For those of a certain age, shiny brass decor may bring to mind your grandmother's living room circa 1977. Brass lamps, brass vases, brass coffee tables...it was a bit of a brass explosion. In the past few years brass has seen a resurgence, but never fear! It's being applied as a much softer, warmer accent rather than the focal point of interior design. Brass, and other vintage metals such as gold, are overtaking the sharp, clinical-looking stainless steel and chrome as the perfect pair to contemporary styles.
An easy way to begin incorporating brass into your home decor is to start small. Brass cabinet handles, faucets, and door knobs can make surprisingly elegant yet subtle accents, especially when paired with dark hues and raw materials, such as concrete. When you're ready to go bigger, brass light fixtures are a warm contrast to colder metallic pendants and floor lamps. The most important thing to keep in mind is to use it as part of a larger mixed-metals palette, and to incorporate it with a variety of natural materials. These are a couple of our favorite brass-integrated examples!
You can expect this brass trend to stay especially prevalent in lighting and accessories, so make sure you check out our inventory to find the perfect accent piece for your own home!
trademark | ho•lo•phane | \hoh-luh-feyn\
The word holophane stems from the Greek words Holos (whole or entire) and Phanein (to appear or to seem). Put together, holophane means "to appear completely luminous."
When Andre Blondel, a French scientist, and Spiridion Psaroudaki, a Turkish engineer, submitted the documentation for what would be filed as U.S. Patent #563,836 in 1896 (see above pictures), it is unlikely they could have predicted that their holophane lights would "diffuse" into our lives just as well as they diffused light. This style of lighting, characterized by the use of parallel or crosscut prisms to refract and reflect light, can be seen everywhere from the domestic sphere to industrial spaces. Its popularity stems from the way that the light refraction creates a more luminous light source with less glare, creating a more efficient kind of illumination that can be directed where the light is needed most. Their design is also optimized to reduce light depreciation due to dirt, so you don't have to clean them as often to maintain the same level of brightness!
From Blondel and Psaroudaki, the rights to manufacture and sell holophane glassware in the United States made their way to Otis Mygatt, a New York businessman, who founded Holophane Glass Company and transferred the rights a final time to the company itself. In the next 100 years the company and holophane lighting took off, and found their way into some quite prestigious places!
Within the domestic sphere, holophane lighting has seen a bit of a resurgence with the popularity of more industrial-style kitchens and vintage-inspired living spaces. Holophane lighting is perfect for casting optimal illumination across your space in a way that is not harsh or dull. Whether providing illumination over culinary creations in the kitchen or late-night work in your home office, holophane is an excellent choice! Here at Architectural Antiques, we have several different designs available to fit the style you're looking for.
Spyhouse Coffee in St. Paul beautifully integrated holophane lighting into their decor!
Spelling is hard. It often seems like the English language has as many spelling rules as it does exceptions to those rules, which makes every memo, blog post, newspaper article, etc. an adventure to write. Sometimes a word will even have two acceptable ways to spell it, which causes more confusion. We recently ran into this problem as we were promoting the two mantles we salvaged from Rockton, Illinois...or is it mantel?
In order to determine which spelling was the correct one, we had to take a little trip back to the Middle Ages. Both mantle and mantel are derived from the Latin mantellum, meaning "cloak" or "a beam or stone supporting the masonry above the fireplace." It was adopted into Old English around the 15th century as mentel, but evolved into both mantel and mantle under Anglo-French influence. Mantel typically referred to that shelf over the fireplace, and has generally kept this definition since. Mantle is a bit trickier, because although the original definition referred to a loose, sleeveless cloak often worn by royalty and religious leaders, it has also been used to indicate non-textile structures such as a movable shelter for soldiers and a covering over a flame used to intensify its glow. This association is likely the reason behind the ambiguous "correct" usage.
Essentially, if you're trying to talk about a ledge over your fireplace where you put your vases, candles, and other tchotchkes and you're using American English, technically there is no right answer! It really comes down to personal preference. However, if you want to stick to the status quo (and stay in line with the Better Homes and Gardens Stylebook), mantel is probably the way to go. Even though we are not spelling and grammar experts, we are salvaging, restoring, and repurposing experts, and we would love to help you find the perfect mantel for your living space! Stop by our store or check out our inventory online!
Was your house built in a distinctive style, or designed by a notable architect?
Do you love to tell stories about famous former inhabitants?
Do you think it's just a really neat house and would like to learn more about whether it could be recognized as one?
If you answered "yes!" to any of these questions, you may have an eligible property for the National Register of Historic Places! Created as part of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act, the National Register is the official list of the nation's historic properties worthy of preservation. Currently, more than 90,000 properties are listed. Anyone is allowed to submit a nomination form, from local governments to special interest groups to private citizens like you! All it takes is the time and dedication to do the research and fill out the nomination form. If you don't know where to start, never fear! We've rounded up all the resources you may need.
You may be asking yourself, "why would I go through a bunch of work just to put my house on a list?" There are many benefits to having a federally-recognized historic property, including:
- Federal preservation grants for planning and rehabilitation
- Federal investment tax credits
- International Building Code fire and life safety code alternatives
- Possible state tax benefit and grant opportunities*
- The opportunity to celebrate the listing by ordering a bronze plaque that distinguishes the property as listed in the National Register!
*For our local customers: The Minnesota Historic Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit offers a state tax credit up to 20% for qualified historic rehabilitation!
Also good to keep in mind, listing your property on the National Register DOES NOT do the following:
- Require public access to your property
- Lead to public acquisition of your property
- Automatically invoke local historic district zoning or local landmark designation
- Place restrictions on what you may do with your property, up to and including destruction, UNLESS it is part of a project that receives federal assistance
Basically, your property is still yours to do what you like with it, unless you apply for something like a federal preservation grant to help with restoration. Technically, you can even demolish your house, but you risk losing the National Register designation unless your property was listed for more than just the structure.
If you think your house could potentially be eligible for listing on the National Register, there's a four step process you need to follow:
1. Contact your State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO)
This is the agency that will receive and review your nomination, and essentially take over the nomination process after you complete the form. They will be immensely helpful in your research, since they have a wide range of knowledge and resources available to you. They can also tell you if your property is already protected by local or state ordinances, help you determine which of the four criteria (covered in the next point) it falls under, and provide guidance for navigating the more complex sections of the nomination form. You can find a list of SHPO websites here.
2. Do your research!
A property is eligible for the National Register if it meets at least one of the following criteria (although meeting more than one always helps a nomination!):
Criteria A: Associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history (e.g. a house that was part of the Underground Railroad network)
Criteria B: Associated with the lives of significant persons in our past (e.g. the childhood home of Martin Luther King, Jr.)
Criteria C: Embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represents the work of a master, or that possesses high artistic values, or that represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction (e.g. a house designed by notable architect Frank Lloyd Wright, or that is a well-preserved example of the Art Deco style of architecture, or was built with the Chicago School construction method)
Criteria D: Has yielded or may be likely to yield information important in history or prehistory (e.g. a house in Colonial Williamsburg that may contain archaeological artifacts from the colonial era)
Typically, houses are not eligible for consideration if they are solely the birthplace of a historic person, have been moved from their original location, are reconstructed historic buildings, or became significant less than 50 years ago, unless they meet the following exceptions:
- It is the birthplace of a historic person, and there is no appropriate site or building associated with his or her productive life.
- It is moved from its original location, but it is significant for its architectural value, or is the most important structure associated with a historic person or event.
- It is a reconstructed historic building that has been accurately executed in a suitable environment and presented in a dignified manner as part of a restoration master plan, and no other building or structure with the same association has survived.
- It has achieved significance within the past 50 years for something of exceptional importance.
If you believe your house may fall under one of these exceptions, the SHPO will be invaluable in helping you determine if it is still eligible for the National Register.
3. Fill out the nomination form
You can find the nomination forms found on the National Park Service website here. The only form you need is Form 10-900, unless you need additional space for Sections 7 and 8 (Form 10-900a) or you are submitting a multiple property nomination (Form 10-900b). The National Park Service has published many bulletins that can assist you in filling out the form, including "Researching a Historic Property," "How to Apply the National Register Criteria for Evaluation," and "How to Complete the National Register Registration Form." The two most important things to remember when filling out the form is that your house must have historical significance (as shown through one or more of the four criteria) and it must retain the integrity of its significance (in location, design, materials, association, etc.).
4. Submit your nomination!
Submit your nomination to the State Historic Preservation Office. They will review the form, notify local governments and request public comment, submit the nomination to the state review board, and, if it passes, send it on to the National Park Service of final review and listing by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places! After you submit the nomination to SHPO, it will take a minimum of 4-5 months to finish the process, so patience is key!
Here at Architectural Antiques, we are strong advocates of preserving our material heritage. With every item we salvage, restore, and repurpose, we are retaining meaningful pieces of our history to be appreciated by generations to come. Antique architectural elements are a great addition to any style of decor, but they can also make your nomination application stronger if they fit with your home's era of significance. If you are in the market for an era- or style-specific piece for your home, come on in and let us help you find the perfect light fixture, stained glass window, woodwork, etc. for your historic place!
What do Ernest Hemingway, Marilyn Monroe, and Neil Armstrong have in common? Other than being American icons from the first half of the 20th century, they were all patrons of The American Bar! This Art Deco bar in the Savoy Hotel is the oldest surviving "American bar" in London (which get their name from serving American-style drinks--cocktails). It opened in 1893, but moved to its current location in 1904. These bars grew in popularity as trans-Atlantic travel became more common, and for the poor Americans who were not allowed to "manufacture, sell, transport, or import" alcohol stateside, it was a bit of home away from home.
One would not be surprised to find Ernest Hemingway ordering a Montgomery, Marilyn Monroe sipping Dom Perignon, or Neil Armstrong enjoying his first alcoholic drink after the moon landing--aptly named the Moon Walk--as well as many other international celebrities enjoying the bar's cocktail creations, such as Vivien Leigh, Charlie Chaplin, and Mark Twain.
Throughout its years as a top destination for artists and businessmen alike, The American Bar became well-known for the caliber and inventiveness of its bartenders. Ada "Coley" Coleman is often credited as the first of only two female head bartenders at the bar, as well as the creator of the Hanky Panky, a variation on the sweet martini. She was inspired to make the drink for her friend, comedic actor Sir Charles Hawtrey, who was overworked and often came in for a drink. When she set her concoction in front of him, his first reaction after tasting it was, "that's the real hanky-panky!" The name stuck.
When Coley retired in 1925, infamous bartender Harry Craddock replaced her, having left the United States several years earlier to avoid Prohibition. Legend has it (and Harry was fond of boasting), that he served the very last legal drink before Prohibition began. It is due to his cutting-edge mixology that we now enjoy cocktails such as the White Lady and Corpse Reviver #2. His 1930 book, The Savoy Cocktail Book, remains a reference staple for bartenders around the world.
You too could be serving dry martinis, Hanky Pankys, and Moon Walks (although admittedly at much cheaper prices) at your very own Art Deco bar! This beautiful walnut showstopper has been professionally restored to look like it just stepped out of 1935 Chicago. Come in to take a look, and imagine the literary conversations, shady business deals, and lifelong friendships that may have started there!
A journey through U.S. Census records, birth and death certificates, and antique poultry magazines in search of "J.B.Fithian, Factory Representative."Read More
If you've taken a look through our inventory, or even just follow us on social media, you've probably noticed that we have a lot of doorknobs.
They come in styles like "Bramante," "Montello," and "Cairo," are defined by schools like Classic, Italian Renaissance, and Vernacular, and were manufactured by historic companies like Russell & Erwin, Reading, and Yale & Towne. We try to identify all of these pieces of information as we sort through our inventory, and do most of our research on antiquedoorknobs.us. It is a treasure trove of information, and a wonderful resource if you are looking to research the doorknobs in your own home!
Another crucial piece of information we look at is the type of metal. Most cast doorknobs are made of brass, bronze, or iron, although steel is sometimes used as well. You can usually identify the metal by the patina, or tarnish caused by oxidation, and whether or not it is magnetic. Brass and bronze are not magnetic and can develop a greenish patina, which you can see at the bottom of this plate:
Iron and steel are magnetic, and develop a reddish patina, as seen peeking through this bronze-plated cast iron doorknob set:
These beautiful and detailed pieces of hardware are created with a process known as metal casting, which is actually one of the oldest forms of manufacturing at more than 5,000 years old! Scholars believe that metal smiths in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Syria and Iraq) were the first to use casting between 4000-3000 BCE, since the Sumerians in southern Mesopotamia were the first civilization to add tin to copper to make bronze tools and weapons, ushering in the Bronze Age. The oldest known casting is a copper frog cast from a grave in the ancient city of Kish around 3200 BCE:
At this time, bronze was usually cast in permanent stone molds for large items, but ornaments and jewelry show an early use of lost wax, or investment, casting. The lost wax process has remained essentially the same since 2000 BCE:
- An original model of the product is sculpted out of clay, wax, or another moldable substance.
- A negative mold made of silicon rubber or latex is created around the original, often held in shape by a jacket of plaster or fiberglass.
- Wax is poured into the mold to coat the interior, creating a positive mold of the product. At this point, sprues are attached to provide a path for bronze to flow and air to escape later on in the process.
- The positive wax model and sprues are coated with several layers of ceramic and grit, then baked to burn out the wax. This is the "lost wax" part, although sometimes the melted wax can be collected and used again.
- The negative space in the ceramic is filled with molten bronze and allowed to cool. Then, the ceramic shell is chipped and sandblasted away to reveal the final model, and the sprues are cut off.
- The final model is welded together if cast in pieces, and chased to recreate the surface detail and remove signs of the casting process.
- The last step is patination, where chemicals are applied to the surface to protect the metal and create a beautiful finish.
Brass, an alloy of copper and zinc, was developed many centuries BCE, but the exact date and location are still unknown. Brass products can be cast using die casting, where molten brass is forced into reusable molds, or sand casting, using either green sand molding or air set molding. Green sand molding uses a blend of silica sand, clay, water, and other additives to create a "wet" or "green" sand mold, into which the brass is poured. Air set molding mixes dry sand, silica sand, and additives with an adhesive that allows it to air set quickly, often resulting in a two-part mold.
Casting at Architectural Antiques
We recently had the pleasure of collaborating with Brian F. Leo, a local artisan specializing in custom hardware, architectural ornaments, and cast-metal specialties. We had received an interesting pendant light fixture in the Art Deco style, but quickly realized that the bottom bowl was missing. Brian used a collection of Art Deco parts he had, along with a plaster mold of an overlapping pointed arch pattern on the original light, to cast a new brass bowl!
When you think of crystal chandeliers, your mind probably goes straight to large, elaborate structures, a la Versailles or Beauty and the Beast:
In reality, the first uses of crystal in lighting appeared long before Marie Antoinette ate her cake and Belle waltzed to the sound of Angela Lansbury's voice. Crystal chandeliers appeared in the late 16th century and were designed with natural rock crystals, making them difficult to produce and expensive to own. Roughly a century later, in 1676, Englishman George Ravenscroft patented flint glass, a new material made with significant amounts of lead oxide that made it easier to cut and more prismatic. This marked the advent of English style chandeliers, identified by metal pieces in the main shaft, receiver bowl, and receiver plate, and glass arms extending from the plate to the drip pans. Unfortunately, few chandeliers from this time survive today, but the shape is quite familiar!
At the same time, Venetian glass makers were continuing to develop a glass-manufacturing industry that dates back to the 8th century and the Roman Empire. The Glassmakers Guild moved all furnaces to the island of Murano in the 13th century, for the dual purpose of preventing fires from spreading to the wooden structures of the city and making it harder for the artisans to reveal trade secrets. To add their own touch to the growing popularity of glass chandeliers, Murano glassmakers began to add molded glass flowers and leaves to chandeliers that could extend up to eight feet wide!
The 17th century also ushered in the opulent style often associated with Versailles--French Baroque or le style Louis Quatorze. With an open birdcage frame of gilded bronze in a vase or lyre shape and decorations of shining cut rock crystals, this style was highly sought after among the royalty of Europe, from Charles II of England to Maria Theresa of Austria.
The next two major developments in the glass chandelier industry came as a response to England's Glass Excise Act, which taxed glass by weight. Ireland was exempt from the tax, so many manufacturers moved their operations to locations like Waterford, which led to the growth of the world-renowned Waterford Glass House. Those who stayed in England resorted to cutting crystal drops from pieces of broken glass, which was taxed more cheaply, and strung them together like a tent, with a "bag" of more drops at the bottom--creating the tent-and-bag style:
The Glass Excise Act ended in 1835, around the time that the Industrial Revolution was transforming chandelier production. Mechanization allowed for faster and cheaper manufacturing, and a growing middle class meant there was a larger audience eager to show off their rising socioeconomic status. In particular, Daniel Swarovski's crystal cutting machine made it much more affordable to own diamond-like crystals, and launched an enterprise that is still around to this day!
Today, we can see that many of these old styles are still quite popular, such as Dutch brass-ball stem, French Baroque, and Georgian. Here at Architectural Antiques, we have a large collection of chandeliers that compliment a wide range of styles. Whether you're looking for Art Deco or Art Nouveau...
Colonial or Mid-Century Gothic...
...we've got the chandelier for you! In store or online, please Be Our Guest!
One of the things that we love about antiques is that each nick tells the story of the people who owned it before. When we're lucky enough, the previous owners leave a piece of themselves in the form of handwriting; however, the printed qualities can tell a lot about the time period from which it came too. This crate is a smorgasbord of typefaces with each one containing its own unique story. On this single crate, four different categories of typefaces can be identified: sans serif, script, stenciled serif, and slab serif. Before we dive in, let's go over the definition of each of the terms.
A serif is the line attached to the end of a letter's stroke. We like to think of them as the feet. The stenciled in numbers on the side of the crate as well as the "W.&A. GILBEY" are both examples of a serif typeface. However, they are different types of a serif with different histories. Stenciled type was used in the early 19th century by a small group of English engineers and surveyors to label their technical drawings before becoming more commonly used in the 20th century
The "W.&A. GILBEY" belongs in a subcategory of a serif known as a slab serif. This means that the serif has sharper corners and doesn't transition smoothly into the letter stroke as a regular serif does. The variation of this particular slab serif was designed in the mid-1800s. It's popularity died down in the 1920s until a revival in the 1950s.
Since the type that says "TEN YEARS OLD" doesn't have any serifs (or feet) attached to the letters, it's a san serif. The san serif typeface reached popularity in the early 1900s and reached its peak in the 1920s and 30s. The clarity and legibility from a distance made it popular for display uses.
Lastly, "They Royal" is an example of a script. More specifically, it's an example of a Spenserian script similar to the iconic Coca Cola and Ford logos. Spencerian was the standard cursive script taught in schools from the 1860s to 1920s and was common during this time period.
Knowing the history of these typefaces can help pinpoint a time period from when the crate, or at the very least the type stamp on the crate, was designed. Taking all of these histories into consideration, a clearer image of the time frame comes to shape. At the very earliest, the stenciled type and script indicate mid-1800s, while the revival of the slab serif suggests 1950s at the latest. Once all of the overlapping time periods are considered, the time frame is narrowed down to the early 1900s.
Now let's compare our estimation with actual facts. W.&A. Gilbey was founded in 1857, which corresponds with the script and stencil. The company gained its stride and started expanding their wares as well as acquiring other businesses in the early 1900s. W.&A. Gilbey merged with United Wine Traders Ltd in 1962 and then changed owners 1972. The detective work was pretty spot on, don't you think?