In October 1907, a new bookstore opened on the seventh floor of the Fine Arts Building in downtown Chicago designed entirely by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Designed when Wright was thirty-nine years old and little known outside the circles of Chicago’s elite, Browne’s Bookshop was as unique for it intent to feel very much like a home library or study as for its location on the seventh floor, and despite its short life was known as “the most beautiful bookshop in the world.”
Wright modeled the glass lamp shades from the windows he’d designed for his childrens’ rooms, and organized the store’s bookshelves around reading tables to create cozy alcoves in which to explore.
Francis Fisher Browne, the store’s owner and editor of the literary magazine The Dial, relocated the store to the building’s ground floor in 1910 but closed it for good two years later.
Molly was having a problem with her front porch; the railings were bowing out, you bounced across the deck boards as you walked. Once we started pulling up deck boards we realized the porch was in much worse shape than we’d thought.
What we assumed would be securing a few joists and replacing the deck boards turned into replacing them entirely. Nearly all of the joists had completely rotted out and broken away from the nails that should have been holding them in place. The deck was bouncy because it was missing most of its joists; there weren’t more than three left in place supporting the weight of the deck boards.
As it turned out, those posts the railings are secured to aren’t just supporting the railings. Those are eight foot posts that rest on the concrete pad the entire porch was built on. The problem with this is that the garden that surrounds the porch had started pushing against the side of the porch, and as that weight pushed on the walls, it pushed on the railings as well, kicking them out. We had to dig out around the wall in order to push them out. Once we pulled up the deckboards we could get in there and push the walls back out and then add additional supports to tie everything together to keep it from shifting again.
The stairs had been in in pretty bad shape, too. While we had everything ripped apart we rebuilt the stairs entirely, adding a third stringer down the middle that should have been there to begin with.
We wrapped up by repainting the new deckboards the same color as the old ones. At first glance it may look the same as when we arrived, but with the new joists and additional supports throughout to keep the structure squared up and tied together, this rehab should definitely hold up for years to come.
We were fortunate enough to do some work for Molly, the owner of Buckminster’s Cat Cafe, this past summer. We don’t know about you, but our Facebook feed has been blowing up with people resharing the Buffalo Rising article profiling the forthcoming Buffalo cat cafe. But, if for something reason you haven’t heard about it, we’ll know what’s going on.
Buckminster’s Cat Cafe is going to be located in the ground floor of the beautifully renovated 577 Niagara Street, and will be a combination neighborhood coffee shop and cat adoption facilitator.
According to Molly, the cafe is intended to be an “appealing space for humans to relax, socialize, or study, as well as offer a unique habitat for the free movement of cats.”
Recently we completed work on a half bathroom in North Buffalo. The challenge on the this project was that this bathroom was going to be nowhere near any of the existing plumbing work, and required quite a bit of time in a crawlspace under the house. The half bath was going on one side of a front room off the living room.
For some reason, although the house’s front door was adjacent to this room, there was a separate entrance, so the first thing we had to do was take out that door and wall it up.
Once that was done we could start framing in the room. The windows at the front of the house and the sidelight in the French doors leading into the living room kept us from expanding too far into the front room, but it worked out to just enough space for what we needed.
We’ve installed a few macerator toilets, and we’ve done them each a little different. Depending on the project and the space we have, we might hide the macerator tank or leave it exposed. It also depends on the type of macerator.
We’re more likely to hide a Saniflo since the ones we’ve worked with have been a little louder and looked less finished. They’re not intended to be seen, which is fine, since hiding them will dampen the loud, clunky noise they make kicking on. That’s not to say they aren’t a great product, and we’d use them again. Liberty Pumps, however, have a better appearance and run quieter. The unit itself doesn’t stand out so much or look like a piece machinery that would take away from the appearance of the bathroom itself.
This time around, although we were working with Liberty, since we had the room, we built a box to hide the tank. Building out to hide the macerator also worked well with the existing elements in the room. We tossed around a few ideas for access to the macerator, and finally settled on keeping it simple; the top of the box slides straight out in case we ever need to service the unit.
We played around with the placement of the vanity and mirror before settling on their somewhat offset position. They may seem too far to the right at first, but there’s a soffit running along the left side so we’re actually centered from that. The plumbing and studs also had something to do with this decision but this position also leaves room for a small trash can if needed.
There was trim running low along the exterior wall that we liked. Rather than tear it out when we pieced in the new exterior wall, we continued it along. We thought it was a cool detail, tied things together and broke up the wall a little.
We had a great prairie style glass door we’ve been dying to use. When we saw those French doors on the living room, we had to use it. Once we frosted the glass on that door, it complimented the windows and French doors on either side of the room and tied together the old and the new.
Outside, we matched up the shingle pattern and added some additional trim boards to carry along all of the existing design elements to make this new work as indiscernible from the old as possible.
Check out the photos below to see our progress throughout this project and follow us on Instagram to see what we’re working on now.
Perhaps hoping to learn from past mistakes with the legacy of Frank Lloyd Wright in Western New York, the Preservation Board has moved ahead with landmarking two of the homes he built in Buffalo.
Two Buffalo houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright were recommended for local landmark designation Thursday by the Buffalo Preservation Board. While the board has often been criticized for not acting quickly enough to protect the historic and significant buildings throughout Buffalo, not everyone is happy with their decision to move forward on these two properties.
Both the William R. Heath House and the Walter V. Davidson House were granted landmark status despite the owners’ objections.
Although the homes met seven of the nine criteria for landmarking, Nancy Schmid, who has owned the Heath House for 50 years, said she did not welcome the added tourist attention she feared landmarking could bring. People often come to her front door asking for tours of the home, unaware that its a private residence.
Likewise, Russ Maxwell, owner of the Davidson House and a former member of the Preservation Board, also objects to landmark status, claiming, “The property at 57 Tillinghast is in the finest condition in its 110-year history.”
Both Schmid and Maxwell have said they believe the homes should be landmarked in the future, but assert that since they have maintained the integrity of Wright’s designs and continue to use the homes as private residences, their wishes should override the Preservation Board’s decision.
The final decision will be up to the Buffalo Common Council, which will rule on the matter following a public hearing. Since the Preservation Board has stated that their only responsibility is to the buildings themselves and the significance they represent for the community, perhaps the Common Council will be more willing to take the owners’ opinions and track records for stewardship of the properties into account.
As home ownership and repair becomes an increasingly expensive and time-consuming affair, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has embarked on a program mission of creating building materials that have living organism attributes. Their goal is to not only grow building materials on site but for the structure to be a self-healing, essentially repairing itself as needed.
That means we’re that much closer to living in self-repairing sustainable, custom grown Hobbit-holes.
And once we’re on that path, it’s only a few hundred thousand years until we’ve evolved into the subterranean-dwelling Morlocks HG Wells predicted in “The Time Machine”.
After some flooding our customer thought it would be a good opportunity to have us come in and put down new tile throughout their basement great room and hallway leading into it. The finished space we were working in used to be two rooms and only one had been tiled somewhere around forty years ago. The good news was, that water issue they had? That loosened a lot of those tiles, so we wouldn’t have to worry about leveling the floor out where the tile tapered off. The bad news was only about half the tile came up easy.
Once that was done we were all set to start laying 6×36″ grey wood grain porcelain tile throughout the entire space. Starting along the longest wall, from the exterior corner, we layed down our first line and started working from there.
A surprise addition to the job came while we were debating what to do along the hearth. Originally, we considered using the same wood grain tile and running it either perpendicular to the tile on the floor or creating a herringbone design. We thought it might make the fireplace stand out even more to have the same tile on the hearth as the floor and allow that to blend in, but when we laid out a few ideas with scrap pieces but it just didn’t look right.
The Loves were able to meet up at Home Depot and picked out the black granite tile for the hearth and glass tile for the fireplace and wall. The glass tile running up the fireplace and wall behind it may grab your attention with an almost-too-busy shining and shimmering, but the hearth itself came out incredible. Between the glass tile above it and the wood grain tile surrounding it, the absolute black granite tile is simple but the contrast to everything around it is stunning.