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December 2006
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Woodworking Videos now on AOL?

AOL, long thought to be way behind the times, is actually making some free and useful videos for woodworkers and other do-it-yourself types. They are part of the produced content on their video service - an attempt to compete with YouTube, I guess. They've even signed up some pretty good hosts - for example, a whole suite of home-improvement videos starring Eric Stromer, who hosts the Clean Sweep program on TLC. The site also includes print versions of the instructions for each project, so that you don't need to watch the video over and over while building your table or bench or what have you.

Craftsman Kitchen Remodels II

David Singley writes of his new kitchen:

IMHO, a kitchen is something you either have a dream for, or need to look at hundreds of ideas, you will  be living with it for a while!  There are a few shots of mine here [ 1 / 2 ]

Top are original to the house, (1908) in the original kitchen, now pantry. The base was a trashed, cheap metal one, so we found the unfinished oak cabinets at one of the home improvement stores that were a pretty close match, and painted. The laundry area is connected, the same new cabinets painted again match pretty well, as we used five 12" x 30" to fill the space and made edge trim to match the original.

Countertop is Boos Block. We had looked at Ikea, but it looked 'cheap.' The Boos is 1.5" thick, with no splices. Cost was only slightly more than Ikea, because they have much cheaper shipping (Ikea shipping cost was as much as top!). Warning on thick countertop - you will need the long screw kit to mount some sinks ($4), as standard is for up to 1".
Kitchen (was '70s disco style kitchen, when I bought it, original dining room) has custom made cabinets, more Boos [photos: 1, 2].

Because of the low windows, it was hard to fit a real working space + dining area in the room. We have vintage lighting in both area (no cans) and with dimmers we have great work and dining light.

For an idea of the size of the top cabinets above ref & ovens, take a look at this shot.

IMO, the new Kenmore Pro line would fit great with a old style kitchen.Very square simple design. I feel the stainless works very well with wood, and while I like white with painted cabinets, most white appliances have to much design/ trim for my taste. IIRC Frigidare is making refrigerators with slightly rounded tops & fronts.

more (disorganized) photos of the house & kitchen: 1, 2, 3

Plan,plan plan, there will still be problems.

Craftsman Kitchen Remodels I

I asked the folks on the excellent Style 1900 Yahoo group to talk about their own kitchen remodel projects, and got some excellent responses; I'll be posting them throughout the coming week.

Brad Iwafuchi writes about the kitchen remodel in his 1922 California bungalow, which he and his wife are right in the middle of:

We were limited with funds, so it is a minor retrofit. The kitchen is 12' x 12' and includes the small dining table. The counter area is L shape with the Fridge on an opposite wall.

We replaced out the vinyl flooring. It was an ugly black and grey 12" pattern. We purchased a Congoleum Xclusive 5 star vinyl that has a pattern close to a green Dard Hunter rose. I guess we lucked out. I just checked their website and it is no longer for sale. It is an subdue sand base color and stem and "flower."

The '70s cathedral-style doors and cabinets were still in good shape so we sanded them down and restained them a Mission oak color.

We replace the handles with bronze Mission kitchen door knobs and pulls purchased from EXPO [Editor's note - Expo is Home Depot's design superstore wing].

We replaced the 70s faux vinyl butcher block counter with a Corian countertop (Burnt Amber) and a Franke composite granite sink. (White) We got a slightly used KitchenAid smoothtop cooktop. We still have to buy a new wall oven, since the old one is a '70s Harvest Gold 27" oven.

We also still need to put the backsplash on, but I have purchased the tile. It is 3 x 6 white tiles. We also have a nice tile purchase from the Disneyland Grand Californian Hotel that we are planning to use as the centerpiece behind the cooktop backsplash area.

As an accent we are also thinking of adding two horizontal strips of 1" muted brown glass tile about halfway up the backsplash.

We still have some work to do but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

design does not mean decoration

Using current fashions and styles rather than something tried and true (or in context with your home) as the basis for an expensive remodel is almost always a bad idea. But unfortunately, many designers only care about the surface - that is, they forget that design is about making the useful accessible, and creating spaces and objects that just work. They lose sight of context, tradition and historic preservation issues just to pad their bottom line and keep up with the newest and best materials and styles - and of course to add to their own portfolios.

Terri Sapienza's article in the Arizona Republic purportedly details a "meeting of the minds" between a designer/client and an architect/designer, but ends up being about how ego and a "need" for it to be expressed by one party sublimated another. I'm glad both parties are happy with the result. Of course, I'm orthodox about this sort of thing; there's nothing stupider than designing and ultra-modern Asian glass and lacquer kitchen for a classic Craftsman bungalow.

Originally, Gilmer planned a classic bungalow kitchen. Then Gardner, who had worked on the house's first minor interior renovations three years before Gilmer owned it, helped Gilmer recognize her fondness for contemporary design, and the remodel went from Arts and Crafts to Asian and modern. "It was an immediate meeting of the minds," Gardner said. "We were instinctively on the same page, broadening the ideas of the original project visually, functionally and structurally."

Gilmer said it would cost about $105,000 to replicate her kitchen/butler's pantry.

Palm Beach bungalow wins renovation award

Robert Janjigian's article this past week in Palm Beach Life details one couple's "shock and flattery" when they were surprised with the 2007 Polly Earl Award for historic preservation. Award winners receive $10,000, which must have been very helpful after the Phillipses has invested so much time and money on their very pretty 1,600 square foot bungalow. We need more awards for neighborhood- appropriate design and historic preservation in residential architecture and less of the pat-on-the-back professional ego-stroking awards given out by most design, architecture and remodeling associations!

The plan of the one-story, 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom house, currently under renovation, will remain relatively unchanged, although it will be completely updated with new bathrooms, kitchen, interior walls and ceilings, flooring and hurricane-resistant windows. A wood-burning fireplace is also being added in the living room.

"The location offset the obstacles of restoring the house," Phillips said.

The exterior will be cleaned up and restored in authentic fashion, with an enclosed porch across the house's front facade that will be built with the same look as the pre-existing enclosure added in 1958. The only change to the house's lines will be the addition of a chimney on the west wall.

The construction project is expected to be completed in late May to early June.

"This is one Polly would have loved," said John Mashek, Preservation Foundation president, who heads up the selection committee for the Earl Award.


Frank Lloyd Wright prefab saved from wrecking ball

James G. Ferreri has a nice article in the Staten Island Advance on a house in the Lighthouse Hill neighborhood that's been recently saved from destruction:

Most of us detest wasting anything, whether it be our cell phone minutes, the last drop of milk in the container or, considering today's sky-high prices, the gas in our car.

Why, then, do we allow the waste of our irreplaceable buildings? Nearly every day, here in New York's fastest growing county, buildings that never can be replaced are destroyed simply because they have no protection from predators.

Fortunately, there are success stories. One unique home that has avoided the wrecking ball is "Crimson Beech," the home built by the late Catherine and William Cass on Lighthouse Hill. It is the only residence in New York City designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, and one of only two buildings the world-famous architect designed that is still standing in New York.

There are two reasons for this building's good fortune: The Cass family and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Although Wright is perhaps best known for his residential projects for well-to-do clients, he also had an interest throughout his career in producing well-designed, moderately-priced housing. He believed that "the average American was entitled to a home that could also be a work of art."

Wright knew that if this home maxim was to apply to the lower-income home, it would require either pre-fabrication or a systems-built method of construction. It meant, he explained, that the home would have to go to the factory, rather than the skilled labor coming onto the building site."

read the whole article

Arts & Crafts sideboard for sale in Sacramento, California


From today's Sacramento Craigslist:

Quality Antique Oak Mission / Arts & Crafts Sideboard / Server. Beautiful quarter-sawn oak grain and original finish with no repairs or wood fillers. 48 in length, 22 in width, 38 in height. 1st drawer has wood dividers for silverware and lock. There is surface ring where a plant once sat & would probably come out since its not deep in the wood. I have seen these retail between $800 & $1,200. I would like to get $525 or best offer. Additional photographs are available.

Gamble House restoration is finally complete

I hate to reprint stories from other sites in total, but unfortunately the Pasadena Star-News makes all their content inaccessible very quickly, and I can't think of another way to share this with all of you. A photo album accompanies the article.

By Janette Williams, Staff Writer        

PASADENA - After six years of planning, a year of work and a $2.5 million exterior makeover, the Gamble House now looks exactly as it used to.    

Just as it should, said Ted Bosley, curator of Pasadena's iconic 1908 Greene and Greene house, as preparations for its approaching 100-year anniversary, in collaboration with the Huntington Library, get under way.

"It's so funny, my daughter Julia, \ said, `Papa, it doesn't look like you've done anything!"' Bosley said. "But when I thought about it, I decided that was the desired effect, that it didn't look as though we'd used a heavy hand."

The exterior doesn't look exactly as it did when Charles and Henry Greene started work in 1907 on an 8,000-square-foot Craftsman-style "bungalow" for David and Mary Gamble at 4 Westmoreland Place.

A 1930s paint job on the exterior wooden shingles, courtesy of Aunt Julia - Mary Gamble's sister Julia Huggins - forever changed the color. Even the sophisticated techniques used in the present conservation project couldn't reverse the effect, although treatment with sealant slightly deepened the shade for a more authentic contrast to the lightened window frames.    

"It's something we have to live with," Bosley said. "We didn't try to remove the lead-based paint. We used to say, sarcastically `Thanks, Aunt Julia,' but now we say it with some sincerity. It's the kind of paint you can't buy today, awful stuff, but it's been extremely protective of the underlying wood."

The fishpond on the back patio, which was leaking into the house's foundations, has been restored and refilled, windows and roof repaired, and 262 rotting wooden beams and rafters that protrude beyond the roof-line restored, using epoxy blended into the wood with dental tools for a "feathering" effect.

The entire conservation effort was documented by filmmaker Jon Wilkman, who tracked it from day one for USC, joint owners with the city of the house and its furnishings.

"It was intriguing to document all the latest, most sophisticated techniques on this great big work of art," said Wilkman, who "fell in love" with the Gamble House as a young man. "They approached it like restoring a Rembrandt or a Michelangelo statue, and didn't do anything that wasn't the absolute best."

About 90 hours of unused footage shot for the documentary, which has aired on KCET and is available at the Gamble House gift store, has been donated to USC's School of Architecture for future reference, Wilkman said.

Anyone tackling a similar restoration or conservation could learn from the sophisticated approach to the Gamble House project, Wilkman said.

"One of the funniest moments in the film is when the person restoring the screens had taken one of the hinges, rusted and covered in dirt, and shined it up so it looked brand new," Wilkman said. "They said, `That's exactly what we don't want - we want it to look like it aged gracefully."'

Even some of the signs the house was a family home until the 1960s remain: The worn area where a garden hose was always dragged around the corner of the house, holes drilled in the outside window frames to hold string to pull back the bamboo shades.

"People actually lived here, things went on here," Bosley said.    

Visitors, about 30,000 a year, come to the Gamble House from all over the world, and Bosley called it a vital part of Pasadena's patrimony and a symbol of the city.

Almost all the original furnishings, except for a few dining room chairs, were donated by the Gamble family along with the house in 1966, Bosley said, so they are not in the market for acquisitions.

"But sometimes people leave us things - we can't control bequests," Bosley said. And although they were never part of the house, a recent set of "very beautiful" Dirk Van Erp copper pots from the estate of philanthropist David Whitney fit into the kitchen quite well, Bosley said.

The Huntington Library's close relationship with the Gamble House comes from shared roots in early Pasadena and interest in the Arts and Crafts Movement, library spokeswoman Lisa Blackburn said.

The Huntington and the Gamble House opened a joint permanent exhibit of the Greenes' work in 1990, and the Huntington plans a special exhibition and other events next year on the architecture and decorative arts of Charles and Henry Greene.

Arts and Crafts Revival Society of Boston

reader Carl Close Jr., an artist blacksmith at Hammersmith Studio, forwards the following notice and hopes that other craftspeople in his area will be interested in forming a latter-day craftsperson's guild:

Are you an artist or craftsperson that works in the Arts and Crafts style? I am a metalworker in the Boston area and want to start a group that fosters the ideals and philosophies of the founders of the Society of Arts and Crafts in Boston. I thought it might be fun to also have an exhibit called Then and Now, a show that could showcase past masters and what similar artists are doing today to revive the Arts and Crafts Movement. So if you are a wood carver, metalworker, potter, book artist, silversmith, furniture designer, pleinair painter or any other historically-styled craftsperson, and live in the Boston or New England area, please let me know if this would be of any interest. You can contact me off my website,, or write me email.

Thank you - Carl Close, Jr, artist blacksmith

Greene & Greene lantern pulled due to provenance concern

Our friend Ted Wells of Living Simple passed this note on to us a few weeks ago. This particular item was taken from the White Sisters' (Martha, Violet and Jane) House at 370 Arroyo Terrace [map / photo / Zillow] in Pasadena, a very attractive Greene & Greene home from 1903; Larry Wilson writes a bit more about this in today's paper, and argues for an inventory of Greene objects in private hands, as the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust has attempted and had good success with.

Of course, this isn't the first time that the provenance or sale of a Greene & Greene lantern has stirred up controversy...

PASADENA - A porch lantern that experts believe was bought and illegally removed from a Greene and Greene house on Arroyo Terrace at a garage sale has been withdrawn from a Sotheby's auction set for Friday in New York City.

The lantern, with an auction estimate of $30,000 to $50,000, was taken out of the American Renaissance sale Tuesday on the advice of Sotheby's lawyers "pending further research," spokeswoman Lauren Gioia said.

The decision came in response to a letter sent to Sotheby's by the Pasadena city attorney's office on Dec. 5; it asks that the lantern "be returned immediately" to Pasadena since the sale of any interior or exterior fixture removed from a Greene brothers' house is forbidden by a city law enacted in 1986.

Reached by telephone, Naomi Ritz said she put the lantern, listed as "from the Estate of the Ritz Brothers," up for auction, but declined to give any details about its acquisition.

The lantern is believed to have once hung on the porch at 370 Arroyo Terrace, known as the White Sisters' House. The 1903 Craftsman-style home was built by Charles Greene for his sisters-in-law, Martha, Violet and Jane, next door to his own 1901 house at 368 Arroyo.

The lantern's journey to New York started at a garage sale at 370 Arroyo Terrace, according to the city attorney's office. The private, word-of-mouth sale was held earlier this year when the home's long-time owner, Ann Duffy, was moving out.

The Duffy Trust sold the house for $1.4 million to Timothy J. Toohey and David Liu in May; it is undergoing restoration. Toohey, 57, bought the Charles Greene house next door in September 2005 for $2.475 million.

Local preservationists first got wind of the lantern's impending sale when contacted by Ted Wells of Guardian Stewardship, the Greene and Greene watchdog group, and when the buyers began toting it around town for expert opinions on its authenticity.

Backed by an anonymous private collector, Guardian Stewardship bought all but a few of the 49 items put under the hammer by former Gamble House curator Randell Makinson at Sotheby's in December 2004. The collection raised almost $2.9 million - about three times the estimated value. Some of it is on show at the Huntington Library and the Long Beach Museum of Art.

Wells said a dealer in Chicago, who knew the group had bought the Makinson collection, had offered to sell the lantern.

"I questioned if it was something that could be legally sold, and if there were ethical issues, we would not be interested," Wells said. "The dealer in Chicago agreed ... but I see it reached Sotheby's."

It's believed the lantern was stored for years in a box in the White Sisters' House basement, but it's almost certainly original to the house, said Ted Bosley, curator of the Gamble House and a Greene and Greene expert.

"It's a very lovely piece, an early Greene and Greene lantern," Bosley said. The buyers, he said, showed him photographs of the lamp, described in the Sotheby's catalogue as zinc-plated steel and opalescent glass with lead strips, circa 1903.

"They thought it might be important, and I confirmed it to the best of my knowledge," Bosley said. "I suggested they take it back to the house and make sure it was protected. They didn't follow my advice."
Sue Mossman, executive director of Pasadena Heritage, said Ritz's husband Clyde Munsell - whom Ritz identified as her attorney to this newspaper - offered the lantern to the preservation group.

"Based on a phone conversation, I thought he was willing to donate it, get a tax deduction and we would return it to the house," Mossman said. "He said, `We're not donating, we'll sell it to you.' But we don't have these resources."

Mossman said that everywhere the sellers went they were advised to return the lantern to the house, and that the house's owners would reimburse them.

The Vagabond Traveler visits Berkeley

The Vagabond Traveler is a charming and entertaining tag-along on one person's trips through Europe and elsewhere - it might be less polished than a fancy travel-blog site, but it more than makes up in personality what it lacks in bells & whistles.

Welcome to Vagabond Traveler. This web site has come about as an organization of thoughts and experiences from traveling through Europe numerous times. The site started out as bits and pieces of information that was once kept on a little 486 linux box when I was an undergraduate in college. Over time, as my travels brought me back to Europe time and time again more information was added and the site expanded.

What brings it to Hewn & Hammered, however, is the Vagabond Traveler's interests in Arts & Crafts architecture and photography. Strolls through Berkeley, San Francisco and Oakland are documented with many photographs of some really striking Arts & Crafts and Tudor homes, including an early residence of Bernard Maybeck and that architect's stunning Temple of the Winds. Also well-covered is the UC Berkeley campus, which is full of some of the state's best examples of Beaux Arts, Italian Revival and similar turn-of-the-century Mediterranean styles. And should you wish to take an architectural tour of Berkeley, home hometown and one of my favorite places in the world, the author includes a helpful and extensive FAQ for visitors.

Extreme Makeover = extreme travesty in Raleigh, NC

I am sad but unfortunately not surprised to read how the television program Extreme Makeover: Home Edition recently documented the destruction of a decrepit but repairable old bungalow in Raleigh, North Carolina (map). Not only did they allow demolition derby cars to smash into the house as part of its demolition, but they refused to allow architectural antique collectors or dealers buy the many features in the house, including heart-pine flooring and wood trim and original windows - money that could have gone to the family who owned the house, or the volunteer organization that pulled together to get the new structure built.

Hopefully Raleigh's Riggins family won't have the same problems that the Llanes family, who participated in an Extreme Makeover Home Edition moment in North Bergen NJ, had; they now cannot afford the much higher property taxes on their new house. The new tax bill, more than $14,000, makes the family feel as if an ax is "hanging over our head. With all the taxes, it's like we're on a chopping block."

The well-built but run-down home in Raleigh, instead of being remodeled or restored (two things it sorely needed!), was replaced with a new house built in one week. Now, I've talked to a lot of contractors, custom home builders and architects over the years, and I talked to a few of them about this particular case. Every one said that there was absolutely no way that a house built in a single week could be better than a half-decent, disposable piece of junk, and certainly wouldn't last half as long as the home it replaced. So: good going, Extreme Makeover. I'm sure the advertisers are happy, though, and that's really all that matters - the event was really for them, and the volunteers were subsidizing them just as much as engaging in healthy and community-building service. The fact that a needy and deserving family got a nice new McMansion is simply a good PR side-effect as far as the advertisers are concerned.

Matthew Brown in Raleigh wrote a letter to his local newspaper, the Raleigh News & Observer, lamenting the loss; many folks in the community share his opinion (although most are happy that a needy family is getting a new house), and Sven Rylesdorn says it better than I could, also pointing out the absurdity of having the demolition derby cars attempt to tear the house down:

The meager humor is that the cars couldn't actually do this - they pulled the columns off, but the porch roof stayed up. The crew had to pre-chainsaw the framing of the house in order to get the walls to fall down when the cars hit it. So then it looks like the place really was not-worth-saving. After all, if a car can knock it down...

Mark Turner talks to Myrick Howard, the head of Preservation North Carolina, about the project; Howard had this to say:

"I believe in charity, but if you really care about good housing, then renovate the existing house and it will cost so much less," he said.

Howard added that the Riggins home was not only salvageable but made of better building materials than Extreme Makeover would use.

"We're replacing real wood and plaster with chip board and sheet rock," he said. "They're getting showered with candy rather than a decent meal."

Personally, I think the Riggins family deserved a lot better than this scripted media event, and they deserve a house at least as sturdy as the old one. These are people who give a lot back to the community - Linda Riggins is a social worker who recently had to stop work due to crippling arthritis, and her husband Bill was a tailor until his degenerating vision caused him to give up that work (he is now legally blind) - and they are actively involved with a local ministry devoted to helping underprivileged children and finding homes for low-income families. But a real restoration project, full of detail work and craftspeople taking their time to do it right, doesn't sell TV commercial time, and then the network and its owners, Disney, would have had to pay for staff rather than getting free volunteers to throw up a ready-built. Apparently, the show did generate a kind of ripple effect of volunteerism in the community, at least for a little while, and that is absolutely wonderful, even if it may not last too long. It's a shame that someone had to get a (comparatively) mediocre house for this to happen, though.

Richard Hart, in his Up Front column in Indy, the Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill-area independent weekly, tells us, basically, that we should just shove our cynicism. But I'm not cynical about the effects of the project overall; I think it is wonderful that a needy family got a new home and a community came together to do something not necessarily for themselves. I think it's sad, though, that the only way this can happen is in a scripted event meant to make a bunch of money for Disney and its local commercial sponsors, even to the point of denying the local charities in the event discounted advertising time during the airing of the program.

So let's look at the lessons we can learn from the Extreme Makeover experience. Jennings has a few suggestions: The spirit and infrastructure for volunteerism it created should be capitalized upon long-term; all corporate citizens should make addressing the common good part of their business practices; we should support businesses that accept that responsibility; and there should be incentives for them to pursue it.

What else can we learn? Shouldn't we be embarrassed that families like the Rigginses have to live as they do? We need to open our eyes to the conditions around us and press our elected officials to address them. Cities need to aggressively enforce housing codes and create powerful economic incentives for poor families (and landlords) in older areas to repair their homes, improve their neighborhoods and protect our architectural heritage.

Derek Jennings echoes Mr. Hart's editorial in his feature article in the same issue; luckily, he also gives us a photograph of handsome carpenter Ty Pennington and writes that "his hunk value is considered one of the show's attractions." I'm glad the Indy is looking out for their advertisers and sexually frustrated
housewives everywhere, rather than taking a critical approach to an entire community being manipulated by Disney and its advertisers.

Last but not least, Betsy, a local high school blogger, has discovered that ABC is not picking up the bill for police, city inspectors and other government services related to the media circus; the city of Raleigh is expected to pay. After all, isn't it the American way for the public to be subservient to private profit, and for government to subsidize private business? I call it "socialism for the rich."

more: Scott Parkerson's photographs of the circus around 207 Poplar Street in Raleigh, NC; a slideshow of "the start and the finish" of the new house being built; a related article and comments at Endangered Durham; Triangle Homeworks, the non-profit that put the volunteer effort together, gives a bit of background on their involvement with the project; TV news, as usual, is not in the business of asking questions because everybody loves a good public interest story - their first story on the program ended with this very telling blurb:

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was the 15th-rated show in last week's Nielsen ratings.

Multiple emails and a fax to the show's producers and ABC / Disney have so far been unanswered.

Pacific Columns in Brea, California

While many millwork firms can produce decorative columns for interior use, not as many companies also produce exterior structural columns as well. Pacific Columns does both - as well as shutters, railing, balustrades and other related architectural knickknacks. Their columns are available in wood or composite construction, and you can get matching capitals in the full range of classical designs - use their neat web-based column builder to construct the perfect column for your backyard Temple of the Winds recreation, or perhaps something a bit more modest.

The same folks also run The Architectural Depot, an online "do-it-yourselfer superstore" with an emphasis on historic home remodeling and restoration. They carry an especially large range of wood corbels, tin ceiling tiles and the little bits and pieces that finish a project.