Thursday, July 31, 2008

Beautiful Brick

Here is the brick to be used for the foundation and chimney of the tidewater cottage. It's a Cushwa handmade brick called Old Savannah. With lovely variation in texture, contour, and color, the bricks look as if they were salvaged from an old building.

Cushwa is the artisan line from Redland Brick, a company that also makes machine-moulded bricks and brick pavers at their other plants. Since 1872 the Cushwa plant has been handmaking bricks the same way: by pressing clay into sand-coated wooden moulds, then removing the bricks to be fired in a kiln. The colors of the finished bricks range from orange to black, depending on how close they are placed to the fire in the kiln.

Handmade new brick is a great choice for a new old house, but, like salvaged brick, it's an expensive one. Fortunately, there are brick products at all different levels of cost and quality for giving a house an authentically old look. Russell has spec'd Boral Thin Brick , a 3/4" thick brick facing made of concrete, in several Simple Farmhouse Portfolio designs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Chandler Farmhouse

At the Homestead Preserve in Warm Springs, Virginia, the Chandler is being built on a site with a drop-dead gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge mountains.

The side and back of the Chandler at the Homestead Preserve

Wouldn't this be a great spot to sit and watch the hawks ride the air currents as they fly south?

Reconfigured for the hillside setting, the Chandler now has a walk-out basement

Chandler front elevation as originally designed for flat land

The Homestead Preserve is a conservation development in a tiny hamlet close to the Homestead Resort in White Sulphur Springs, Virginia. The developers, Celebration Associates, acquired a tract of 11,500 acres of pristine land. Their first act was to transfer 9,250 of them to the Nature Conservancy for protection in perpetuity, and later, to donate conservation easements for an additional 935 acres to the Virginia Outdoors Foundation.
Homes are being built on just 325 acres of the Homestead Preserve. Residents enjoy privileges at the 200-year-old Homestead Resort, including golf, tennis, cultural and social events, and spas such as the Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs -- where a certain weary ex-President traveled in 1818 to take the waters in the Gentleman's Spa.

Like the tidewater cottage in Halfway, the new house at the Homestead Preserve was built from a factory-fabricated kit of parts crafted in Vermont by Connor Homes and delivered by truck to Warm Springs for assembly by a crew from Ilex Construction.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More "Roots of Home" Endorsements

Katrina Cottage
We have received additional endorsements for the new book, which will be on bookstore shelves on October 14th. We are grateful to author and interior designer Alexandra Stoddard, architect and Katrina Cottage designer Marianne Cusato, National Trust President Richard Moe, and Charleston interior designer Amelia Handegan as well as to a number of earlier contributors for taking time from extremely busy schedules to review the galleys and offer comments. All of the endorsements are posted on the online media site for Roots of Home.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

HABS and Historic Precedents

Russell's new book is titled Roots of Home, which is how he refers to the particular mix of culture and customs that shaped an area's classic home styles. The first settlers in a region took building traditions they knew from where they came from and adapted them to the climate, resources, and landscape in the new place. Through the years the styles of the houses evolved with new migrations and cultural influences, and they are still changing today as they're modified to fit how we live in the 21st century.

To plan a new old house, we begin by researching the native-grown homestyles of the place in which the house will be built. In our office at Russell Versaci Architecture we have an extensive architectural library with more than 1000 volumes; many are antiquarian and most are out of print. On the shelves are hundreds of books with old drawings and photographs of houses that serve as a great resource for researching vernacular traditions.

Although we feel fortunate to have this extensive architectural library on site, we also rely on another resource -- one that's available to anyone with a computer. The
Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) is a huge electronic archive of drawings and photographs of early American architecture that is free and easy to search on the Library of Congress website. (For the story of HABS, read Russell's column titled Picturing Home, which appeared in the summer issue of New Old House magazine.)

All this information serves to introduce the drawing at the top of the post. It is a HABS drawing of a house that served as a historic precedent and design inspiration for the prefab tidewater cottage. The house was called Maidstone, and its record states that it was located in the vicinity of Owings in Calvert County, Maryland. Beyond that little bit of information, we don't know anything else about the house, like whether or not it still exists. Many of the houses in HABS are no longer standing. The project was begun during the WPA years to document in photographs and measured drawings the early architecture of our country before it fell to ruins or was bulldozed to make way for the march of progress.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Prefab House Takes Shape

Outside Middleburg, the factory-fabricated cottage is looking very much like its rendering. On the second floor, the dormers now have their windows, and the roof has been covered with asphalt felt paper.

Clapboard siding and trim moulding are being applied, and the house is partially covered in GreenGuard Housewrap. The Marvin windows are double-hung with simulated true-divided light. The hipped style of the dormer was common in early Virginia and can be seen on houses in colonial Williamsburg.