Thursday, June 30, 2011

Clawfoot Tubs, Vent Covers, and Antique Reproduction Hardware Made In the USA

As Independence Day approaches, it seems appropriate to spend some time reviewing Shop 4 Classics products that are made here in the USA.

Restoria Bathtub Company Clawfoot Tubs
Restoria Bathtub Company manufacturers high quality acrylic clawfoot tubs from their facilities in Shannon, Mississippi. Restoria acrylic clawfoot tubs are replicas of antique cast iron clawfoot tubs. The Restoria clawfoot bathtubs feature an exterior texture and character marks that make each tub slightly different-just as was the case with authentic cast iron clawfoot tubs manufactured in America in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Reggio Register Vent Covers
Located in Massachusetts (one of the original 13 colonies and home to Plymouth Rock), Reggio Register is a premier manufacturer of metal air return grilles and heat registers. The Reggio Register aluminum air return grilles and brass air return grilles are still manufactured in the US as are most of the Reggio Register cast iron air return grilles.

Artesano Iron Works Hand Forged Iron Home Hardware
Also located in one of the original 13 colonies, Artesano Iron Works produces handforged wrought iron hardware from its facilities in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (home of the Liberty Bell). Artesano Iron Works craftspeople utilize centuries old blacksmithing techniques to create hand forged wrought iron cabinet hardware, shutter hardware, and other home hardware.

Tailored Vents Wood Vent Covers
Entering the Union as the 32nd US state in 1858, Minnesota is home to Tailored Vents. Tailored Vents is a family owned business committed to providing the finest wood heat registers and wood air return grilles manufactured in the US.

Craftsmen Hardware Company Handcrafted Copper Hardware
Craftsmen Hardware Company manufacturers most of its hand hammered Arts & Crafts style copper door hardware and architectural hardware from America's heartland in Marceline, Missouri. Craftsmen Hardware Company artisans individually hand cut, hand hammer, and hand finished hardware just as it was done in the USA during the Arts & Crafts movement.

Mission Metalworks Copper & Bronze House Numbers and Hardware
Mission Metalworks copper and bronze house numbers and cabinet hardware products are also manufactured in America's heartland. Headquartered in Mission, Kansas, Mission Metalworks copper and bronze hardware is cast in a nearby foundry from minimum 95% recycled material. Made in the USA and green too!

From your friends at Shop 4 Classics, have a safe and happy 4th of July!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Colonial Period Reproduction Furniture Hardware: Complete Your Antique Furniture Restoration with Period Style Pendant and Bail Pulls

The grueling dog daze of summer will begin in a few short weeks and many will search for indoor home projects and hobbies to occupy their free time. Renovating original antique furniture and creating period style furniture pieces are indoor activities that are rewarding ways to wait out the hot days of summer.

Whether restoring an original or creating a reproduction, selecting cabinet knobs or drawer pulls with designs that are true to the style of furniture is an important early step of your project. Furniture drawer knobs and pulls become tarnished, broken or missing after years of use. Fortunately, quality replacement hardware that are reproductions of original vintage knobs and pulls are available if you know where to look. Shop 4 Classics offers a wide array of reproduction furniture hardware that mimics styles of period furniture of the 18th though the first half of the 20th centuries.

Period furniture of the 18th century in America included styles adopted from Europe. With each new style trend making its way from Europe, unique designs of furniture hardware was also introduced that shared many of the furniture’s identifiable features.

William and Mary Period Furniture Hardware
William and Mary style furniture, particularly dressers and tables, of the early 18th century featured ornately shaped legs that appeared delicate in proportion to table top or chest of drawers that they held. Complementary to the furniture style, William and Mary pendent pulls have tear-drop shape pull handles and distinctive round, clover leaf and diamond shaped back plates.

Queen Ann Period Furniture Hardware
Queen Ann furniture of the early to mid 18th century featured elegant profiles but were less ornate compared to earlier William and Mary furniture. Similarly, graceful curves define the shape of Queen Ann bail pull back plates while their pulls are elegantly simple in design.

Chippendale Period Furniture Hardware
Chippendale furniture of the mid to late 18th century is one of the most recognizable styles of period furniture. The Chippendale highboy chest of drawers with its cabriole legs and shapely decorative piedmont is signature Chippendale style. Chippendale bail pulls shapely back plate mirrors the ornate forms of the highboy’s piedmont while the bail pulls elegant drop pull resembles the highboy’s cabriole legs.

Tune in in a few weeks weeks when we finish our review of reproduction furniture hardware by looking at furniture and furniture hardware styles of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Victorian Reproductions or Victorian Inspired Fixtures and Faucets? Selecting Clawfoot Tubs, Pedestal Sinks and Faucets for Your Victorian Bathroom

In last week’s blog post on Victorian bathrooms, I provided an overview of the introduction and transformation of the private bathroom that occurred during the Victorian period. Early Victorian bathrooms were designed to resemble other rooms of the home. European bathroom tubs, sinks, toilets and other fixtures were encased in elaborate furniture pieces intended to hide their purpose. Due in large part to American innovations, the bathroom was transformed into a unique purposeful space designed specifically for maintaining personal hygiene. The resulting space is now considered the origins of the modern bathroom as it has changed very little over the past hundred plus years.

Home owners looking to renovate the bathroom of their Victorian home or those wanting to create a bathroom with a Victorian theme have many choices to make. Possibly the first decision in the design process is how faithfully they wish their bath to resemble those of the Victorian period. Basically, do you want to limit your design options to include only original or antique reproduction Victorian faucets and fixtures or will modern faucets and fixtures with Victorian-inspired designs better fit your style and your bath’s purpose?

Victorian Clawfoot Tub Options

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, early Victorian bathtubs were encased in decorative wood cabinets so that they resembled other home furnishings of the day. By the start of the 20th century, economical cast iron bathtubs had been introduced and soon bath tubs encased in expensive wood cabinets were abandoned. The design of cast iron tubs did, however, still maintained one key aspect of its furniture past by incorporating a lion paw and ball and claw themed legs resembling those found on fine wood furniture of the day. Clawfoot cast iron tubs, as they became known, had white painted exteriors and white porcelain coated interiors. The most common type of clawfoot tub was the roll top clawfoot tub. It was generally smaller than today’s tubs and rested on brass or polished nickel ball and claw feet. Reproductions of cast iron clawfoot tubs from Sign of the Crab, Sunrise Specialty, Cheviot Products and Elizabethan Classics faithful mimic original designs.

For those who do not want to limit themselves to reproduction clawfoot tubs or whose bathroom will not accommodate a cast iron reproduction due to concerns about their weight, there are plenty of designs that maintain the romantic look of original Victorian era tubs while offering more style choices and/or more accommodating designs. For example, large slipper clawfoot tubs and double slipper clawfoot tubs were not common during the Victorian Period but their elegant profile and the relaxed bathing position that they offer makes them popular choices today. As noted in last week’s blog, Victorian area bath fixtures were all white in order to encourage maintaining the bathroom’s sterile environment. In today’s market, color options are a must and so custom painted as well as all black and biscuit clawfoot tubs are available. Expanded options for clawfoot tubs go beyond their aesthetic qualities. Clawfoot tubs are offered in larger sizes and are available in lighter wieght materials. In fact, the introduction of light weight acrylic clawfoot tubs has to be the greatest innovation in the clawfoot tub’s hundred year history. Acrylic clawfoot tubs look like cast iron clawfoot tubs but they weigh half as much. Acrylic clawfoot tubs are, therefore, often better suited for second story bathrooms where tub weight may be a concern.

Victorian Clawfoot Tub Faucet and Plumbing Options

Bathing, rather than taking a shower, was a more typical practice at the turn of the 20th century. Simple downspout, or spigot, clawfoot tub faucets were the most common faucet type found on clawfoot tubs of the Victorian period. Compact and economical, spigot clawfoot tub faucets were mounted to the tub’s wall and in most cases did not have shower or hand shower attachments. Victorian clawfoot tub faucets and plumbing were most often polished nickel or brass. Reproduction clawfoot tub faucets are available in styles that range from simple downspout clawfoot tub faucets to much more elaborate tub fillers with hand shower and/or shower enclosure attachments. Reproduction clawfoot faucets are available in polished nickel and protected brass, a treatment that makes them much more tarnish resistant than original Victorian era clawfoot faucets.

The display of elaborate plumbing is one of the unique features that draw people to choose clawfoot tubs over traditional built-in tubs. Elaborate British telephone style tub filler faucets are more popular today than simple clawfoot tub faucets with no handheld shower attachments. Clawfoot shower enclosure attachments are also more common than they were during the Victorian period. Additionally, manufacturers now offer additional finish options for all of this spectacular plumbing. Chrome plating, which had not been invented until after the Victorian period, has long been the most popular finish for bathroom faucets and is a popular choice for reproduction clawfoot tub faucets. Brushed nickel and oil rubbed bronze are even more modern finish creations that are offered for clawfoot tub plumbing.

Victorian Sinks and Faucet Options

Original Victorian bathrooms included either a cabinet enclosed sink, wall mount sink, legged console sink or a pedestal sink. The cabinets of Victorian cabinet style sinks were made of mahogany, cherry, black walnut or ash. They were typically ornately embellished with Classical or Eastlake carvings with equally ornate pendant pulls, ring pulls or cabinet knob hardware. Marble counter tops with backsplashes holding a single under mount basin sink were also typical. Victorian wall mount sinks and legged console sinks were also often offered with these same marble counter tops and backsplashes. Pedestal sinks were made of porcelain coated cast iron or china. Victorian pedestal sinks are characterized by oval bowls and their often decorative pedestal bases. Regardless of the type of sink, Victorian sinks generally had only two faucet holes as separate hot and cold water taps were the common bathroom sink faucet of the day.

Reproduction pedestal sinks are plentiful but true reproductions of Victorian wall mount, console sinks and cabinet style bathroom sinks can be more difficult to find. Your search for authentic reproductions can be further complicated if your design calls for double basin sinks. Thankfully, there is a wide variety of cabinet style double vanity sinks available today that feature ornate wood working and marble tops. Including two pedestal sinks is another attractive option for your Victorian bathroom design. Even most antique style sinks made today have three faucet holes but that does not mean you can not still use Victorian reproduction hot and cold water taps as Sign of the Crab offers sink hole covers designed to provide a decorative cover for the sink’s center faucet hole. If you wish to go with a standard widespread fuacets or centerset faucets rather than separate water taps, there are plenty of bathroom faucets with Victorian inspired designs available.

Victorian Toilet Options

Finding a toilet design that looks appropriate in your Victorian themed bath may seem to be a challenge. There are, however, numerous options available including reproductions of Victorian era high tank toilets and modern toilets with Victorian inspired designs. The high tank toilet, which is also known as the pull chain toilet, was a common fixture throughout the Victorian period. With its tank mounted high on the wall above the toilet and unique pull chain flushing mechanism, the appearance of the high tank toilet adds to the Victorian charm and authenticity to your Victorian bathroom design. High tank toilets may not work for everyone due to their cost, operation, unique installation, or aesthetics. Fortunately, perfectly suitable styles of modern two-piece toilets are available. Many manufacturers offer affordable standard two-piece toilets that feature decorative accents on the tank’s lid and the base of the toilet that will make the fixture look right at place in a Victorian themed bath.

Visit our Victorian Home Style Guide to learn more about the Victorian architecture and Victorian home hardware and plumbing products.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Victorian Bathroom Design: Faucet and Fixture Choices for Your Victorian Style Bathroom

The Victorian Period, which began with the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837 and lasted until her death in 1901, is known as a time of great advancements that forever changed the way people lived out their daily lives. During this time, the simple indoor bathroom was introduced and by its end America had laid the foundation for the modern bathroom that has changed very little over the past one hundred plus years. This blog entry provides an overview of the Victorian bathroom’s humble beginnings through its progression to what most people today envision as a Victorian bathroom.

It was in the United Kingdom during the Victorian period where the bath became defined as a separate room within the living quarters of a residence. Early Victorian bathrooms were expensive creations with bathtubs, wash basins and toilets encased in elaborate furniture pieces made by skilled cabinet makers. They were extravagant in design and in decoration that mirrored other rooms of the Victorian home. Soon, however, technological advancements and experience lead to the removal of the decorative cabinetry leading to the unique standalone fixtures that we know today. By the early 1900’s advancement in the process of casting iron into large molds brought about what we now call freestanding clawfoot tubs. The cast iron clawfoot tub was much less expensive, more sanitary, and required less maintenance than furniture incased tubs. With this a succession of changes in bathroom fixture design was now set into motion. The Victorian sink lost its expensive cabinetry surround in favor of wall mount, peg leg console and pedestal style designs. The toilet experienced less dramatic changes in appearance during this time. The high tank, or pull chain, toilet existed relatively unchanged throughout much of the Victorian period.

During the Victorian Period, America still looked to Europe for trends in fashion and design. Thus, American bathrooms at the start of the Victorian Period drew inspiration from European, namely English, designs. However, American industry and innovation soon quickened the pace of the transformation of the bathroom. American industry mass produced plumbing fixtures with simple designs of tubs, sinks, and toilets that resemble the fixtures that we know today. The design of American bathrooms and its fixtures focused on function over form. Fixture design focused on enabling personal hygiene with much less attention given to their aesthetic qualities. The bathroom was to be a sanitary place and was designed to be easily maintained as such. Fixtures were plain white and glazed ceramic tiles were common on floor and walls. Order and proper ventilation was also important aspects of the American design. Soon, the benefits of the modern American designed bathroom caught on and were adopted in Europe and beyond. Thus, the modern bathroom was one of the many life changing inventions that came about during the Victorian Period.

Check in next week, when I discuss options for bathtubs, sinks, faucets, toilets and more for your Victorian bathroom.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Vent Cover Shopping Made Easy: A Check List Approach to Purchasing Decorative Floor and Wall Vent Covers

I find myself increasingly dependent on simple check lists that I create to accomplish tasks. Creating check lists helps me organize and clarify my needs and objectives while checking items off my list serves to measure my progress. I am such a believer in the value of maintaining lists that I find myself encouraging others to do the same. Not surprisingly, I recommend creating check lists to our customers as a wise first step towards successfully completing their home renovation project. I advocate creating multiple small lists, one for each phase or series of related purchases, rather than a single large list that encompasses your entire project.

Purchasing decorative vent covers as part of your home renovation project provides an excellent example of how first compiling a simple list helps ensure that the process goes smoothly. Shopping for vent covers is a fun process as there are so many unique vent cover grille styles to choose from. However, care should be taken to make sure that the vent covers you choose also meet your requirements and this is where creating a detailed shopping list can really payoff. Below are a few simple pointers to help create a vent covers shopping list:

1. Organize Your List by Room
I recommend initially organizing your vent cover shopping list by room rather than by vent cover size or style. Taking a moment to confirm your renovation project’s scope, specifically rooms affected, will help ensure that your vent cover shopping list will be complete and thus avoid any future delays or added costs caused by having to place additional subsequent orders.

2. Perform a Room-by-Room Inventory
Next, take a room-by-room inventory of the size, location, and type of all of the vent ducts that will be included in your renovation project and compile a vent cover shopping list noting the following details.

Vent Cover Size
Take measurements of the dimensions of each duct as this will determine the size required for the vent cover. Vent covers are made and sold to fit a specific size of vent duct opening. Therefore, it is the size of the opening that generally is more important than the overall dimensions of the vent cover’s decorative grille. Resist the urge to make assumptions about vent duct sizes as a short cut to making specific measurements of each vent opening. In some situations the size of the vent cover’s grille may also become a factor. The overall size of the decorative grille is always longer and wider than the duct opening so you will also want to consider possible obstructions near the duct opening that may limit the overall size of the vent cover grille.

Vent Cover Location
Vent covers can be on floors, walls, ceilings and along baseboards. Vent covers for vent ducts located on walls and ceilings require screw holes for mounting whereas those that cover vent ducts on the floor generally do not require screw holes. Additionally, aluminum vent covers are popular choices for wall and ceilings because they are lighter than cast iron, brass and bronze vent covers. Baseboard vent ducts require special vent covers which are typically referred to as baseboard registers, which mount to a wall but extend out on to the floor.

Vent Cover Type
Most homes have two types of vents and there are vent cover designs specifically for each type. Forced air ducts release air from your furnace and/or air conditioner into a room and are typically covered by register vent covers. Register vent covers, commonly referred to as heat registers, have louver assemblies (or dampers) attached to their decorative grille. Louver assemblies can be adjusted to direct and control air flowing from the duct. The second type of duct is return air ducts and they are typically covered by air return grilles. Return air ducts simply draw cold or hot air from a room and therefore air return grilles, commonly referred to as cold air return grilles, do not have attached louver assemblies. Although most vent cover grille designs are offered as both heat registers and return air grilles, large vent covers are typically only offered as return air grilles. The Vent Covers department of the Shop 4 Classics website has separate product categories for Heat Registers and Cold Air Return Covers.

3. Review Your Vent Cover Shopping List
Once you’ve completed your list, it is a good practice to take at least an hour break and then review your list once more before placing an order. Perform a room-by-room second count to ensure that no vent was overlooked during the first count. This is also a good opportunity to consider the style and finish of vent covers that will work best in each room. Generally speaking, the vent cover’s grille style should complement the room’s furnishings and its finish should coordinate with other hardware and accent items within the room.

4. Placing Your Vent Cover Order
There are a couple of money saving opportunities to remember when placing your Shop 4 Classics vent cover order. First, Shop 4 Classics provides free shipping on all orders of $100 or more from a single manufacturer. Free shipping is automatically applied at check out when the total order of a given manufacturer’s products is at least $100 regardless of whether the order consists of a single type items, like vent covers, or a combination of items, like a combination of vent covers and cabinet hardware. Shop 4 Classics also has 5% and 10% hardware coupons for hardware orders of $500 and $1,000, respectively. Like free shipping, these coupons apply on a per manufacturer basis. The “HARDWARE5” or “HARDWARE10” coupon code must be entered during the checkout process to earn these additional instant savings.