Historic Architectural Elements – do they have a place in our homes today?

March 26, 2008

I hope that this, my inaugural post, accurately reflects my personality as I introduce you to something old that I believe is new again – in the interior design, art and architecture world.    Or more succinctly put by famous Architect, Frank Gehry (born in Canada in 1929)   “Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.”   The belief that “architecture is art” is at the heart of Frank Gehry’s essence.     A belief that I, as an interior decorator with a passion for all forms of “art”, embrace.  

Read about Gehry’s most recent acheivement – “Frank Gehry’s timber and glass ‘street’ to be built in Hyde Park” (England)

For the past seven years my family and I have made the great winter escape from the cold snowy Canadian north to the warm sunshine state of Florida.  Inevitably, as we drive through Georgia, I whine that I would love to visit Savannah.  Well this time I fit in a couple days at the beginning of a holiday.  Though the wind, vestige from a recent tornado, was the root of cooler than normal temperatures, the sun was shining, which made walking along the cobblestone streets more pleasant.  Now if you are thinking this is  sounds more like a travel guide than an interior decorating post, stay with me.  

If Canada’s architecture can be described as the much younger cousin of its US relative, then it can be said that Europe is the grandfather of  all architectural influences in North America, and that  Savannah, Georgia is the embodiment of this influence.   

Savannah’s Historical Factor’s Walk, now housing unique shops and boutiques, is the site of the Cotton Exchange.  Originally it was a two story building, but as the cotton industry expanded three more floors were added.  A system of interconnecting alleys and walkways later became known as Factors Walk after the cotton merchants, called factors, who factored how much cotton was brought in to be sold.  Cobblestone ramps still lead down to River Street, now a plethora of eateries and gift shops, and a network of iron and concrete walkways connect the buildings to the bluff.  

The Cotton Exchange features elaborate Romanesque architecture purposefully constructed to stand out against the adjoining edifices as a symbol of the importance of the industry in Savannah.  Once used by cotton merchants to store cotton, the area now houses unique shops and boutiques.  With all its beauty and grandeur, it still stands as a sentinel against the movement toward modernism. 

Savannah’s Victorian District features wood frame houses dating from the 1870s and 1880s in a mix of Victorian styles and delicate architecture.   The cobblestone streets lay at the feet of some of the Landmark Historic District’s finest homes, comprised of more than 8 styles of architecture.  Detailed ironwork adorns many of the homes and gardens in this district.  The interior of these stately homes still boast such impressive details as pressed metal ceilings and wainscoting, or stencilled ceilings and matching Renaissance Revival cornices, stained glass windows, ornate wooden staircases and balustrades, parlours with pocket doors, and  floors made of Georgia heart pine.  

This seems an apropos segue into this week’s topic –   Historic Architectural Elements – do they have a place in our homes today?     My answer is a resounding yes.    Adding colour and texture to a interior room shouldn’t be restricted to traditional applications on the floors and walls, the same might be said of the “exterior” rooms. 

Examine, if you will, the magnificent artistry of Christopher Plummer (born in Savannah, Georgia in 1971).  His abstract impressionist style later incorporated embossed architectural metals which became a focal material in his art.   His metal art extended to restoration work on historic architecture that incorporated ornamental metal, and lead to his involvement in the conservation of tin ceilings in historic buildings. This work led directly to his founding of Valley Tin Works, a business dedicated to the restoration and installation of tin ceilings.    Within the kitchen and bath design industry, Chris is recognized as an expert for his knowledge of the historical context and period appropriateness of patterns and shapes used in architectural metalwork and architecture/design in general.   

In the historic hamlet of Horning’s Mills, Ontario  Ashton Clarke Pressed Metal Designs, are stamping classic and contemporary designs into aluminum or pressed-ready-to-paint aluminum.   Utilizing hand crafted methods from the Arts and Crafts movement of the turn of the century.   The rebirth of the industry came as a response to a need to restore historic buildings.  Ashton Clarke and his clients certainly believe that what is old is new again as his designs are being installed in the restoration of older buildings and contemporary settings. 

Next posting I will explore other architectural components derived from the past, which begs the question, again –  Historic Architectural Elements – do they have a place in our homes today?   

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2 Responses to “Historic Architectural Elements – do they have a place in our homes today?”

  1. stephoo Says:

    Congratulations on your inaugural posting, Heather.

    I also love Gehry’s comment:

    “Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.”

    What a creative, international giant. Looking forward to the unveiling of his redesign of the AGO in November.

  2. Mark Says:

    It’s a good blog Heather =]


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