Secret Sources 2009
24 products and professionals to help make your house a standout on your street
It's that time of year again. No, we don't mean the holidays, though much of what's here and on the following slides certainly tops our wish lists. It's when we at This Old House open up our notebooks to spill secret sources we've discovered in the past 12 months. Looking for something the Joneses won't have? We've found handsome one-of-a-kind items, such as handmade farmhouse tables and recycled glass backsplash tiles, to personalize your space. For those of you with expensive tastes but tight budgets, we've uncovered online outlets for insider deals—no matter your zip code—on pricey lighting, floor coverings, and power tools. And if you're looking to replicate or match something you have on hand, we divulge our favorite places to go for custom-made hardware, millwork, and wall coverings. This year, readers also get in on the action, sharing hush-hush finds of their own. Because even the most in-the-know home-improvement enthusiasts can use a hand in flagging the latest and greatest of what's out there.
Reproduction Woodwork Heartwood Carving
If the years haven't been kind to your old home's trim, this company in Eugene, Oregon, can replicate damaged details using special 3D imaging software and computerized mills. Just send a sample or photo of your snapped spindles, for instance, and in a couple of weeks you'll have new ones that are virtually indistinguishable from the originals.
Prices, excluding any design fees, start at around $12 for a simple rosette to finish off the corner of a door casing and go up to $55 or more for ornate pieces, such as this copy of a 3½-inch corbel with a curling acanthus leaf; Heartwood Carving
Kramer Design Studio
Send your rusty salvage-yard scores to Chicago furniture designer and "upcycler" Randall Kramer, who can transform just about anything cast or wrought into a stylish, one-of-a-kind home accent. A Victorian-era cast-iron fence section, for example, gets a new life as the base of a bench, and an Art Deco window guard becomes a fireplace screen. This elegant headboard was once a balcony railing. The design and fabrication fee: about $495, excluding price of the rail; Kramer Design Studio
Custom Design Metal Arts
Brush up your hearth with hand-forged wrought-iron fireplace tools made expressly for you by ornamental metalsmith Bill Roberts of Ocala, Florida. Recent commissions include a shovel, poker, and broom set topped with intertwining vines, and ones with handsome horse heads. Tools are treated with a traditional blacksmith finish containing linseed oil, turpentine, and beeswax.
This wall-mount set with a twist motif, about $100; Custom Design Metal Arts
This design-it-yourself online shop lets you create your own wallpaper and get coordinating throw pillows, upholstery fabric, and even lamp shades. With more than 50 patterns and colors to mix and match, you can customize pieces to suit your individual taste and home decor. Shown below: Napa wallpaper in white, ochre, sand dollar, and charcoal gray, $8 per square foot, and matching 14-inch-square throw pillow, about $100; Alluminare
Allen Kaufman, New York City
Why I love it: Kraft built its business making decorative hardware and specialty plumbing products for pro designers like me, but anyone can use its custom services. On-site fabrication means prototypes are made on the spot and tweaked according to your feedback before an order is run.
What I scored: Drawer pulls for a client who fell in love with the shape of a 6-inch pull but wanted something twice the size.
Word to the wise: When shopping for hardware, whether at Kraft or a flea market, look for good design and shape first. You can always reinterpret an item to fit your needs.
The Parisian doorknob, a vintage find, inspired this replica knob and rosette in polished brass, about $53, and these cabinet pulls in brass, about $39, and satin nickel, about $19; Kraft Hardware
Find wall hooks, shelf brackets, and door knockers that look much more luxe than they cost on the website for Urban Outfitters, a hipper-than-thou clothing store and purveyor of dorm-room essentials for teens and twentysomethings. This special, grown-up-friendly spot for homeowners and renters alike is called the Apartment.
Several styles of shelf brackets, including the ornate cast-iron Rickrack and Scroll models shown above, about $12, and more than a dozen hooks, starting at $6; Urban Outfitters
You've heard of sample sales for designer clothes, but how about ones for expensive floor coverings? Flor, the maker of DIY-friendly stick-together carpet tiles, sells one-off designs and test colors for up to half the cost of its regular stock through this special online outlet. Quantities are limited, so for large area rugs pick a few different colors and arrange them in a custom pattern, such as the checkerboard shown at left. We've seen some fun and artful displays in kids' rooms, where having the ability to swap out a stained square is particularly useful.
20-inch square tiles, starting at $5; Flor Outlet
Visions Paint Recycling
Go easy on the environment and your wallet with low-VOC latex made by blending and reformulating excess stock from major paint manufacturers and leftovers from homeowner projects. Visions, of McClellan, California, offers 20 neutral shades in flat, eggshell, and semigloss for half the cost of comparable Green Seal–certified emulsions. If you want something brighter, send a swatch and Visions will mix a custom batch at no extra charge.
About $13–$15 per gallon, depending on sheen; Visions Paint Recycling
Amy R. Hughes, Features Editor
Why I love it: The virtual bargain basement for Lumens Light + Living, a Sacramento, California, seller of high-end lighting, fans, and accessories, such as woven Plynyl floor mats and stylish house numbers, unloads its display models and returns for up to 70 percent off.
What I scored: This dramatic Candelaria Chandelier with an antiqued-bronze finish and exposed Edison-style repro bulbs to go above my dining table. It was $395 (not including the bulbs), almost half off its retail price of $748.
Word to the wise: The Annex typically has about 75 lucky finds up for grabs at Lumens Annex. If you see something you like, best buy it fast—there's usually only one available.
Find hundreds of like-new tools from top brands, including Bosch, Makita, and DeWalt, for up to 65 percent off through this online retailer's "Recon Central" portal. Every router, grinder, nailer, and drill/driver is factory certified and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. So go ahead and splurge on that lithium-ion hammer drill you've been hankering for.
We found this Bosch 18V BruteTough, which retails for about $593, for $210; CPO Outlets
Opustone's Value Vault
Want granite countertops on a laminate budget? Visit the online home of Opustone's clearance showroom in Miami and browse through a rotating stock of discounted stone slabs and remnants in varied colors and textures. With up to 50 percent off and special shipping rates with freight carriers for national delivery, you'll be hard-pressed to find
a better deal. Just keep in mind that Opustone sells materials only, so you'll have to work with a local fabricator for any custom cuts, edge profiles, and installation.
An 68-by-92-inch slab of beige travertine was recently listed for $4 per square foot, down from $7; Opustone's Value Vault.
Guilt-Free Exotic Flooring
If you love the meandering gold and espresso streaks in marblewood from Brazil or the ripples in rambutan from Indonesia but worry about logging practices in such far-flung locales, let this purveyor of responsibly harvested exotics ease your conscience. Owner Thom Scott of Good Wood, in Westport, Massachusetts, imports the boards from ethically and environmentally sound sources, then kiln-dries and mills them here in the U.S. to his customers' specs.
Shown (from top to bottom), approximate per-square-foot base prices: rambutan, $10; marblewood, $8; Brazilian ebony, $10; black poisonwood, $8; and macacauba, $7; Good Wood
Finish your walls with Colonial-style milk paint in just one step with a new self-priming formula from The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co., of Groton, Massachusetts. Designed for use on nonporous surfaces, it's unlike some other manufacturers' formulas, which require you to mix-in a special bonding agent for use on anything other than wood or masonry. SafePaint goes right over previously painted walls and bare Sheetrock. Just add water. And like all milk paint, it's zero-VOC. Available in 20 shades.
Shown: Pumpkin, about $46 per gallon; SafePaint
Searching for satin-nickle steeple tips or wrought-iron parliaments got a whole lot easier with this one-stop online shop for all things hinge. It's got the gamut, from solid-bronze butts to stainless-steel straps, along with hundreds of specialty products, including refrigerator hinges patterned after ones used on zinc-lined wood ice boxes from the early 1900s. We really dig the look of these repros on tall kitchen cabinet doors.
Shown: Die Cast Refrigerator, about $129 per pair; Finial Tipped, about $18 each; Art Deco, about $10 each; and Ornamental, about $5 per pair; Hardware Source
If you're looking for a rain catchment system that's as much conversation piece as pragmatic approach to water saving, these recycled whiskey barrels from the Bluegrass State are for you. The solid white-oak barrels, once brimming with bourbon, come with a brass faucet, steel overflow pipe, and downspout adapter.
For about $175, we think they've got a lot more charm than those plastic models with the faux wood grain for the same price; Kentucky Barrels
Tabitha Sukhai, Associate Online Editor, thisoldhouse.com
Why I Love It: I found these guys the way you find anything great: There were a stack of promo cards on a counter near a diner cash register in Jersey. I haven't used them just yet, but I am positive that I will. I'll keep the card forever and ever.
The Lightbulb Store
If you can't find the bulb you need among the 75,000 at this store in South Hackensack, New Jersey, owner Larry Birnbaum will make it for you. A third-generation lampologist whose granddad worked with Thomas Edison, Birnbaum has been in the bulb business for 40 years. He's the go-to guy for everything from high-tech LEDs to carbon filament repros.
Shown: 1910 Squirrelcage (front) and 1920 Doubleloop (rear) FerroWatt bulbs, about $9 each; 800-282-3742.
Replace that ugly plastic chime in your foyer with a period-appropriate wood one from craftsman Mitchell Andrus's online shop. Simply remove your old ringer and connect the new one to your existing wires. Select from 12 designs, including the Art Nouveau–style Madison with an inlayed floral motif, and a variety of woods and finishes. Or have Andrus build a bell that's unique to your house.
Shown: the stained-oak Arts and Crafts–style Sumner, about $255; MissionFurnishings.com
Sal Vaglica, Editorial Assistant
Why I love it: The Baird Brothers mill, in Canfield, Ohio, stocks 17 species of wood in 100-plus profiles. Everything's available at their online store, so you don't have to traipse around lumberyards and big-box stores looking for what you need.
What I scored: Extra-tall 7½-inch cherry baseboard (shown above, left), for about $4.97 per linear foot, that would have been a special order—and a long wait—at any of my local dealers.
Word to the wise: If you see something really special in the pages of TOH, send Baird a photo. They'll custom-match anything from a five-panel interior door or Federal-style mantel to an elaborately built-up window casing. And in about two weeks UPS will be at your door with your woodwork in hand; Baird Brothers Fine Hardwoods
Treeborn Mosaic Flooring
End-grain wood mosaic tiles, crafted from sustainably harvested exotic species, offer a stylish alternative to traditional strip flooring. Each custom-assembled floor tile is formed with tiny squares, rectangles, or hexagons set within a grid of flexible grout that moves with the wood's natural expansion and contraction. An optional foam underlayment makes the floor as cushiony underfoot as carpet. The tiles can be refinished, but their maker says they shouldn't require it if treated annually with a water-based cleaner.
Choose from 24 patterns, including herringbone (shown). Starting at $30 per square foot installed; Treeborn Mosaic Flooring
Set your country kitchen apart with a handcrafted farm table that costs about the same as mass-produced ones from high-end furniture stores. Georgia woodworker Danette Sperry makes each table to your exact specifications, using eastern white pine floorboards salvaged from deconstructed 18th- and 19th-century buildings for the tops. Bases are fitted either with new hand-turned or tapered legs that Sperry distresses to match the tops. A natural oiled finish highlights the tables' warm honey hue and aged patina.
Shown: A 3-by-7-foot table with tapered legs that will set you back about $2,195; Primitive Folks
Dress up your kitchen backsplash or shower enclosure with glass tiles that have the handsome texture of wood but hold up better in wet areas. Hand-cast from recycled glass at DeVerre's shop, in Biglerville, Pennsylvania, each one-of-a-kind tile is also eco-friendly.
Shown: 3-by-12-inch "oak" tiles, about $49 per square foot; DeVerre Elements
Using a traditional block printing process, Delaware artist Jenny Nelson makes colorful Arts and Crafts–inspired fabrics for upholstery, drapes, and throw pillows. Water-based inks give the hemp-and-organic-cotton-blend fabric a soft, weathered look, while over a dozen color combinations and nine original floral and geometric designs allow your own taste to dictate the final product.
Shown: Leaf Weave in grass, Mary Margaret in plum and chocolate, and Trumpet Flower in adobe and grass, starting at $80 per yard; Home Sweet
Bryn-Erin Ward, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Why I love it: I stumbled across this place while trolling eBay for antique lighting for my 1910 house. They restore and sell original hand-painted Art Deco and Art Nouveau fixtures for roughly the same cost as reproductions.
What I scored: Nine fixtures, including a five-bulb ceiling-mount one that was about $400. A similar model is shown here, along with three- and two-bulb models for about $275 and $285, respectively; Vintage Lighting and Fan Shoppe.
Word to the wise: Ask the impossible. Owners Teresa and Craig Glandon are always acquiring new pieces and are happy to keep an eye out for whatever you need. They actually found an exact mate for one of my orphan wall sconces.
Rhodes Architectural Stone
This Seattle stoneyard scours the globe for vintage pieces that lend themselves well to repurposing as unique garden ornaments. Its specialty is large, 500-year-old granite and sandstone mill wheels imported from China's southern provinces. We've seen them used as tabletops and as fountains with water gurgling out of their center holes. Wheels start around $1,000. If that's not in your budget, Rhodes also sells reclaimed terra-cotta firebricks. Use them to ring an outdoor barbecue pit, about $5 each; Rhodes Architectural Stone