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Remodeling Antique Building Materials into the Home
by Dr. Oneida Cramer

Remodeling the home by transplanting antique materials into new architecture can sometimes turn into quite an adventure. For instance:

While looking for fireplaces, Shirley Flabiano, A.S.I.D., who has been working with Linda and Steve Ivy since they purchased their Preston Hollow home in 1985, was advised by the owner of a marble company that he had seen an old 18th century English mantel in a warehouse.

?Of course, it was in a thousand pieces on the floor,? Flabiano said. ?We weren?t quite sure gold was exactly the color we wanted at that time. And we had no idea how big the fireplace was although we could tell by the pieces of mantle that it was going to be a pretty large one. But we just fell in love with the carving. So, we decided to go ahead and gamble?see if we can?t salvage it somehow.?

Omni Corporation restored the mantle using the broken pieces together with color- coordinated marble to blend in when necessary. Then installers placed the mantel where a contemporary brass surround mantel had been originally. Thus began the conversion of a contemporary English design into a more elegant, old world European?Great Room. During the transformation process, sometime after the installation of the antique fireplace but before thinking of removing the original dark mirrors from the wall, the room served as storage for several old French panels.

?We saw these French panels,? Flabiano said. ?Actually, we were starting out in the dining room because we were wanting to do something a little more grand in the dining room. And they (panels) didn?t quite work.? So, workers had propped the panels up against the (mirrored) wall, and soon Flabiano thought??well, these look fabulous if we can incorporate them with the fireplace. So, we decided to space them and see if we could frame them in some way.? Then everyone came to the decision to place the panels on a mirrored surface for added depth. In the end, they opted to go with the room?s original mirrors in order to create the grand statement?contemporary verses the old.

At nine feet high, the ceiling appeared relatively low for the expanse of the room. So, Flabiano enhanced the room?s vertical lines by spacing the antique panels around the fireplace at a distance about equal to the width of a double set of French doors. Her reasoning was to emphasize room?s height with a pattern of uninterrupted ceiling?to-floor vertical lines continuing from the fireplace area onto the next perpendicular wall, which consists of six sets of French doors. Full-length draperies that were color coordinated in pale sandy/beige to match the antique panels hang down each side of the six French doors. A pair of matching gold/gray pedestals and candelabras placed in front of the curtains also serves to accent the features on the mirrored wall?the candelabras attached to the wall around the fireplace, the detailing in the antique panels, and the gold gilt around the mirror hanging above the fireplace. On one hand, the pattern of vertical lines from the antique panels and draperies impart a vague sense of old Corinthian columns, only softer. On the other hand, the French doors and the mirrors extend the room?s horizontal perspective far beyond the boundaries of the walls?thus adding to the immensity of the room and hence the name?Great Room.

Thematically, the design concept of ?columns? actually begins outdoors at the entrance to the home. What was once a wood-trim stucco Williamsburg-style fa?ade has been resurfaced with cast stone into a European style. The inadequate two-foot overhead covering was enlarged into a five-foot second story balcony held up with a surround of Corinthian columns.

?The columns hold up the balcony now because we have transformed what was the (second story) window above it into French doors, so people can actually step out,? Flabiano said. A balustrade protects people from falling off the balcony, which in turn provides sufficient overhead protection at the front entrance, an impressive set of two leaded-glass doors. And the Corinthian columns, along with arches and pediments on the windows, give the entrance a majestic and classic look.

Incidentally, a set of antique armoire doors, found in the deep reaches of the antique shop, was able to create the appearance in the dining room that the homeowners had failed to achieve with the antique French panels. Flabiano had hinges and German doorknobs put on the armoire doors so they would function the way they did a long time ago. Then she removed the built-in cabinet doors and placed the antique armoire doors over the cabinet body to give the appearance of a built-in armoire, one with white marble and gold trim and metal features.

?Some of the stuff (antiques) had been in the warehouse for quite awhile,? Flabiano said. In fact, the pieces that were bought had been in the shop for so long, the owner was anxious to hear what the buyers had done with them. You, see, he had first purchased them, himself, just because they were pretty.

-by Dr. Oneida Cramer
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