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Navy Blue and Copper Kitchen



Here's what I was aiming at. The finished kitchen in Albany, NY

While the other contractors were at work elsewhere in the house, I decided to build myself a kitchen. The plumbing, electric, and sheetrock had already been installed. Here I've laid down some 2×4's to rest the carcasses of the cabinets on. Later I'll shoot the kickplate directly onto the 2×4's.
The carcasses were built of 3/4″ birch plywood with a 1/2″ birch ply back. The main cabinet (seen below) is one large rectangular box with two dividers–very easy and fast to build. These cabinets are significantly stronger than the higher grade stock cabinets available today.
I use copper counters on many of my projects. They're inexpensive, easy to make, and I like the way they look. The counter is made from two sheets of CDX plywood glued and screwed together and a sheet of copper that's bent on a brake. (I've also bent them by hand with a wood block.) When the copper is cut to size and bent it's glued with contact cement to the plywood.
The cabinet carcasses and face frames finished.
I don't usually make the doors myself. I use Keystone Wood Specialties. They're fast, reliable, and they do beautiful work. Below, I'm insetting a door into a face frame. I prefer inset doors; they make the cabinets look more like furniture.


The cabinets are painted Benjamin Moore Hale Navy. The pulls are solid unlacquered brass. The pulls and counter will both develop a patina in time. The floor is a new southern pine decking to be painted.

The finished kitchen


Mantel Restoration and Install

I had my eye on this mantel for a couple of years. It had been sitting outside an antique/junk shop in upstate New York.

On the right is the natural color of the stone and on the left what was left of the green marbleizing.
As in the upstairs apartment, we built out the existing flue, centered it on the room, and installed an absolute black hearth stone.
My marbleizing skills are not that good so I chose to stain the green part of the fireplace. I custom mixed some Minwax stains, testing them on the inside lip on the mantel.
A grate from a different antique store. It was scraped and painted flat black.

The finished product.


Decorative Arts

After renovating my house in Little Falls it was time to work on the decorating. Luckily, antiques in upstate New York are abundant and cheep.

On the walls is my favorite color, Benjamin Moore Plum Royale. The trim is Decorator's white semi-gloss; ceiling, Decorator's White Flat. The floors are maple, probably installed in the early 20th century, finished natural.

All the carpets are Kilims from Turkey. The table is an Empire game table and the painting above is 18th century English with a Barbazon frame.

A mantle luster and a collection of flow blue transferware.
A print from Diderot's Encyclopedia in a gold frame.
Lace curtain from JR Burrows and Company and a copper Thai silk drapery. Cherry side table and needle point chair purchased at Brimfield.
Banquet lamp purchased in a small antique store in Mohawk, NY and a collection of Acoma pottery.
Two sterling silver Milagros, one German, the other from Italy and a Gillette razor set box.




Encaustic Tile in Havana


Most of these are the entries to small apartment buildings in Havana.

Marble, probably imported. Cuban marble is a dull grey color.
Terrazzo: I like how there are two different types next to each other.
Yellow encaustic in the upper right. Mosaic and subway tile in the bath. This is Hemingway's house in the countryside just outside of Havana.
Tile in the Hemingway house leading into the study.


A bookstore in Old Havana


Antique Frame Restore


Occasionally I come across a quality but damaged frame such as this one which I bought at a flea market in Manhattan. It's a beautiful piece, but it wouldn't do any good siting in a closet because I couldn't hang it, so I had to figure out how to repair it.

Here I'm building a dam. Pretty simple: two slats of wood attached with brads and the remaining openings filled with plumber's putty. I've applied a release agent to the mold area.


A two part resin poured into the dam.

The mold and the plaster of paris that I poured in it.
Taking care to continue the molding pattern, I've glued the new molding into place.
Finally a socially responsible use for my old cigar butts. After mixing them with water, the resulting tobacco juice adds about 100 years. I then touch up with gold paint, trying to match the wear pattern of the original.
Here's the frame as it hangs now on the wall. It's hard to tell where the patches are.


Stair Restoration

I'm not sure what the builders had in mind when they built this staircase, replacing what was probably a very attractive original.


Stripped down to something real. Already an improvement.


I found this walnut stair rail on Craig's list. There weren't enough spindles in the set so I had some made. The lighter colored are new.

The stair treads and stringer are original (note the new bullnose on the side of the treads) everything else is new.
After a lot of Bondo and sanding, the finished product.
I applied a custom finish to the banister of shellac flakes, denatured alcohol, and raw umber dye. The flooring is the original (circa 1910-1930's) fir flooring.




Cornices of Colorado

Cornices from Leadville and Silverton, mining boomtowns in the Colorado Rockies. The colors are more brash than what you might see in the Northeast but look good, I think, in the cool light of the surrounding mountains.






A glass Masonic Sign


Installing an “original” fireplace

While restoring a Greek Revival in Albany I attempted to return what was removed by neglect and various twentieth century “improvements” to the building.

From the shape of the existing chimney, it's most likely this floor had a simple wood stove and flue.

Here we've dropped in an absolute black hearth with a honed finish. This is a close approximation to the look of the earlier sandstone(?) or slate hearths.


I found this beautiful mantle on Craig's list; it's from a small town in the Mohawk valley, circa 1850.


We're installing the mantle off center to the existing flue but centered on the room.


Here we're filling in behind the mantle with a fake wall.


And here's the finished product. The new pine flooring is close to what the building originally had. I was going to face nail the floor with cut nails but used a hidden nail in the tongue of the tongue and grove flooring. The floors are stained and finished with matte poly to approximate an old finish. This apartment was being rented so a more authentic wax finish was not practical.


Design Challenge

Here’s a niche in the entry of a building in Bed-Stuy. We could only guess what was there before. The search for similar woodwork in the neighbors’ buildings turned up nothing, so I had to invent something. The radiator needed a cover that integrated with the adjoining wainscot and didn’t keep the front door from opening. The niche was only 3-4 inches deep, so there wasn’t enough depth for shelving.

plaster wainscot radiator restoration brownstone brooklynplaster wainscot readiator restoration brownstone brooklyn

Below is the first design, based loosely on a 19th century stage. Note how the shelving is set in from the edge of the niche. This allows the “curiosity cabinet” to project forward without obscuring the plaster edge detail.

curiosity cabinet brownstone brooklyn

Below is a radiator grille similar to the one used above. This is a inexpensive way to make a Victorian looking radiator built-in. The nicest grilles can be bought from King Architectural Metals and then inserted into casework.

brownstone radiator grille victorian

Here’s the end result. Built out of hard maple and finished with hand mixed shellac to approximate the original 19th century finish. Some of the elements, the spindles, casing, and brackets were purchased from Vintage Woodworks. The other parts, most notably the top, were made in my shop on a band saw. The “pineapple” at the center top was inspired by my trip to Charleston. It’s a symbol of welcome there, found in many entries.

Brownstone entry brooklyn gavinyoungmaloney

Ingrain Carpet

Below are some pictures of Ingrain Carpet caught “in the the wild” at Lincoln’s house in Springfield, Illinois. Like the Venetian Carpet of my earlier post, these are made on jacquard looms. I have always thought of wall to wall carpet as a modern furnishing, something to be found in a the ranch house or in Econoline vans with shag rugs, but it seems that the Victorians were doing it first.

Ingrain carpet lincoln house springfieldingrain carpet victorian carpet linclon house springfield

As can be seen below, the carpets are woven in 36″ strips and then woven together. A company called Family Heirloom Weavers still makes these patterns.

ingrain carpet lincoln house

ingrain carpet lincoln house

Ingrain carpet also makes very nice carpet tread. I used it below in a job in Brooklyn.

victorian brownstone brooklyn stair carpet ingrain gavinyoungmaloney builder

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