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September 2008

Voysey's clocks: miscellany

After Wednesday's post, I've been reading a lot about Voysey and his clocks.

He didn't design all that many, but many contemporary designers - and several contemporary to Voysey - have built clocks in his style. Here are a few originals & paeans to them:

looking for show homes

Do you have a beautiful Craftsman home in Connecticut, Westchester, Palm Beach or the Hamptons that you'd like to show off in an Architectural Digest style magazine story in large regional & national magazines? If so, please contact me no later than Noon on September 4, 2008, and I'll put you in touch with a journalist who wants to talk to you.

Christopher Vickers & CFA Voysey

Wallpaper_advert I first encountered Christopher Vickers' work when a friend showed me photos of a clock he built (he's also reproduced another famous Voysey clock with which you may be more familiar). Based on C. F. A. Voysey's original plans, the clock is built from 7,000-year-old bog oak, and is inlaid with (faux) ivory. The original was built by Voysey in 1921 for a client - the same one for whom Voysey designed the beautiful Holly Mount in Beaconsfield. Voysey was known for his clocks, of course; apparently, he loved the confluence of lettering, machine, and furniture that these tiny and complicated objects represented.

Vickers is a scholar of all things Voysey, and 20th-century British design in general, with quite a bit of background on this great and often overlooked designer / artist / architect on his website; my own love of Voysey's work springs mainly from my interest in typography and Voysey's wonderful and expressive hand-lettering (see the wallpaper advertisement here, taken from Mr. Vickers' site) - so seeing Vickers' exceptional work, and through it his obvious love for the combined subtlety and detail that I've always appreciated in Voysey, really impressed and resonated with me.

My favorite piece of Voysey-designed furniture in Vickers collection is this replica dining chair with arms, originally designed in 1902. Vickers' reproduction sells for £1850, and appears to be completely true to the original.

Other impressive bits of Mr. Vickers' work include unique items of Arts & Crafts lighting; a number of beautiful and useful chests in a variety of sizes and configurations; beautiful and sturdy tables, including some based on Voysey designs for Hollymount and other homes; inlaid wooden boxes; cabinetry and shelving, including several that feature hardware hand-forged by Vickers; and a number of pieces of metalwork, produced in the Gimson-Cotswold tradition in just the way we like it: "by hammer & hand."

Vickers' work is art and craft, and some of the finest contemporary A&C furniture I've seen. If you're interested, you can see pieces on display from September 10 to 24 at the 2nd annual Arts & Crafts Exhibition in Gloucestershire's Prinknash Abbey Park; from September 13 to 28, you can actually visit his workshop in Frome, as it will be open to the public during Somerset Art Weeks. His work will also be included in the Ernest Gimson and the Arts & Crafts Movement exhibit in Leicester, November 8 2008 through March 1 2009.

good deals from Craigslist, 08.08

A few well-priced deals on Craigslist:

  • secretary / desk in Pensacola FL: $275
  • library table with interesting legs in Austin TX: $150
  • qs oak rocker in Seattle WA: $75
  • attractive desk in Boston MA: $200
  • wood & glass panel interior door in Columbus OH: $40
  • set of 6 side chairs in St. Louis MO: $400
  • long bench in Honokaa HI: $500
  • sideboard with mirror in Minneapolis MN: $350
  • attractive desk in Monmouth OR: $500
  • faux-antiqued large china cabinet in St. Paul MN: $700
  • similar to above in Sacramento CA: $400
  • short armoire in Minneapolis MN: $200
  • display / china cabinet in Sunnyvale CA: $159
  • unique oak armchair in Seattle: $220
  • long & tall bench from salvaged oak in Detroit: $659
  • 300 sq ft salvaged top-nail oak flooring in Portland OR: $350

Greene & Greene reproduction dining set: $16,700

Originally designed for Greene & Greene's Robinson House (original plans, including drawings for this table), the table this particular item was patterned after resides in Pasadena. However, a duplicate - made by master craftsman Jim Ipekjian (who is responsible for much of the recent repair work at the Blacker House) - is for sale (along with 4 leaves; it seats up to 16, altogether; the price also includes 6 high-backed Mission chairs and 2 armchairs).

Check out the listing on Craigslist, or contact the seller in Altadena, CA.

house detectives & a beautiful Craftsman kitchen nook

20080816__diy5_gallery An article by Holly Hayes in last week's San Jose Mercury News caught my eye, mostly for the photo of the very pretty period breakfast nook (photo by David M. Barreda):

"The stuff you find out about houses — and the people who lived in them — is just fascinating," Tucker says. She has mined the Internet for old maps and phone directories and even tracked down relatives of a former resident to gather clues about what the place looked like before several "improvements" were made.

Tucker calls the process "backdating," finding the home's true self, if you will.

The latest project involves the back door and a cute little breakfast nook — a feature they were nearly certain was once there. Indeed, they were right. When they found the great-niece of longtime owner May Duignan, she recalled snacking on tea and cookies there.

Tucker says the nook — a built-in that sat under two windows on the back wall of the kitchen — was removed when a former owner turned a service porch into a second bathroom and rerouted the back door through the kitchen.

The new back door was a problem for both historical and practical reasons.

"The French doors that had been installed in the kitchen were just not correct to the period of the house," Tucker says of the circa 1922 bungalow. "Plus, they let in too much light and heat in the summer and too much cold in the winter."

Out they went, and in their place is a single window and a wide back door, both which still allow views to the back garden.

Losing the French doors also cleared the way for the construction of the new breakfast nook, which Tucker and Zappe designed. Paul Davis, who Tucker describes as a "wizard with wood," built it. Davis, who is now studying architecture in San Diego, is the skilled handyman responsible for carrying out the couple's ambitious projects.

check out the full article

ethical home sales: the hunger house

Over at, Rusty Dornin has this wonderful story of a house sale where the needs of the many truly were put ahead those of the individual:

One day while driving with her father, Hannah Salwen noticed a Mercedes stopped next to a homeless man sitting on the curb.

"I said to my dad, 'If that guy didn't have such a nice car, then that guy could have a nice meal,' " the 15-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, recalled.   And so began the tale of what the Salwen family calls "Hannah's Lunchbox."

It started as family discussions about what they needed versus what was enough. Hannah's father Kevin, an entrepreneur, is on the board of the Atlanta Habitat for Humanity and is no stranger to community work, but he said this family conversation was life-changing.

"We stopped and paused and thought about what are the things in the world that could really make a difference, a little bit of difference in the world," he said.

They talked about selling their cars or other things, but it was Hannah's mother, Joan, who came up with selling their 6,500-square-foot house, donating half the proceeds and then moving into a house half the size.

I guess it takes kids, sometimes, to get us to put our greed and preoccupation with wealth into perspective! read the whole story

decor for the Arts & Crafts garden

Old House Journal has a nice short article by Clare Martin on how to furnish or accessorize your traditional A&C garden - she covers arbors and fencing, gates, fountains, benches and more:

If there's one overarching goal that all gardens of the Arts & Crafts movement sought, it was to blend in. Proponents of Arts & Crafts garden design wanted their landscapes to connect not only with the homes they were attached to, but also with their natural surroundings. The use of native plants and wildflowers, along with uncomplicated layouts, helped achieve this ideal.

Ornamentation also had its place in the Arts & Crafts garden, albeit in very subtle form. When looking for products to embellish your own garden, simplicity should be the name of the game. Forget ornate iron benches, elaborate trellises, and fancy ornamental planters. In the Arts & Crafts garden, as in the homes from the era, clean lines and unfussy patterns reign supreme.

the Greene & Greene-ing of America

This past week's Arroyo Monthly, a free publication mailed mostly to homeowners in Pasadena, California, includes the following article by Michael Cervin on the increased popularity of Greene & Greene not just in Southern California but nationwide:

Architects Charles and Henry Greene are known around the world for their striking Arts and Crafts homes, which so thoroughly punctuate the Southern California landscape. It's perhaps ironic then that the late Henry Greene's own home, the one he initially built for his mother-in-law, was razed in 1968 and is now a parking structure. Charles Greene's home on Arroyo Terrace still stands. Thus fared the personal residences of the architects whose names are more closely associated with Pasadena than those of any of their peers. The brothers built 75 structures in the Crown City during their career, mainly custom residences, of which nearly 40 are still standing.

“Other architects have enjoyed more famous careers,” noted Edward Bosley, James N. Gamble Director of the Gamble House. “Others have produced more buildings. Still others have earned more notoriety for progressive designs that advanced the discipline of architecture. But no other architects have left us with a more glowing legacy of beauty, craft, livability and spirit than Charles and Henry Greene.”

British architecture critic Reyner Banham, quoted in a book by former Gamble House curator Randell Makinson, said that Greene & Greene residences looked completely in their element in Southern California, “and especially so in Pasadena – that it's often difficult to conceive of them as part of any nationwide, let alone worldwide, movement. They seem so specific to that Arroyo Culture of which they are the chief ornaments and the true treasure-houses.”

Though the term “bungalow” is associated with the Greenes, most of their best-known homes are not true bungalows, which were conceived in India as modest one-story structures. Certainly the Greenes started out designing homes for the common man. The Architectural Record referred to their work in a 1906 essay: “The houses are largely successful because they so frankly meet economic, domestic and practical conditions. Their chief characteristics are their lowness, big overhanging roofs, their shingled walls and the absence of architectural ornament.”

read the full article on the Arroyo Monthly site

radioactive granite countertops, scare tactics & lazy journalism

Various stories on radioactivity being found in granite countertops have popped up in various places over the past several weeks, most of them pushed very strongly by a specific advocacy group (a group that lobbies on behalf of synthetic countertop makers). There's not a lot beyond the scare tactics of the story, so I don't think there's any reason to pull out your granite; that said, some scientists have gone on the record as saying there are rare cases of significantly radioactive countertops, so it is something to think about.

“It’s not that all granite is dangerous,” said Stanley Liebert, the quality assurance director at CMT Laboratories in Clifton Park, N.Y., “But I’ve seen a few that might heat up your Cheerios a little.”

The E.P.A. recommends taking action if radon gas levels in the home exceeds 4 picocuries per liter of air (a measure of radioactive emission); about the same risk for cancer as smoking a half a pack of cigarettes per day; a few granite countertops exceed this, but not many. But others, like Lou Witt of the EPA, say “There is no known safe level of radon or radiation.” Moreover, he said, scientists agree that “any exposure increases your health risk.” New York Times                               

Of course, completely secondary to the radioactivity issue, Granite is not an environmentally sound choice for countertops: the mining is incredibly devastating, it's often shipped around the world for processing and cutting, and it is - obviously - completely non-renewable. The fact that it may outgas radioactive substances and contain radioactive ores is now something else to worry about, or maybe Mother Nature's revenge for being assaulted.

Thanks to Treehugger for digging a bit deeper (at least, deeper than the New York Times or anyone else had bothered to).