Sunday, September 17, 2017

American Furniture Styles: Empire Style and Duncan Phyfe

By Gretchen Sawatzki

After the American Revolution, New York became the sphere of design influence for American furniture trends. During the post-revolutionary period, several cabinetmakers from across Europe emigrated to North America to set up shop including one of the most prominent cabinetmakers of the era, Duncan Phyfe (1768 - 1854).

By Duncan Phyfe (Brooklyn Museum) [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Born in Scotland, Phyfe brought the taste of European furniture making to his New York shop in 1794 drawing inspiration from Federal design. After 1800, Phyfe began to design furnishings with a French influence leading to the Empire style trend of the early 1800s.

The Empire Style (1815 - 1840) originated as an elaborate Neoclassical style in post-revolutionary France drawing on Roman and Egyptian symbols, long sleek lines, and grandeur.

Curule chair. Image By User:FA2010 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Empire Style can be identified by:
 - Roman and Egyptian symbols including acanthus leaves, lyres, reeding, ribbons, and animal feet.

Popular furniture forms in the style include:
 - Curule chair
 - Chairs with a lyre back splat

  Brooklyn Museum
  Buffalo Architecture and History

Monday, September 4, 2017

Before and After: Exterior Entrance Door

By Gretchen Sawatzki

There's nothing like a beautiful, old hardwood entrance door on the exterior of a home. Hardwood can withstand all types of weather and if treated right, cleaned and cared for it will last a lifetime and then some.

Exterior door before restoration.
Photo by Michael Newberry for Materials Unlimited

For our customers, the Deardorffs, their door was a beautiful antique hardwood gem with original leaded tulip glass window, but with years of wear and tear it needed a good facelift to keep it looking its best!

Exterior door after restoration.
Photo by Michael Newberry for Materials Unlimited

First the door needed to be safely removed from its jamb, stripped of its old finish and sanded. After several rounds of good sanding, the door was ready for its new finish. The door was sanded after each finish application to ensure an even coloration.

After three coats it was perfect and reinstalled back in its beloved home to stand guard for another 100 years!

Does your door need a facelift? Give us a call for your restoration estimate today (734) 483-6980 or visit us in-store at 2 W. Michigan Ave. Ypsilanti, Michigan 48197.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

American Furniture Styles: Queen Anne

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Queen Anne side chair circa 1740 -1760.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art via Wikimedia Commons
Queen Anne style:

Named for Queen Anne of England who reigned from 1702 - 1707, the Queen Anne style (1725 - 1750) is a more refined version of the earlier William and Mary style of furniture. It has also been called the toned down version of the French Rococo style that dominated during the time of Louis XV (1715 - 1774).

The Queen Anne style was a departure from rectilinear designs featuring slightly curved backs, legs, and seats.

Queen Anne characteristics:

The Queen Anne style is characterized by its delicate forms and restraint of excessive decoration. The use of tight-grained hardwoods like cherry, walnut, and mahogany further eliminate the decorative nature often associated with oak and pine woods that were predominantly used during the Jacobean Period (1600 - 1690).

The Queen Anne style can be identified by a few key features:

- Carved and curved backsplats
- Cabriole legs
- Curvilinear design
- Minimal decoration

  Buffalo Architecture and History
  The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, July 20, 2017

American Furniture Styles: William and Mary 1690 - 1730

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Side Chair, America, c. 1700, walnut and cane - Brooklyn Museum - DSC09086
William and Mary style side chair ca. 1700,
By Daderot (Own work) [CC0],
via Wikimedia Commons
For the next fews weeks, I'll be featuring a series of short articles on American furniture styles. To kick off this new series, this week I'll be featuring the historic style of William and Mary furniture.

William and Mary style:

Named for the king and queen of England, the William and Mary (1690 - 1730) style of furniture is one of the earliest styles of furniture in America. Blending Old World Baroque traditions with New World materials and ingenuity, furniture craftsman of this era consisted of two skilled artisans - the "joiner" using mortise and tenon technology was responsible for joining straight pieces of wood that carried the weight of the furniture. And, the "turner" who shaped wood using tools and gauges and a lathe to create intricate patterns and trumpet shapes. Together the two artisans produced what we now call William and Mary style furniture.

William and Mary characteristics:

This style of furniture often has a Medieval look drawing on Old World design traditions. While it appears uncomfortable, William and Mary style furniture features a slightly tilted back that contoured better to the human body and as time went on, cane seats transitioned to solid wood seats with cushions. This was a huge departure from previous furnishings. The William and Mary style with its new elegance also ushered in some of the first furnishings with marquetry (a fancy type of decorative wood inlay).

William and Mary style furniture can be identified by a few key features:

- Rectilinear shape with joined corners
- Tall and slender physical shape
- Bun or ball style feet
- Turned legs and stretchers
- Arches and back splats
- Walnut or oak wood with pine secondary woods

The practical book of period furniture, treating of furniture of the English, American colonial and post-colonial and principal French periods (1914) (14778880965)
William and Mary style cabinet with inlay as seen in a furniture book from 1914.
 By Eberlein, Harold Donaldson; McClure, Abbot, 1879- [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Before and After: Heywood Wakefield Furniture

By Gretchen Sawatzki

Rare and unique are terms often used to describe Heywood Wakefield midcentury modern furniture. When I found one on the side of the road a couple of years ago, I picked it up scratches, markers, crayons marks and all, because furniture this nice is hard to find.

That being said, from time to time our restoration specialist has an opportunity to work on these stunning wonders, so when a Heywood Wakefield side table and dresser came into the shop, it was a project worth doing.

Heywood Wakefield dresser after sanding.
Photo by Charles Wiesner

Heywood Wakefield side table after sanding.
Photo by Charles Wiesner

Both the dresser and side table needed to be completely refinished. For this project, the customer requested a custom finish. Like most refinishing projects, the furniture needed to stripped and sanded extensively. After hours of sanding with fine grit sandpaper and several houses at the paint store, the perfect finish was decided on.

Heywood Wakefield dresser after refinishing.
Photo by Charles Wiesner
Heywood Wakefield side table after refinishing.
Photo by Charles Wiesner

The first coat was applied evenly and lightly sanded after it thoroughly dried. This step was repeated three times until the finish appeared even and smooth. The end result is two beautifully refinished rare Heywood Wakefield furnishings.

Need help with a furniture restoration project? Our knowledgeable staff and expert restoration specialists can help you realize your next project. Check out our website to learn more.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Photo Friday: Strange Victorian Hydro-Electro Therapy Device

By Gretchen Sawatzki

As the age of medicine was coming into its own in during the Victorian period, many new health practices included the use of gadgets and devices to cure all types of ailments. Of all of the strange Victorian era devices out there in the world this antique hydro-electro therapy wall cabinet may be the strangest.

The Hydro-Electro Therapy Cabinet as seen in the "Universal Naturopathic
Directory and Buyers' Guide of 1918-1919.

Found in the Universal Naturopathic Directory and Buyers' Guide of 1918-1919, one the latest machines for curing pathological conditions includes the hydro-electro therapy cabinet. Mounted on a wall this cabinet contains buttons, switches, and dials to generate electric current to the user who rests inside a bath tub. According the directory some of the best pathological treatments include the use of electric current that pulsates through the body via water conduction.

Hydro-Electro Therapy Cabinet,
photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

Today, hydro-electro therapy (also known as electrocution) seems a bit extreme to cure pathological conditions, but for the Victorians this was just another strange device worth trying in a time when medicine and any treatment were worth trying.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Afternoon Tea in the Victorian Era

By Gretchen Sawatzki

If you've ever been to a tea room for afternoon tea, you've probably had small crustless sandwiches, scones, and clotted cream, but have you ever considered where this tradition came from? Today, afternoon tea is somewhat of luxury, as most of us have regular 9-5 jobs, escaping for hot tea and finger foods isn't always a possibility. In the Victorian era, however afternoon tea was absolutely essential as it provided a place to engage socially among friends.

Antique Afternoon Tea service with tray.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

The tradition began in 1840 with the Seventh Duchess of Bedford. Due to the long periods of time between meals, the Duchess often grew famished and hungry in the afternoon. To satisfy her hungry, she began requesting a tray of tea, breads, and cakes to her bed chamber every afternoon. After some time, the Duchess began inviting friends to take tea with her and get caught up on all of the latest gossip.

Oddly enough, around this same time the Earl of Sandwich invented the modern sandwich which enhanced the overall tea drinking experience, rounding out the afternoon snacks, and thus creating afternoon tea.

Tea table made especially for afternoon tea.
Photo by Hannah Manning for Materials Unlimited

No tea service is complete without scones, cakes, sandwiches, and of course a hot pot of tea. Accoutrements for this afternoon event include porcelain dishware, tongs for sugar cubes, sugar bowls, tea cups, saucers, butter knives, napkins, special tea tables, and of course a stunning tea set.

  The Drake Hotel, Palm Court