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Design Secrets: Which Kitchen Sink is Right for You?

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A vintage farmhouse sink is a very cool way to add personality to your kitchen- but is it right for the style of your home and your family’s lifestyle? We interviewed Arciform Senior Designer Chelly Wentworth for some pro tips to help you choose the sink that’s right for you.

What are the most common styles of kitchen sinks that your clients request for their projects? What are the pros and cons for these common styles?

Undermount single bowl is the most common style requested by my clients.

Schaefer_1937_Kitchen_A_1_P (18)This undermount single bowl sink avoids the lip of a top mount sink,
making the counters easier to keep clean.

It’s better for soaking larger pans and cookie sheets and has a cleaner installation.

Another common request is the farmhouse sink. It’s technically most appropriate for older home styles but people love them!

DeWolfSingleton_1909House_Kitchen_A_4_P_ProThis apron front farmhouse sink adds to the classic feel of this kitchen in a 1909 home.

They are charming and recall a bygone era.

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One advantage of the farmhouse sink is that sink cabinets can take a beating and  farmhouse sinks provide protection.  They are generally deep which makes them great for washing and filling taller pots. The roomy interiors help when cookie sheets and pans need soaking.

Do you have a favorite farmhouse sink?

When a project calls for a sleeker look I like stainless steel farmhouse sinks.

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There are a variety of sink materials (stainless steel, porcelain, etc)- what are some pros and cons of these different materials?

Stainless Steel

Easy to clean, sleek style, variety of shapes, goes well with stainless steel appliances

Hardison_1902_Kitchen_A_1_P_Pro (3)This stainless steel sink includes a continuous steel counter and backsplash,
making it a very practical choice for this busy family.

Be aware that not all stainless steel sinks are created equal.

The sink needs to be a high grade of steel (18/10 or better) and be insulated for sound.

Also, keep in mind that stainless steel scratches easily and can dent.

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This under-mount stainless steel sink was used for a contemporary Pearl District loft kitchen.

Cast Iron

This is a great traditional choice that includes a life time warranty by some manufacturers.

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This basement guest suite uses am IronTones cast iron topmount sink from Kohler.

Cast iron sinks with enamel or porcelain coatings are available in many colors but a limited number of shapes.

Be aware that the coatings can chip and get stained but can usually be cleaned.

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This very cool farmhouse pedestal leg sink features porcelain finish over cast iron with built in drainboards. It is from Strom Plumbing and its called Clarion.

Fireclay

This is a durable and non-porous material, making it resistant to stains and able to withstand high heat.

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This historic property incorporated a fireclay apron front sink from Kohler to fit with the turn of the century style of the home.

Available in a wide range of colors and styles, fireclay can mimic a traditional cast iron look with added durability.

Just keep in mind that they can be uneven and water can pool in them because of their uneven surfaces.

Composites

Made from a mixture of granite stone dust and acrylic resins, composites come in dark colors that can help them blend in with darker counter materials.

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This Silgranit under-mount sink is a grey granite composite material.
It was installed into our Portland Monthly Kitchen Makeover kitchen.

Harsh chemicals and high heat can damage some composite sinks, so be sure to select a sink that’s designed for high heat resistance.

You could also choose to have a sink carved out of a whole block of soapstone or other stone material, or to have one manufactured out of slabs of stone for a natural look.

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This soapstone sink was assembled from stone slabs for a textured, very distinctive look.

You will have the same maintenance concerns with these materials in your sink as you would in your counter tops- granite can be porous and show stains, while soapstone looks best when oiled as part of a regular maintenance routine.

Is there a style of sink or sink material you tend to steer people away from? If so, why?

If they can’t live with scratches, I’ll steer them away from stainless steel.

If they are installing a dishwasher, I will often advise that a double bowl or asymmetrical sink is not necessary.

ClaypoolCraven_1962_Kitchen_A_3_P_ProThis double bowl asymmetrical stainless steel sink works well for an empty-nest couple who do not typically have a full load of dishes to do at one time. But a larger family (or a couple who loves to cook large pots of pasta) may prefer a deeper single bowl sink.

Do you have favorite or “go to” sink that you have used on multiple projects? What do  you like about it?

Here are a few of my favorites:

Rohl Shaws Original for FarmHouse

Rohl_Shaws_OriginalIts ‘the original’ and I love the little logo

Kohler Cast Iron

640_kohler-bakersfield-undermount-white-sink-cast-iron-largeI like these for undermount sinks.

Blanco Silgranit

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Finally, for fireclay undermount sinks I like

Allia

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What advice do you have for homeowners about selecting a sink style that will be right for their family’s needs?

I always ask homeowners to consider the following questions when deciding on a sink:

  • What style of sink would have been common during the era your home was built?
  • What style of sink are you most used to?
  • Who will be using the sink?
  • Do you do a lot of hand washing or do you primarily use the dishwasher?
  • What’s your cooking style? If you cook a lot of pasta you may need a deeper sink. Asian foods cooked with a hot wok may lead you towards a heat resistant material while a preference for lots of sauces might suggest a sink that is stain and acid resistant.
  • What’s your budget?

Sinks can range widely in price based on style and material. Your designer can help steer you towards choices that fit both your style and your budget.

Want to explore more ideas for designing your dream kitchen?

Join us October 8th for our Kitchen Confidential workshop for an evening of inspiration and insider tricks that will help you make your kitchen a pleasure to live and work in.

Get the details and RSVP here.

 Explore the Arciform Project Galleries | About Arciform | Schedule a Design Consultation

Kitchen Confidential: 5 Hidden Conveniences for Your Kitchen

Holden_1916_Kitchen_A_26_W_Pro(Small appliances tucked elegantly out of sight? Yes, please!)

Sometimes, the thing you love most about your kitchen is completely invisible to the casual guest in your home. These little conveniences can help make your kitchen a pleasure to live and work in.

Here are 5 Hidden Conveniences to Consider for Your Kitchen Project

1. Build In Space for Breakfast… and Business.

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(This kitchen and its cleverly convenient nook was designed by Arciform owner and Senior Designer Anne De Wolf.)

This small pantry area reclaimed space off of our client’s kitchen, adding storage and allowing the main kitchen to feel more open. Once the built in cabinets were added, however, the remaining footprint was small and the client still needed space for a work desk and a breakfast area.

The solution: A laptop desk that cleverly slides out from the work station (above left) and a breakfast bar that drops down to tuck out of the walkway when not in use (below).

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 2. Electrify Your Island.

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(This kitchen renovation was for the historic Barnes Mansion, which is featured as the “Haunted Mansion” in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby books. The kitchen was designed by Arciform owner and senior designer Anne De Wolf.)

This client’s Historic Register home  needed a kitchen island that would fit the elegant and timeless aesthetic of the rest of the space. She also needed to be able to plug her mixer and other small appliances in without dragging a cord across the large kitchen.

The solution: A custom built island with turned legs that creates a furniture-like look AND cleverly hides the cords for the electric outlet inside a hollow leg.

3. Tuck Trays (and Technology) into Your Toe Kicks.

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(These custom cabinets were designed by Arciform Senior Designer Chelly Wentworth and are being built by our sister company Versatile Wood Products for use on a kitchen project being completed this summer.)

Make every inch of your custom kitchen work a bit harder by installing drawers into your toe kicks. This recessed portion of the cabinet by the floor is often wasted space, but a shallow drawer tucked into your toe kick is a great place to store cookie sheets and platters (or even the good silverware.)

Or take it a step further (if you’ll forgive the pun) and invest in one of these very cool Scalimera toe kick step stools that automatically pop out and unfold themselves when you kick them. You can check out a video of these nifty little numbers in action here.

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(We’ll be installing one of these into the toe kick of another Historic Register home designed by Ellis Lawrence that is currently undergoing a kitchen renovation designed by Arciform Senior Designer Kristyn Bester.)

4. Slip Spices into a Secret Cabinet.

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(Arciform Senior Designer Chelly Wentworth helped our Kitchen Makeover winners transform their kitchen from dingy and difficult to uncluttered and utterly charming.)

The biggest design challenge faced in the design for our Portland Monthly Kitchen Makeover winner was how to tuck in storage wherever we could into a kitchen with a very small footprint and very limited cabinet space. The lower cabinets were in great shape and had orignial 1930s era mesh inset cabinet doors with charming vintage hardware. How could we help this couple keep the charming elements of their current kitchen and add easy access to their spices and cooking oils without cluttering up their extremely limited counter space?

The solution: Carve out pockets of space to the left and right of their range for cookie sheet storage and a pull out spice rack that tucks back behind a narrow door when not in use. Salvage butterfly hinges were found to match the charming details on the rest of the cabinets to make the secret spice drawer feel like it was always there.

CifelliChan_1912_Kitchen_A_32_W_ProOr tuck your spices into a neatly organized drawer with a spice rack insert:

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 5. Hide the Pantry in Plain Sight.

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(This kitchen renovation is part of a whole house remodel designed by Arciform owner and Senior Designer Anne De Wolf.)

This kitchen renovation in a Sellwood Victorian was designed to be a simple space that opened directly onto the family’s main living space. The main kitchen footprint would be small, efficient and open, with no upper cabinets to store typical serving items and pantry essentials. How would this busy family of four fit their day to day groceries into the space?

The solution: A bit of unused space adjacent to the downstairs powder room was converted into a pantry. Dishes and attractive serving items  are displayed on open shelving and backed by custom built divided lite windows that create an old fashioned small town grocery store feeling. Day to day pantry items are stored on shelving tucked into the nook behind the windows, making them easy to access but largely invisible to casual users of the space.

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What hidden conveniences would you like to add to your kitchen? Join us October 8th for our Kitchen Confidential Workshop and gather design secrets from Arciform’s designers that will help you make the most of your next kitchen project. Get the details and RSVP here.

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Historic Curb Apeal: Taking Care of Your Tudor

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Tall gabled roofs, charming round top doors, leaded and beveled glass windows…. a Tudor style home is just bursting with inviting charm and curb appeal. The eclectic asymmetrical facades often feature brick or stucco and have winding approaches to their front doors that evoke the English country homes that inspire the style.

What does a Tudor home need to keep looking its best?

Here are 5 tips from Arciform Senior Designer Anne De Wolf for sprucing up your Tudor.

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1. Safeguard your Stucco. The shallow overhangs and stucco exterior of many Tudors can lead to opportunities for the northwest’s rain to seep behind your facade. Keep a close eye out for weather damage on the stucco portions of your exterior and tackle any problems quickly before they get out of hand.

The good news: stucco can be repaired in small sections without needing to resurface your entire facade, making regular maintenance more affordable on Tudor homes.

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2.  Mix in Some Metal. Updating the entryway of a Tudor can be tricky- the style tends towards very small entry spaces with unusually shaped doors and very little covering from the elements. In order to add a bit of shelter without marring the traditional style, consider adding copper awnings over your doors and ground floor windows.

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Wrought iron railings, sconces, lamp posts and edging can add additional design elements that will fit with the gothic inspirations of the Tudor style.

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3. Dormer Delights. The high gabled roof of a Tudor home was originally designed to encourage the snow to slide off in northern climates. In the temperate northwest they have another advantage: plenty of space to add a dormer bedroom or office.

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Just two things to be aware of before you contemplate a dormer addition:

  • Your floor joists may be twisted. Because Tudors are often built as a series of small compartmentalized spaces, you may discover that the orientation of the floor joists can change from from floor to floor. The direction of the joists has a big impact on how the house will carry the weight of a new addition, so it is important to be sure you know which direction they run before your dormer addition is designed.
  • Framing designed for a ceiling may not be strong enough for a floor. Many Tudors have tall vaulted ceilings in their living rooms, with plenty of attic space above. However, ceiling joists are usually not built to withstand the same load as a floor, so creating a dormer above that vaulted living room may require more structural updates than your budget will allow.

Your designer will work with a structural engineer to be sure that the design of your new addition will take these important structural considerations into account.

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4. Many Lites Make Lovely Windows. Thin, unusually shaped windows with many small panes of glass (called lites) are a hallmark feature of Tudor style. Beveled or leaded glass and diamond patterns are common.

What should you do when one of these iconic windows starts to leak or fail?

Our colleagues at Versatile Wood Products, a company that specializes in the restoration and historically accurate replacement of traditional windows and doors, recommend that you have a window expert do a site evaluation before you make any decisions about restoration or replacement. Options for restoration can include repairing broken lead elements, replacing rotting wood sash elements with new sash, or replacing the entire window with an exact replica. In some cases, adding an exterior custom storm window can lengthen the life of the window and increase its insulation value.

Be sure to explore all your options before you decide to rip out and replace with a modern window. A Tudor’s unusual window shapes can be a major factor in its curb appeal and resale value.

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4. Instead of a Porch, Consider a Pavilion.

The shallow overhangs and high roof lines of a Tudor home don’t create many opportunities for integrated indoor/outdoor spaces like porches. Instead, consider creating a detached carport or pavilion that can double as an entertaining space when the weather is nice. A detached pavilion allows you a bit of flexibility on design to coordinate with the home without needing to exactly match design details. Just keep the framing simple and rustic to fit with the english country style of the home.

Want more good ideas for making your classic home the envy of the neighborhood?

Join us July 16th for a Historic Home How To Workshop at Old Portland and Architectural. Get the details and RSVP here.

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Guest Post: Invite Architectural Salvage Into Your Home

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We are so grateful to our friends at Old Portland Hardware & Architectural for hosting our July Historic Home How To Workshop (Have you RSVP’d yet? You can do so here). While you are at the workshop, you’ll have a chance to peruse their deep and wild architectural salvage collection at their shop. There’s all kinds of intriguing artifacts, from 100 year old stain glass windows to chandeliers reclaimed from now defunct hotels and theaters.

Since Bret at Old Portland has deep experience in the best ways to find and integrate salvage pieces into your home, we asked him to share some of his insights for making the most of a salvage shopping trip. Take a look:

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Using architectural salvage to decorate homes has been done for a VERY long time. In my opinion, the term “architectural salvage” is a bit of a misnomer. The word “salvage” tends to imply “somebody else’s saved trash.” In most cases, architectural salvage is the bits and pieces of a building that were too beautiful, too well made, too unique, and/or to reusable to throw away. These wonderful items will often find their way back into the market place where they await their opportunity to be reused. These pieces of recovered architecture defy the word “salvage” and evoke the words “treasure”, “find”, “artifact”, etc.

Recovered architecture is an excellent way to bring old world character to a contemporary remodel. If you have made the decision to include architectural pieces in your project, be sure to invite them to the party early! Your design and construction team will need to know what pieces you will be wanting to use where, very early in the process.

If you go hunting for that perfect antique leaded glass window before you’re your project starts, depending on your needs, you may have a few hundred to choose from. Waiting until the last minute, when the contractor gives you a window opening size that they came up with in the course of the project, may limit your choices to as little one or two windows… and those may not even be windows that you like!

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Speaking of old windows…

Old beveled and/or leaded glass windows often present a challenge in new remodels because they are a single pane thick and have very little in the way of R-Value (insulation quality). On the other hand, stained glass windows can add bright color and privacy, while beveled windows can bring in great light while casting refracted rainbows around a room.

At Old Portland Hardware & Architectural, we say, “Be creative with your window use!” We are strong advocates of installing old windows into interior walls of homes and businesses. Doing so is a great way to bring color and natural light to areas of your live/work space that seem to be perpetually dark. Having both sides of the window trimmed with a full shelf sill will also give you a space to display small items in the light.

If you wish to have one (or many) old windows on the exterior of your home, have no fear, it CAN be done! Again, if your architect/contractor know which windows you wish to use, they can plan ahead accordingly. In most cases they can order a double glazed window to match your old window. The new double pane window will be installed as the actual window in the project (to meet code requirements). Your beautiful old window will then be fit up against the inside surface of the new window with all the edges being covered with a thin trim treatment.

When done properly, the only time you should see the new exterior window, is from the outside during the day time. At night, your jewel of an old window will always shine through – back lit from inside. From the interior, you will always see the old window, but, have all the insulation benefits of the new window.

Although reclaimed windows are covered extensively here, they are just one choice in the aesthetic world of recovered architecture!

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Other character pieces can include old door hardware, columns, light fixtures, millwork, industrial pieces, cabinetry, reclaimed lumber, and more. Want ideas? Dive into Pinterest, follow your favorite shops online, talk to your designer, ask your local salvage shop, start a bulletin board with clippings from magazines and catalogs…

One more piece of advice for those using recovered architecture in a home remodel…

Pick the pieces you love and want to live with. Then, plan to leave them when (and if) you sell your house. The love and care you took to create your living space will often be what sells your house for you (often faster and for more money than it would otherwise). I can’t tell you how often we hear new home owners saying how they fell in love with one beautiful character piece, an old mantle, dining room built ins, beveled windows, antique doorknobs…

So, whether continuing the character of an old house into a new remodel, or bringing the character of age into a contemporary house, recovered architectural salvage is aesthetically a good bet. Be creative, seek out the pieces you love, ask the advice of your designer and construction team, and have fun with your project!

Bret will be available after the Arciform workshop to answer questions and provide advice on everything from old hardware options to light fixture selection. Whether you are in the planning stages or at the tail end of your remodel he can help you find the easiest ways to infuse your project with a little old world charm.

 

Find out more and RSVP for the July 16th Historic Homes How To Workshop here.

 

 Explore the Arciform Project Galleries | About Arciform | Schedule a Design Consultation

Historic Curb Appeal: Maintaining Your Craftsman

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A craftsman bungalow is many a homeowner’s dream.Their deep eaves, broad front porches, simple lines and cozy, lantern-like interior spaces create a casual living environment well suited to NW living.

What details should you pay attention to when your bungalow needs a bit of love and care?

Here are 5 important considerations for restoring the exterior of your bungalow:

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1. Respect your Rafter Tails. If you are lucky, your craftsman comes complete with decoratively detailed rafter tails (the ends of the beams that hold your roof up). These showcase a core craftman virtue: architectural elements that are both functional and beautiful.

When the time comes to repair or replace your roof or update your gutter system, be sure to take care to protect your rafter tails from being shorn off in the process. Once sawn off they cannot be easily replaced it is wise to work with a company that will identify roofing and gutter solutions that will protect your home’s original tails and architectural beams.

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2. Protect your Stained Glass with Storms. Craftsman homes are designed with long low horizontal surfaces, double hung windows and dark woods which create a lantern-like glow on the interior. You may be tempted to lighten up the home by adding additional picture or clerestory windows but resist the urge.

The cozy glow is part of the point.

The lower light of a craftsman also serves to highlight the beautiful stained glass windows that are frequently a key decorative feature. Protect your stained glass (and your other original windows) by installing historically accurate wooden storm windows.

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3. Make an Entrance. One of the simplest ways to update the curb appeal of your bungalow is by creating a dramatic front entrance. Because Craftsman front doors typically open directly into the main living space, a beautiful entry door will have the benefit of adding curb appeal and adding to the charm of your home’s interior. Typical Craftsman front doors feature little wooden blocks called dentals that project out from the door in a horizontal pattern and sidelights that often feature etched or stained glass.

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4.  Get Creative with Column Designs. One place where you have some aesthetic leeway on a Craftsman is in the design of your porch columns and railings. Though it is most common to see square, strongly horizontal shapes and patterns in a craftsman porch you and your designer should feel free to play with proportions and details to find something you like.

Just be sure to avoid unnecessary ornamentation. In a craftsman, the design of the architectural elements themselves should hold the aesthetic appeal rather than filigrees, additions, or architecturally unnecessary ornamentation.

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5. Go Bigger… In the Basement.The long, low horizontal lines of a Craftsman can offer few vertical surfaces to connect to a ground floor addition. Dormer additions are often impeded by the relatively shallow pitch of the bungalow roof.

So if extra space is needed to accommodate a growing family, explore the potential of a basement addition. By the time the Arts and Crafts style became popular, the basement and foundation technology was vastly improved over the Victorian era, giving you more space, (usually) a more watertight footprint and some flexibility to carve out finished space in your basement.

The most important basement considerations?

Do you have the ceiling height for officially permitted finished spaces? And do you have an appropriately located window or door that will work for fire safety egress?

Your Arciform designer can help you identify the renovation potential of your bungalow basement. With some smart design solutions, it can be a great way to add guest space and play space without marring the exterior design of your home.

Want more good ideas for making your classic home the envy of the neighborhood?

Join us July 16th for a Historic Home How To Workshop at Old Portland and Architectural. Get the details and RSVP here.

Explore the Arciform Project Galleries | About Arciform | Schedule a Design Consultation

Historic Curb Appeal: Capturing the Essence of Your Colonial Revival

 

ColemanScott_1927_Exterior_Front_A_1_PThis Colonial Revival showcases many of the style’s iconic features: lapboard siding, side gabled roof, doric columns supporting a small awning/portico over the centered front entrance and traditional louvered wooden shutters flanking the home’s symmetrically-placed double hung windows.

 

Part two of our Historic Curb Appeal series looks at a true classic American home style… the Colonial Revival. This simple, classic style  has many built in advantages for the homeowner interested in adding some space. It also has a few key challenges to keep in mind.

Here are Anne’s 5 Key Considerations for Updating a Colonial Revival:

1. Install Sensible Shutters. Of course the ideal is to have operable louvered wood shutters flanking your windows that are ready to serve their original purpose- creating summer shade and protecting from winter storms.

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In Oregon this ideal can often be impractical, since the persistently damp weather will take a heavy toll on all-wood elements, leading to premature rot and water damage. If operable shutters are not realistic, be sure you have made your shutters an appropriate scale so that they at least look like they could be operable- nothing looks sillier than a giant window with undersized ornamental shutters that are clearly tacked on to the house after the fact.

Material can make a difference as well- if the shutters are not going to operate (and you are not in a historic district), consider resin/wood composite shutters that will withstand Oregon’s wet weather.

 

2. Consider a Conservatory. Although it is certainly possible to add a side or back porch to a Colonial Revival, a classic alternative would be to add an enclosed conservatory or sun room to one side of the house. These glassed-in all weather spaces are supremely practical in Oregon and have the added benefit of being very traditional features of this style of home.

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3. Keep it Simple and Symmetrical. If you need to add windows, dormers or doors to the space, keep a careful eye on the home’s natural symmetry from the street. A Colonial Revival should always looked balanced around the central entry door. Pay careful attention to the way different elements line up along the facade- the simple finishes of a Colonial Revival will really highlight minor differences between sill heights, divided lite styles and trim elements.

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4. Additions should be Easy. Here’s the good news: A Colonial Revival lends itself easily to side and back additions, thanks to its simple rectangular mass and uncomplicated exterior finishes. Think about additions as simple cubes added to the exterior. As long as you are paying attention to the symmetry of the building you should end up with an addition that feels right.

 

5. Pop out a Portico. Some Colonial Revivals have full length porches sporting Grecian columns. But it is equally common to see an entryway whose only covering is a small awning or portico. Adding an awning to your front entry can have both practical and aesthetic benefits, providing shelter from the rain while creating an opportunity to add a touch of Grecian grandeur through columns, a juliette balcony, transoms or a formal looking fanlight. These entry systems may not be expansive, but they should feel special.

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This Arciform client added a small awning to the entry of their Dutch Colonial Revival home to give their guests a drier welcome.

Want to know more about the history of the Colonial Revival?  There’s a great overview of the style here.

Next up in our series: The Classic Bungalow style…

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Postcards from the Field: Knotts Owen Barn

This week Richard and our preservation associate Catherine Cuthbert took a trip out to Corvallis to survey a historic 1870 barn that we are working with the owners to stabilize and preserve. This barn, called the Knotts Owens Barn, was listed as one of Restore Oregon’s 2013-14 Most Endangered Places.

Here are some pictures from our first look at the place:

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About the Knotts Owen Barn (from the Restore Oregon website)

The Knotts-Owens Barn is one of a handful of hand-hewn barns standing in Benton County today. This rare farmstead complex is regionally significant because it shows the evolution of a family farm from the settlement era through the 20th century.

The storyline of the Knotts-Owens farmstead begins in 1849 when Iowa natives William and Sylvia Knotts received a 640-acre donation land claim three miles north of present-day downtown Corvallis. The farmstead has stayed in the same family and the existing collection of buildings date to the 1870s, providing an excellent example of subsistence farming around the Mid-Willamette Valley. The complex consists of a farmhouse, machine shed, pump house, brooder house, and the barn.

Read more about this endangered place here.

 

We’ll keep you posted about the progress of this important preservation project.

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Historic Curb Appeal: 5 Steps to Refreshing a Vivid Victorian

In part one of our Historic Curb Appeal series, we’ll be taking a closer look at the exterior details that define the Victorian style and offer a few recommendations from our design team when deciding what to add or change on your Victorian.

 

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This classic “painted lady” Victorian in the  Mississippi neighborhood was restored by Arciform following a house fire. Bold color, intriguing ornamentation on the porch columns and diverse and intricate siding patterns all typify the Victorian “painted lady” style.

1. Think in Verticals. Victorian homes are usually built with a strong vertical orientation, with tall narrow windows, doors and room proportions. When adding elements to a Victorian home, be sure new elements will also have strongly vertical proportions.

 

This might mean adding a transom window over a door to make it appear taller, or clerestory windows over double hung windows to give them the illusion of more height.

 

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Tall narrow french doors with a transom overhead honor the vertical proportions of this Queen Anne Victorian home in Forest Park.

 

2. Ornament with Abandon. When it comes to the ornamentation features of a Victorian exterior (like gingerbread details and fretwork) the temptation may be to use delicately intricate elements that are pre-manufactured and designed for smaller spaces.

 

A Victorian exterior will need gingerbread that is scaled up to fit the proportions of the house. Bold use of color is encouraged, but should be carefully planned to ensure that the repeating patterns and rhythms of the home’s ornamentation are reinforced rather than confused.

 

Robertson_1883_Exterior_A_2_WThis porch addition on a Victorian in the Abernethy neighborhood incorporated bold colors and intricate turned details on the balusters and columns. Even the crawl space covering was ornamented to coordinate with the homes boldly detailed exterior.

Here are a few classicly Victorian ornamentations to consider:

Victorian Shingles

Scalloped shingles

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Gingerbread gable details

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Corbels

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Even the hinges on a Victorian front door can be quite intricate…

3. Adding Out is Easier than Adding Down (or Up). Most Victorian homes have challenging, uneven shallow foundations and require significant excavation and foundation repair to support a dormer addition or add living space in the basement. The shallow roof eaves of many Victorians are often also not suitable for dormer additions.

If you need to add space, your best bet will be to add an addition to the back or side of the house, depending on where you have the most room.

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This small mudroom addition to a 1902 Sellwood Victorian incorporates gingerbread detailing, turned balusters, unusual siding shapes and strongly vertical proportions to stay in keeping with the Victorian architecture on the rest of the home.

4. Be Selective about Salvage. Salvage windows, doors and gingerbread details can be a great way to add authenticity to your Victorian home. Just be sure to measure carefully before you purchase anything- a gorgeous door that doesn’t fit the existing entry opening will be a waste and a frustration. Also pay careful attention to the condition of salvage materials. Areas that have rot will need to be planed or trimmed, and that may impact the final dimensions of the salvage piece you intend to use.

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This beautiful salvage leaded glass window adds Victorian charm to the mudroom entrance of this home. A new frame and casing with intricate Victorian details were built to tie the window to the other architectural elements of the addition.

5. Use Artful Illusion to Incorporate Current Code and Contemporary Convenience. Building codes have changed dramatically since the Victorian era and many of the safety improvements have a noticeable impact on the proportions and look of new elements.

For example, replacing a porch railing may necessitate putting in a taller railing than would have been there originally, marring the proportions of the space. A new railing may need to be designed with a more substantial lower section that draws the eye away from the new taller segments.

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This Victorian suffered a house fire and needed replacement windows in the kitchen. Narrow double hung windows and ornate casings preserved the Victorian look while insulated glass, solar panels and hydronic radiant floor heat added contemporary energy performance and convenience.

Adding insulated glass to a traditional Victorian double hung window can add considerably to its weight- and trigger the need for additional weights in the window pockets. Your designer can help you identify when it will be better to keep an existing window and add historically appropriate storm windows vs. when you will be best served by replacing a rotting window with a new insulated glass window that matches the wood casing details and profiles of the original.

With care, research and thoughtful updates, your Victorian home can be the prettiest painted lady on the block.

Explore more Victorian design details on our Pinterest board here.

Next Up: Capturing the Essence of Your Colonial Revival.

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Postcard from the Field: Pioneer Mothers Cabin Update

We’re making great progress on our Pioneer Mothers Cabin restoration and reconstruction.

Here’s a peek at how it looks so far…

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We had some additional help from the Pioneer Mothers themselves the other day. Boy what a well dressed construction team that was…

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Would you like to pitch in with the Pioneer Mothers? Find out how to support the restoration project here.

 

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Case Study: A Historic Review Kitchen

We often get asked what kind of projects will trigger Portland’s Historic Review process and what can be done to help a project navigate smoothly through that process.

Here is Arciform Junior Designer Jeffrey Kelley’s experience working on a current Arciform project that passed Historic Review with flying colors and is now under construction:

  1. Tell me about your recent historic review project. What historic designations does the client’s home have?

The project was a kitchen renovation done on the Frank C. Stettler house, which was designed by Ellis Lawrence in 1914.  This home is designated as a Historic Landmark on the national registry.

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  1. What were the client’s goals for her renovation project?

She wanted to renovate the kitchen to make it more period appropriate while at the same time gaining space for a powder bath since there wasn’t a first floor bathroom.

Here are some BEFORE pictures of the existing kitchen:
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And here are some perspective renderings of the project design:

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  1. What aspect of the project required historic review?

Historic review deals with changes to the exterior of a home.  In this case we were removing an exterior access to the basement as well as reconfiguring some windows.

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  1. What design choices were made or modified with historic review in mind?

We had to make sure that the door and window choices we were making fit the style of the home and reflected the existing architecture.  So things like matching the divided light pattern [on the windows], rail and style dimensions [on the doors], millwork details, hardware, header height, etc.

  1. What kind of questions need to be answered for Historic Review?

Here’s an example:

Historic changes. Most properties change over time. Those changes that have acquired historic significance will be preserved.

There will be no changes to areas that have acquired historic significance after the original construction of the house. The proposed remodel area, which was previously remodeled, has yet to be documented in the historic description of the house and was constructed sometime within the last twenty years. The materials and finishes in the current kitchen do not reflect the period in which the house was built and will, as much as possible, be replaced with more period appropriate choices.

The exterior basement entry at the side and West facing façade of the house is not mentioned in the National Register description of the house and serves as a secondary and rarely used point of access to the basement. The proposed remodel will replace this entrance and absorb the stairwell in favor of a kitchen and nook layout that will improve functionality, increase usable space and feature architectural details that will better reflect the home’s original intent. For example, new double hung windows will be installed at the West façade to replace the exterior basement door and closely match details of the adjacent double hung windows.   This will provide a more consistent architectural rhythm along this wall. The South façade will feature new French doors with a divided light configuration and sticking profiles to match the original West facing door which leads to the original porte-cochère.”

  1. What kind of documentation of those choices did the city require?

We submitted exterior elevations, window and door specs, floor plans, and a thorough explanation as to how and why we were going to match the existing architecture with materials that mimicked but did not match what was there. Historic review wants there to be designation between what was existing and what is new.

Yoo Review Documentation

  1. What concerns did you have about the review process- were there aspects of the project you were worried would face a review challenge?

Our biggest concern was whether or not the review was going to grant us permission to remove the exterior access to the basement.  Even though there is interior access to the basement this seemed like an area in which they could argue that it was part of the original function of the house.

  1. How long did the review process take?

We submitted the review on March 18th and we got the approval on May 1st pending a 14 day appeal period.

  1. What feedback (if any) did you get from the review team about the process? 

The only feedback we got was a question about the door configuration and why we chose to match the door at the porte cochere.  We explained that the home owner wanted to match the existing details of the original door rather than match the French door on the same façade which had been added much later.

  1. Any advice you would offer for a homeowner in a historic district looking to do a similar renovation?

I would say to do as much research on your home before you start designing as possible.  It is important to know as much about the home’s history as possible before considering how to alter it.  It is also important to understand what triggers a historic review and make sure that if you do trigger it the changes are all critical to the project.  If you can avoid changing the exterior of your home then you avoid the review all together.

  1.  10. Where would you recommend homeowners go to start their research?

There are great resources available through Portland’s Development Services website. I’d start there. Portland Maps can also be a great place to find out basic information about your home’s history and what renovations it has already received in its lifetime.

 

And of course the Arciform Design Team is always happy to help!

We look forward to posting completed images from this project later this summer.

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