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

Friday, November 11, 2016

Photo Friday: Antique Butter Churn

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Manufactured in around 1860, this antique butter churn was likely used by a farming family of the same era. Farmers would add cream to vessel and churn the liquid until the cream curdled into butter. A simple design with its long handle and ceramic vessel, this very basic design hasn't changed much over the centuries of butter production, which was typically considered as women's work.

While still a functioning vessel in its own right, today most antique butter churns are used solely for decoration. Like many farming implements, this butter churn would make a great decorative addition to any country style home.

For more on antique farming accessories check out

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Before and After: Antique Full Mantel

By Gretchen Sawatzki

At our shop, we do a lot of furniture restoration projects of all shapes and sizes so when large projects walk through our doors we are ready for the restoration long-haul. When an 8-foot 3-inch antique Renaissance Revival style full mantel monster arrived in a pile of parts at our shop we discovered we had quite the challenge at hand!

Antique full mantel parts and mirror upon arrival at our shop.
Image by Charles Wiesner.
First the mantel parts were sorted to determine what existed and what did not. Several parts arrived completely intact including the mantel mirror and lower mantel piece. The upper cabinets along with the overmantel, columns, and carved details suffered from minor damage and missing elements which required intervention.

Mantel before restoration. Image by Charles Wiesner.

The mantel piece arrived in great condition with a few missing wooden elements around the lower blocks. The wood had a heavy stain and years of dirt and grime, so much so that it was hard to initially identify the species of wood.

Mantel cabinet before restoration. Image by Charles Wiesner.
The cabinets were stained on the exterior and painted white on the interior. The glass doors had been removed, and the cabinets had missing wooden elements, nicks, scratches, and stains. The remainder of the overmantel suffered from dozens of lost carved elements.

Stripping the mantel of its original finish. Image by Charles Wiesner.
After discovering what were working with we started the restoration process by stripping all of the existing wooden elements of their heavy stain. It was only after stripping the wood that we discovered that the mantel was made of oak.

Upper cabinets after the finish had been stripped. Image by Charles Wiesner.
After all of the parts were stripped of their finish, a number of molding and carved elements required re-gluing. The cabinets suffered several losses and required about two dozen elements be custom made to replicate what was missing.

Mantel reassembled, minus the mirror. Image by Charles Wiesner.
Once all of the elements were re-glued and tacked into place, the mantel parts were sanded and carefully reassembled. After 30 hours of work, the mantel is now standing in its raw wood form ready for a new stained finish.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Photo Friday: Arts and Crafts Style Wall Sconce

By Gretchen Sawatzki

The Arts and Crafts Movement of the late 20th century challenged the norm that was Victorian Era design. As early as 1860, designers, architects, and artists moved away from the ornate details and homes no longer exhibited unnecessary decoration. Mass-production of all goods also gave away to handcrafted items by skilled craftsman including furniture makers, builders, metal smiths, and glass artisans.

This antique Arts and Crafts Era wall sconce embodies the move to simplicity. Made from copper and stained glass panels this lantern style wall sconce is both beautiful and practical. It's rectilinear shape and clean lines make this sconce not only antique to be treasured, but also a gem that could be installed in any modern home.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Brief History of Glass Windows

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Glass has been made in many forms for about 4500 years, but the first "glass window" (as we would describe them today) was likely created during the Roman Era. "Broadsheet glass" as it is called by historians today, was manufactured by blowing an elongated balloon of glass, and cutting the ends off to create a glass cylinder. The cylinder was split, unrolled, and flattened on a hot iron surface to create flat sheets of glass. This method produced small, cloudy plates that were leaded together to create large-scale windows or placed into wooden frames to let light into buildings.

Artisan making crown glass; image credit

By the 17th century, window production methods in Europe and the US Colonies changed to blown glass plates. An artist would blow molten glass into a balloon, cut the end opposite the blowing rod, and spin the glass to create a large, flat, and round window. This type of glass was called "crown glass" and it allowed for the creation of larger windows. Crown glass could be installed as a larger window or cut into smaller rectangular lights.

Interior view, detail of transom to highlight crown glass, with scale - Graeme Park, 859 County Line Road, Horsham, Montgomery County, PA HABS PA, 46-HORM; Jack Boucher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As the technology for creating larger panes of glass became easier, demands for larger windows increased and architectural designs pushed the limits of what glass artisans could do. The Federal Style of architecture, the popular style of time, utilized the larger panes of glass to create fanlights and Palladian windows.
Interior view, first floor, center room, view to door with fanlight above, with scale -
National Park Seminary , Colonial House, 2745 Dewitt Circle , Silver Spring,
Montgomery HABS MD, 16- SILSPR, 2L-17; Jack Boucher [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
By the 1800s, improved cylinder glass techniques were developed in Germany, similar to the historic process for making broadsheet glass that could manufacture larger, and clearer glass sheets. By the late 1800s machine rolled glass mass-manufactured all types of glass included textured panels.

By the turn of the 20th century, laminated glass soon followed, which allowed for two panes of glass to be stacked together with a thin plastic sheet in between making the glass less susceptible to breaking. And, in the early 1950s the creation of float glass by Sir Alastair Pilkington in England became the preferred method of glass manufacturing. Float glass manufacturing fires glass at temperatures over 1000 degrees Celsius and floats ribbons of glass over molten tin spreading it thin and cooling it slowly to the desired thickness and size. 

By the mid 20th century, glass manufacturers could produce glass panes the size of walls which again changed the architectural landscape. Modern architecture of the 1950s and 1960s utilized the huge panes of glass to open up spaces within the home to the outside world. Finished in 1951, the Farnsworth House of Plano, Illinois designed by Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe demonstrates the open concept and capabilities of modern glass manufacturing.

Farnsworth House. Carol M. Highsmith [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Today, float glass can be produced as thin as 0.4 mm and glass can be produced in any number of colors, textures, and sizes.