Monday, December 28, 2009

Knox Hill Restoration Project: weekly update

Due to the Weather, vistors and road conditions we didn't get down to work on site. However I didn't want to "lose time" on the project so I devoted our efforts to construction projects FOR the house.
As you may recall from earlier posts we located a nice stenciled and faux finished cast iron mantle which we plan on using in our formal parlor. Any good mantle must have an Overmantle. Original Overmantles are in very short supply and command 30-40,000 for a high end Herter mantle. Even lesser manufacturers can set you back 7500-15000 for a nice overmantle.
The reason is supply. Most Overmantles were destroyed in the 20 and 30 as people remodeled their "Old Fashioned" Victorian homes to more "modern" Craftsman and neo Colonial styles. Re silvering was an expensive proposition for most homeowners, so some of the grandest Victorian Accessories wound up in landfill or a firewood.Fortunately for us we have been building New Overmantles for clients for several years so we are able to bring our house back to its period appropriate form. The mantle is based on Period Designs circa 1870-1880, though no one particular manufacturer design was used. We have modified the stencilling to use elements from the "Neo Grec" stenciling we found in our house.
This overmantle is "ebonized" a popular finish for the era and particularly when partnered with a cast iron or slate mantle. The stenciling and detail are picked our in Gold and the key to a successful Overmantle recreation is knowing when to stop when applying ornament. The mantle is sized to come to the top of the hanging rail in the parlor which will allow the frieze stencil to be seen above the mantle. The plate rail and shelf provide a place to put cherished items best kept out of reach of children.
Building an Overmantle like this is a time and labor intensive process and in some respects a lost artform but these are critical details in a proper historic restoration. Of course this is just the beginning of the project. I still have to build a matching one for the formal dining room as well as a matching "Pier Mirror" which will go between two windows . I also must build two matching Drapery cornices to complete the ensemble. So, I have some work ahead.
If you would like to know more about our custom Overmantles, Pier Mirrors or decorative Drapery Cornices we will be taking limited orders for next year contact me at

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