Posts Tagged 'historic'

Queen Anne 1 – Before & After

Kitchen Challenge: Design a comfortable kitchen for a family of five within an existing narrow maze of circulation.

Kitchen Solution: A functional arrangement of appliances and ample workspace – all found within the existing walls – by simply eliminating one door.

Kitchen, before

Kitchen, after

Dining Room Challenge: Revive the original charm and warmth of this historic Craftsman interior.

Dining Room Solution: The paint was stripped from the original millwork, and the perfect period-appropriate paint color was chosen for the plaster.

Dining Room, before

Dining Room, after

 

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Why Architects Hate Curtains

While researching turn-of-the-century decorating, I came across a chapter on windows in Edith Wharton’s “The Decoration of Houses” that finally put into words what I wished to be able to explain so well. Edith, who became known as an accomplished novelist, began her writing career with this treatise, co-authored with Ogden Codman in 1897. Interestingly, although this book became a manual for interior designers, her position is in support of architecture-as-ornament rather than decoration-as-improvement.

As a normal part of my professional service as a residential architect, I help select everything from doors and windows to tile and carpet.  To me, these items are part of the architecture of the building.   They are as much a part of how the room feels and functions as its size, volume, and orientation.

I do not, however, “do” curtains.  Those, along with movable furnishings, I consider to be the domain of an interior designer, and I limit myself as an advisor to the homeowner and/or their interior designer as to the “jobs” those items have in complementing the architectural style while fulfilling their desired function.

It is true, though, that most architects hate curtains.  Well, certain kinds for certain reasons… and, Edith explains it well:

The “Job” of Windows

  1. …”light-giving is the main purpose for which windows are made…ventilation, the secondary purpose…”
  2. Windows should not be so wide that they are not opened easily.
  3. The height of the window sill should consider both the view, the need for privacy, and whether or not there is a desire to have a piece of furniture, such as a window seat, in front of the window.  Lower sills offer more view, while sills placed at 3′ above the floor afford more privacy from “persons approaching the house”.
  4. Although the sill heights may vary “for practical reasons…the tops of all the windows should be on a level.”
  5. “…the old window with subdivided panes had certain artistic and practical merits…serv[ing] to establish a relation between the inside of the house and the landscape…”

The Purpose of Curtains

  1. “The real purpose of the window-curtain is to regulate the amount of light admitted to the room, and a curtain so arranged that it cannot be drawn backward and forward at will is but a meaningless accessory.”
    blinds down

    These curtains are on rings that slide easily to provide maximum privacy and block window drafts.

    blinds up

    Bottom-up blinds are easy to operate and add privacy while filtering light.

  2. “The better the house, the less need there was for curtains.”
  3. “…the curtain…was regarded as a necessary evil rather than as part of the general scheme of decoration.  The meagerness and simplicity of the curtains in old pictures prove that they were used merely as window shades or sun-blinds.”  (note:  This book was written in 1897 and refers to artistic representations of feudal architecture, such as paintings.)
  4. “Fixed window-draperies, with festoons and folds so arranged that they cannot be lowered or raised, are an invention of the modern upholsterer.   …they have made architects and decorators careless in their treatment of openings.”

Edith’s Preferred Choice, circa 1897

“The solid inside shutter…formerly served the purposes for which curtains and shades are used, and combined with outside blinds, afforded all the protection that a window really requires.  These shutters should be made with solid panels, not with slats, their purpose being to darken the room and keep out hte cold, while the light is regulated by the outside blinds.  The best of these is the old-fashioned hand-made blind, with wide fixed slats, wtill to be seen on old New England houses and always used in France and Italy:  the frail machine-made substitute now in general use has nothing to recommend it.”

paris shutters

Shutters in Paris

In Summary

“…the beauty of a room depends chiefly on its openings, to conceal these under draperies is to hide the key of the whole decorative scheme. …The more architecturally a window is treated, the less it need be dressed up in ruffles.”

Decorating the early 1900’s home (Part Two – Kitchens, Bathrooms, & Porches)

Here are some highlights from “Domestic Architecture”, written by architect L. Eugene Robinson, published in 1917.  Part One of this post contained excerpts regarding living room and bedroom finishes.  The excerpts below address kitchen, bathroom, and porch finishes:

Kitchen

  • “…cleanliness is of first importance, the treatment of materials should suggest it, and decoration need not be neglected.”
  • “have all surfaces so treated that dust and dirt will show, but will be easy to remove.  Here glazed or glossy finishes, or semi-glazed, …are desirable.”
  • “Plaster may be given a slick, steam-proof varnish or paint, and the wood given an enamel finish.”
  • Wallpapers having a glazed surface are in common use…”
  • “…should be no crevices or angles not easily reached with ordinary cleaning apparatus.”
  • “Severity of design is becoming to the nature of the kitchen.  Simple wainscotings are very serviceable and attractive, and may be counter height, thereby forming a continuous line around the room.”
  • “…counters…should not be treated with paint, varnish or any other material except oil.  However, such working surfaces may be covered with a matting of rubber or oilcloth.”
  • Tile work…is highly serviceable, wainscotings, counters, facings for built-in ranges and floors being the chief parts constructed of this material.”
  • “…main objection to tile floors is their coldness…”
  • “A hardwood floor of oak or maple is best, if tile cannot be afforded. A cheap wood floor may be made very serviceable by laying upon it oilcloth or linoleum.”
  • “Color…should…suggest perfect sanitation.  The best colors are white and blue, but with white or cream may be used green, brown, gray or other color.”
  • Colors may appear in tile borders, linoleum, wallpaper, painted surfaces and in simple hangings.”
  • “…should be bright and pleasant but not cluttered.”
  • “Extra large kitchens…should have more color than small ones.”

Fabulous and fun vintage kitchen photos can be found at http://www.shorpy.com.  For a direct link, click here.

Bathrooms

  • Surface treatments…much the same as those for kitchens. Waterproof materials are practically essential, where water and steam are so prevalent.”

Porch

  • “Porches are really exterior features, and should be treated much the same as other parts of the exterior.”
  • Light-colored paints and stains generally look better than dark.”
  • Masonry should not be painted under any circumstances…”
  • Porch floors of wood should receive several coats of exterior floor paint of neutral color, while the ceilings should be painted white or buff.”
  • “…more than two colors of paint on a frame house should not be used, except perhaps in very limited quantities.”
  • “The main color should cover the body of the house, while the other should serve only as a trim color.  Alternate color effects should never be used.”

Decorating the early 1900’s home (Part One – Living Rooms and Bedrooms)

Domestic

When it comes to finish materials, where do you go to find out what is truly period-appropriate for your vintage home?

While antique shopping in Oregon last summer, I found a book published in 1917 by an architect named L. Eugene Robinson, titled “Domestic Architecture”. The book was intended for homeowners who were remodeling or building homes at that time, and much of what was written is relevant for restoration or remodeling turn-of-the-century homes today.

Here are some highlights regarding interior finishes for living rooms and bedrooms:

Living Rooms

  • ..should be above all restful.”
  • colors should be dull and neutral
  • Old ivory or cream white enamel of semi-dull finish on the woodwork, oatmeal paper of light brown on the walls, light buff paper on the ceiling, and any good flooring with, perhaps, Oriental rugs…”
  • “…it is not well to slavishly hold to the color and tones of the scheme.  If this is done, the effect will be monotonous, which is not restful.  There should be judicious departures in color, chiefly in the furnishings, and especially in certain architectural features such as fireplaces, floors, and ornamental glass windows.”
  • “As a rule, the gradation of color should be such that the ceiling is light, the frieze less light, the wall and wainscoting darker, and the floor darkest.”
  • “A floor may be of very light wood, while the gradation of color starts dark at the base of the wall.”

Bedrooms

  • “…should have the quality of freshness regardless of the color scheme…”
  • “While women usually prefer white, pink, blue or yellow rooms, men generally prefer brown, grey or green.”
  • Any color scheme that is not disturbing and that does not take on a dingy air may be satisfactorily developed.”
  • Wallpaper… is used almost to the exclusion of other materials…”
  • “On sanitary grounds the painting of bedroom walls is preferable to papering.”
  • Woodworkwhite or cream in color, firstly because it is neat, fresh and easily washed, and secondly because any bedroom set of furniture will conform to it.”
  • “A very handsome treatment for a bedroom is to make the woodwork exactly like the bedroom set, of maple, walnut, mahogany, or any hard wood.”
  • Maple flooring is very satisfactory for bedrooms.”
  • “For inexpensive treatments, white paint may be used on the wood trim, and gray paint on the floorSometimes, matting over a common floor proves very satisfactory.”

(Part Two will cover kitchens, bathrooms, and porches.)

Tejon – Before & After

When my client purchased this house, it was hardly apparent that this was originally a “stick style” home. The previous owner’s remodel was an attempt to convert the style to “Swiss chalet”.

Located within a historic preservation overlay district, an additional design review prior was required prior to permit approval. This zoning designation mandated that changes be “in keeping with” the character of the historic neighborhood, not necessarily an exact historic replica.

The siding was completely removed and replaced with cedar shingles, and a new front porch and rear porch were designed and constructed.  The size, spacing, and moulding profiles for each element were detailed very carefully, recollecting the original stick-style vocabulary.

Before, as a "Swiss Chalet"

Before, as a "Swiss Chalet"

After, with Stick Style features

After, with Stick Style features

A flight of side stairs is tucked behind a low shingle wall to provide easy access for the owner from his car, parked on permeable paver tire strips rather than a concrete drive. The mail carrier gave a special “thank you” to us for those steps, which are also a convenient shortcut on his walking route from the neighbor’s porch.

Tejon-side-stairs

A flight of steps is tucked behind a low wall next to the front door.

What Everyone Should Know about Windows

Whether you’re building a new house, remodeling, or considering window replacement, windows are an important decision, with a large price tag.  As an architect, I have seen dozens of brands of windows installed and have observed the lifespan and customer service factors as well.  Here is what you need to know in order to make an informed decision about your window purchase.

Lowest to highest price (in general):

  1. aluminum
  2. vinyl
  3. wood – primed interior and exterior
  4. fiberglass
  5. wood – stain-grade interior with primed exterior
  6. metal clad exterior with wood interior

Pro’s:

Aluminum

  • narrow frame
  • modern look
  • “no maintenance” finish

suggested brands- Marlin

Marlin aluminum windows

Marlin aluminum windows, interior

marlin2

Marlin aluminum windows, exterior

Vinyl

  • “no maintenance”
  • more energy efficient than aluminum
  • inexpensive

suggested brands- Marvin, Pella, Andersen

Wood

  • historic look
  • material is insulative
  • paintable
  • less expensive than some fiberglass windows and all metal-clad windows

suggested brands- Marvin, Lindal, Cherry Creek, Pella, Andersen

Fiberglass

  • paintable, or can leave exterior and interior unpainted for “no maintenance”
  • some are insulated
  • material is dimensionally stable, meaning that it doesn’t expand and contract with temperature changes as much as vinyl

suggested brands- Marvin, Pella, Andersen

Metal Clad Wood

  • “no maintenance” exterior
  • option for primed or stain-ready interior
  • finish weathers well, even in marine exposures
  • return on investment (when compared to painted windows, the price gap is closed after only one re-paint)
  • some brands are susceptible to fading of coating on exterior

suggested brands- Marvin, Loewen, Pella

loewen2

Loewen metal-clad windows

Con’s:

Aluminum

  • not recommended for painting
  • same color exterior and interior
  • most brands do not meet current minimum energy code requirements in Washington
  • some units are not “thermally broken” – meaning that the metal conducts heat and can contribute to condensation
  • some brands/lines have not undergone technological advancement since the 60’s and are still on the market
  • some metals are incompatible with others, and this must be taken into account if you will have other metals in direct contact

Vinyl

  • limited color choices – mostly white and putty
  • not paintable
  • same color interior and exterior
  • material is not as dimensionally stable, meaning that it will expand and contract with temperature changes more than some other materials

Wood

  • more maintenance – need to repaint every 5-7 years in the Pacific Northwest region
  • stain-grade interiors and exteriors are more expensive
  • energy code compliant units typically have vinyl tracks or seals, which are not visually desirable for some applications

Fiberglass

  • same color inside and outside, unless you paint one or the other

Metal Clad Wood

  • higher price

Understanding the Technology

Some basic information about types of windows and doors can be found here:

Window and Door Manufacturer Association, “Window FAQ” and “Door FAQ”

Currently, the Washington State Energy Code requires that windows have a U-value of 0.35 or better if following the prescriptive path of compliance, meaning that the percentage of windows is not limited as long as the U-value meets or exceeds the minimum requirement.

A window’s U-Value is representative of the window’s resistance to heat flow, and the lower the number the better the insulating value. This is the criteria that retailers highlight the most, but it is not a comprehensive evaluation of the window’s performance.  It is also important to know that different operations of windows will have different U-values.  Although one manufacturer’s fixed window may meet the minimum code-required U-value, it’s operable units may not.  This does not necessarily mean that you will not be able to use them, but it does make it more difficult to achieve and demonstrate compliance.  More information about selecting energy efficient windows in Washington can be found here:

Efficient Windows Collaborative, “Fact Sheet: Selecting Energy Efficient Windows in Washington,” Sept. 2007.

National Fenestration Rating Council, “Questions About Buying New Energy Efficient Windows?”, Nov. 2002.

You should also be considering window’s structural performance rating, particularly if your house is exposed to high wind speeds and/or driving rains. The structural performance rating is a measure of the amount of air pressure, or wind load, a window can resist before failing.  Homes with significant exposure would benefit from a higher than minimum structural performance rating, as those windows are more resistant to wind-blown water intrusion.

The different structural classifications are defined and certified by the American Architectural Manufacturer’s Association.  To read more, visit www.aamanet.org and review their brochure.  More information about the values associated with the ratings can be found here:

Excerpt from the AAMA/WDMA/CSA “Standard/Specification for windows, doors, and skylights”

Proper Installation is Vital

Consider your windows as important to your home’s health as the condition of your roof.  Windows should be installed by qualified contractors, able and willing to identify and remedy any rot and flashing issues.  You should anticipate and budget funds beyond the quoted cost of the windows and simple installation to be able to correct any deficiencies that are discovered as well as replace interior trim and casings, repaint, and/or touch-up drywall.

“Replacement windows” are NOT the same as replacing windows with new units that have a nail flange and are properly flashed. You may be better off keeping your old windows and considering ways to reduce infiltration, rather than allowing “replacement windows” to be set into a bead of caulk which will be prone to failure.

When Neighbors Disapprove – 6 Tips for Success

1- Know your property.

For the majority of projects that involve a structural change, whether “up” or “out”, a full survey by a licensed surveyor is a “must-have”.  In Seattle, the fee to have a property surveyed averages between $2,500 and $3,000 for a typical urban residential lot and up to $5,000 for larger or more complex lots, depending on factors such as the distance to nearest recorded monuments, the presence of environmentally critical areas (steep slope, known landslides, etc.), and the quantity and complexity of the existing improvements.

For more information about obtaining a survey, including a list of required information and additional items that can save you time and money to have recorded simultaneously, Tips for Getting the Best Survey the First Time.

2- Be a good neighbor.

The golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” holds true.  If you have been opinionated and difficult in the past about your neighbor’s projects, they are more likely to act the same when it is your turn.  If you’ve had troubles in the past, it is a good idea to try to repair relationships in earnest long before you begin the design process.

3- Communicate.

If you plan to change the appearance of the exterior of your home in any significant way (including paint color), it makes sense to let your neighbors know your plans.  You are not (necessarily) asking for permission, rather letting them know what kind of disruption to anticipate and how they should handle any issues that arise, such as blocked access, property damage, etc.

4- Know your rights.

Sometimes, questions arise which are difficult to answer with certainty.  If your property has easements, encroachments, or other complexities involving property lines, it would be wise to do some research.  This may be in the form of a feasibility study, a binding meeting with the relevant parties at your land use department, and/or legal advice from an attorney who specializes in residential real estate law.  As an architect, I advise my clients when such additional measures are appropriate.  It is less expensive to secure your footing in the beginning than it is to fight your way through a dispute when you are in construction.

5- Have an alternate plan.

One of my former clients planned to add a porte cochere, a historic type of carport, onto the side of his house.  His property was located in a historic preservation overlay district, where many of the neighborhood homes had this feature.  There was plenty of room on his property, and the structure was permissible under the current zoning code without requiring a variance.  However, due to the overlay district, design approval was required from a separate committee, prior to permit approval.  When we presented the design for consideration, the neighbors attended the meeting to lobby against the porte cochere – not because they didn’t like the idea or design, but because they didn’t like my client!

In the end, we did not get approval for the covered carport, but we did accomplish the goal of providing off-street parking by capitalizing on the fact that the committee did not have purview of driveways, curb cuts, or fences.  Our “Plan B” was to install tire strips and a parking pad made of permeable pavers.  The homeowner now parks where he had originally hoped, and walks up a set of side stairs directly onto his porch, getting out of the rain quickly.  When there is no car parked in the driveway, the permeable pavers look like a grass lawn.

Porte-cochere_web

Parking beside the porch steps was a viable alternative to a porte cochere.

6- Offer up something.

When all else fails, offer up something.  In the past, I’ve known clients to share or carry the expenses on things such as tree removal or pruning, new fences, landscaping, privacy screens, sewer repair, and burying overhead cables.  All of these things cost money, but they are often items which were desired – or would soon have been required.