Secret Sources 2007
Direct from the pros to you: Our annual guide to the places insiders go for those unique and hard-to-find home items
The truth about us here at This Old House is that we can't keep anything to ourselves. As soon as we find a clever new product
or a great home accent, we're itching to tell you about it. So here again is our annual compilation of the best new sources we've discovered this year. Want environmentally friendly insulation for your new addition? We've got one made from denim. Need a front door that'll make your house the most distinctive on the block? We found some cool portals carved from reclaimed lumber. How about antique glass for your cabinets? Our source scours old houses for
it. Plumbing, lighting, tile, flooring—it's all here. Of course, this secret-sharing thing works both ways. If you have a favorite source we should know about, tell us about it here. We'll try to keep it to ourselves, but we can't make any promises.
For the past 60 years, this shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans has been quietly producing traditional lighting for the area's finest houses, hotels, and historic landmarks. Fixtures are made from copper or brass and can be either gas or electric. The studio's signature piece is a graceful glass lantern based on an early-17th-century European design.
New Orleans, Louisiana; 504-522-9485; Bevelo
If the uniform look of machine-made ceramic tile is a little too bland for your taste, check out the handmade offerings from Trikeenan. The New Hampshire–based purveyor makes its product from pure stoneware clay, using traditional techniques such as cutting and glazing by hand, so each tile has slight variations. Choose from such collections as Arts and Crafts or Glass Windows (pictured), an ingenious line that consists of ceramic fused with recycled glass. Tiles are available in 52 glaze colors, 15 glass colors, and a variety of sizes.
Keene, New Hampshire; 603-355-2961; Trikeenan Tileworks
Jim Pearl had been a furniture maker for nearly 50 years when a stately mantel he saw in an old movie made him turn his attention to the hearth. Believing that the mantel represented a room's visual focal point—as well as the heritage and tradition that give a home its emotional core—Pearl began producing two styles of mantels carved from choi, an Asian hardwood similar to American white oak. Now, Pearl's simple shelves and ornate carvings come in 29 styles that can be finished or left unfinished.
Collierville, Tennessee; 901-853-8237;
Sure, they do balusters, handrails, and newel posts, but what really sets this North Carolina outfit apart is its patented alignment system, which guarantees perfect installation of stair components. Choose from eight collections of wood stair parts, styled from Colonial to contemporary, and seven collections in forged iron. North Wilkesboro, North Carolina; 800-745-5931;
This San Antonio–based company specializes in custom-forged ornamental doors that are "designed with beauty, security, and function in mind," says owner H. Luis Munoz. Doors are made of 12-gauge steel, with foam-injected stiles and rails for insulation. Each door gets a double-cylinder Baldwin or Medeco lock, three coats of acrylic paint, and an interior panel that accepts glass up to 5⁄8 inch thick. Heavy and big as the Texas sky, the 2-inch-thick doors can take up to three months to fabricate and will put a big dent in your wallet, but if you're looking to make a statement, you'll find it here.
San Antonio, Texas; 877-442-5266;
An importer of exotic hardwoods, Rare Earth has a loyal following among architects, but that doesn't mean it's off-limits to you. From its 60,000-square-foot production facility in Michigan, the company imports such species as bubinga, bocote, teak, and tigerwood and uses them to manufacture flooring and flooring accessories, inlays, and stair parts. Most of the wood comes from sustainable, managed forests. Traverse City, Michigan; 800-968-0074;
Rare Earth Hardwoods
Architects love Conant for the Vermont company's skill at restoration and custom metal fabrication. New and antique lighting is the specialty, but Conant's artisans can make just about any decorative accent you need in metal, from bookends to curtain rods. All the firm's
metal products are guaranteed for life.
Burlington, Vermont; 800-832-4482;
Conant Custom Brass
Harvesting lumber from managed forests is responsible, but rescuing city trees felled by storms or construction projects is the ultimate feel-good enterprise. Instead of ending up in the chipper or the landfill, these downed trees go to Urban Hardwoods' Seattle mill, where they get turned into striking dining tables and coffee tables. If you're the hands-on type, purchase a slab of western walnut or chestnut and make your own creation.
Seattle, Washington; 206-766-8199;
Urban Hardwoods Harvesting
Denim isn't just for dungarees and bib overalls—these days, it's also stuffing for your walls. Bonded Logic's UltraTouch insulation is made from 85 percent denim fibers, recycled from factory waste. A boron treatment gives the product fire resistance and keeps fungus and mold at bay. Plus, the stuff doesn't itch, so you can do the job yourself without worry or protective gear. Chandler, Arizona; 480-812-9114;
This Maryland-based company scours homes slated for demolition around Baltimore and metropolitan Washington, D.C., to salvage, recycle, and reclaim antique window glass, including wavy glass, bubble glass, and leaded glass. Just call up owner Albert Kreis, tell him the age of the glass you're looking for or the era of the house you're renovating, and he'll try to match it. Then Fairview will clean the glass, cut it to your specs, and ship it off to you. Most of the antique glass runs about
12 cents a square inch. Frederick, Maryland; 301-371-3364; Fairview Glass
You're renovating your '60s ranch, and the money is running out. Replacing the kitchen cabinets is no longer an option, so here's an affordable way to spruce them up: Remove the old door panels, paint the frames, and fit them with sheets of LUMAsite. A lower-cost alternative to frosted glass, the acrylic panels are reinforced with glass fibers for a soft, silken appearance, akin to that of Japanese rice paper. Panels, which can be cut on-site with a masonry blade, range in size from 3-by-8 to 5-by-12 feet. West Babylon, New York; 800-627-9025;
You've renovated everything else, so why not give an upgrade to the first thing visitors see? This custom fabricator can create address numbers (and letters) in virtually any font and size,
in hollow stainless steel or solid aluminum. Stainless characters come with a satin or polished finish, aluminum in 12 clear-coated and anodized treatments and 18 baked-enamel colors. There's only one problem: These superstylish numbers may attract unwanted attention from lookie loos curious to see what the inside of your house is like.
St. Petersburg, Florida; 888-868-3567;
Custom House Numbers
Ceramic tile will never go out of style, but glass is the money material of the moment. Mosaic Source offers an extensive collection that includes Venetian glass and iridescent accent bars. Online ordering is as easy as pie, or you can call to find out about other goodies, such as wood and stone mosaics. Some lines can be costly; check the sale section for items priced as low as $7 a square foot, and keep an eye out for "buy one, get one free" deals.
Los Alamitos, California; 562-598-3143;
dust magnets, blinds look institutional. But shutters can add just the right amount of polish and style to a room. Sunburst's Ovation line is made from solid basswood, using mortise-and-tenon and dowel joinery. Choose from 28 wood stains, or have them custom-painted to match your interior.
Las Vegas, Nevada; 877-786-2877;
to be, shutters were made from wood. But that was before plastic crashed the party and took over. You can still find authentic wood shutters, though, if you know where to look. Copper Moon makes theirs out of Spanish cedar, African mahogany, or western red cedar using traditional joinery techniques. Copper, wrought-iron, and pewter hardware detailing come standard. Allentown, Pennsylvania; 610-434-8740;
Copper Moon Woodworks
If you're unlucky enough to have a house filled with hollow-core doors, we feel your pain. So does TruStile. Its paint-grade doors are made from solid medium-density fiberboard (MDF), so they are substantial and noise-blocking. "They are the only MDF doors built with stile and rail construction—not routed out of a solid slab of MDF—resulting in crisp, architecturally correct details," says Jason Mounts, the company's director of marketing. Doors come in 12 architectural styles, from Art Deco to Victorian, starting at $220.
Denver, Colorado; 866-442-5302;
Built from patterns used in a 1976 Smithsonian exhibit, these old-timey belt and pulley
fans feature solid mahogany blades and metal parts cast and machined by Amish craftsmen. Motors can be mounted on a wall or ceiling or hidden in an adjoining room or closet. Fan bodies are available
in iron, aluminum, and bronze. While
these don't have the chilling effect of
more contemporary, higher-speed fans,
we think they're plenty cool. New Park, Pennsylvania; 717-382-4754;
Woolen Mill Fan Company
be gaga over that antique door, but its outdated specifications disqualify it as an option for your home. That's where La Puerta comes in. Started by an architect, the company specializes in one-of-a-kind rustic doors that are either inspired by a salvaged original or made from it. "We make new products utilizing elements of the old," says Mark Maner, the company's marketing director. In fact, you can use elements of many doors to make a completely new one. Lead times vary.
Santa Fe, New Mexico; 505-984-8164;
La Puerta Originals
You wouldn't dream of covering your house in vinyl, but you'd rather spend your weekends lying on the beach than repainting the cedar clapboards. There is a middle ground. NuCedar's prefinished siding is milled from solid PVC boards that resist insects, rot, and decay. Up close the stuff looks like wood, but it's without wood's maintenance headaches. Boards come in
22 standard colors (including 5 historic options) and more than 1,400 custom shades, and in 4-, 6-, and 8-inch exposures. $400–$500 per square (10 by 10 feet).
Chicopee, Massachusetts; 866-393-8883;
The dual-flush toilet is a great conservation invention. With a 0.8-gallon flush option—half the amount of a standard flush—it can save a family of four up to 6,000 gallons of water per year. Dual-flushers typically cost upward of $500, but Sterling's models (there are four) conserve your money, too. The units, all with two-button actuators, start as low as $229. And they qualify for water-conservation rebates, so depending on your jurisdiction you could get some of that cash back.
Kohler, Wisconsin; 800-783-5464;
Want top-hinged kitchen cabinet doors that swing up and out of the way? How about horizontal bifolds, or soft-closing mechanisms that keep doors and drawers from slamming shut? With specialty hardware from Sugatsune, you can have it. The company sells all kinds of clever cabinet hinges for wood, glass, and aluminum-frame doors, as well as every kind of latch, catch, track, and drawer slide you could ever need. Carson, California;
800-562-5267; Sugatsune America
You're renovating a 1920s Craftsman and looking for the perfect period hardware. Look no further. HAH manufactures its own line of affordable reproductions, complete with
a hand-finishing process that replicates the timeworn look of the originals. If you'd
rather have the real thing, the company's hardware sleuths can get authentic antique pieces for you, too. The Oregon-based firm also offers custom manufacturing of
mortise locks, escutcheons, and doorknobs. Portland, Oregon; 877-223-2610;
800-562-5267; House of Antique Hardware
Quality faucets—the really good stuff with fancy finishes—can easily set you back $500. European imports can go higher still. Six-year-old Danze provides an alternative, with premium products at lower price points than other established brands. Faucets bear all the marks of high-quality merchandise: cast brass waterways, highly durable ceramic disk cartridges, and designer finishes such as antique copper,
oil-rubbed bronze, and stainless steel. Woodridge, Illinois; 877-530-3344; Danze
Anthony Cochran and Jesse Johnson launched Q Collection five years ago, with the goal of manufacturing good-looking furniture without using formaldehyde, polyurethane, or other pollutants. In addition to sofas, tables, and chairs, the company now offers a colorful selection of sustainable and biodegradable fabrics that are free of toxic finishes or dyes.
New York, New York; 212-529-1400; Q Collection