Mastery of hand-tools defines the ability of a craftsman. Sometimes, a computer or CNC machine simply cannot do what the human hand can do.
Sir John Alexander Macdonald practiced law in this building in Kingston, from 1849-1860.
There were originally two flanking fireplace mantles; however one was removed during a previous renovation.
We were commissioned to reproduce it, so that a matching pair would once again adorn the rooms.
And while we have every modern machine at our disposal, Hand tools, common to the period, were used to recreate, authentically, this important piece of Canadian history.
The imperfections of hand-worked lumber and mouldings are delightfully nuanced, and authentic.
And….it is a workout more rewarding than a gym.
Original 1840 mantle panel is off-square. The craftsmanship is still nonetheless remarkable considering they worked with NO central heat, NO adequate light, and often, in pain. Upper Canada was a tough place to live in 1840
matching the profile to the 1840 original
Hand-planing the trims
Shaping the crown to match original
Laying out the cavetto crown
Matching the trim to the 1840 original
Hooded, cavetto crown moulding with teardrop trim
Distressed, and stained.
antiqued, ready for varnish
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When we delivered the trunk, the Centre was filled with the hungry and the homeless: families – men, women, children! – that are unemployed, vulnerable, and often sick; and who work for less than a living-wage. It is these good people who have been sidelined by society, and who rely upon the generosity of the wider community.
One chap in particular was sitting in a corner, looking defeated and forlorn, shoulders sunk. In a word: defeated.
What was his story, I wondered?
Suddenly he raised his bowed head and looked at the trunk I was carrying. His eyes lit-up as he exclaimed: “That’s European!”
“Where did you get that?” he demanded.
I explained that it was an antique trunk we had acquired, and that we had restored it and converted it to a wine-chest, in aid of the very Centre he relied upon.
His eyes aglow; his shoulders high, where a moment ago they were bowed, he proceeded to explain all of the characteristics of the piece; its peculiar European construction and wood; its hardware; its likely age. All of it, in correct terms and detail. He was not now the street-urchin I had witnessed a moment ago.
“How do you know all of this”, I asked.
He replied that his father was an antiques dealer; that he had grown-up in the business, and was now unemployed as his father was dead, and the business lost. The only work he could find was menial labour in this great City of Ottawa; this government town; and the very citadel of the realm.
I was amazed at the contrast of his hobo-like appearance with his intellect. I could easily picture him attired in a suit, ensconced in a high-end antiquities shop.
Appearances can be deceiving, indeed.
As he finished speaking, his shoulders sank again, as the grim reality of his economic circumstance invaded his thoughts and resumed the slow but steady destruction of his soul.
What a waste is all this talent and knowledge!
His story is far from over, for there is indeed a place for this man in our wide community of artisans.
We all have dignity, no matter our station. We all form a part of the community.
“No man is an Island, entire of itself… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. Therefore ask not for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.”
These are good blues. PPG brand eggshell latex ‘CAVALRY ‘ to be precise.
BEFORE we redecorated, we were greeted with the usual hum-drum institutional beige.
Which is OK if you’re into SHAKER STYLE and minimalism.
However the owner was downsizing from a 4,400 sq. ft. Edwardian brick and had a collection of cherished antiques and books that had to be incorporated into 800 sq. ft.
The lack of ANY Edwardian features (massive and ornate trims, plaster-work, cornices, parquet and plank floors, gorgeous windows) meant that COLOUR was the key here. It’s all we had !
Here’s what greeted us:
Then the fun began.
Instantly we knew that the tranquility of blue was the remedy to all this drab; and the glue necessary to cohesion. Like a great carved wooden bed, the choice of a complimentary quilt is vital.
And the client liked it too. Which is everything: the designer must always remember that he/she won’t live there, and that our guidance is often all that is required.
Our custom-crafted Library/Media Bookcase blends perfectly in a relaxed and distressed Canadiana finish, made with heirloom tools and methods.
A skillful and strategic placing of antique mirrors makes the 12′ x 24′ Living/Dining, and adjacent hallways, seem bigger than they really are. Mirrors are not always a sign of vanity; sometimes they are vital decorating tools.
The AFTER photos present a lovely contrast. It’s not everyone’s taste, to be sure. But the client is thrilled. And that is what makes the creativity and art of Design-Building so personally rewarding.