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December 2008

Steven Handelman, iron artist & craftsman

Steven Handelman, a Santa Barbara-based metalworker, has been making beautiful custom early 20th-century chandeliers, lanterns, sconces, firescreens and other decorative iron since 1973. His work is as beautiful as it is well-designed and well-crafted, and can be seen at the homes and businesses of clients all over California (and the rest of the country).

What really makes Steven & Co's work stand out is not just the high quality of the pieces, but the influences: where some craftspeople are content to concentrate on a single historical or geographic area or style, Handelman's influences range from the Mission Revival to early English designs and, in much of his  recent work, plenty of north African / Moroccan detail. Santa Barbara's beautiful Granada Theater, recently reopened after a long restoration project, is a great example of this; Handelman supervised his staff's recreation of more than 250 individual fixtures for this long project, which finished with the reopening of the theater this past February.

Should you be in the area, certainly stop & visit their showroom.


five common areas where black mold may be hiding

Our good friend and regular contributor Joel McDonald sends in the following:

Black mold can be hazardous to your health. The worst part about it is that it could be growing in your home without you even knowing it. That's because it grows in some unnoticeable places. The important thing is to find it before it gets out of control so you can stop it from spreading. Here are the five most common places where black mold tends to grow within a home so you can do some investigating for yourself.

Wallpaper
Your wallpaper could possibly be a breeding ground for black mold spores. Many types of wallpaper glue tend to attract organic materials and dust particles that feed black mold and help it spread.

Ceilings
A home's ceiling could have a large amount of black mold as a result of moisture or a leaky roof. If this goes unchecked, you could have a huge area of black mold in your ceiling that continues to grow. Check your ceiling and roof periodically for leaks or water damage. If you see either one, look around for mold immediately to stop it before it spreads.

Basement
Most basements are damp. That's just their nature because of where they are. That's why it's common to find black mold in your basement. Mold can grow on wooden materials in your basement. In addition to causing health problems, this can also weaken the structure and of your home and reduce its stability.

Drywall
Since mold often grows within your home's walls, drywall is a great place to start looking for it. Drywall that has experienced moisture or dampness is subject to mold. The mold can also spread rather quickly along the drywall. You can usually see this by noticing if the paint on the drywall cracks or peels. If you find a piece of drywall with mold on it, the only way to fix the problem is replace all affected parts of the drywall with new pieces.

Window Frames
The area around your windows is a major place to find growing mold. Since cold and warm air meet here and there is often moisture surrounding the windows, mold can grow exponentially in these areas. Unfortunately, there's no easy way to inspect your window frames for toxic black mold. You essentially need to look within the seal to see if anything is growing. If your windows are drafty, it may be smart to get them replaced. This can prevent the growth of future mold, and help lower your energy bills. Consult a professional like Roofs By Rodger for all of your window needs.

Black mold isn't something to take lightly. For some, it can cause allergic reactions, asthma, skin rashes and even lung inflammation. Others have reported experiencing fever and wheezing as a result of living with black mold. That's why it's so important to catch it before it spreads too far. Just keep an eye on the moisture in your home and black mold shouldn't be a problem for you.

Content provided by Automated Homefinder, the Colorado Castle Rock real estate professionals.


dealing with incompetent contractors

This blogger had a pretty mediocre experience (and I use the word "mediocre" very generously) with a housepainter, who did a shoddy job and then never showed up to finish it, so in the end it was not just shoddy but half-assed as well. How would you handle this situation? And have you ever had a similar problem with a contractor who dropped the ball or signed on for far more than they were capable of delivering?


Sacramento's Cranston-Geary house

Sacramento Craftsman home

This past Wednesday, I mentioned Sacramento's Cranston-Geary House in passing. An enormous, beautiful, and somewhat unorthodox Craftsman home just a few blocks from my house, it's one of Sacramento's large number of National Register of Historic Places structures and is, from what I've heard, completely restored to its original luster inside and out. I wouldn't mind taking a peek inside and posting a photo gallery here, if I can get around to contacting the owners.

Interesting fact: the architect, George C. Sellon, was California's first state architect - as well as the designer of San Quentin Prison. Thanks to Sacramento Historic House for that tidbit!


Thonet Model 14

Thonetmodel14 There's a wonderful article in the November 7 International Herald Tribune on the Thonet Model 14 (aka the "Thonet Bentwood Chair"), which might be the world's most popular model of chair. You might never have seen this six-piece wonder, but one glance and you'll know you've sat in dozens of them:

The No.14 was the result of years of technical experiments by its inventor, the 19th-century German-born cabinetmaker Michael Thonet. His ambition was characteristically bold. Thonet wanted to produce the first mass-manufactured chair, which would be sold at an affordable price (three florins, slightly less than a bottle of wine). Many of his rivals had tried to make similar chairs, but failed and, at first, Thonet seemed doomed to failure too. When his German workshop was seized by creditors in 1842, he moved his family to Austria and opened a workshop in Vienna, determined to try again.

Eventually Thonet succeeded. When the No.14 was launched in 1859, it was the first piece of furniture to be both attractive and inexpensive enough to appeal to everyone from aristocrats to schoolteachers. By 1930, some 50 million No.14s had been sold, and millions more have been snapped up since then. Brahms sat on one to play his piano, as did Lenin while writing his political tracts, and millions of us have perched comfortably on them in caf├ęs. Another admirer was the modernist pioneer Le Corbusier. "Never was a better and more elegant design and a more precisely crafted and practical item created," he enthused.


Sacramento Historic House

Tracy Doolittle lives here in Sacramento and is just as much a fan of our beautiful old houses as I am. For $300, she'll do very extensive history on your home, finding out a timeline (and biographical highlights) of its past owners & residents, a permit history, the original property or historic neighborhood map, and other information - including, sometimes, historic photographs. She has also written a how-to article if you'd like to attempt this yourself.

A useful service, certainly. Tracy also has a website, Sacramento Historic House, which profiles several representative properties (including the beautiful and enormous Cranston-Geary house, in whose listing she gives a shout-out to us). Several of the most impressive Victorians are already listed, and it looks like she's adding new structures all the time. There's a blog, too, with many recent entries focusing on the historic homes and castles she encountered on a recent trip to London.