Sunday, January 15, 2017

Salvaged Sunday: Antique Tile

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Saving wood floors, trim, doors, windows, and light fixtures may seem like the most obvious of choice when salvaging historic house parts from a historic home, but what most fail to remember are the decorative items that are worth salvaging including antique tile.

Antique Minton, Hollins, and Co. fireplace tile, circa 1880.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

The most decorative antique tile in an old home can be found as a part of the fireplace surround. For homeowners who could afford the luxury of tile, the most decorative would have been displayed in the area of the home where visitors would be entertained. In the Victorian Era and into the period leading up to WWII, this room would have been the parlor.
Backside of Minton, Hollins, and Co. fireplace tile. P
hoto by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

Tiles for the surround had a number of designs and motifs. Floral designs, animals, hunting scenes and nautical imagery were some of the most preferred. For the wealthy, uncommon designs would include handmade tiles from famous domestic studios including Rookwood, Pewabic, and Batchelder, to name a few. For those with an more worldly taste, Dutch Delft tiles, Majolica tiles from Spain, and Minton tiles of England were the preference.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Before and After: Antique Hall Seat

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Like most furniture projects that come to our shop, the most challenging projects require a lot of intervention. Whether the furniture needs repair, reproduction parts, or custom finishes, it's always fun to see how a project starts and finishes.

Hall seat with broken leg before restoration.
Image by Charles Wiesner.

This antique Renaissance Revival style hall seat walked into our shop in 22 separate pieces with several missing elements and even a broken a leg. The old wood glue that once held decorative elements into place was separating and flaking, and the entire mass of furniture had fallen to the forces of gravity.

The broken foot in two pieces before restoration.
Image by Charles Wiesner.

Parts that had broken or separated at the joints needed re-gluing, and it was evident that of the most difficult elements to repair came from the broken leg and decorative wood elements along the top of the hall seat.

Gluing the leg back together. Image by Charles Wiesner.

Gluing the elements into place with clamps.
Image by Charles Wiesner.

The broken elements were refitted, glued, and then clamped into place. The glue was left to dry over several hours to cure, and once everything was cured and in place, the hall seat was thoroughly cleaned and refinished.
Hall seat after full restoration. Image by Hannah Manning
for Materials Unlimited.

Marble slab on the restored hall seat. Image by Hannah Manning
for Materials Unlimited.

While furniture projects can be challenging, it's always great to see the before and after! This hall seat went from trash to full blown treasure.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Intro to Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian Architecture

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 - 1959) is probably America's best-known architect. His majestic buildings and innovative Prairie style pushed the boundaries of architecture and interior design for nearly seven decades. Most people familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright are also probably familiar with his most iconic buildings: Winslow House (1893); Wright's Studio (1898); the Larkin Company Administration Building (1903, demolished 1950); Robie House (completed 1910); Taliesin (1911);  Taliesin West (1937);  Fallingwater (completed 1939); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (1959).
For all the pomp and circumstance given to these well-known buildings, Wright also designed beautiful, more affordable homes for the "everyday man".

During the Great Depression, Wright developed a new style of architecture that was both design conscious and affordable. He called this type of architecture, "Usonian." Starting with the Jacobs House in 1936, Wright's Usonian architecture lacked attic spaces, basements, had minimal ornamentation, and were much smaller than previous projects. These homes were obtainable for middle-class homeowners and Wright target advertised his new designs in the Ladies Home Journal to catch the attention of women across America.

Exterior view of Smith House. Photograph by Gretchen Sawatzki

The Smith House in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan is a small Usonian home built for school teachers Melvyn Maxwell and Sarah Stein Smith around 1950. Wright designed the home to nestle within the landscape with a low profile and wide expansive windows at the rear of the home. Concrete floors, brick walls, and wide wooden planks rounded out the design. Wright even designed furniture to compliment the home that was suitable for the Smith's to entertain. Long padded benches served a dual function to provide seating for guests and storage for unsightly items.

Smith House interior. Photograph by Gretchen Sawatzki

Usonian architecture offers a glimpse into the genius mind of Frank Lloyd Wright. Not only could he design show-stopping structures of national acclaim, but also smaller, more affordable homes for the common man. Using readily available materials and approachable floorplans it is easy to understand how his versatility and ingenuity keeps him relevant nearly 60 years after his death.

  Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum
  Cranbrook Art Museum
  Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation
  Frank Lloyd Wright Trust
  Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
  Taliesin Preservation, INC
  The Wright Library

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Photo Friday: Unusual Convertible Ladder Chair

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Ever needed some extra height to reach something in the back of your kitchen cabinets? If you're short, like me, it's likely you've grabbed a chair from your dining room to get an extra boost. Standing on a chair though isn't always that helpful and getting a ladder from the garage can be an endeavor, but what if you could have it both ways?

Convertible chair in the functional
seating position. Image by Hannah
Manning for Materials Unlimited

With this contemporary replica convertible ladder chair, you can take a seat at the dining room table or use it as a ladder to reach those hard to get items. What looks like a regular Queen Anne style chair simply folds down to create the perfect step ladder. The perfect chair for those in always in need of an extra step.

Convertible chair in the step ladder
position. Image by Hannah Manning
for Materials Unlimited.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Antique Cabinets, Cupboards, and Cases

By Gretchen Sawatzki

There's a lot of "c-words" in the world of design - color, custom, coordinate, carpentry, carpet - to name a few, but none are quite as a fun as cabinets, cupboards, and cases!

A century ago consumerism was in its infancy and people owned less clothing, cookware, and chachkies (more fun "c-words"), so built-in storage was less of a necessity than it is today. Most items of the era could be stored in all types of cabinets, cupboards, or cases which today makes for some interesting antique furniture.

Antique Edwardian Cabinet image by
Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited
This antique cabinet dates to circa 1900. Made from quartersawn oak, this cabinet features two sets of double doors, drawers, and interior shelves. This types of cabinet may have been used to house blankets, tablecloths, and other large fabrics.
Eastlake Style Bookcase, image by
Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Bookcases, are one of the most popular types of cases from the recent past as they can hold any number of books or objects. This antique cherry wood bookcase circa 1875 features glass doors, small cabinet doors, and even drawers. It's likely that the original owner of this fine piece of furniture was quite wealthy as cherry wood is considered more refined wood from traditional fur or oak species. This bookcase also features locks on the drawers, where the owner could lock away items of significant value.
Victorian Era Corner Cabinet, image by
Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Found in cottages, bungalows, and middle-class Victorian Era homes across the country, corner cabinets were often used in the dining room to store and display fine china and silver used for dining. While some homes of the late 19th century featured these cabinets as built-ins, this cabinet made in 1875 would have made a statement in a home without the traditional built-in.

Industrial Era Map Case, image by Hannah Manning
for Materials Unlimited

Used to store large, flat objects, this case likely came from a library or offices from the industrial era. As post Civil War manufacturing boomed, many businesses and factories hired draftsmen to draw up maps, blueprints and specs for projects on oversized paper. The large format of paper was necessary to enlarge project details to a visible scale. Flat files or map cases were used to house these drawings.

Antique Medicine Cabinet, image by
Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Probably the most overlooked cabinet in your house, the medicine cabinet, provides a simple storage solution to those wonderfully gross hygiene products that we all use. This antique walnut Renaissance Revival style cabinet would have been the in vogue around the turn of the 20th century. With its simple, yet fashionable design, this little cabinet would have lived in the bathroom, washroom, or even a bedroom next to a washstand or sink.

Vintage Steel Case, image by
Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

More of vault than the average case, this vintage steel behemoth would have been the ideal solution to storing small valuables and records. Likely taken from an industrial property, its simple design, interior shelves, and handy castors make it functional and easy to move.

Antique Two Piece Cupboard, image by
Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Sometimes referred to a "hutch" this two piece cupboard features two glass doors and two drawers on the upper portion and two cabinet doors and two drawers on the lower half. This simple design has been popular since the Middle Ages as valuables could be displayed behind the glass doors and silver or even liquors could be locked in the cabinets below.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Amazing Fireplaces for a Warm and Cozy Home

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Tis the season to be warm, cozy, and bright. And what better way to celebrate the season than with a warm fire surrounded by a beautiful antique mantel. Whether your taste for design is simple or opulent there's mantel out there to suit your style.

Antique fireplace mantels come in all types of styles from simplistic to opulent. If charm is your aim than this antique oak half mantel might be your game.  Hearty and simple with its Art Nouveau style detail, this little beauty to warm up even the most modern of living spaces.

If heft and masculinity is your style, than this antique Edwardian oak half mantel might be the perfect mantel for you. With its beautiful carved detail and oversized shelf, this mantel is sure to add strength to your home.

For the Victorian aficionado a beautiful quartersawn oak fireplace mantel hits the traditional mark. Removed from a Victorian era home, this fireplace mantel would look great in a historic home or contemporary space.

 If you like the finer things in life, an antique Carrera marble mantel is the epitome of opulence. Delicate carvings and traditional columns, not only speak to luxury of old, but traditional, timeless design.

For the lovers of opulence that may not be into marble try antique quartersawn oak full mantel with all of the decoration and scale a lover of luxury could want.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How the Victorians Dined on Thanksgiving

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Thanksgiving has been celebrated in America since the first autumn feast was shared by the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians in 1621. Although the holiday was celebrated annually since that first feast, it wasn't until Abraham Lincoln named it an official holiday in 1863 that a simple feast was turned into a full-blown celebration.

No group knew quite how to celebrate the holiday quite like the Victorians. The Victorian Era was full of opulence in all areas of life. Women, as the ladies of the household were expected to provide a memorable holiday meal for family and friends. Entertaining for Thanksgiving meant lots of etiquette, decorations, and heavy menus. A proper Victorian could even take a cue from Harper's Bazaar magazine. In 1904, the magazine published tips and tricks along with menu options worthy of a Thanksgiving feast.

According to Harper's Bazaar the dinner should comprise of several courses and an array of tasty dishes. One suggested menu includes: oysters on the half shell, brown-bread tartines, celery, radishes, clear soup with grated cheese, fish fillets with hollandaise sauce, potato balls, cucumbers, roast turkey, sweet potatoes, turnips, cranberry jelly, and much more.

Thanksgiving Menu in Harper's Bazaar magazine circa 1904

Decorations were also important to Victorian entertainers, and Thanksgiving was the perfect excuse to paint pumpkins and bundle wheat or grass to create the perfect table centerpiece or wreath. The place settings at the table were not complete without a proper place card. Names were written in script and positioned on the table for the best possible dinner conversation. Hot mulled cider was the preferred beverage prior to dinner and was expected to be presented in perfectly pressed glass vessels.

The expectation for the Victorian Thanksgiving holiday also included the furniture in the room. The dining room was formal and very masculine with massive furniture including a sizable dining table, enough proper dining chairs for each guest, and a sideboard to display the meal. The table should be set with the finest silver and best porcelain and glassware. Cloth napkins with silver rings were all a necessity for the Victorian festivities.

If you're looking to add a touch of Victorian opulence to your holiday table this Thanksgiving check out our website for great Victorian era antiques! Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

   Harper's Bazaar Magazine