Saturday, November 14, 2009

William Gatewood House, Charleston, SC

Architect Gil Schafer has a distinct talent for designing houses that look as if they have always been there. He knows the history, the materials and how to infuse a certain timeworn quality into each building. So, he was a natural choice when the owners of the William Gatewood house in Charleston, SC wanted to make their old house look, well, old again.

Built in 1843, the house is a mixture of Greek Revival and Classical revival styles. The building’s foundation and masonry were reinforced and all the brickwork required re-pointing. An elevator was removed from the porch or piazza (as it’s known in Charleston) allowing the windows and archway to be reopened. The porches were replaced on the attached kitchen house and the original doorways reopened.

Inside, all the moldings were returned to their original appearance. A cast-plaster ceiling medallion was duplicated for the dining room from an original in the parlors. and other elements were gently returned to their original appearance.

Window looking onto the piazza.

Tuscan columns on the piazza.

Triple-hung windows in the parlors give access to the piazza.

De Gournay wallpaper in the dining room.

Kitchen house.

All photos via

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Edward F Caldwell & Co., est. 1895, manufactured custom-made lighting fixtures for America’s leading architects and designers including McKim Mead & White, Carre & Hastings and Cass Gilbert. An early innovator in electric lighting, the firm combined the new technology with traditional ornamental metalwork. Working into the mid-20th century, their commissions included many public buildings including The White House, The New York Public Library and Radio City Music Hall.

Over 35,00 photographs and drawings from the company’s archives are available from
The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Library’s online digital database.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Aiken-Rhett House, Charleston, SC - Pt. II

Photo by TheGoodReverend via Flickr

After Frances Rhett donated the Aiken-Rhett house to the Charleston Museum in 1975, work began to protect and stabilize the dilapidated building. The museum installed a new roof and rebuilt the piazzas which had become unsafe. From 1982 until 1989, the house was open for tours until Hurricane Hugo slammed into Charleston destroying the chimneys and several outbuildings, pouring rain into Harriet’s bedroom that the family had worked so hard to preserve.

The Charleston Museum continued it's restoration efforts, rebuilding the chimneys and outbuildings. However, attendance began to dwindle and the museum was forced to close the house for tours in 1993.

The house remained closed until Historic Charleston Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the architecture and cultural character of Charleston, took over ownership in 1995.

The HCF reopened the house for tours and soon after developed an integrated plan of conservation and restoration. Exterior components such as the shutters, windows and doors were restored to protect the interior historic fabric in it's original condition.

Photo by megnificence via flickr

Photo by megnificence via flickr

Photo by megnificence via flickr

Photo by Rick Rhodes, HCF

Photo Carrroll Ann Bowers, HCF

The most striking change has been to the exterior. In 2006, the weathered masonry walls were given an application of deep yellow lime wash and stenciled white lines were applied to simulate stone blocks, returning the house to it’s 1858 appearance when the Aikens did their last alterations. The lime wash is not only decorative, it adds a protective and breathable coating to the masonry.

The Aiken-Rhett house is located at 48 Elizabeth Steet in Charleston, SC and is open 7 days a week. A self-guided audio tour takes visitors through each room, from basement to parlors and into the carriage house and servant’s quarters. One of the most unique house tours you’ll ever see and highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Le Monde Créole - Joel Pickford

Parlange Plantation

Julie de Ternant - Parlange Plantation

Slave Allee - Evergreen Plantation

Columns - Evergreen Plantation

Fountain - Evergreen Plantation

Interior - Evergreen Plantation

Branch - Slave Quarters - Evergreen Plantation

Breakfast Window - Evergreen Plantation

Since 1995, photographer Joel Pickford has been photographing the architecture, people and places of southern Louisiana. His series “Le Monde Creole” captures the unique beauty of the region. He is currently working on a documentary film “Bayou Blues: A Photographer’s Journey in South Louisiana.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Aiken-Rhett House, Charleston, SC - Pt. I

Photos via Library of Congress

“Through closed shutters the tendrils of vines reached in from outside. Broken chains of prisms hung from chandeliers. Rotting silk drapery clung to gilded poles. Silver hardware had turned black, and a heavy black dust covered everything and hung in the air, so thick in one room that they could not breathe.” - Henry Wiencek, “Old Houses”

So was the Aiken-Rhett house when the curator from the Charleston Museum entered the neglected mansion accompanied by two decedents of the family that had lived in the house for 150 years. The last occupant of the house, Frances Rhett, had moved out of the house three years prior, and had recently donated the house to the museum. Her late husband, I’on Rhett and his brother Andrew Burnet Rhett, Jr., occupied the house (with staff) as bachelors for many years, spurning any ideas of modernization, living just like their ancestors had.

1830's Entrance Hall - Photo via Library of Congress

The fourteen room mansion was built in 1817 by John Robinson, a wealthy merchant, who only lived in the house for a short time until he was forced to forfeit it to his creditors when several of his ships were lost at sea. One of the creditors, William Aiken, took possession of the house until he was killed in a carriage accident and the house passed to his son William Aiken, Jr.

William Aiken, Jr., a wealthy planter and future governor of South Carolina, with his wife Harriet were to have the greatest influence on the appearance of the Aiken-Rhett house. Beginning in the 1830’s, they oversaw an extensive redesign of the house in the Greek Revival style. The first floor was divided into double parlors and the entrance was moved from the wide front porches (know in Charleston as piazzas) to the side, where an elegant marble entrance hall was built.

Photo - Michael Eastman

In the 1850’s, the Aikens once again redecorated, this time in the Rococo Revival style. A gallery was built to display the artwork acquired from the family’s travels throughout Europe and a large portrait of Harriet Aiken, by George Whiting Flagg, was installed in the second parlor, so large that a window was blocked off to accommodate the life-sized painting.

William Aiken passed away in 1887, followed by his wife in 1892. At Harriet’s death, her daughter Henrietta began a custom that was followed by successive members of the family, her mother’s room was simply shut-off, her belongings left untouched.

Henrietta and her husband, Major A.B. Rhett, raised their family in the house. When Henrietta passed away it was divided between her children and their heirs. Burnet Rhett, Jr and his brother I’on Rhett, followed by his wife Frances were the last occupants of the house. Little by little, rooms not needed were closed and left for time to take it’s course.

Harriet's bedroom

The Art Gallery

The Back Staircase
Photos via The Library of Congress

Monday, March 9, 2009

Malplaquet Revisited

For those who can’t get enough of Malplaquet house, Tim Knox will be lecturing on how he and his partner, Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, saved this magnificent house from demolition and filled it with wondrous objects from their years of collecting. He’ll be in Los Angeles on March 23rd and in San Franciso March 24th. For tickets and information, visit Sir John Soane’s Museum Foundation.

Photograph by James Mortimer via World of Interiors

Photograph by James Mortimer via World of Interiors

Photograph by James Mortimer via World of Interiors

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Cotton District

In the small college town of Starkville, Mississippi, Dan Camp, part architect/part builder/part visionary, has quietly been creating an unique community based on the principles of traditional architecture.

Starting in 1969, with a plan to build affordable housing for the local students, Dan built his first buildings in a neglected section of town on the site of a former cotton mill. Working from sketches he made from his travels throughout the South, Dan built his classically inspired buildings using local workers that produced the windows, doors, millwork and shutters.

Forty years later, “The Cotton District” continues to evolve into a highly desirable mixed-use community with a yearly arts festival that draws thousands. Enjoying nearly 100 percent occupancy, Dan is now including commercial spaces in his new structures, hoping to persuade the students to stay and open their own businesses.

Dan Camp's residence - A Charleston inspired Single House

Shutters, brick and stucco

"The Temple"

"The Four Apostles"

"The Pool House"

"The Treasurer"

"Rue Du Grand Fromage" named after the famous cheese produced by the university.

Page from Mr. Camp's sketchbook

Friday, February 20, 2009

Favorite Shops NYC- Hudson City Antiques

Hudson City Antiques, 150 & 154 Ninth Avenue, is an excellent source for period lighting, antique frames, furniture (English, American, Arts & Crafts, etc.) and prints.

They are currently having a “downsizing” sale at the 154 Ninth Avenue location with a great selection of fantastic finds ready to take home.

1. Nautilus lamp - brass lamp with original nautilus shell - sadly already sold.
2. 19th c. Oval Gilt Frame with original glass - contact for price.
3. Print in original oak frame, "Prudential Insurance Home Office, Newark, New Jersey, 1909" - contact for price.