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June 2007
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August 2007

site additions and changes

Hi there. I'm midway through a redesign of the site, and have been thinking of incorporating a forum - a simple bulletin board. Do you folks think that would be useful? Any comments on features I should have or that I don't need? Please let me know in the comments of anything you'd really like to see.

I tried to incorporate a house registry and calendar into the last version of Hewn & Hammered, but they weren't that well-thought-out and people didn't use them (and I hardly ever added events to the calendar). But people are always emailing me questions about remodel projects, or asking to identify a particular maker's mark, things like that - I thought maybe the forums would be useful. But I'm open to suggestions.

Craigslist: Stickley, July 2007

Plenty of Stickley - some contemporary, some antique, and some needing a good amount of TLC - available on Craigslist this week. As always, be careful that you are buying the real deal and aren't being taken to the cleaner; unless you are confident in your ability to discern authenticity, stick with buying from a reputable dealer.

  • very pretty rocker with Nouveau inlay design; Rhode Island - $595
  • spindle-sided Morris chair; Palm Springs - $750
  • more spindle-sided Morris chairs, these with leather cushions; Los Angeles - $650 for two
  • Morris-style rocker; Niantic CT - $850
  • rocker & armchair, cushions need work; Palm Springs - $1500
  • #729 drop-front desk; Santa Barbara - $2999
  • slat-sided Morris-style recliner with custom southwestern upholstery; San Diego - $100
  • L & JG side chair, simple design, circa 1910. Seat needs reupholstering; Reno - $385
  • #818 server / sideboard; Portland OR - $950
  • Quaint Furniture rocker, needs refinish & arm repair; Seattle - $125
  • #89 / 91-224 spindle-sided love seat / small settle; Washington DC - $2000
  • red label (Stickley Handcraft) rocker, original  seat, needs cleaning; Hudson Valley area - $350
  • Stickley Bros. metal tagged armchair, slat back, sturdy; Richmond VA - $475
  • set of 4 ladder-back sidechairs, Fayetteville stamp; Long Island - $300
  • set of 4 wicker-seat sidechairs, need refinish, partially recaned; Brooklyn - $40 each, all for $150
  • contemporary Harvey Ellis series cherry, copper & maple dresser; Albany NY - $1500
  • red / gold Fayetteville (Stickley Bros.) label drop-front desk; Pittsburgh - $990

Alfred Faber, Portland architect

James Heuer has put together several SmugMug photo galleries, including one on homes built by Portland-area architect Alfred Faber, who was active as a residential designer from 1904 to 1917. I stumbled across that gallery this morning, and was struck by the level of detail and the tight symmetrical grids that Faber seemed to enjoy. I was very surprised that he dropped off the map, as it were, after moving to Los Angeles for a very early retirement, right when these elements were very much in demand by builders throughout the Los Angeles area.

The M. B. Nease House is a particularly attractive example of Faber's work, with all kinds of attractive woodwork - builtins and other architectural detail - still intact.

news roundup, July 2007

Several bits & pieces of interest to old-house aficionados, rehabbers and others interested in A&C:

Frank Lloyd Wright in Buffalo: a podcast conversation with Neil Levine

Caroly Batt with the Buffalo-Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau writes to tell us about a very interesting podcast:

Harvard University professor and noted Frank Lloyd Wright Scholar and author Neil Levine recently discussed Wright’s important architectural contributions to the Buffalo area. Buffalo is the home to many acclaimed Wright achievements including the Darwin Martin House Complex and Graycliff Estate. The interview is available as an audio podcast on the Wright Now in Buffalo website.

Squak Mountain Stone: recycled fibrous-concrete countertops


There are several different commercial formulations of concrete on the market for countertops, flooring and other interior architectural uses. Some are aerated or mixed by varying but mostly-similar techniques, some are molded or installed in different ways, and some are aerated, or treated with dyes or special sealants. But one in particular is as attractive as real stone, is made in a range of mineral shades and has a natural texture from inclusions such as recycled paper, glass and coal fly-ash.

Squak Mountain Stone's fibrous-cement material is beautiful and just as visually appealing as real stone - but it's a truly environmentally-friendly countertop that makes great (re)use of some otherwise-ignored ingredients. It is available both in slabs and as tiles, and the maker is happy to work with clients on custom applications and mixtures. In that respect, it's even more appealing than real or manufactured stone!

According to developer and owner Ameé Quiriconi, the ingredients list reads like a how-to book for those interested in establishing a truly green, environmentally-friendly business:

  • Fly-ash is generated at a Washington-state coal-fired electrical generation facility. It's collected and bagged for sale in Seattle.
  • The mixed waste paper comes from a small home-based document destruction business staffed by four young women with developmental disabilities (with the help of a job coach and the women's parents.)This business is located in Issaquah, WA.
  • The recycled glass is mainly waste from local window manufacturers that is collected and processed by a local glass recycling company.

We've put together a whole Flickr album of high-res images showing the product in use - if you are planning a kitchen or bath remodel, you really should take a look at this material before you finalize your countertop material plans.

It is available from retailers up and down the west coast, including Green Sacramento, Ecohome Improvement in Berkeley, Greenspace in Santa Cruz, Eco Design Resources in San Carlos as well as EcoSpaces in Telluride, Colorado.

Frank Lloyd Wright & the house beautiful

From June 28 through October 8, the Portland Museum of Art is presenting a new exhibit showcasing "Frank Lloyd Wright’s passion for creating a new way of life for Americans through architecture."

In particular, the exhibition focuses on his legendary skill in creating harmony between architectural structure and interior design while fulfilling the needs of a modern lifestyle. Featuring approximately 100 objects, the exhibition includes furniture, metalwork, textiles, drawings, and accessories from the collections of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and other public and private collections. Curated by Dr. Virginia T. Boyd, professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Frank Lloyd Wright and the House Beautiful conveys the methods through which Wright implemented the philosophy of the “house beautiful.” The exhibition explores how Wright sought to develop a modern interior reflective of a uniquely American spirit of democracy and individual freedom, illustrates his development in integrating the space with furnishings and architectural elements, and shows his experiments with bringing these ideas to the homes of average Americans.

Several podcasts and audio programs relating to the exhibit are also available:

the 24/7 open house

Maureen Francis and Dmitry Koublitsky are real estate agents/brokers in Detroit who write regularly on local and national real estate-related topics. This article appeared on their blog last week:

I’m not the only agent who has observed that there are fewer and fewer agents visiting homes during our weekly board of Realtors tours. These tours, typically on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Oakland County, are designed to invite Realtors to come through the new listings. There could be lots of reasons that attendance is fizzling. Certainly listing inventory is high right now. And it is summer, so is everyone taking a break. I don’t think so.

But what can we do about the fall off in attendance?  Should we do anything?  The Birmingham Bloomfield Realtor Network has gone to truly elaborate ends since last November to coax agents in to our listings. Sponsors have given away lots of goodies, we served food, we’ve offered shopping. And the results have been good. But there is no way we could do this any more than once a month. It is too labor intensive, and if it were done more frequently people would stop showing up, because it would become ordinary.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh(esque) kitchen remodel in W Virginia

20070630dsmackintosh_a_450 Monongaehala PA cabinetmaker Pat Herforth recently channeled the spirit of Charles Rennie Mackintosh to build a new kitchen for client Carrie Russell's 1920 Tudor/Craftsman home in Morgantown, West Virginia.

Once in a great while, if you're very lucky, you're sorry to see a work day end so soon. Pat Herforth felt that way when he created a kitchen for Carrie Russell.

"I was at work eight hours, and it seemed like 15 minutes," said the Monongahela woodworker.

"I didn't sleep at night -- for excitement."

The thrill was in building cabinetry, trim, light fixtures and furniture in the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a Scottish architect/designer whose take on Art Nouveau jelled with the European Arts & Crafts movement near the turn of the 20th century.

photograph by Darrell Sapp for the Post-Gazette

a modern Craftsman kitchen

Ih00016_plan Taunton publishes lots and lots of good books devoted to historic architecture in general and the Arts & Crafts movement specifically. I was happy but not surprised, then, to pick up a few back issues of The Inspired House, an (unfortunately out of print?) at a local used bookshop.

The magazine seems to have halted publication mid-2006, but mining their online archive yielded lots of good stuff, including this article by Debra Judge Silber on a very modern yet classically attractive Craftsman kitchen remodel in a 1915 historic foursquare:

When they found their brick foursquare in the mid-1980s, Ed and Kathy Friedman couldn’t believe their luck. They’d spent 10 years building a collection of Arts and Crafts furniture and decorative objects, and here was the perfect home in which to display it. The 1915 foursquare, with its built-in benches and bookcases, was as well preserved as if it had been locked in a time capsule.

Except for the kitchen. Remodeled in the ’50s, the boxy room had plastic tiles running halfway around it and white metal cabinets backed awkwardly against the walls. Not just outdated, it was completely at odds with the purposeful beauty of the rest of the house.

Visit their site for the full article. Floorplan by Martha Garstang Hill, whose illustrations and architectural drawings adorn many Taunton books.

Robert E. Koch custom woodworking

Furn3pic_02 Robert Koch studied under John Kassay (author of The Book of Shaker Furniture) and continues that tradition of austerity and craftsmanship in his own work. His furniture is influenced by "Arts & Crafts, Asian and American Shaker furniture designs" - and in its smooth lines, deceptively simple framing, delicate dovetailing and use of several beautifully-grained woods, these pieces combine elements of all three styles.

Robert lives and works in Diamond Springs, California (not far from my home in Sacramento), and takes commissions and may have other pieces for sale.

another reason for old homes: the hidden costs of commuting

Reader Joel McDonald is a real estate agent in Boulder CO and wrote the following for Hewn & Hammered. Please note that this article's copyright belongs solely to its author, and may not be reproduced without his written consent. He makes good points: while many people lust after the big lots and imagined superiority of new construction (which we know is a myth 99% of the time) and imagined safety of the suburbs or the (also sometimes imaginary) superiority of schools, the increasing cost of fuel - something that won't decrease in price anytime soon - will often make exurban living much more expensive.

In my own community - Sacramento, California - the oldest neighborhoods inside the city limits are Curtis, McKinley and Land Parks. They are also the most desirable. I doubt anyone, no matter how stunted their aesthetic taste, could argue that new tract homes in even the ritziest suburban neighborhoods hold a candle to the beautiful and sturdily-constructed Craftsman, Tudor and Mission Revival masterpieces of the urban core.

If you're not careful, you'll spend more in gas than what you save in mortgage payment.

One of the most common decisions we see buyers make is to buy 10 or 20 miles from the town they plan on working in because the price of homes in that area is 10% or 20% less out that way.  Boulder real estate company owner Joel McDonald points out that the biggest factor homeowners don't take into consideration is what their own time is actually worth, the wear and tear on their car, and of course, the cost of gas (which ain't cheap these days).  That's not to say that buying a home in a less expensive area that isn't in town isn't a good idea, but more often than not, it's not saving as much money as you might have initially thought.

Let's say you're contemplating buying a $450,000 home in-town, vs buying an otherwise similar home for $400,000. Let's also say the $400,000 home is 18 miles from the town you plan on working in 5 days a week.  That $50K in savings might be attractive to you because if you take out a loan for the difference, you're looking at a monthly savings of between $320 and $370 a month.  The key in making the best decision, however, isn't whether or not you're saving a few hundred bucks a month on your mortgage payment -- it's how much you're spending every month by commuting into town.

Let's say your car gets 20 miles a gallon.  At $3 a gallon, you're looking at about $6 a day to drive into town.  Every mile you drive on your car typically represents about 20 cents in wear & tear.  (Those oil changes, new tires & every mile put on your car depreciate your car's value, and those expenses are usually more than the cost of gasoline!)  36 miles round-trip times twenty cents is another $7.20 a day in expenses.

Last, but definitely not least, you've got the most expensive part of the equation to weigh: your time.  If you have a $40,000 job, your "on the clock" time is worth $20 an hour.  Believe it or not, your "off time" is twice as valuable as your "billable time".  If you don't buy into that logic, think about how valuable vacation time is to you, or think what you'd pay on Monday morning if you could just have a third day off.  Your "billable rate", by the way, assumes a 40-hour work week.  The more hours you work per week, the more valuable your off-time is, so $40 per hour could even be underestimating what your time is actually worth.  For the sake of this argument, however, let's just say that if you earn $40,000 per year, your time is worth $30 an hour.  By living 18 miles from work, you are spending an average of 4 extra hours per week commuting!  That's $120 per week (or $24 per day.)

When you add all 3 variables up, and consider that you commute to work an average of 22 times a month, let's see what you're spending to make that commute:

  • $6 in gas 22 times a month is $132
  • $7 in wear & tear 22 times a month is $154
  • $24 in lost time 22 times per month is $528!
  • Add it all up, and your 18 mile drive is going to cost you $814 a month!

Even if you don't value your off-time at $30 an hour, or you enjoy that drive time because you get to listen to a good book-on tape, you're still looking at $286 in car expenses every month.  Next time you find yourself grappling with the issue of whether to buy in town vs. commuting into town for a less expensive home, be sure to not to ignore the extra expenses you'll be picking up in trade for what you save in monthly mortgage payment.  Your "more expensive" home could be several hundred dollars a month LESS expensive, when you factor in all of your peripheral expenses.

This article was contributed by Automated Homefinder - your Boulder CO real estate experts.