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Posts Tagged ‘Permanent furniture’

Permanent Furniture IV: Window Seats

December 9th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

This is my fourth series on “Permanent Furniture,” a term I’d not heard until Bill Inge lent me his 1927 “Builders’ Woodwork” catalog.

And what a wonderful term it is. It defines the “built-ins” that make early 20th Century American architecture so enchanting and beautiful and practical.

Unless otherwise indicated, all images below appeared in the 1927 Builders’ Woodwork catalog.

Many thanks to Bill Inge for sharing these fun old architecture books!!

To read Part I, click here.

Click here to read Part II and Part III.

As always, please leave a comment below!

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"Window seats and bookcases are very often used in combination, adding comfort to convenience."

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"These niches are not intended to supplant bookcases..." In other words, we know that you're going to have a *lot* more books than this, because you're a typical intelligent American with an innate desire to learn and grow. Wow. If only they could have known that TV would soon arrive on the scene and turn us into a nation of marginally literate, non-reading, believe-anything-you-see-on-the-tv saps. (But I digress...)

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Check out the fountain in the backyard. Now *that's* a view! I also love the little writing desk.

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See the item in front of the pen with a rounded bottom? Now, I'm sure most of my highly intelligent, history loving readers already know this, but it was a blotter, and on its underside, it had a piece of absorbent paper or cloth. After signing your documents with a quill pen, the blotter was used to soak up excess ink.

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Since they don't have a fountain in the backyard, they put up some draperies. But they do have a fine-looking Dutch Colonial out back. This is my favorite nook. Can you imagine curling up on this soft cushion, literally surrounded by all your favorite books? That lamp is in the wrong place, though.

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Rather plain, but still a quaint idea.

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If I still had a house with radiators, I'd install this design in a second. It's a radiator cover, plus window seat, plus book storage, plus drawer space. And it's not recessed (as many are).

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Another pretty one, but still pretty. And good storage underneath that bench seat.

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The simplest of designs, and yet there's a lot of storage space in those seats.

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This "permanent furniture" window seat and bookcase appeared in the 1927 Homebuilders' Catalog.

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1571 HB 1923

This, unlike the above, is an actual photo which appeared in the 1923 Harris Brothers (kit homes) catalog. The house shown is Harris Brothers' Modern Home #1571. In addition to the window seat, it has the bookcase colonnades, built-in buffet and gorgeous beamed ceiling.

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This was the only real-life example of a window seat I could find, and it's a poor example because it's really an "Inglenook" more than a window seat. And yet, it's still mighty pretty. The house shown is a Sears Magnolia, in northern West Virginia.

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To read more about the Sears Magnolia in West Virginia, click here.

Read all about phone niches by clicking here.

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Permanent Furniture III: Bookcase Colonnades

December 4th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the early 1980s, my husband and I looked at an Aladdin Shadowlawn for sale in Chesapeake, Virginia. We both fell head-over-heels in love with the solid-oak bookcase colonnades between the living room and dining room.

It was just last week that I learned that, in the early 1900s, these enchanting built-ins were known as “Permanent Furniture.”

“Permanent furniture” (built-in cabinetry) was a brilliant concept. The more “permanent furniture” present in a house, the less “temporary furniture” the new homeowners would need to purchase. And all these built-ins really did make best-possible use of small spaces.

To read more about permanent furniture, click here or here.

As always, thanks to Norfolk historian and librarian Bill Inge for sharing his wonderful old architecture books with moi!

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More than 30 years ago, we looked in the windows of this Aladdin Shadowlawn in Chesapeake, Virginia (near Chesapeake Square Mall) and caught a glimpse of the solid oak built-in bookcase colonnades and fell hopelessly in love. There's something about "permanent furniture" in old houses that still makes me swoon.

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The Aladdin Shadowlawn had beautiful built-in bookcase colonnades.

The Aladdin Shadowlawn came with beautiful built-in bookcase colonnades (1919 catalog).

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These colonnades appeared in the Sears Roebuck Building Materials catalog (1921).

These colonnades appeared in the Sears Roebuck "Building Materials" catalog (1921). Pretty basic and very plain and no shelving or bookcases. And who's Carlton? My guess is that he's someone that wasn't well liked at Sears. Maybe it started out as a practical joke. "Let's name those really boring colonnades after that boring guy, Carlton who never does anything but stand around and look goofy," and before they knew it, the $34 colonnades were listed in the Sears catalog as "Carlton Colonnades."

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For $82.50, you could buy a colonnade that actually had a practical purpose (unlike Carlton).

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The Sears Osborn featured these bookcase colonnades with either wooden muntins or leaded glass doors (1919).

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No sooner had I returned Bill Inges 1927 Builders Woodworking catalog than he loaned me this little treasure. It was full of - colonnades!

No sooner had I returned Bill Inge's 1927 Builders' Woodworking catalog than he loaned me this little treasure, "Building With Assurance; Morgan Millwork." It was full of - colonnades! It was published in 1923.

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And the first page of the Colonnade Chapter offered some interesting insights as to why we love colonnades.

And the first page of the Colonnade Chapter offered some interesting insights as to why we love colonnades: "It's an imitation of nature itself." BTW, check out the lovebird logo.

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Nice way to dress up a doorway!

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These colonnades are simple, but quite attractive. That rug looks like a trip hazard, though. The dining room furniture looks like it came out of a dollhouse. The proportions are skewed.

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Apparently Morgan had their own line of Carlton Colonnades.

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Much more ornate, and bigger bookcases, too. The original caption reads, "This Morgan standardized design offers a fine opportunity for tasty decoration with jardinieres, statuary, bric-a-brac, etc." I had to look up "jardinieres," because I've read a lot of books in my life but I have never seen that word. Turns out, "jardinieres" is a female gardener, allegedly. I'm not sure that even the most progressive 1920s housewife would be too keen on the idea of using built-in bookcases to store female gardeners.

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This one's my favorite: Rugged, sturdy, spacious and a built-in desk, too.

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That desk is pretty cool, even if he does have a lot of bills hidden inside of it.

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Another beautiful colonnade, but in use as a china hutch!

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A real-life bookcase colonnade in a Sears Hazelton in Oklahoma. Photo is copyright 2010 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

A real-life bookcase colonnade in a Sears Hazelton in Oklahoma. (Photo is copyright 2010 Rachel Shoemaker and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. No foolin'.)

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To read about the Sears Magnolia we found in West Virginia, click here.

To read more about built-ins, click here.

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Permanent Furniture II: Beautiful Staircases

December 3rd, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

In the early 1900s, we seemed to place more value on the idea that we should surround ourselves with beauty.

The staircases shown in the 1927 Builders’ Woodwork Catalog ranged from simple to fancy, and yet they’re all elegant and beautiful.

Too many modern staircases (post-1970) are not just utilitarian; they’re seriously ugly. Looking through several online listings of “new” houses for sale (under $500,000), I didn’t see any staircase pieces and parts that I haven’t seen for sale at Lowes. In other words, the focus of modern staircase building seems to be “fast, cheap and easy.”

What happened to the idea of making a beautiful entry?

As the 1920s text says below, “The staircase is the central feature of the hall or living room and must be judiciously selected to be in harmony with the architectural treatment of the dwelling.”

Perhaps that explains why contemporary staircases are so blasé and unappealing.

The pedestrian staircases in modern homes are “in harmony” with their pedestrian surroundings.

Many thanks to Bill Inge for sharing his historic architecture books with me!

Read about bookcase colonnades here!

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Even the front page for this chapter is a thing of beauty!

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"The designs...represent harmonious units." The text also adds, "The staircase...must be judiciously selected to be in harmony with the architectural treatment of the dwelling." How many builders today stop and think about how much "harmony" is expressed by their creations? (In the text above, K.D. stands for "knocked down.")

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"For the modern American small home, this design is very pleasing and practical."

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Another very simple design, and yet it's quite attractive. This type of staircase is often found in mail-order kit homes, because it's both simple and easy to construct.

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According to the accompanying caption, those doors lead out to an "elevated sunporch." I don't recall ever seeing an elevated sunporch off a landing like this - in real life.

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Another simple staircase, but with a 90-degree twist.

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"The unusual panel effect is a distinctive feature of this staircase..."

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This staircase is categorized in the original literature as a "Colonial design."

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Another favorite staircase. Years ago, I looked at a house for sale in South Norfolk (Chesapeake, VA) on Park Avenue and it had this very same design, all with original varnish/shellac. I thought it was the prettiest bit of "permanent furniture" that I'd ever seen. I shudder to think what's become of that house and it's gorgeous interiors. Note the phone niche next to the bench.

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"This panel buttress staircase is suitable for English or modern American homes. The complete absence of balusters and handrail make it easy to keep clean." While I do love the rope, I'm sure modern codes would not allow it.

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"The charm of this Colonial stairway is the continuous handrail ending in the graceful turning of a volute." Please raise your hand if you knew that this "round thing" at the end of the banister was known as a "volute." :D

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"Very suitable for the modest home without a reception hall." If a mother could have favorites, this would be one of mine. So pretty and so elegant, and yet, "suitable for a modest home."

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"The attractive arches give it real character."

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Another beautiful staircase. The window mirrors the pattern on the built-in bookcase.

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"The large central hall is an attribute of the Colonial home, the main feature of which is the stairway." This is the same stairway we had in our 1925 Colonial Revival on Gosnold Avenue (Norfolk), even down to the tapered spindles and center post. Lone difference is, we had three spindles per tread, where this has two. Nary a soul entered that reception hall without making a nice comment about the beauty of that staircase.

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"This is one of the simpler lines, very economical in construction."

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Not my favorite, but it must be a design of enduring appeal, because I've seen it in many post-WW2 houses. Original caption says the "sturdy lines of English architecture are faithfully retained in this beautiful stairway."

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"The unusual feature is the handrail is mitered into the newel cap." Makes sliding down a bannister much easier (and less painful). Although it's a mighty short run.

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"For real charm and beauty, a winding stairs can not be excelled."

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"This Colonial stairway is very impressive." I agree. Check out the phone niche.

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In the 1920s, we seemed to have more of an understanding that it was important to surround yourself with beauty. Modern staircases are not just utilitarian; theyre ugly as sin.

The image on the left is from a $500,000 house currently for sale in Hampton Roads. The image on the right was a very simple design offered in the 1927 "Builders' Woodwork" catalog. In the 1920s, we seemed understand that low-priced and simple didn't have to equate with cheap and ugly.

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To end on a happy note, I've always loved old houses, and that's due in large part to my mother, an artist, who always felt it was important to surround herself with beauty and light and color. She's shown here, sitting on the beautiful staircase of our Colonial Revival home in Waterview (Portsmouth, Virginia). It was about 1968, and she's holding "Bernard," a mutt she'd recently adopted from the local SPCA.

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To read Permanent Furniture, Part I, click here.

To read one of the most popular blogs at this site (featuring a beautiful staircase), click here.

Ready for a change of pace? Read about a really spooky basement here.

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Permanent Furniture: Fireplace Nooks

December 2nd, 2013 Sears Homes 4 comments

In this continuing series of “Images From The Awesome Old Architecture Books of Awesome Historian Bill Inge,” the next fun topic is “Permanent Furniture.”

While browsing through Bill’s “Builders’ Woodwork” catalog (1927), I was intrigued by this phrase, and found that it was a reference to built-in bookcases, nooks, and fireplace seats.

And my oh my, they are beautiful!

“Permanent Furniture” is also a jarring reminder that, despite our so-called progressive views on recycling, our not-so-distant ancestors did far better in preserving and respecting our country’s resources. I suspect they’d be scandalized if they saw a modern HGTV program, which seems to advocate disposing of anything in a house that’s more than 20 years old.

I shudder to think how much early 20th Century “Permanent Furniture” is sitting in a landfill somewhere, having been tossed into the waste stream for no other reason than the fact that it looked “dated,” or “old-fashioned.” And the modern home improvement shows fuel the fire, encouraging folks to rip out and replace anything that isn’t “up-to-date.” It takes “keeping up with the Joneses’” to a whole new level of insanity (and debt).

But don’t get me stated on HGTV. If I were queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d have that show and its ilk banned from the airwaves.

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Bill loaned me this book on one condition. "Don't drool on the pages," he said with a degree of gravitas, "because trust me, you're going to love these 1920s images."

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"The various items...have been designed for service and simple dignity." I not only loved the photos, I loved the accompanying descriptions, too. Beautifully said.

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Looks like a "Hospitality Seat" made it into the living room. I'm not sure how practical this one is, but it sure is lovely to look at. The woodwork is stunning.

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Simple, but dignified, as promised. This set-up was very common in so many early 20th Century houses and it creates such an inviting look. What could possibly be better than streaming sunlight, a warm fire and a good book?

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For those who don't own a lot of books, and like really big pillows...

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Nookie 3

Apparently, Spanish homeowners prefer their guests to stand. Maybe it inspires them to leave faster.

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Room for lots and lots of books! I do love the look of this. The oak wainscoting would be dark, but dignified.

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Most of these fireplaces have the lights over the mantel, whereas this has sconces on the side walls. The original caption says that this fireplace "is very artistic with its Tudor Gothic arch."

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Despite the fact that this arrangement may be a little too toasty, I think it's my favorite. I love how the wainscoting blends right in with the seat backs. Looks like there's storage within those benches.

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A classic look for early 20th Century Colonial Revivals.

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Another Colonial-esque mantel with flanking bookcases. The original caption says that the “sliding curtain is very practical.” I guess it’s a good idea for when your illiterate friends visit and you don’t want them to know you’re a bibliophile. The mirror looks like it’s draped with black crepe, but I don’t think that’s what it really is.

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I love how they have a picture of a Spanish mission house over the mantel. Just in case you were wondering which style of mantel this house is designed for...

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This image is from the 1921 Sears Modern Homes catalog. It's the fireplace nook for the Sears Ashmore. Pretty fancy for a "simple little kit house."

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Last but not least, here's some "permanent furniture" in a Sears Osborne in Illinois.

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To read about built-in phone niches, click here.

To contact Rose, please leave a comment below!

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