Secret Sources 2006
Our annual list of handpicked sources for the unique, the hard-to-find, the truly special products for your next project
Sure, there's plenty of glass tile out there. But there isn't much like the mosaic designs issuing from this Albuquerque studio. Adams pioneered the "textile" look for glass, creating patterns and borders for floors and walls that are almost dizzying in their complexity. An 18-person crew hand-sets the tiles on 12-by-12-inch sheets, or they'll create a custom mosaic to your specs. Adams recently designed curved corner tiles for her signature "Zen weave" pattern, shown above, to eliminate the need for a grouted edge. Albuquerque, New Mexico; 505-352-1016; erinadamsdesign.com
Who knew it could be this easy to order a custom kitchen online? While this innovative maker of Euro-style contemporary and transitional cabinetry does have brick-and-mortar showrooms in Seattle and New York, its Web-based sales and service are the real hook. Each customer gets assigned a personal project manager who works with the company's designers and architects to produce detailed drawings. Six to eight weeks
after sign-off, the cabinets arrive at your door with full installation instructions. All the boxes are made of certified-sustainable birch veneer-core panels, faced with a choice of wood including bamboo, walnut, fir, and cherry, or plastic laminate. New York, New York; 212-966-5797; henrybuilt.com
We love concrete countertops for their durability and "green" cred. But finding a skilled local fabricator isn't always easy. Shipping, on the other hand, is risky and expensive. NuCrete CounterTiles solve both of those problems. Available in four colors—cream, porcelain, graphite, and earth—the 2-foot-square, 1-inch-thick tiles are specially formulated to resist staining and can be easily cut on-site with a tile or masonry saw.
Petaluma, California; 877-283-2400; sonomastone.com
If it can be done in copper, this guy can do it. Gutters and ornamental downspouts, sure, but also cupolas, dormers, gargoyles, roofing tile, bathtubs, and kitchen range hoods. Born in Germany, Liebscher has traveled the world honing his craft, and he'll visit your house, or work with your contractor on custom-designed or reproduction items.
San Marcos, California; 760-471-5114; hanscopper.com
This little shop in western Montana might have stayed a secret, were it not for This Old House reader Frank Shrier. He was so pleased with Pine Door's work on his 1912 Craftsman-style restoration that he sent us an e-mail singing the praises of company owners Larry and Mary Chinn. "Larry insists on getting the wood rough-cut. He dries it in his own kiln, planes it to his specifications, and laminates it in his huge press. Needless to say, he and his crew created a six-light, clear fir door for me that cannot be distinguished from the originals." Upon further investigation, we learned that these high-quality entry and interior doors are available in a variety of species, including knotty and clear pine, alder, cedar, fir, oak, cherry, maple, and walnut. The Chinns will customize sizes and designs to suit any project, and they'll make the knives to cut matching moldings and trim.
Darby, Montana; 406-821-3024; pine-door.com
Usually, if you like the shape of a faucet, you have to settle for the handles that come with it. Not so at Watermark. Company principals Jack and Avi Abel have developed a system that lets you mix and match from among 34 faucet styles (traditional to transitional to über-contemporary), 35 finishes, and 100 handle trims. When you do the math, this makes for pretty compelling odds that you'll end up with a near-custom bath suite at an off-the-rack price.
Spring Creek, New York; 800-842-7277; watermark-designs.com
"I like to think I'm a sculptor for the hearth," says home-furnishings designer John Lyle, who is drawn to the challenge of seamlessly integrating art with utility. He pulls it off with a line of fireplace accessories in polished white or yellow bronze and hand-forged blackened steel. Whereas most fireplace gear is either ultra-rustic or starkly contemporary, these elegant and original andirons, tool sets, and fire screens strike a middle ground, offering traditional style with a modern spin.
Islesboro, Maine; 207-734-8299; lyleandumbach.com
Wood-floor inlays used to be just for the rich. But the advent of laser saws changed all that. Now floor art is within the reach of nearly any homeowner, and Decorative aims to please. Choose from affordable stock patterns (like the 6 3/4-inch accent blocks shown below, starting at around $65), or design your own custom inlay or border, in domestic or exotic wood. No job is too small or too large, says president Jim Garth. He's not kidding: If the company
can make a 36-foot, $120,000 medallion for a Saudi Arabian prince, it can certainly handle a compass rose for your entryway.
Port St. Joe, Florida; 877-229-7720; decorativeflooring.com
Sculptor Martin Pierce imbues his nature-inspired doorknobs with such a textural, organic quality that you half expect the lizards and frogs to jump when touched and the feathery willow to tickle your hand. His original Hedgerow locksets, in cast bronze, are based on the landscapes of his English childhood (that's the bronze being melted, above); newer designs in stainless steel have a looser, more ergonomic look.
Los Angeles, California; 800-619-1521; martinpierce.com
That brass grille covering the floor vent in your Craftsman bungalow may have looked good when it was new, but after a century of foot traffic, it's gotta go. You can hunt around for a suitable replacement, or you can get the Giumentas (father and sons) to use their state-of-the-art water-jet cutter to make you an exact replica. They can create virtually any pattern in metal, or you can customize standard designs in brass, bronze, stainless steel, aluminum, baked enamel, even wood and stone.
Brooklyn, New York; 800-387-6267; archgrille.com
Even if you don't live in one of the Spanish Revival houses that inspired Malibu Potteries' original line of tile in the 1920s and '30s, you can still appreciate what these hand-painted reproductions do for a backsplash or fireplace surround. If you want to see for yourself, a special Web tool, colormytile.com, allows you to customize any of the more than 100 available patterns with the colors of your choosing, then lay them out in a virtual installation. Los Angeles, California; 310-287-0142; classictileandmosaic.com
This California artisan makes his hand-forged, period-inspired iron lanterns with the same labor-intensive techniques and attention to detail as the original craftsmen. He offers more than 100 outdoor lights, from ornate French hanging lanterns to simple Colonial and coach-style wall-mounts, with
a choice of clear, frosted, or old-fashioned seed glass. For the real purists among you, he'll even adapt the lanterns for a gas flame. Santa Barbara, California; 805-962-5119; stevenhandelmanstudios.com
Nothing matches the timeless elegance of a carved-stone mantel. Not much matches the cost—or the weight—either. Solus's hand-cast concrete mantels and surrounds have the sheen and solidity of polished limestone, without the exorbitant price tag. If your tastes run more toward the contemporary than the classic, choose from among the many options for tiled surrounds,
in a dozen subtle hues.
Vancouver, British Columbia;
If you need door and window casings for your Federal-style dining room, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better source than Brent Hull. Author of Historic Millwork: A Guide to Restoring and Re-creating Doors, Windows, and Moldings of the Late 19th Through Mid-20th Centuries, Hull's impressive catalog offers complete molding packages for Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Georgian, Federal, and Greek Revival rooms. And if you don't see just what you're looking for, he'll work with you to create the best design for your project.
Fort Worth, Texas; 817-332-1495; hullhistorical.com
If you were a fan of Legos as a kid, you'll love the ingenious modular designs of Vixen Hill's gazebos, garden houses, and porch systems. Using the company's Web-based design tool, you can spec the components—Victorian or Queen Anne styling, single-tiered roof or double, copper or cedar shingles, wood floor or none—and watch as your gazebo takes shape on screen in an instant. It may take you a little longer to assemble the pre-engineered kit, but you can count on your creation staying put for a while. "This is red cedar, so it's especially tight in grain and therefore resistant to rot, weather, and insects," says a company
rep. "We get letters all the time from hurricane areas where the gazebo was the only thing left standing after a storm."
Elverson, Pennsylvania; 800-423-2766; vixenhill.com
Pendant lights have become so popular that it can be a challenge to find something really unique. That's why we were so excited by Jeremy Pyles's hanging glass globes and cylinders. The visible bulbs and filaments evoke the era of Thomas Edison, but with a contemporary sensibility that cleverly bridges past and present. And because each fixture is hand-blown, you're guaranteed never to see another one just like it.
New York, New York; 212-777-2101; nichemodern.com
Cast foam may be lighter and cheaper, but nothing matches the crisp detail of real plaster ornament. And nobody is better at producing it than Decorators Supply. This 123-year-old company, owned by the third generation of the same family, has a library of approximately 400 richly detailed patterns for cornices, crown moldings, ceiling medallions, rosettes, and more. And while the designs are deeply rooted in the past, the operation is strictly 21st century, with an excellent website, five catalogs, and top-notch shipping and handling.
Chicago, Illinois; 773-847-6300; decoratorssupply.com
Every garden needs a focal point, and the best ones look like they've been there forever. Stone Forest is guided by the "less is more" principle of Japanese design. "You don't want to overshadow the strength of a natural material," says founder Michael Zimber. The simple round millstones and tall obelisks are carved, chiseled, and selectively polished, as above, then left largely as you might find them in nature.
Santa Fe, New Mexico; 888-682-2987; stoneforest.com
When you're planning to use salvaged wood on a project, you usually have to settle for what's in the supplier's warehouse. But Jeff Stafford is so focused on pleasing customers that he'll send his crews out to scour the Midwest and try to bring back exactly the material you want. "We like to be there from the beginning, to know what you're trying to accomplish," he says.
Once they've found the perfect old planks, beams, or barn siding, they'll mill it into flooring or wall paneling—or leave it just the way they found it—and ship it to you anywhere in the country.
San Francisco and New York; 888-563-9663; restorationtimber.com
If you hire a small local fabricator to make you a stainless-steel countertop, you can't always be sure of the outcome. But if you hire one of the biggest names in stainless-steel sink manufacturing to do it, that's another story altogether. Less well known than its extensive product line is the fact that Elkay also fabricates superbly finished custom countertops (with or without integrating one of the company's sinks). They've been doing it for more than 80 years, but word is spreading now thanks to a photo-filled custom section on the website. An exclusive team assigned to your project will see it through from initial design to final installation.
Oak Brook, Illinois; 630-572-3192; elkayusa.com
When it comes to "green" fabric, you don't have to settle for homespun cotton and boring linen. Not when you can get, say, lustrous all-natural cloth made from 100 percent bamboo fibers. With its Sustainable Home Collection, Designtex raises the green bar several notches, offering four renewable, toxin-free fabrics in patterns and styles suitable for upholstery, drapery, and bedding.
New York, New York; 800-221-1540; designtex.com
You hate to lose your windows' wavy old glass, but you need the performance of modern windows. Bendheim, which has long manufactured old-look restoration glass, now makes it in a laminated version, which preserves the telltale imperfections but conforms with today's stringent building codes.
East of the Mississippi, 800-221-7379; west of the Mississippi,
Most designers of wood-burning stoves seem to get their inspiration from one of two places: Ben Franklin or the Jetsons. But Italian architect Antonio Citterio has looked elsewhere, to the spare, simple lines of the Shakers. The result is his stove of the same name, with an elegant silhouette that echoes history but sits comfortably within more up-to-date environs.
Pound Ridge, New York;
Beadboard is great, but using it in a bathroom can be problematic. Damp conditions make the wood swell, opening up unsightly gaps. So we were thrilled to discover the Grazia line of 100 percent glazed-ceramic beadboard. A dead ringer for the real thing, it can be used in baths, kitchens, or anyplace where high humidity is a concern. Ditto for ceramic wainscoting panels that mimic applied moldings, for a dimensional wall that will remain stable no matter what the environment.
Freeport, New York; 800-351-0038; hastingstilebath.com
You've been to every home center and wood-floor dealer for miles around, and you still can't find exactly the right combination of species, color, size, and finish. That's when you need T. Morton. This fledgling company is fast making a name for its top-rate service: choose your wood from dozens of domestic, exotic, and salvaged options; have it milled into strips or planks of any width, solid
or engineered; get it stained any shade, and textured, waxed, or polyurethaned; and have it at your door in three to five weeks.
Nothing warms up a kitchen like wood, and nobody offers more ways to do it than Craft-Art, with a choice of more than a dozen species, 30 standard edge treatments, and numerous surface finishes. You can get full-length planks up to 20 feet, edge-grain styles, or end-grain for a checkerboard effect. All countertops are treated with an organic tung oil?based penetrating varnish, shown here being applied, which renders them water-, heat-, and stain-resistant.
Atlanta, Georgia; 404-352-5625; craft-art.com
Wood wouldn't seem a natural choice
for tile. Because it expands and contracts, grout can crack and fail. So Darrin Hallowell and his team at Flux created something new: a water-resistant grout that expands and contracts, too. It's a good thing, because the company's Fortis Arbor wood mosaics—made from Chinese bamboo and sustainably harvested teak and rosewood imported from Thailand—are so beautiful, you'll want to be able to use them in any room of the house. They're even suitable for the bath, though not, Hallowell notes, in the shower stall.
Chicago, Illinois; 773-883-2030; fluxstudios.com