Thursday, April 13, 2017

Featured Product: Hunzinger Game Table

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Furniture of the Victorian era has always been considered some of the most decorative furniture ever manufactured, and in a time of mechanization, decorative furniture of this period has become ubiquitous.  In 1855, German immigrant and furniture maker George Jacob Hunzinger (1835-1898) began making furniture in New York City to the same tune as other furniture makers of the same era, but while he produced heavily decorative pieces, he became known for his innovative Renaissance Revival style furniture.

Armchair By George J. Hunzinger (Brooklyn Museum)
[No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Drawing from period-style furnishings of the past and inspired by mechanization of his present, Hunzinger's innovations today could be considered its own category of furniture. By 1899, Hunzinger and his family had amassed some 20 patents including one for re-engineering the reclining chair among other original designs.

Hunzinger "lollipop rocker" image credit

Today, Hunzinger is best-known for his lollipop designs that use concentric circular carvings as the focus of decoration. Other popular furniture pieces include his innovative flip-top game tables that featured decorative inlay on one side of the table top and a gaming surface on the other, and a variety decorative chairs. To view more furniture by Hunzinger visit the Brooklyn Museum's online catalog for a wide array of Hunzinger chairs in their museum collection or check out our video of a Hunzinger game table patented 1893.

Video by Materials Unlimited

  Brooklyn Museum
  Collectors Weekly
  George Hunzinger Furniture Blog
  Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Architectural Salvage from Historic Detroit Buildings

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Like most cities, Detroit, Michigan's skyline is changing rapidly, and as the city recovers from its bankruptcy, investment in the downtown city center has inspired a change of the landscape. With that change, historic buildings are adapted for new use or replaced, and building parts are salvaged. We recently acquired a few building parts from three historic Detroit buildings that are now available for purchase at our shop.

Detroit's J.L. Hudson's department store opened in 1911 at Woodward and Gratiot Avenues standing at a whopping 410 feet tall, it was the tallest department store in the country. Designed by architects Smith, Hinchman & Grylis, the store was a Goliath seconded only by Macy's Department Store in New York City. Its design took elements from the Neoclassical style including its cornice and finials.

J.L. Hudson's Department Store finial circa 1911.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

The J.L. Hudson's store was closed in 1983 and was demolished in 1998, but not before these gorgeous cast iron finials were salvaged.

Old Main Wayne State University, Detroit photo credit

Constructed between 1894 - 1896, Old Main was originally built as Detroit's Central High School. Made of brick and limestone harvested from the land it sits on, the building contained 103 rooms with space for nearly 2,000 students. The high school began offering college level classes in 1917, and in 1923 the building was formally integrated into the College of the City of Detroit, the precursor of Wayne State University.

Mirrored medallion, photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Old Main takes from Neoclassical design with symmetry and acanthus leaf motifs. The mirrored medallion above is an existing element from the original interior of the building. Old Main still stands today in Midtown Detroit as a recognizable symbol of Wayne State University.

Cass Tech High School, Detroit, photo credit
Built in 1917 the Cass Technical High School building was place where students could learn with their hands. The school provided industrial and commercial training to prepare students for a career in a Detroit factory. This school was ahead of its time providing a focus on job training rather than arithmetic and writing.

Bronze clock from Cass Tech High School.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

The school was built with Gothic details, barrel vaulted ceilings, and marble floors. Brick and limestone comprised the "shell" of the building. The building was demolished in 2011 and replaced by a modern facility. Today, items salvaged from the 1917 building include this bronze Neo-Gothic/Beaux Arts wall clock.

For more information about these salvaged Detroit items or visit our shop or website!

   Wayne State University College of Fine, Performing, and Communication Arts

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Before and After: Antique Mahogany Hall Mirror

By Gretchen Sawatzki

About a month ago, a customer walked into our shop and presented our restoration specialist with a challenge - to strip and refinish a stunning antique mahogany hall mirror circa 1910. The hall mirror consisted of two parts, an independent wall-mounted mirror and seating pedestal below.

Upper wall-mounted mirror stripped of "plastic" finish.
Photo by Charles Wiesner.

When the hall mirror arrived, the finish was dull and plasticized. It was clear that the wood was in need of some love. First, we removed the mirrored glass from the wall-mounted mirror and discovered a maker's mark on the reverse of the mirror. The mirror was stamped with a patent date of March 31, 1887.

Maker's mark on reverse of the mirror.
Photo by Charles Wiesner. 

Next, we stripped the wood finish in a multi-stage process. The wall-mounted mirror was stripped first, removing the "plastic-like" finish. Once finished, the lower pedestal was methodically stripped to match the mirror.

Lower seating pedestal stripped of "plastic" finish.
Photo by Charles Wiesner.

The process to strip the upper mirror required several hours of labor to properly remove the unwanted finish. The lower pedestal was more involved due the level of carved detail. The photo below shows the original "plastic" finish compared to the stripped wood.

Before and after stripping.
Photo by Charles Wiesner.

Once all of the pieces to the mirror were properly stripped, a dark finish was selected for the piece. The hall mirror and lower pedestal required multiple stain applications with mild sanding in between each application to achieve a rich color. Now the hall mirror looks better than ever with its new finish.

After stripping and refinishing.
Photo by Charles Wiesner.
Do you have a piece of furniture in need of restoration? Our full service shop offers restoration services for all types of furniture and lighting. To learn more visit our website 

Friday, March 24, 2017

5 Must-See Creative Industrial Light Fixtures

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Industrial style lighting for the home or office is the perfect style to experiment with. Industrial light fixtures can be sleek and streamlined, or an amalgam of repurposed materials, which offers a wide range of styles to choose from. Here are 5 unique industrial light fixtures that represent the kinds of the great options out in the world.

Antique schoolhouse style industrial light fixture.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

If you're a "purist" who enjoys antiques, consider antique schoolhouse style industrial light fixtures. These fixtures were found in hospitals, schools, offices, churches, and even apartment buildings around the turn of the 20th century. They are easy to find and are often available in numbers. They are a great option for minimalists, purists, and those who like sleek and simple design.

Custom industrial electrified gas light fixture.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

If you like antiques, but want something a bit more unique, there's the perfect custom industrial light fixture for you - formerly a gas lantern, this custom light fixture repurposes old lantern parts while maintaining its original lantern feel. You don't have to worry about the gas, since it has been fully electrified. It provides the look and warm glow of an old lantern without the hassle.

Custom industrial style table lamp made from a repurposed hand pump.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

If you're interested in something repurposed with industrial parts, this table lamp has a lot to offer. Similar to the repurposed gas lantern, this antique water pump industrial table lamp offers the same antique charm and custom craftsmanship. This is for the adventurous buyer, as it will certainly be the topic of conversation!

Antique repurposed funnel industrial style light fixture.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

When you think industrial, farm equipment may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but for this custom light fixture it started off at the homestead and has been customized for the home. Made from a galvanized steel tractor funnel, this light fixture is quirky, charming, and perfect for your country chic, industrial, or eclectic space.

Antique repurposed hay bale hook industrial style light fixture.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

The perfect blend of industrial and farm is married in this custom industrial hay bale light fixture. Not only does this look mechanical and heavy duty, but is also blends industrial rough metal edges with sleek and simple classic green light fixture shades. Perfect for an office, above a pool table, or in a kitchen, this industrial fixture makes a statement without all the decoration.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Staff Picks: Our Materials Unlimited Favorites

By Gretchen Sawatzki
Antique French Art Deco light fixture.
Photo by Hannah Manning
for Materials Unlimited

The staff at Materials Unlimited see a lot of great antiques come through the door and at any given moment we have our favorites. Here's our current list of staff picks!

1. Antique French Art Deco Three Arm Bowl Fixture

This beautiful antique Art Deco light fixture is our General Manager, Scotty's current favorite. "This [light fixture] represents a complete design: the grape and grape leaf motif is carried out on all of the glass as well as the canopy."

Signed "Noverdy, France, Depose," this fixture embodies all the beauty that makes up classical French Art Deco design of the 1920s.

2. Antique Gothic Ceiling Light Fixture

Antique Gothic light fixture.
Photo by James Wilson.
Massive in scale, and unique in design, this ecclesiastical Gothic light fixture pick is brought you courtesy of our Director of Marketing & Advertising, James. "I love the fact that we saved 9 of these fixtures from the Genessee County Property Impound. They were confiscated from a Gothic church located in Flint, Michigan that was built in the 1920s. All of the fixtures needed restoration and we were able to combine parts from several fixtures to fully-restore a few. The left over parts were repurposed to make new, custom fixtures."

3. Antique Late Victorian Quartersawn Oak Full Mantel

This antique Late Victorian quartersawn full mantel pick is our Architectural Preservation & Design Consultant Michael's favorite item in the shop right now! "It is a quintessential example of the 'Massive Mode'... that form otherwise referred to generically as 'Late Victorian'. Heavy, chunky detailing, oversized scale, and a combination of stylistic motifs such as foliate curl carvings, architectural forms, and early Neoclassical themes are hallmarks of this relatively short, transitional period of furniture and interior architectural ornamentation. It serves as transitional style between the Renaissance Revival style ornamentation and the emergence of Arts and Crafts forms." And, if Michael hasn't convinced you of how amazing this mantel is, "we also resurrected this had a dark and heavy plastic-like finish, and we completely stripped, repaired, and reassembled it. It's a lovely snapshot of what we can do and offer here, both on the sales floor and the restoration shop."

To see our restoration of this one-of-a-kind mantel, check out our blog post, Before and After: Antique Full Mantel.

Antique Late Victorian quartersawn oak full mantel.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

The next staff pick comes courtesy of Shipping Coordinator, Sales Associate, and Wizardess, Hannah. "One of my current favorites is a simple, little pendant [light] fixture. I like the simple lines, they compliment and really showcase the elegant Art Nouveau floral motif. The combination of colors used with the floral design evokes the artwork of [illustrator] W.W. Denslow."

The last staff pick comes courtesy of yours truly, Social Media Specialist, Gretchen. To quote myself, "I've always admired the bold geometric shapes and simplicity of Art Deco design, but my absolute favorite Art Deco items are always the petite porcelain bathroom wall sconces. Their shape, minimalist design, and charm always bring a smile to my face, plus they can be installed in any type of bathroom, whether it be a historic restoration or contemporary home, they just work!" For more on porcelain light fixtures check out our blog post, Porcelain Light Fixtures of the 1920s. 

Antique Art Deco porcelain wall sconce.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Photo Friday: Arts and Crafts Light Fixture with Art Glass Shades

By Gretchen Sawatzki

The Arts and Crafts Period (roughly 1860-1930) was an era defined by handmade, well-crafted products for the home. Rather than manufacture products using mass-produced methods, artisans of the period focused on the beauty and simplicity of the handcrafted. Nowhere was this more apparent than the handcrafted light fixtures of the era.

Antique handcrafted Arts and Crafts period light fixture.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

This antique Arts and Crafts era light fixture features hammered iron and a brass plated finish. Its rectilinear shape speaks to its simplicity while the Steuben gold aurene art glass shades add a touch of  iridescent sparkle and a colorful flare. Crafted circa 1910, this antique demonstrates the finest artisan work of the era.

Detail of Steuben gold aurene art glass shades.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Project Planning: Vintage Finds for Your Outdoor Living Space

By Gretchen Sawatzki

With the winter thaw fast-approaching and spring on its way it's time to change gears from indoor hibernation to outdoor relaxation. There's no better time than the present to start planning your outdoor spring projects, so why not include your outdoor living space in your project plans?

Mixing contemporary decor with antique and vintage items is a great way to add unique flare to your favorite outdoor living space. With many antique and vintage shops looking to clear their shelves for the new year, you can often find great deals on beautiful furnishings just before spring. Here are a few great antique and vintage items we found that are perfect for outdoor living.

Vintage outdoor garden bench. Photo by Hannah Manning
for Materials Unlimited
Outdoor Bench

It may seem obvious to include a bench in your outdoor living space, but it really is the perfect seating option. A stone garden style bench can hang out in the elements of all four seasons only needing a tarp to cover it in the winter months, this is the quintessential seating option. Worried about comfort? Add a couple of cushions with outdoor fabric for added touch of comfort.

Outdoor Table and Chairs

Again, this seems like another obvious pick for an outdoor living space, however table and chairs come in many forms to suit many needs. An antique or vintage cafe style table and chairs is a great outdoor option. Not only can eat your breakfast daydreaming that you're in a cafe in Paris, but you also get the vintage charm of a beloved classic design.

Antique cafe style table and chairs. Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Antique Fence or Gate

Antique wrought iron fence. Photo by Hannah Manning for
Materials Unlimited
Nothing adds more charm to an outdoor garden than an antique wrought iron fence or gate. Available in many sizes and designs, you often find enough antique fence sections or a functioning gate to create the perfect partition for your outdoor oasis. When considering antique wrought iron, be sure to check for rust and properly seal the metal with a clear coat paint to protect it from water and ice.

Antique Wheel Barrow

Want something unique in your outdoor space that offers charm and an industrial element? Try displaying an antique wheel barrow in your outdoor space. They are a great conversation starter, can be repurposed into a flower pot or herb garden, or could serve as your outdoor bar cart. It's easy to locate old wheel barrows. If you can't find one at your local antiques store check flea markets or yard sales.

Antique primitive style wheel barrow. Photo by Hannah Manning for
Materials Unlimited
Found Objects

Want to add finishing touches on your outdoor space? Using found objects like architectural fragments, old stone statuary, and other metal objects. They are strictly decorative but all a nice touch where finishing touches are often left out.

Antique building fragment. Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited