Monday, January 7, 2013

Some Sculptures

When Bill was in college, he was fortunate to study ceramics with Toshiko Takaezu, a world recognized ceramic artist who combined techniques from the West and East while helping to move pottery from a utilitarian to an artistic form. Bill apprenticed with Toshiko for two years and helped with the construction of her large kiln in her studio not far from our house in Hopewell. He has continued to make clay pieces since then which have all been fired in this kiln and included in a studio show during the holidays every year.

Although Toshiko has recently passed, she helped organize an exhibition of Bill and several other dedicated past students, at the Hunterdon Art Gallery in Clinton, NJ - not long ago.  Here are pictures of some of Bill’s larger sculptures shown in this wonderful old grist mill alongside a river in Clinton, NJ. 

This kiln and Toshiko’s studio are now owned by a former student who continues to share and use both with past apprentices. Bill has just left with Leif and a large sculpture to be bisque fired soon. The biggest challenge has been getting these large sculptures out of the studio space Bill has in our basement!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Fixing Floors I

If the staircase was a reason not to buy Old Farm, the original floor boards upstairs were a reason to overlook the negatives. They were covered with all sorts of rugs and barely painted several colors around their edges, but distinctively beautiful to us. Most of this winter will be spent finishing fixing these floors. In every room except the master bedroom which has insulation between the beams, the ceiling boards downstairs are the floor boards upstairs. That means ship-lapping two or all four sides of any replacement boards to keep sound and heat separated as much as possible.

The Work

Here is Bill’s work in the hallway upstairs which is directly above the kitchen wood burning stove (going at the time), replacing boards and reinforcing a beam as well. We are replacing most of the flooring in this hallway, which is newer boards and installed after the chimney was rebuilt. Also, now that the new stairs are in, we will be finishing the floor next to them with two foot wide boards the same age as the house! Then it’s paint, paint, paint – three coats of white paint.

Below Bill has reinforced a large ceiling beam in the kitchen with a piece of oak; working from upstairs.

Patching Paint

The small bedroom upstairs has a wonderful old green floor with salmon colored spatter paint on it. I have painted the board patches and perimeter in there with John Deere green paint and a coral color paint made by Pottery Barn to match it. I may eventually have to re-paint the entire floor, but first things, first at Old Farm.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Stepping Up the Stairs I

The stairs at Old Farm scared everyone away when all saw it for sale, and there didn’t seem to be a better solution around the new; larger chimney recently built. The present stairs were roughed in with mostly plywood, and ran along the widest side of the chimney base, changing directions at the bottom and top. The difficulty was entering the upstairs well under the eave with little head-space (or much else) and no way to install a safety rail which wouldn’t make it more of a challenge.

I believe this issue was why only builders had made offers on the property with plans to tear down the buildings. We offered a bit more and bought Old Farm with plans to somehow create a better stairs solution. Yikes.


During the fall of this past year, I spent an afternoon at Old Farm measuring and drawing up designs until I had the best plan. I moved the first step into the foyer and with 9 steps of 9” risers and 7” treads heading up towards the peak, there was room for a comfortable landing at the chimney wall to turn onto a last step to the left. Next I visited the Hoxie House (built in 1636) in nearby Sandwich with a tape measure, to see how my new stairs might fit a similar house. The exit stairs at the Hoxie House were the same proportions as were my back stairs home in Hopewell – almost.

At home I built a cardboard stringer (support for the steps) as a guide to pin on the wall once the stairwell was gutted. Bill liked the design and widened the last step to extend around the chimney side. With one week of Christmas vacation to gut the space and build new stairs, we hoped for the best in reconfiguring the chimney some, to accommodate the landing. On Christmas Eve, Bill and Christian spent the entire day sawing, chiseling and re-mortaring the chimney base, in order to fit our new framing. The next day the new steps were built and then the landing was built while a downstairs coat closet was roughed in. This closet was a big perk and another reason I wanted to change the direction of the stairs, since it also creates a desk space above in the upstairs now.

The Work

The vintage painting at the top of this picture was a birthday gift to me and titled “Whale’s Tails”. It will move to a nearby wall when stair railings are installed. The boys love this painting which is great because it is in their space. I am planning on steel cable rails upstairs, so you can still see the painting from the large bedroom. A cathedral space over the stairs was made by removing two wide original floor boards which we re-used for the stair landing. I wanted this opening to allow furniture up and down more easily and to add some drama in the foyer.

Christian finishing the stairs. The treads were made from the newer floor boards we took out.

The landing - some of the photos in this blog were late night cell phone shots.

View from the top...

The closet...

I suddenly recognized the original stairs outlined by the newly exposed old wallpaper. They were much steeper with 12” risers and 7” treads! We are excited to have a comfortable/working solution now in such a historic house. The old wallpapers were quite beautiful but beyond saving.

Happy New Year Old Farm! XO