Friday, December 18, 2015

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello

One of the many great things about living in Washington is the proximity to so much of our nation's history. Last weekend, during unprecedented warm December weather, I took a day trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, home to our third president Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson was a renaissance man and one of his many hobbies was architecture.  He designed his own home, Monticello, over the course of many years and spent his retirement between here and nearby Poplar Forest, his country house he also designed (see my post of Poplar Forest from my visit there in 2009 HERE). 

Jefferson was a man of many extraordinary ideas; one of which was building this classically Palladian structure on top of a country mountain overlooking Charlottesville. Interesting to note that his baby, the University of Virginia, is visible from the house down the mountain. Building here was not practical at the time (and even today). How did one get water to the top of such a tall hill in 1800? Everything had to come up and down the very steep mountain in all sorts of weather; It was worth it for the view! 

One arrives at the north side of the house and into a deep entry porch which features both a clock (the chimes of which could be heard throughout his working farm) and the information from a roof mounted weather vane in the ceiling (seen above).  Notice the clock isn't perfectly centered over the door!
As it is the holiday season simple & natural Christmas decorations are to be found tastefully throughout the house. I loved these wreaths featuring natural decoration; apples, pine cones, dried flowers and the like. 

While a large house it is by no means a mansion; Generations of Jefferson's family lived here in his time and shared 2 privy's found on either side of the house. 

Jefferson's personal accommodations were much more spacious than that of the rest of his family, including this conservatory above off his office.

The iconic rear facade has been featured on the back of the 'Jefferson' nickel since 1938 when it replaced the buffalo nickel. 

As you can see we could not have asked for nicer weather, particularly in mid December: 72 degrees F and sunny!

The rear yard reminds me of his design for the University of Virginia Mall, with dependency buildings linked through walkways covering service spaces. 

This unique sundial below features ears of corn, this is a farm afterall! 
The passageway seen below goes underneath the house to provide access to the lower levels. It also has the advantage of  keeping servants (who were slaves at Jefferson's time) out of the eye-site of the house and to provide protection from the weather.
Underneath the walkways seen at the rear of the house are the other service spaces; kitchens, storerooms, etc; Everything necessary to keep an estate house in running order.
Just below the house are a number of other service buildings including the iconic pavilion with beautiful mountaintop views located on the edge of the mountain top vegetable garden.
Now with electric waterpumps it's much easier to achieve a house with such views but at the time it was a burden!

These western views are stunning at sundown. 
No doors, just large triple hung windows. The bottom 2 sashes move up into the wall to allow access into the room.
 Chairs of the type that were common at Jefferson's time reside in the space.
 Many of the out buildings from Jefferson's time have been torn down or lost over the years but the foundation has plans to restore them all.
You can't beat the classical architecture nor the mountain top views! Be sure to drop in for a tour of Monticello if you are in the mid-Atlantic region. Charming Charlottesville offers great shopping and restaurants as well for a weekend getaway.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Charming Buckhead, Atlanta

While in Atlanta and before my visit to Swan House we took some time on a very rainy day to check out the famous Buckhead neighborhood surrounding the museum.
Buckhead is the uptown section of the city with many large and beautiful homes including Swan House!
Atlanta is surprisingly green (to this northerner!) and most of the homes were beautiful traditional dwellings nestled into this hilly area.
While some people strive for privacy behind walls like the French house 2 above many are situated within rolling lawns.
Don't let the name fool you, there are many neighborhoods within Buckhead and all are not equal! I was shocked at the shear number of these beautiful houses.
 All levels of taste and style but one thing one can't say is that they're not impressive
I had to include this photo here of the most intriguing house. It looked to be art deco or art moderne but was sadly grown over; Hard on architectural tourists like me! We were so tempted to drive up the driveway and check it out!
I kept looking for the Driving Ms. Daisy house but sadly found out it was in another area, Druid Hills. The house above reminded me of it though.
 I was surprised that I didn't see more stucco houses - apparently my vision of the south is skewed!
 Not all of these beautiful houses are old; the structure above is under construction.
 One thing most have in common though are front porches!
This house was a bit smaller than most of its neighbors but had the same beautiful level of detail and a great front porch. What neighborhoods in your city are you fond of? Here in DC we have many but I've spoken many times about Kalorama.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Shopping Architectural Accents in Atlanta

While in Atlanta one of the many shops I stopped into was an architectural salvage shop unlike any I had been to before, Architectural Accents. This isn't your run of the mill junk shop with beat up doors and bathtubs, they carry the finest architectural salvage / antiques from Europe as well as new custom hardware and other fixtures needed in any high end renovation to an old house or NEW old house.
 I might as well admit I died and went to heaven -this was my favorite spot in Atlanta!
 Each door I saw was my next favorite. Imagine building a house utilizing of some of these pieces.  Thousands of doors to choose from.
 I loved the elegant proportions to the paneled door on the left above.
Notice how all of the antique doors have already been repaired and stripped of many layers of (lead) paint -ready to use in your own project!
My favorite door was actually a pair of circa 1870 double doors from an old mansion in France which features hand painted scenes from La Fontaine's fables.
I would happily build a living room around these doors. The prices were very reasonable as well - about what you'd pay for custom, high quality new doors (without the character!)
 The oak Tudor staircase below also caught my attention.
There were 1000's of mantels to choose from.  You can even order your own new mantel if you don't find an antique that suits you!
 The impressive solid wood example above from France is enormous -don't let the scale fool you.
 Perhaps some English mantels might be to your taste instead?
 The mantel above retains its beautiful hand painting.
 Imagine the carved mantel above in a knotty pine library.
 The perfect iron fireback for any architect above - a Grecian temple with Greek key surround!
 There are no shortage of light fixtures either, both interior and exterior.
 These brass French lanterns would make a big statement in any stairwell or entry hall.
Notice the many options for Cremone bolts on the wall above. The shop is enormous but still packed to the gills with fabulous house parts.
The beautiful iron railings are a steal! Like any good salvage yard there are plenty of parts and pieces below to repair your old house as well.
My favorite item that is made-to-order is custom leather book edge binding to line faux shelves - made to any length that you require. Perfect if you want to match a hidden door detail like at Meridian House (see that post HERE and notice the Jib door in the library)
Be sure to stop into Architectural Accents the next time you're in Atlanta, you won't regret it. I can't wait until my next visit!