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- Bob's Shingle Style Home > Episode 15: Trim and Paneling Get Underway
Touring the Isaac Bell Historic House
Trim and paneling get underway in the entryway, living room, and front hall to return some of the house’s original formality and grandeur. Bob takes us on a visit to the Isaac Bell House in Newport, RI, for a look at one of the finest examples of the Shingle Style to be found anywhere.
- Part 1: Creating a Cornice Molding for the Dining Room
- Part 2: Touring the Isaac Bell Historic House
- Bob takes a tour of the Isaac Bell historic house in Newport, RI, exploring one of the finest examples of the Shingle Style to be found anywhere. The house is a unique combination of antiquarian interest in colonial American architecture, with the most avant-garde English approaches to house design.
- Part 3: Installing Wall Paneling in the Entranceway and Visiting the Completed Tiled Shower
Also from Bob's Shingle Style Home
<p>With demolition completed, other surprises are revealed. Structural engineer Rene Mugnier explains how to fix the kitchen ceiling and two floors above, which are found to be dangerously unsupported, with the addition of a new load-bearing structural beam. Work begins on the new plumbing system.</p>
We're still doing finish carpentry and today we're gonna show you you how to create an elaborate cornice molding, made out of wood.
We're also taking you on a field trip, it's not all carpentry today.
We're going to go to Newport, Rhode Island to visit the Issac Bell House which has some the most beautiful interior paneling you'll see anyplace.
And when we come back, we're kinda gonna do a little knockoff of what we see there to create a paneled entryway that goes into my living room. Stick around, it's good to have you home again.
Bob Vila's Home Again.
OK. We're in the dining room and there's Bob Riley. Hi.
How are ya?
Now the the job in here is pretty elaborate, to create the cornice right? And obviously, you've got to do all of it right up there on the ceiling.
So you have done and the most important thing which is to lay out your sawhorses around the perimeter of the room and throw up your planks. So that you don't have to worry about benches or ladders.
Right, well. I'm, we're going to be up here for a while. so we want it good and safe and comfortable so we can walk around.
Yeah, it's a complicated cornice molding and it's also a complicated room, it's not four sides.
Right, we've got a a bunch of different angles going on.
This room actually has one, two, three walls and then one wall that's three-sided, so it's actually six walls in here.
Right, plus it's a five-piece molding that the architect has got us putting up.
Let's look at this. So, this is the ceiling up here, and we've got a stock crown molding that we got here from our buddies here at Anderson McQuaid . And then you've got a flat piece of stock, two pieces of filler. What's the fifth?
Then it's got this dental molding round in the bottom.
Ah, a dental molding.
Which of course will go on the bottom. And which echo's the dental molding that's on the built-in hutch, here in the room.
That's going to be beautiful.
Yeah, it is. It's going to be nice.
How do you get started?
Well, we've already snapped our lines, we know where it's going to be going up here, and We had to be careful of how we are going to get over this window. But it's going to sit like that.
And it goes right across the whole top of the window.
It goes across the top of this window. We initially had a piece of scotia in here but we eliminated that, because the distance between the ceiling and the top of t he casing is three eighths of an inch from one end to the other.
So we are determined to...
Stuff like that happens in a hundred years.
It happens, so this way here you won't be able to lose it and your eye wont really pick it out.
Now, where does this dental moulding go though, on the very bottom?
When we're done right, the dental will sit right in there.
That is nice. So what did I just interrupt, what were you working on over there?
What I'm doing, I'm trying to determine what this angle is here. So I just bisected this point here, because the first piece you want to put on is over the fireplace, I don't want any joints in here.
And there's two different angles on either end. And the way we did this was after snapping these lines.
I've got a line through here and I just take uh, a belt. Full square.
And set it on the wall. And this will be our starting point for determining this angle.
If you could just set that in the we'll do a little test cut? Right okay alright, set the blade to that angle.
Now, the mitre box here is going to allow us to kind of replicate what he's done but we're still kind of looking at at a rough situation.
We're trying to estimate looks to me like it could be around 34 degrees.
Sounds...make a test cut, with a piece of scrap. And you can just Okay, gee. That's not too bad really.
It's close, let me adjust it maybe down to maybe a degree or two?
I'd say, yeah. Try whatever you've got there. One and a half less.
One and a half less?
So I'm gonna go down from thirty-four down to thirty-three, thirty-two and a half.
Oh that looks good.
That looks pretty tight.
Okay so what did you have that at?
That's at thirty-two and a half degrees.
Okay, and that determines the inside cut there.
Right, so the first piece we're gonna be putting on is right over the fireplace there.
All right. This one eleven feet one and a half inch
And of course its the crown molding
Which goes right up against the ceiling against your blue line there.
How does that look?
Oh it looks great.
Okay. The trick is we don't want a nail very close to the end, because we might split the wood. Just want to come up, maybe half an inch up. Five eighths of an inch. And then, of course, we'll use a nail set to set it in farther, and Riley?
Okay, you're putting in a six penny nail there, I'm using a four penny over at this end.
Anyway, we have to take a break. Please stick around after these messages. We are going to be in Newport, Rhode Island visiting the Issac Bell House. We're in Newport, Rhode Island on Bellevue Avenue, a busy street. We're really in a town that represents the Gilded Age. This was the playground of the idle rich at the turn of the century, in the 1890' s.
We're going to be looking at the Isaac Bell House. Our host John Mesick, preservation architect.
Good morning, Bob.
Good morning. How are you John?
Now before we get into talking about this house, you have quite an impressive list of projects that you've been involved with. Tell us about some of them.
Well, you filmed a few years ago Monticello.
Where we restored Jefferson's roof in time for his 250th birthday.
And then we moved on to Poplar Forest, his retreat at Lynchburg, Virginia, where we've been working a number of years.
And what are you doing right now besides the Isaac Bell House?
Well, we're also working out in Wisconsin at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, his great home in the hills of Wisconsin.
Some very heady addresses. Now tell us about Isaac Bell. Who was he? The man that built this house.
He was cotton merchant who Retired at the early age of 32, he made his fortune and decided to take up residency in Newport.
And this is 1880...?
Yes, he starts the house in 1881, he moves in in 1883.
Okay, and how did he get hooked up with the McKim, Mead, and White the-- the kind of rebellious young architects ' they were.
Well they all were in their thirties except White was 28 at the time. But in 1879, McKim had designed the Newport Casino just down Bellview Avenue here.
The casino of course is one of the most famous structures in--in-- in Newport.
Tell us a little bit about that.
How was it used? It wasn't a gambling hall.
No, it was more of a social club and there was tennis there, and still is the tennis hall of fame to this day.
And what was revolutionary was the use of shingles and different styles of architecture blending.
That's right, it for the first time pulled together a lot of things that had been in the air at the time.
Queen Anne Revival in England it was very influential here in the 1870's. The stick style was dying, Victorian verandas and millwork. But McKim had been looking at Colonial architecture for nearly a decade and photographing it.
Now, you cannot really tell much because of the house's condition right now but you have a photograph that does give us an idea of what this house looked like just a year ago, in terms of the masses and the shapes. Can you describe it for us?
Surely, unfortunately you're seeing it at a very ugly stage, but this is as it was two years ago. You'll notice it sits on the corner of Bellevue and Perry Street. The design is very much made to fit this nice flat lawn.
And it ends with, or rather, it's bracketed by these turrets.
That's right. The energy facade is absorbed by this projecting sleeping porch here on the second floor or this bedroom turret down here on the now Perry street side.
Lets talk about the architectural restoration because I was surprised to see all this felt paper attached to the sheathing in the side of the house. What's the story?
We've taken all the shingles of the house except on the north side, where original shingles from 1883 have survived and may for another century, because it being
north , it doesn't take the beating from the sun.
But on the side we're looking at now there were three generations of shingles and so in order to protect the work while we have the shingles off we put the felt up.
The felt will come off.
Okay that's temporary.
Right now this is the garden facade is the entry to the house along the...
Its along the side and a roof sticks out to support your way.
Lets take a closer look.
You've got to admit, this is pretty odd and unusual detailing over here.
Well, it is a notable town here so perhaps it's appropriate that we have sea monsters supporting the front.
But It's actually a Chinese thing, right?
I presume they were.
We speculate the tongues were painted red.
Paint analysis is being done just now and they found gold leaf around the heads, rather awesome you see the teeth there.
So they are really splendid things greeting you at the front door, here.
And now it's a shingle style house but it's all brick, It's red brick.
What is your story?
I believe they want to create an earthy base to the house, as well as a more shadowed enclosure to the porch. And this is something Stanford White's done in a number of his houses around here.
The house across the street by him has a stone base.
Now, is this one of the columns that you're -
Yes, it's going to be stripped of its paint.
I've never seen something like this. Look at it - it's turned to resemble bamboo, I guess.
Exactly, that's what we presume, another oriental feature that's been added to the house.
So the rings and then just the slight bit of a swelling on - it's beautiful, beautiful work.
Well, the house is all beautiful work.
As you'll see.
Paneling is what we're here to look at.
Here's a pretty vast front hall, John.
It's a very welcoming space, the largest one in the house.
And now the paneling that we're looking at over here and the carving, this doesn't look like it's 1890's. What is all this?
No, we speculate that the Bell's got this perhaps on their honeymoon in France. It's a Breton bed panel.
Framed alcove bed in a peasant's cottage, probably.
It 's a wonderful carved birds and flowers throughout this and so they got enough of this antique paneling to create this whole section of the fire place warrior, we have it all over, the whole alcove is lined with this.
Now what's behind these dwells?
Once it's cleaned in the the restoration, you will see that it's a bright polish tin behind there, which reflected the light of course, especially at night and made it all come alive. Indeed, and the fireplace must be six or seven feet across, and all of it is lined with these beautiful dutch tiles.
Bell had been our minister to the Netherlands, after he built the house. Perhaps he got the tiles at that time.
Indeed, so he continues the antique paneling, but it's interrupted by these wonderful windows, is that beveled glass?
Yes, that's prismatic glass, which you must realize caught the afternoon sunlight as you see, it came in, it would make the rainbow.
Expect this space will be great again, because, I mean the rest of room is all contemporary paneling, even the ceiling right? The ceiling is quarter song, Quite o its very difficult to come by today. Fortunately. in good condition here.
Would this have been a ceiling rosette of some sort?
Well, I think this ornamentation is half of a bed-warmer pan. A brass pan. And it should be polished to a high polish and it will reflect, again, the nighttime light.
Are the windows on the staircase here, are they Tiffany?
No, we have no evidence it's Tiffany. It's, we would like to think it's La Farge but there's no evidence for that, either. The colors really work very well with the colors that will be restored in the house.
The colors are very good. But then the golden oak is what's really unifying throughout this whole space.
I mean, look at the size of these doors, right?
Yes, they're four foot wide covering a sixteen foot opening.
This is the type of paneling that we're trying to recreate, where it's basically a recess panel, right?
And you can see that the panels have been staggered to make it geometrically more interesting when you look at the door.
Sure. And again, quarter-sawn oak.
Now what about the, look at the system for sliding those, exposed. Was it meant to be exposed like this?
Yes, it's a unique thing. You can imagine again the architects were having a bit of fun. they seem to be brass door wheels like you saw on New England barns.
All finished with, in an ornamental Oriental fashion.
Yeah indeed. Even down here those brass rosettes are crysanthamums.
Which would be a Japanese thing, right?
We see it throughout the house.
Right. Right. And then the paneling continues and what's this, is the dining room through here?
Yes, this is the dining room and another set of sliding doors.
This one is working perfectly. Of course there will be some restoration to the finish, but you're very lucky that nobody painted this in a hundred years
It all stayed intact.
Yes. Wow, so is this all mahogany in here.
This is mahogany, Honduran mahogany. It. needs to be cleaned, but it will be red-brown, a marvelous shade of red-brown. And notice the brass that has been ornamented, the hinges and so forth.
Oh, here, we have one of the bed warmer pans. They were mounted all over the room here.
And you can see the ghost up here above the door.
Oh I see.
Where one was positioned and they're around the room. What they did is they took half the bedwarmer and mounted it in a glass plate It's a beautiful thing.
Again, high polish picking up the night time light when you're at dinner.
Now, what have you got here?
This is a rendering that we have produced to show how this room, the dining room would look when all the elements are put back into it.
So these are the bed-warmers throughout the room.
That's right. And they're on wrapped hand walls, as well as the ceilings. And notice the dining room chairs. They still survive.
They were in the attic of the house.
So you are lucky to have so of the original furnishings from the room.
Yes, and they will be restored. They need a great deal of care.
Yeah, they need a fair amount of restoration.
But it's an interesting design.
It's apparently designed by the architects because the same chairs were found at King's Coat, a joining house where Stanford White did the dining room and the same chairs.
Indeed, now you said a minute ago that everything was covered in straw and rattan.
Well, rattan. A woven cane if you will, a sort of raffia color. It would have been, sort of pale gold.
There you go.
Again, shiny at night would have picked up the light.
So it's funny that a little bit survives right in between the casings of the windows which are so heavy Mahogany and when this was new the red of the mahogany with the tan of the---just stunning!
Absolutely, and then what we've got over here is more of the same sort of recessed panels.
And he varies the sizes of the recessed panels as he goes.
The eye is always entertained and and we we need a white interior at this period.
Well you got a great job ahead of you, it'll take what, at least 2 years?
I think at least that, a year to finish the outside and in a year or more do the interiors. Thanks for the tour, John.
My pleasure, Bob. We'll be back after these messages. One of the design features from our 1987 house are the original doors which have these panels that are somewhat horizontal in scale. And we have just seen at the Isaac Bell house a lot of wainscoting, which again has these relatively horizontal scaled panels. Here we're creating an entranceway into the living room.
We are using high-tech materials. This is a medium density overlay, a type of plywood with a paper face, which takes paint very well, in fact some people call it sign board and we've had poplar milled down to half inch which we are applying to create the recessed panels and of course we're shooting it all in place. Danny, can I interrupt you or help you here?
These are the side pieces which make good spacers, we shoot it and then just go to the other side, and then do the same thing in the next case and keep on going like this just pinning them in place.
Alright, and this piece goes on the edge, push it up and in.
And now we put in the middle pieces to create two panels on the top here, you 've got your marks there, and the second panel is horizontal and the third one is divided again to create two panels.
Now we're ready for moldings. OK. And this is standard, over the counter, lumberyard moldings that Danny's pre-cut and you've pre-cut all that you'll need for the whole job I assume.
OK. That's all there is to it.
And it really is, I mean, a day's project is what it is but when it is painted out it's going to look like a million bucks . And of course we've done other contemporary things like make sure we have some of this little Lightolier fixtures up in here.
So that we'll have some down lighting.
But anyway let's take a look at the second floor where more of the carpentry finished trim is being completed Most of the second floor trim is in place and we're almost ready to turn this all over to the painters.
And you can see all these popular moldings that are in place in the picture moldings.
But right over Fr in this corner of the house.
Last week, we were putting in the ceramic tile in the guest bath and I wanted to give you look as he's done a fabulous job.
The shower is all finished with this beautiful Italian tile and the Spanish tile and the wainscote tile.
It's the old-fashioned system of installing kind of with the running bond, and the circle dark blue which again occurs down here, almost kind of creating the idea of a mopboard.
And then of course look at this floor.
It's just a simple detail. But it's so dramatic.
And all we need here is a door.
In-- then in the guest bedroom itself we stacked all of our original sash which are back from being stripped, and they've been reglazed and repaired, and now they're being primed, the painters are busy getting them all primed so that we can install them back in the windows. And get rid of the old storm windows and prime the whole exterior of the house. This is an exciting point in time.
Stick around we've got to break for some messages.
Well, we've got a long way to go before moving day, but we're running out of time.
Come home again next time when we're installing hardwood floors. A beautiful maple floor is in the kitchen, and then in my den we're putting down a herringbone pattern in oak.
Also, a tour of the Konetigo Factory in Cleveland, Ohio, where they make these terrific water purification systems. And my friends from California Closet are coming to help me figure out how to best customize the master bedroom closets .
So then I'm Bob Villa. It's good to have you home again.
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