Friday, September 23, 2016

Photo Friday: Victorian Dry Sink

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Antique dry sink. Image by Hannah Manning for
Materials Unlimited

A dry sink is a functional piece of furniture that was commonly used in homes before indoor plumbing. Dry sinks come in many shapes, sizes, and designs, but often consist of a cabinet with a flat or recessed surface on top, and sometimes a backsplash on the back. The dry sink was designed to hold a basin and pitcher for hand and face washing and could be found in kitchens, bathrooms, and even on the back porch of farmhouses around the world.

Today, dry sinks are often retrofitted to be used as functioning sinks in kitchens and bathrooms.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Intro to Art Deco

By Gretchen Sawatzki

The Art Deco style has epitomized what it means to be modern since its inception around the turn of the 20th century. The first solid design movement that broke the revivalist tradition of the same period, Art Deco dominating the market in the post-WWI world. While Gothic Revival, Renaissance Revival, and many other "revival styles" were prevalent during the same period, the Art Deco style turned the design world on its head offering new design motifs that were inspired by the modern world, removing itself from past design motifs and styles.

Art Deco style wall sconce circa 1930.
Image by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

While popular after WWI, the Art Deco style hit its peak at the 1925 Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs Industriels et Modernes held in Paris. The exposition hosted nearly 16 million visitors over its 7 month run and was intended to promote French superiority in luxury goods. The exposition featured everything from furniture to fashions, perfumes, and more all aimed at wowing the international market.

Art Deco interior from Jacques Doucet's hôtel particulier staircase,
33 rue Saint-James, Neuilly-sur-Seine, 1929 photograph
 Pierre Legrain (1889 - 1929) (The Red List) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Art Deco style proliferated through the 1930s and continued in rural America to dominate design into the post-WWII era. Many credit the Art Deco design movement as the catalyst for modern design as we know it.

The Art Deco style is characterized by:
              - Geometric lines
              - Delicate proportions
              - Modern materials
              - Clean, not cluttered lines

              Buffalo Architecture and History
              The Metropolitan Museum of Art
              Victoria and Albert Museum

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Brief History of the Morris Chair

By Gretchen Sawatzki

An early version of the Morris chair
produced by William Morris and Company.
Image credit
The Morris chair has been popular since the late 19th
century and can still be found in a variety of forms at furniture retailers even today. But what made it so popular?

The design for the Morris chair originated in Essex, England in the 1860s when a carpenter, Ephraim Colman devised a plan to build a chair with an adjustable, reclining back. His idea was drawn up by Warrington Taylor and quickly adapted for production by William Morris and Company. This may not seem very revolutionary by today's standard, but for the Victorian Period this idea strayed from the traditionally uncomfortable, rigid furniture of the era, making it wildly popular.

The first Morris chairs reflected the Victorian taste for fancy frills with turned legs and spindles, and luxurious decorative textiles. The chair also featured thick, comfortable cushions for the back and the seat, which wasn't commonplace for the time. To recline, the user simply had to lift the arms up and push back to lock the chair into a reclining position.

By the early 1900s Gustav Stickley began producing his version of the Morris chair in America, which today is the chair's most iconic form. The Stickley Morris chair was a simplified iteration of the traditional form, with a rectilinear shape, flat angled arms, thick leather cushions, and of course the reclining back. Today, the Stickley Morris chair can be seen in traditional Craftsman style houses to modern luxury lofts and everywhere in between.

The iconic Morris chair by Gustav Stickley
 ca. 1902-1904. Image credit

Since its inception in the 1860s the Morris chair has pushed the meaning of comfort making it one of the most widely loved and produced pieces of furniture in the modern era. Morris chairs are still manufactured in many forms today including those without a reclining back. Strange, since reclining was the chair's original purpose. Over the decades this chair design has remained a favorite among chair enthusiasts, designers, and homeowners alike.

  Arts and Crafts Homes
  Digital Library for Decorative Arts and Material Culture
  New York Times
  PBS: Antiques Roadshow
  Popular Woodworking Magazine
  Scarborough Marsh Fine Furniture
  Victorian Web
  Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Before and After: Two-Tier Table

By Gretchen Sawatzki

When damaged, vintage furniture arrives in our shop it's often hard to imagine what it will like after it has been cleaned up and restored. The results can sometimes be shocking, even to us!

Table after a light sanding. Image by Charles Wiesner.

When this vintage two-tier table arrived the veneer was damaged and the top tier was in terrible condition. The feet were broken and the feet caps were missing.

Table with the top tier removed. Image by Charles Wiesner
Adding new veneer to the top tier. Image by Charles Wiesner

The first thing that needed to be addressed was the top tier. After removing it from the shaft of the table, our restoration specialist used the existing top tier to recreate a new one.  After sanding it down, new wood veneer was applied using a good-quality glue.

Repaired foot. Image by Charles Wiesner

Next, the feet needed to be addressed. By recreating missing elements using the same species of wood, gluing it into place, filling in the joints, and sanding, our restoration specialist was able to achieve a seamless look.

Gluing the edge trim into place. Image by Charles Wiesner

After applying the first coat of stain, our specialist attached newly recreated, pre-stained edge trim using glue, finishing nails, and clamps to hold them in place. By tracing the perimeter of the second tier and using a routing saw, our specialist was able to design custom trim for the bottom tier.

The second coat of stain. Image by Charles Wiesner

Once both tiers had been repaired with trim and veneer and reattached to center shaft, the table was lightly sanded, stained, and lacquered completing the before and after transformation!

The finished restoration. Image by Charles Wiesner

Industrial Interior Design 101

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Industrial interior design is defined by the raw exposure of a building's inner-workings. Pipes, ventilation ducts, wood beams, concrete, and brick typify this design trend. For those bold enough to live in vast, echoing spaces among hard, dark surfaces, industrial design can be a creative cathartic outlet. For those who enjoy cozier, more cushy living, this trend can seem a bit cold and imposing.

Image Credit, Impressive Interior Design

If you like industrial interior design, but not sure if you can pull it off? Don't fret, because industrial interior design has a lot to offer. Not only can marry two design aesthetics seamlessly, it can also be applied to just about any living space. Furniture is the easiest way to add a touch of industrial interest to any living space.
Antique hardwood cabinets are great way to add industrial
warmth to any space
Image by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Antique industrial cabinets are an easy way to add a touch of industrial flare to any room. Look for something made of hardwood that can blend easily with existing furnishings. Wood cabinets are also a great way to inject warmth to an otherwise cold design style.

Industrial carts make the perfect coffee table
Image by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Get your hands on an interesting industrial cart. By positioning this as a coffee table in your living room, you can add interest to the room while also providing a functional place to put your cup of joe.

A repurposed industrial item makes a great light fixture
Image by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Repurposing something old into a funky light fixture is not only fun, but also a great way to get bare metal or even wood to look chic. The light fixture pictured here was crafted out of an old metal chimney sweep!

Experiment with found industrial objects and
find a new, unexpected, and fun way to reuse it
Image by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Don't be afraid to break the rules! Using found industrial objects is a creative way to express your love for the design trend without committing to a room entirely to the style.

Industrial interior design may seem like a cold, harsh trend, but with a little imagination and willingness to break the rules, even those who love comfy living can inject a bit of industrial interest into their favorite spaces.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Detroit's Mythical Mayan-Themed Fisher Theatre

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Affectionately called, "Detroit's largest art object," the Fisher Building has drawn architecture fanatics to its doors since 1928. Built by Frederick and Charles Fisher (a.k.a. the "Fisher Brothers" founders of the Fisher Body Company in 1908),  this monumental structure was to rival the planned Rockefeller Center in New York. The Fisher Brothers hired Detroit-based architect Albert Kahn to design the structure. Kahn was given a budget of $35 million dollars to build a majestic building worthy of the Detroit skyline, sparing no expense. While Kahn preferred to stay on budget, he selected over 40 different types of marble for the lobby, over 400 tons of bronze for decoration, and sub-contracted artists including Hungarian artist Geza Maroti to design frescoes, and other designers for the creation of a 4,000 seat Mayan-themed theater.

Interior of the original "Mayan Theatre."
Image credit, Andrew Schneider, Curbed Detroit
The Fisher Theatre was the crown jewel to an already breathtaking building. Designed by Chicago-based architects Anker S. Graven and Arthur G. Mayger, the design for the theatre was selected by Kahn through competition. Graven and Mayger wanted to design something different from popular design trends of the time and embraced the motifs of ancient Mayan culture for their theatre. Their unique, over-the-top design was meant to invite a sense of wonder and enjoyment for theatre-goers which included gold and ivory accents, banana trees, and even macaws to greet guests in the lobby.

Fisher Theatre post-renovation. Image credit
By 1961, the charm of the Mayan-themed theatre seemed to wane as the space age ushered in streamline, futuristic, and minimalist designs, ultimately leading to the theatre's remodel that removed the original Mayan motifs.

For many Detroiters, the "Mayan Theatre" as it has often been called, has lived on as a sort of urban legend. While many locals have heard stories of the theatre's past life, it's hard to believe that a Mayan Temple once graced the corner of Second Avenue and Grand Boulevard. And, if belief wasn't enough, until only recently have few photographs survived showing the theatre's former glory.

Thank goodness for writer/contributor Andrew Schneider of Curbed Detroit, an online blog dedicated to sharing the stories of Detroit's homes, neighborhoods, and architecture. Schneider recently stumbled upon a series of original photographs of the Fisher Theatre shortly after its completion in the basement of a Chicagoland home. His find of 32 photographs show the true beauty of the so-called, "Mayan Theatre." These photographs are a rare look at the Graven and Mayger theatre that so many of us locals have tried to get our hands on for years - proving that this urban legend really did exist in the heart of The D.

View of the 4,000 seat "Mayan Theatre." Image credit, Andrew Schneider, Curbed Detroit

      Curbed Detroit
      Detroit Free Press
      Wikipedia: National Register of Historic Places Listings in Detroit

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Our Bronze, Silver, and Gold Picks for Antique Lighting, Furniture, and Stained Glass

By Gretchen Sawatzki

In the spirit of the 2016 Summer Olympic games it only seemed fitting to present our bronze, silver, and gold picks for antique lighting, furniture, and stained glass categories. These Olympic-sized picks demonstrate the best in quality, manufacture, and design.

Our bronze antique lighting pick has it all, from its Beaux Arts design aesthetic, crisp brass casting, and decorative elements to its antique hand-blown shades. This light fixture from the early 1900s is well-deserving of its bronze medal status.

Our silver antique lighting pick is a big contender, with it's egg and dart pattern, cartouches, and antique gold aurene shades, it's hard to imagine that this light fixture didn't meet our gold standard.

And, finally our gold medal goes to this beautiful wrought and hammered bronze antique light fixture from none other than Tiffany! With over 50 stained glass pieces per panel, this small fixture packs a design punch worthy of gold.

The bronze winner in the antique furniture category goes to this antique Tudor style marble side table. Although petite in size, this table offers beautifully detailed carvings and a exquisite octagonal shape as stately as bronze itself.

Our silver antique furniture pick is as unique as it is hearty. With its solid rectilinear design and original leather upholstery, this armchair is a stunning and formidable contender that works hard for its silver medal status.

Lastly, our gold medal winner: our antique Chinese altar from 1850 is a beast of beauty and style. From its polychromed surface details to strong stance, this pick deserves nothing short of gold!

The stained glass winners demonstrate some of the best in the world, even our bronze pick. This beveled, stained, and jeweled glass beauty shows grace in form and execution.

The angelic imagery and gorgeous glow of our silver medalist combines color and artistry to create a one-of-a-kind antique stained glass window meant for grandeur.

And, finally the winner of the gold medal in our stained glass window category goes to the oversized painted and fired stained glass window depicting the wedding of Henry V of England and Catherine de Valois of France. This window symbolizes the coming together of two nations and signs of good will - all amazing qualities that embody the spirit of gold!

For more Olympic-sized picks check out our Pinterest boards.