient use of the structure (ie: maximum spans on framing lumber), as well as stacked wall construction. That  transfers loads directly and makes utility and mechanical runs more efficient.

“The design could said to be a combination classical European architectural proportioning (co-axial relationships, golden-mean proportions) and Eastern influences (feng-shui) to produce a calm environment.”

The Eco-house is built upon a reclaimed site that was a farm 100 years ago, and ended up being used as a wrecking yard. Balas had two flat-bed truck loads of scrap steel hauled to be recycled. Three truck-loads of blackberry brush were ground for use in mulch-making. Cluster-house zoning and wetland open-space requirements by the city planners left much of the one acre site natural.

We've got lots of photographs of the house up on Flickr.

Architectural Salvage in Providence & Elsewhere

Jeanine and Harry James own New England Demolition and Salvage in East Wareham, MA. Along with other such businesses all over the country, they do a brisk business in everything from farmhouse sinks and clawfoot tubs to windows, doors, columns, architectural millwork and hardware.

I think there are a number of forces driving the newfound popularity of such businesses (you should see how the google searches for "architectural salvage" and related terms have increased in the past three years!). Certainly a sensitivity to waste as well as increased awareness of historical accuracy and more of an interest in restoration vs. renovation are a big part of it. The cost savings that spring from using salvaged materials are another, and possibly even more appealing for many budget-minded folks invovled in do-it-yourself projects.

  • Michael Mello has an article in the Providence Journal on the Jameses and a number of other architectural salvage firms in the New England area
  • InfoLink, an Australian architecture and design site, has a short article on the Australian Salvage Company, which looks to be one of the larger such businesses in the country, proving that this is not just an American trend.
  • In fact, the trend toward using salvaged materials for aesthetic purposes - not just stone and brick and beams, but millwork and fixtures and the like - is far more popular in the UK than it is here, proportionally. We recently ran an article on architectural salvage in Britain, with plenty of links to firms all over the UK.
  • Timothy Puko writes on an architectural salvage yard in Barnegat Township in the The Atlantic City Press; the same firm, Recycling the Past, is profiled by Shannon Mullen in the Asbury Park Press.
  • American Public Media recently had a radio program on architectural salvage in Baltimore, specifically a non-profit called Second Chance that rescues, rehabs and resells important bits of detail from buildings throughout the area. The program, with reporter Trent Wolbe, is available online in transcript and Real Audio form.

Frank Lloyd Wright home to become Milwaukee museum

One of several homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for a local developer, a tiny 1915 home of unusual geometric design will become a museum in the near future. The Wisconsin Heritage Tourism Program will convert the 900 square foot home, originally built by developer Arthur Richards as part of his American System-Built program, into a museum showcasing Wright's experiments in low-cost housing for working class families.

One of Wright's central interests was in creating sturdy and attractive housing for urban neighborhoods; he wrote many times that people of all economic classes deserved good architecture, and this was one of many such collaborations in this area.

The group is currently raising money to rehab the property, which has fallen into disrepair, and has applied for a grant from the Save America's Treasures program and other sources. However, it is now open for regularly-scheduled tours (cost is $2 per person); Wright in Wisconsin has a schedule of the Saturday tours.

Supersize Me! at PrairieMod

Our friends at PrairieMod have an excellent article on the community-butchering trend toward excessively large homes. Why do we want what we do not need?

A recent story on NPR elicited a long and somber *sigh* from the PrairieMod team the other day. The story, about the recent trend in excessive growth in American "dream" home size, really highlighted exactly why we feel so passionate to speak out against this cultural malignancy.

Frank Lloyd Wright once said that a house should "spring from the ground and into the light," a phrase that embodies his ideals behind organic architecture. Unfortunately, McMansions don't spring from the ground, they usurp it ... blocking the view and light from all others in its path. One underlying point of the story was that Americans are building these brick and mortar abominations as a way of living out the fantasy of "the American Dream" or a sense of security after 9/11. This is a perverse fantasy of dreams overtaken by greed. Any sense of security is an ironic one, since the high cost of energy consumption of these behemoths compounds the problems of foreign oil dependence that lie at the heart of the 9/11 tragedy.

Read the whole article at PrairieMod.

More on Classic Stoves

A thread on Metafilter this week explores classic kitchen appliances. The comments include lots and lots of good info on restoration, finding a good deal, various problems and their solutions, etc; a must-read for anyone thinking of installing a classic stove in their classic kitchen, or contemplating fixing up that chrome beauty in the garage.

"The best selling stoves and refrigerators at Jowers Appliances these days aren't sleek models with computerized controls. What folks can't get enough of are the stoves and refrigerators that the store would have sold when it opened more than 50 years ago." Welcome to the world of vintage appliances! Stove/range porn (SFW): O'Keefe & Merritt, Wedgewood, Western Holly. How about doing your own old stove restoration? Need some guidance? Want to see what your vintage stove might be worth? It might surprise you!

We're in Print

The current issue of Arts & Crafts Homes and the Revival - #2, Summer 2006 - includes an article on A&C-related weblogs. Mary Ellen Polson is kind enough to mention us in her article, along with plenty of worthier sites; she suggests getting started at, which aggregates articles from over a dozen houseblogs (that is, weblogs not just about houses but about a particular house or remodel/restore project). Houseblogs is run by our good friends Aaron & Jeannie from House in Progress, and also includes an advice column and plenty of other useful goodness.

Polson also suggests Bill Champman's,, run by an Oakland couple who are coming along quite nicely with their Spanish Revival bungalow, and, an excellent and relatively new site devoted solely to the Prairie movement to the ideas and ideals of the Prairie School and its application to today's modern life (thanks for the correction!).

George Maher Window Sells for $120,000

Unknown Our friend Tamera Herrod forwards the following press release about a striking stained-glass Chicago-school window that just sold for a record price at a recent Treadway-Toomey auction. A much higher-resolution version of the photograph is available in our Flickr art glass album.

Historic Chicago Art Glass Window by George W. Maher, Louis J. Millet Sells for Record $120,000 at Treadway-Toomey Galleries' Auction

A relic of Chicago's Prairie School art glass circa 1901, the thistle window was designed for the James A. Patten house and implemented in vermilion, olive, opalescent and gold-foiled glass.

OAK PARK, Ill. -- A Prairie School art glass window with an elaborate thistle design by architect George W. Maher fetched a record $120,000 at Treadway-Toomey Galleries' 20th Century Art & Design Auction on May 7. Executed by stained glass master Louis J. Millet circa 1901, the triptych window was reclaimed from the James A. Patten house in Evanston, Ill. prior to its demolition in 1938. It had a presale estimate of $15,000 to $20,000.

"It's a spectacular window," said Rolf Achilles, curator of Smith Museum of Stained Glass Windows in Chicago. "Maher was a highly regarded Midwestern architect who was not nationally known. He should have been. He was a very important regionalist." (read on below)

Continue reading "George Maher Window Sells for $120,000" »


A group of Parsons graduate students are responsible for Design-a-Room, an interactive tool that lets you play around with motifs and furniture items from the Cooper-Hewitt's own collection of historic design objects. The Craftsman era collection is not so big, but there are some neat standouts - a Charles Rennie Mackintosh cardtable, a Bradley & Hubbard slag-glass shade lamp, a Voysey (identified as Vaysey on the site) sideboard designed for Morris' Kelmscott Chaucer. Unfortunately, the site is riddled with spelling errors and incorrect dates, but it's a fun little toy anyway.