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Articles

House Is New, but Style Is Classic

link to NY Times.com

By ANTOINETTE MARTIN
Published: July 6, 2008

THE house just completed on Stonebridge Road here was definitely built “green” — not that it cleaves to the highest standards for energy efficiency, or that it was constructed with only environmentally friendly materials.

But it is perhaps a singular example of recycling. Everything has been creatively reused here to design a new house: the site, the classic Arts and Crafts style, the skills of traditional artisans, even pieces of other old houses.

Where a modest 1950s ranch house once stood, a local contractor called Textured Homes, headed by Martin Schwartz, has created a modern Arts and Crafts-style estate, with 7,000 square feet of living space set on half an acre.

It features not only a wine bar, media room and soaking tub, but also original 1905 Prairie-style stained-glass windows (salvaged from a historic Chicago residence), Mission-style oak cabinets (retrieved from a school in the Midwest) and a tiled fireplace surround (taken from a Craftsman bungalow razed in California).

The national fascination with the Arts and Crafts style developed by the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Gustav Stickley and Melvin Hapgood during the early 20th century seems to have intensified in recent years, said Seth A. Leeb, president of the New Jersey chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The vintage homes designed by the masters are finally receiving due homage — as with the Stickley Museum at Craftsman Farm in Parsippany, which offers popular tours and instructional programs.

But also, many architects are starting to revive the old designs with a modern twist.

Mr. Leeb himself is deeply involved with the genre. Like Mr. Schwartz, he designs Arts and Crafts-style renovations — for old and new houses, entire houses or single rooms — employing reproduction materials or salvaged items or both.

“I have one client who bought a run-down bungalow in the Mount Tabor section of Parsippany; it was an Arts and Crafts house, but he wanted it to be even more Arts and Crafts,” Mr. Leeb said. “We took the old beams from the basement, remilled them and put them back in the house, exposing the recycled wood. We put vintage recycled hardwood floors in there too, and I was very careful about the detailing around the windows, 4- to 5-inch casing to give it the authentic look.”

In other cases, Mr. Leeb said, his clients are content to let him find reproduction light fixtures, or design a new room with an Arts and Crafts “feel.”

Both he and Mr. Schwartz work within a spectrum of styles that are collectively known as Arts and Crafts.

Mr. Leeb has developed a particular expertise in Hapgood houses through his work on dozens of them in the borough of Mountain Lakes, where there is a collection of more than 400 in one of the country’s first “planned developments,” dating from 1910.

Mr. Schwartz expressed a particular fondness for Craftsman-style architecture, with its rich use of stone, stucco and chestnut wood.

The Montclair house, which has five to seven rooms that could be used as bedrooms, as well as six and a half baths, is listed with Re/Max Village Square; the asking price is $3.495 million.

That is steep for this area: only a handful of houses have sold for $3 million or more, although contracts were recently signed on two more.

But Mr. Schwartz is counting on resiliency at the top end of the market, in addition to a “resurgent appetite” for Arts and Crafts-style homes.

He describes the house at 115 Stonebridge Road as inspired by classic styles rather than authentic or true-to-period.

When he acquired the 1905 windows, which have the geometric design of Wright’s Prairie style and which he, as a former antiques dealer, got from a home razed some years ago, “that was my inspiration for the whole house,” he said.

Mr. Schwartz is not an architect, but rather what is known as a designer-builder. He brings in architects, he explained, to create drawings for a particular room only after he has chosen the elements and materials and roughed out the plans.

He designed the Montclair house with new-but-traditional quarter-sawn oak floors, plaster walls (over Sheetrock and soundproofing) and new custom Craftsman-style kitchen cabinetry juxtaposed with an 18th-century farmhouse-beamed ceiling.

“The rough-hewn beams are a departure,” Mr. Schwartz said, “but we didn’t want the room to look too perfect because that’s not in the spirit of Arts and Crafts, either.”

Also hewing to the spirit, Mr. Schwartz said, he tried to draw in the outdoors, by giving the house large windows, high ceilings, an expansive foyer and a party room that opens onto a stone patio and a wide sloped backyard landscaped with trees, bamboo and a Craftsman-style trellis.

He nodded to the Japanesque influence of the architects Charles and Henry Greene by adding an exotic-looking iron rain chain near the front porch, hanging below period-conscious copper gutters and leaders.

Mr. Schwartz said he had also spent weeks mulling over the precise colors he wanted for the tiles on the hipped roof, and plotting how they should be laid out on the portion visible from a second-story landing.

“I was searching for a quality of understated opulence,” he said, acknowledging that this poses something of an oxymoron, since the original Arts and Crafts designers — particularly Stickley — stressed simplicity and functionality of design, as opposed to Victorian extravagance.

But this kind of contradiction may be almost inherent in the style. “The irony has always been there,” said Mr. Leeb, who volunteers as a docent at Craftsman Farms, and said he had toured vintage Arts and Crafts homes around the country.

“Arts and Crafts style is designed to be as simple as possible, but also to reflect nature’s glories and enrich us with artfulness at every turn.”

 

 

New House...Classic Style
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