Traditional American Rooms: Celebrating Style, Craftsmanship, and Historic Woodworkby Brent Hull
An ideal sourcebook for architects, woodworkers, and homeowners, this beautiful reference showcases the stunning architectural details of the Winterthur Museum. This guided tour explores 33 rooms from the Georgian and Federal periods with stunning photography, architectural terms, detailed drawings, and fascinating commentary.
From the foreward...
I was so happy to read this book. It shows exactly what you and your builder need to know to create traditional American rooms with grace and style. A few years ago, when I was designing and about to build my own home to house my collection of 18th century American furniture and early 20th century decorative arts, I had the pleasure of spending two days at the Winterthur Museum. Their indoor street inspired me to build my own. Mr. Du Pont focused on American antiques and furnishings, something in which I take great interest, at a time when many of his peers were collecting European objects. His eye for detail and style is demonstrated not only by Winterthur, but also by his work for Jackie Kennedy at the White House in the 1960s. That gave me great direction as to the authentic moldings I required.
What makes Mr. Du Pont unique is his passion for collecting American culture, and the extent of his collections: not only the objects but the very rooms themselves, 175 of them. The rooms date from 1640 to 1860 and come from 12 of the 13 original American colonies. These architectural interiors represent a beautiful cross section of American interiors, from the very highest style rooms of Newport and Philadelphia to the simple taverns of New Hampshire, from the houses of rich merchants to those of simple tradesmen. It is a remarkable window on the history of our people, and of the material culture that enabled and enriched their lives.
It is these architectural interiors that my friend, Brent Hull celebrates in his book, Traditional American Rooms. The beauty of these historic rooms resides in the principles of classical scale and proportion, as Brent demonstrates with his careful measurements and lovely drawings. These rooms feel right because they are right: they are based on the Classical structure of American interior architecture, the ancient truths discovered in Greece and Rome. A study of these rooms gives us insight into how the ancient master-builders designed and planned their homes, and of how we may plan and build ours.
Traditional American Rooms celebrates the things I love: beautiful architecture, authentic American furniture and art, and Classic style. I'm a great admirer of Winterthur and of Mr. du Pont's vision of decorating and design. I am delighted that this book celebrates these interiors in such a wonderful American fashion.
Charity Designer Showhouse is anything but run-of-the-mill
Builder Brent Hull uses his expertise in historical millwork to bring a lost art to Fort Worth's Charity Designer Showhouse
By CATHY FRISINGER firstname.lastname@example.org
Brent Hull started out as a teacher, and he's still a teacher of sorts. But now instead of teaching English to high schoolers, he's teaching their parents about the golden rectangle, about the relationship between the Ionic column and the female body, about the difference between Georgian and Federalist millwork, and why a room that's classically proportioned just feels comfortable.
Hull is a Fort Worth builder, but, more important, he is a nationally recognized expert in historical millwork - the intricate moldings, mantels, cabinets, doors and paneled walls found in America's finest historic homes - and he's working to revive that centuries-old aesthetic.
"When the Greeks and Romans were looking at how to build to their buildings, they looked to nature," Hull says, explaining that the proportions of the Tuscan column are taken from the proportions of the male body. Finger to hand, hand to arm, the entire body is composed in a 3-to-5 ratio that is naturally pleasing to the eye, he explains. For centuries, builders used those natural proportions in designing homes, but today that's been discarded.
"I believe we are in the Dark Ages of architecture in America," Hull says. "We are a how-to country; we've forgotten the why-to. We've just flat forgotten how to put things together, and it's just ridiculous how low the standard is. My goal is to educate people about what's right."
Hull inhaled the tenets of classical architecture while attending the North Bennet Street School in Boston in the early '90s. He left there with a degree in preservation architecture and a fire in his heart to spread his newfound knowledge.
He started small, creating custom moldings and doors in his brother's garage, but the business grew fast and his reputation even faster. His company, Hull Historical Millwork, has done restoration work across the country, including on many of Texas' old courthouse gems. His company's millwork has always been done by hand.
Hull began building homes and incorporating quality millwork into those new homes. He writes for magazines, speaks to builder and architect groups, and generally does all he can to spread the word about the warmth, comfort and visual appeal of homes that include classically styled millwork.
In 2003, his first book, Historic Millwork (John Wiley, $85), took a look at millwork from 1870 to 1940. That year, he was approached by the Winterthur Museum in Delaware about an association with the one-of-a-kind museum. Winterthur houses a collection of antiques amassed by collector Henry F. du Pont in 175 rooms assembled from architecturally significant 16th-, 17th- and 18th-century homes. Hull is now a Winterthur licensee, meaning he is licensed to sell millwork that reproduces ornamentation in Winterthur rooms, which fits with his goal of reawakening a classical aesthetic in contemporary building.
Area residents see just what that means at the 2008 Historic Fort Worth Charity Designer Showhouse. Hull, the lead builder for the 6,000-square-foot showhouse, adorned four rooms - the family room, dining room, study and master bedroom - with millwork from the Georgian period (1725-75) inspired by rooms at Winterthur. Each has a fireplace with a mantel surrounded by elaborate moldings and carved panels. Walking into these rooms is like stepping into a room at Monticello. The upstairs features millwork from the Federalist period (1775-1825), though it is less elaborate.
Hull has a new book coming out in March. While his first book was aimed at professionals, Traditional American Rooms (Fox Chapel, $35) is aimed at general readership. It looks at Winterthur's preserved rooms, progressing chronologically through the Georgian and Federalist eras of building.
Hull is a happy man, like men with a strong sense of purpose are.
"I found a great niche. I love what I do," he says. "It's kind of like rediscovering a lost art."
Historic Fort Worth Charity Designer Showhouse Location: 5101 Cliffrose Lane, Fort Worth
Hours: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays through Nov. 15; noon-4 p.m. Sundays through Nov. 16; 5:30-8 p.m. Thursdays. .
Amenities: City Club Cafe has a tearoom on-site.
Traditional American Rooms is mentioned during an interview with Brent Hull.
Richly illustrated and researched. After the success of Brent Hull's first book, on the history of architectural millwork, this collaboration with historic Winterthur has been keenly anticipated. And the resulting publication was worth the wait: this is a wonderful "interpretation" of the historic rooms in Winterthur, through the eyes of a millwork expert and a savvy architectural historian. A beautiful publication with "meat on its bones." Will appeal to the collector, preservationist and professional tradesman and period homeowner (new or old)!
Brent Hull and Christine G.H. Franck, treat readers through a guided tour of the former residence of Henry Francis DuPont, the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate. Featuring 20 classic rooms preserved at the Winterthur Museum from the Georgian and Federal periods, the book showcases each rooms amazing architectural millwork, as well as the fascinating history on who designed it, constructed and once occupied them. Hull is a nationally recognized expert in residential design and historically accurate architecture. Franck is a designer and educator specializing in classical architecture.
Winterthur, the former residence of collector Henry Francis du Pont, is filled with antiques, decorative items, and architectural salvages from 17th-, 18th- and 19th-centrury America. This book, Traditional American Rooms, highlights some of the most historic rooms in the house and shows off their architectural features, craftsmanship and history. The book highlights the architecture of the times and can provide inspiration to recreate these historic elements in today's homes.
If your mapping out new millwork for the interior of your home, you'll want to thumb through Traditional American Rooms, a new sourcebook from the folks at Winterthur. Gorgeous photographs lead the reader through 33 of the estate's 175 rooms; along the way, master craftsman Brent Hull and designer Christine G.H. Franck offer detailed measurements and profile sketches of the millwork in each one, creating a complete guide for those interested in replicating Winterthur's classic details.
An Interior Sourcebook
Traditional American Rooms: Celebrating Style, Craftsmanship, and Historic Woodwork by Brent Hull and Christine G.H. Franck, with a preface by Maggie Lidz and foreword by Barbra Streisand
Fox Chapel Publishing, East Petersburg, PA; 2009
180 pages; softcover; 297 illustrations; $35
Reviewed by Clem Labine
Traditional American Rooms, a groundbreaking new volume from Winterthur and Fox Chapel Publishing, is a good-looking - and extremely useful - design guide and tutorial on the creation of classic interior architecture. The "campus" for this illustrated lecture-series-in-print is the treasure house of period rooms at the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate in Winterthur, DE. Winterthur contains the largest publicly accessible collection of authentic Early American interior architectural millwork in the U.S. Its 175 interior spaces - rooms, halls, alcoves and stairwells - are a 3D textbook on Classical architectural millwork from 1640 through 1840.
Instructors for this exploration of traditional American moldings and paneling are Brent Hull and Christine Franck. Millwork-meister Brent Hull is this country's leading authority on historic woodwork (having authored a number of books on the topic), as well as a design consultant and president of Hull Historical, an architectural millwork company in Ft. Worth, TX. Christine Franck is a Palladio Award-winning architectural designer, author and educator, as well as a board member of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America.
The Winterthur period rooms that provide the reference materials for this volume are the result of the collecting passion of Henry Francis du Pont. From 1929 thru the 1960s, du Pont purchased historical rooms - and whole houses - along the entire Atlantic Seaboard, and had the antique woodwork reassembled in what was originally du Pont's home by an in-house crew of carpenters, masons and painters. Prior to Winterthur opening to the public as a museum in 1951, du Pont moved out and turned the entire establishment over to his collections. Although there are many books about the gardens, furniture and decorative arts at Winterthur, little has been done to document the vast collection of historic architectural millwork contained in the 175 interior spaces.
This historic woodwork sourcebook sets out to fill this void. Covering primarily the Georgian and Federal periods, Hull and Franck focus on 20 of Winterthur's most representative rooms and examine the history and changing styles of millwork throughout the pre-1840 era. Analysis of each room features a combination of color photography, a cataloging of the architectural details and commentary on each element. The breakdown of each space includes close-up photos of millwork details, and profiles of all the moldings drawn to scale - with the scale carefully indicated. Also noted are the overall dimensions of each room being dissected, because the moldings are all scaled to the size of the room. If a designer wanted to adapt these historic moldings to a room of greater or lesser size, the moldings would have to be re-scaled appropriately. It should be noted that this book is primarily about moldings and paneling; mantels are not covered to any great extent. There are 145 historic mantels at Winterthur and they deserve (and will get) a book of their own. Also, floor plans of the rooms are not shown for spatial reasons, but the overall room dimensions provided give the designer sufficient context.
The book's introduction shows how the master builders who created the original millwork for these rooms were all working from precedents of the Baroque, Palladian, and Neoclassical styles as practiced in England. The book also delineates the subtle shifts in design as the formal Georgian style gave way to the more inventive and free-flowing Federal style.
It's worth noting that the Winterthur rooms are very much Classical, but not necessarily "historic" in the pure sense. As Winterthur Estate Historian Maggie Lidz points out in her preface: " the historic woodwork was not installed at Winterthur as it had been at its original location. The materials were reassembled and very much modified to fit modern needs and tastes." As has always been true in the Classical tradition, in constructing the Winterthur rooms the basic building blocks of the Classical language were adapted and interpreted by designers who were well-educated in the principles of Classicism. They created interiors spaces that were - at one and the same time - entirely new, and yet well within the tradition of the Classical canon.
Designers should be aware that few of the historical profiles (less than 10%) shown in the book are available as standard lumberyard profiles these days. However, Winterthur has licensed Hull Historical to reproduce its period millwork, and Hull has created molding knives that can replicate all of the millwork in the Winterthur period rooms. But as noted above, if the moldings are intended for a room of a size different than at Winterthur, the moldings should be re-proportioned accordingly.
Both design professionals and clients will find this a work of great merit. Clients can use the volume to train their eyes and perhaps even to help educate their designers. For architects and interior designers, this sourcebook is of obvious utility in specifying both types of moldings and their distribution in the creation of refined traditional interiors. And what a great selling point to be able to say in client presentations: "This design is just like Winterthur!"
Clem Labine is the founder of Old House Journal, Traditional Building and Period Homes magazines. He has been recognized with the Excellence in Historic Preservation Award from the Preservation League of New York State, the Arthur Ross Award from Classical America and the Harley J. McKee Award from the Association for Preservation Technology. He was a founding board member of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America. Labine's blog, The Preservationist, can be read at www.traditional-building.com/clem_labine/.
Traditional American Rooms, a groundbreaking new volume from Winterthur and Fox Chapel Publishing, is a good0looking - and extremely useful
For architects, designers, homeowners, and history enthusiasts, Hull, an author, craftsman, and builder, and Franck, a designer and educator who has taught at the U. of Notre Dame and Georgia Institute of Technology, present 33 historic rooms from the Georgian and Federal periods at the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate. This former residence of collector and horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont, was furnished with salvaged antiques, woodwork installations, and decorative objects representing styles of early colonial America, from 1640 to 1860. After a brief discussion of early American architectural traditions and elements, color photos and technical drawings show the interiors, moldings, and antique furniture of each of the rooms, with information on their origins, design, building, who lived in them, and each of the architectural elements and how it fits with the room's style.
Featuring 20 classic rooms preserved at the Winterthur Museum from the Georgian and Federal periods, the book showcases each rooms amazing architectural millwork.
Highlights the architecture of the times and can provide inspiration to recreate these historic elements in today's homes.
Meet the Author
Brent Hull earned a degree in Preservation Carpentry from the North Bennett Street School. He is the founder of Hull Historic Millwork and the author of "Historic Millwork." A nationally recognized expert, Hull has appeared on Bob Villa's "Home Again" and "Old House Journal Television."
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