Whether making cake stands or candles, Fresh Pastry Stand’s Deva Mirel finds inspiration in the vintage kitchen and its contents.
Author Archives: Jane Dagmi
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- Fresh Pastry Stand: New Business from Old Housewares
Fresh Pastry Stand: New Business from Old Housewares
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- Lamon Luther: Reclaiming Lumber… and Lives
Lamon Luther: Reclaiming Lumber… and Lives
Compassion, faith, and hope are not intrinsically wired into the furniture business, but Lamon Luther, a fledgling manufacturer based in Douglasville, GA, might just set a new precedent for the industry.
Brian Preston, the company’s founder, is not only committed to designing super cool hand-crafted tables, benches, and bookcases from beautifully patinated reclaimed wood, he is dedicated to salvaging lives in the process. Preston hires homeless carpenters, building hope through employment.
When Brian Preston first visited a tent village occupied by homeless men and rumored to be dangerous, he did not go with the expectation of recruiting talent for a start-up furniture company. Rather Preston, who had just turned 30, was beginning to question his purpose in life. He thought a new adventure that would test his personal comfort zone and contribute to humanity was a good idea, and that’s when he discovered a pool of jobless and skilled carpenters eager for an opportunity to work.
Preston could totally relate to these men. Four years ago his construction and remodeling business, which had served Atlanta’s most affluent suburbs, tumbled along with the economy. He and his wife, April Lee, lost everything. “I know what it feels like to be broke and have nothing. I’ve been there,” he says.
Ideas started to click and all signs pointed to building a mindful furniture brand, but the proposition was only feasible in the first place, because Preston himself has a talent for designing and build furniture. His wife attests, “Brian has always been extremely creative and talented when it came to building things with his hands. We actually began our marriage by remodeling a 1927 farmhouse! I enjoy showing him a picture of something and then have him make it.”
With a solid source for beautiful reclaimed wood and a staff of capable, hardworking carpenters, it didn’t take long for the company to find its groove.
Lamon Luther pays homage to the American craftsman. The company is named after Preston’s grandfather, an exceptional carpenter who built the house where Preston spent much of his boyhood. Preston says, “He used to say things like, ‘Come here. Let me show you what a tool can do.’”
The honest wood furniture that Preston designs today could have been made by his grandfather’s hand. It is mostly made with basic tools of the trade using time-tested practices and techniques.
For more on the company, check out the video below, and visit Lamon Luther:
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- The Biltmore Estate: A Brief Architectural Tour
The Biltmore Estate: A Brief Architectural Tour
I recently toured The Biltmore in Asheville, NC—a 250-room estate on 8,000 acres, the largest private home built in America. It is architecturally splendid, wildly romantic, and absurdly luxurious.
Inspired by chateaux in France, George Vanderbilt hired architect Richard Morris Hunt to interpret his vision and Frederick Law Olmsted to landscape it.
Over six years, 1,000 men worked six days a week to complete the estate, with George Vanderbilt and his guests christening Biltmore on Christmas Eve 1895.
This was my first visit to the estate, and from the moment I glimpsed it, my heartbeat seriously raced. I was in awe of the scale, the scenery, and the lifestyle that it must have supported.
Here are six of the Biltmore’s most memorable architectural features:
The Cantilevered Staircase.
Inspired by the staircase at the Chateau de Blois in the Loire Valley, Biltmore’s grand staircase is a marvel of physics built using counterbalance. The weight of each of the solid limestone slab steps is offset by the weight of the wall bearing down.
The Massive Chandelier
There is a 1,700-pound electric light fixture suspended from the middle of the grand staircase. It hangs from a single bolt that runs through steel girders under the dome roof. The bolt has been replaced only once since the house was built. Wisely designed, the copper dome opens for easier access to the fixture.
Roof Tiles and Copper Flashing
The slate roof tiles were affixed one by one. Each piece was drilled at the corners and subsequently wired onto the attic’s steel infrastructure. Copper flashing was then installed at the junctions to prevent water from penetrating. The fanciful flashing on the ridge of the roof was embossed with George Vanderbilt’s initials and other natural motifs from his family crest. The original gold leaf no longer survives.
Grotesques vs. Gargoyles
Originally found in 16th century Italian grottoes, grotesques are stone-carved fantasy figures that often appear intertwined with floral ornament, either on the capitals of pillars or at the base of a truss. At Biltmore, they appear in abundance.
Gargoyles are bigger and project outwards from a wall. Though the Biltmore’s gargoyles are purely decorative, the usual purpose is to direct water away from a building. Thought to ward off evil spirits, they are strategically placed at lookout points around the exterior
Patterned and Textured Limestone
Immense quantities of limestone were hauled in from The Hallowell Stone Company in Indiana, stored in sheds, and then cut into blocks. While some was left smooth, other surfaces were textured and carved. Vanderbilt wanted the sunlight to reflect off of his house in aesthetically pleasing and varied ways. Beyond striations, symbols from the family crests are also carved into the columns providing contrast, definition, and design value.
Spanish architect and engineer Rafael Guastavino patented a self-supporting ceramic tile vault and arch system in the late 19th century. The system—used extensively inside and outside at Biltmore—consists of layers of terracotta tiles set in a herringbone pattern into Portland cement. The tile master Gustavino personally supervised the work.
If I could go back in time to spend just a few late-summer weeks in the North Carolina mountains, partying in the banquet room and pouring through some of the 10,000 books in Vanderbilt’s library; or creating flower arrangements from the gardens; or maybe even painting landscapes from a perch in the observatory, I most certainly would. But if visiting the past isn’t possible, I can always make a return trip to Biltmore in the near future.
For more on historic architectural style, consider:
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- Fireclay Tile: An Inventive Company Flush with Green Ideas
Fireclay Tile: An Inventive Company Flush with Green Ideas
For Paul Burns, Founder and Chief Ceramicist at Fireclay Tile, the deafening sound of crushing porcelain toilets is strangely melodious. The deconstruction of old and inefficient toilets gives Burns the strong stabilizer he needs to create Debris Series Recycled Tile, made from over 70% post- and pre-consumer waste. In finding a purpose for outdated plumbing fixtures, Fireclay Tile has diverted 150 tons of porcelain waste from landfill so far.
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- Design Manifest: A Father’s Day Tribute
Design Manifest: A Father’s Day Tribute
I love the concept of “the family business.” It has that old-world feeling of apprenticeship, with one generation picking up skills from another. But the family business is one built on trust and unconditional love. I am sure maintaining a family business is a supreme challenge at times, yet from my off-and-on research, I know that a family business can also deepen and strengthen bonds.
Meet Andrew and Naomi Stein—the father and daughter team at Design Manifest, a full service design firm with a top-notch construction and installation team, based just outside of Philadelphia. Andrew loves to build. He has been building things for 40 years. “Swinging the hammer is what I like best,” he says. Naomi, who studied marketing at Penn State and then got her interior decorating certification from Moore College of Art in Philadelphia, has an adventurous spirit with a passion for design, decorating, and blogging. While she gets the relevance of function and durability, aesthetics are what truly fire her up.
- Kitchen >
- 5 Great Backsplash Ideas
5 Great Backsplash Ideas
Prior to April, I was a “tile virgin.” But then I went to Coverings, the tile and stone industry trade show. With over 800 exhibitors in 300,000 square feet of space, I was over-stimulated, overwhelmed, and amazed at the size, innovation, and passion of this high-performance industry. Of course, any time you gather a lot of Italians under one roof, there’s gonna be passion!
Related: 11 Backsplashes for a Unique Kitchen
There’s a lot of product news to relay from Coverings, and I am going to start with a few spotlight-stealers that would make beautiful backsplashes. Gale Steves, author and trend spotter, believes the backsplash is often an afterthought for kitchen remodelers. I venture to say that the tiles below might actually drive the design and mood of the entire kitchen.
The Patchwork Backsplash
The tiles at Oscar & Izzy are exciting and unique, fun and folksy. The designer is Amy Mescia, a brand specialist who turned her talents from advertising to tile after being randomly invited to participate in an “Extreme Home Makeover.” Amy created this patchwork backsplash, which combines a love of modern and retro patterning with bright, happy color. Her simple and bold designs are printed atop Daltile solid ceramic tiles and are for indoor wall applications. A 4.25” square graphic tile is $20.00. Oscar & Izzy is named for her great grandfather and his wife.
Artistic Tile’s Charleston Collection takes basic classic subway tile to a new level of glam. Each glass tile is hand-silvered in a meticulous way that gives the mirror an antique appearance. The 3″ x 6″ beveled tile is $91/sq. ft. Straight-edge tiles, 9″ x 18″, are also available for $70/sq. ft. Both styles are 3/16″ thick.
Remember when the world was flat? Well, the world of tile was flat once too, but companies are now manipulating materials to bend, twist, and curve. In collaboration with Giugiaro Design of Volkswagen fame, Mosaico+ launched Pulsar, a rounded and sintered glass tile that is ultra-slick and color-rich. There are four layouts and ten colors available for this extremely durable tile made from recycled glass.
Matte & Shiny Backsplash
The juxtaposition of satin and gloss-finish tiles creates an interesting optical effect; shiny tile pops as the matte ones appear to recede. Red Rock Tileworks explores this combination of sheens in the Tuxedo Zig Zag pattern, featuring a new parallelogram-shape ceramic tile that comes in 48 colors and costs $24 per linear foot.
It’s Hip to Be Square
Squares-within-squares were a dominant geometric theme at the show. The sculptural “Syncopation” motif at Lowitz & Company calls to mind mid-century Miami architecture. Under the direction of painter/designer Ted Lowitz, tile makers manipulate clay purely with their fingertips, pushing, pulling, and defining the design. Two white, matte glazes are offered with this collection and were especially developed to complement stone and marble.
Backsplash Designing Tool
Aside from the selection of stone, ceramic, porcelain and glass, make sure to check out Crossville’s interactive online backsplash design tool. Backsplash Builder allows the user to key in most of Crossville’s porcelain or glass tile designs, trying different patterns and colors. The user puts in project dimensions and then starts selecting tile and grout color.
For more on tile and kitchen backsplashes, consider:
- Historic Homes & More >
- 2020 Alton Road: Anatomy of a LEED Home
2020 Alton Road: Anatomy of a LEED Home
The luxurious super-green house underway at 2020 Alton Road in Miami Beach is moving right along on its way toward LEED Platinum certification. Outfitted with top-of-the-line, energy-efficient products and systems, this project—from the Florida Green Home Design Group—strives for superlative indoor air quality and net-zero energy use.
The current asking price for the two-story five-bedroom, solar- and wind-fueled, rainwater-harvesting, totally iPad-automated house is $2.2 million. Even now, before the decorative details and finishing touches have been completed, it’s easy to appreciate 2020 Alton Road, on track to become the smartest, safest, and most energy-efficient residence in town.
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- How To: Make Kids Eco-Aware
How To: Make Kids Eco-Aware
The way to a young person’s conservation-conscious heart is through active learning—and maybe some candy.
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- Building Community: A Scene from Delray Beach
Building Community: A Scene from Delray Beach
According to the City of Delray Beach, community service has no age requirement. At this weekend’s “Curb Appeal by the Block” project, volunteers as young as four came to paint, garden, and relish the natural high that comes from giving back. Liam Reade was the youngest volunteer among a group of 200 area residents who, over the course of the day, revitalized six homes that’d been in need of some TLC.
“Each year we go through neighborhoods and find one that has a need for improvement,” says Jennifer Costello, Neighborhood Planner for the City of Delray Beach. This year’s revitalization project focused on a series of concrete-block homes mostly built in the 60s and 70s. Lula Butler, Director of Community Involvement, describes the neighborhood as “challenging.” She explains, “There are tenants who participate in undesirable activities and then there are many wonderful families who have owned homes here for 30 to 50 years. This year we are dealing with special people at different phases of life, overcoming or living with challenges.”
The event took months to plan and a good deal of money to finance. The search for a neighborhood in need began in October. “We like to do projects that have a number of homes in a cluster so we show impact on the neighborhood,” says Nigel Roberts, Neighborhood Services Administrator. The hope is that others will be inspired to follow suit.
After the vetting process, each home’s façade and lot is evaluated. Delray Beach’s Parks and Recreation preps each lawn site, and before designing each landscaping plan, Pete Anuar, Senior Landscape Planner for Delray Beach, consults with the homeowners. This year, Anuar was apt to use low-maintenance plants such as Bromeliad, Crown of Thorns, Crinum Lily, and foxtail palms. Contractors, meanwhile, address exterior repairs.
Sponsorship is crucial. The Home Depot donated $5,000 plus a portion of supplies, The Community Redevelopment Agency contributed $1,200, and Behr donated the remainder of paint needed. The whole project—paint, plants, other landscaping materials, mailboxes, rollers, brushes, signage, breakfast, lunch, water galore, and event tee shirts—cost about $15,000.
Of course nothing gets done, at least not in 5 hours, without plenty of volunteers. The Home Depot brought a team of 50, their orange shirts looking swell against the pale blue home they were servicing. There was lots of muscle on the scene too, compliments of the Delray Beach fire and police departments—and the US Navy. Church groups, the Boys & Girls Club, and city employees were also on hand. Entire families came, friends worked together, and students earned community service hours. It was heartwarming to watch an experienced painter teach technique to a young boy. People were sweaty and stained with mulch, but they were happy—dirt and discomfort diminished by the spirit of do-gooding.
For a visual chronicle of the event, don’t miss the Curb Appeal by the Block: Event Photo Gallery
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- From Construction Site to Runway: The Loop Jacket
From Construction Site to Runway: The Loop Jacket
Final countdown to spring! Time to park the parka and whip out the windbreaker. Don’t have one or looking to buy something fresh? Check out the Loop Jacket, a lightweight, stylish, and eco-friendly windbreaker from Mio Culture. The Loop Jacket is made of Tyvek, DuPont’s high performance weather-resistant plastic sheeting, most commonly seen wrapped around buildings. Mio Culture’s creative director Jaime Salm figured that if Tyvek could protect a home from the elements, then it could do the same for those who dwell within.