arts & crafts style house

This Old House Episode 3 Recap

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This week we’ll recap episode three of this season’s This Old House, our favorite television show. We have to admit, the suspense is really building as we wait for the episode where they refurbish the fireplace of the Arlington, Massachusetts project house.

Update on the Add-On

The demolition is over and now general contractor Tom Silva and crew can build that family room add-on. But first, they need to reinforce the house. Silva gives host Kevin O’Connor a structural explanation. Then they get busy reinforcing.

An excavator pulls out some concrete flooring and an old wall. They take the crumbled concrete to a huge disposal site where manager Jon Tucker describes the process of separating reusable material from the truckloads of discards.

Arts and Crafts Explained

At Old World Stoneworks, we love interiors most. So this was our favorite part of this week’s show. Richard Duffy, an Arlington historian, came on the show to explain nuances of the Arts & Crafts style. Host O’Connor mentioned that while the project house is defined as Arts & Crafts, it doesn’t look exactly like his understanding of that style.

arts & crafts style house

Caption: This 1926 Arts & Crafts bungalow is on the Canadian Register of Historic Places.

“It’s subtle in this interpretation,” Duffy agreed. He pointed out the panels of Portland cement combined with half-timbering. This building method features timber frames with the spaces in between filled by plaster, brick or some other material. Portland cement, the basic ingredient in concrete, is a mixture of limestone and clay that hardens when mixed with water.

Exploring the neighborhood, Duffy points out a Craftsman colonial house, in which Portland cement is used to unify the whole exterior, not just as an accent. They pass a classic Arts & Crafts bungalow, with a full-width porch and big stone columns, which Duffy says is a characteristic Arts & Crafts element of uniting nature with a house building. They find one that is similar to the project house, but asymmetrical. Duffy mentions the cottage sash windows, where a top third of the window is made up of smaller panels and the lower two-thirds is one big glass pane.

paine estate

Caption: Exterior view of the Paine Estate, also known as Stonehurst


Caption: The interior of the Paine Estate. Note the fireplace and inglenook at top right.

Then they visit Stonehurst, aka the Paine Estate, in Waltham, Massachusetts. This Arts & Crafts masterwork was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson. Frederick Law Olmsted planned the landscaping. This is one gorgeous house! We especially liked the fireplace surround in the great hall.

This hand-carved surround was a little different on the left side than the right, Duffy said, because Richardson wanted his woodcarvers to express their individual style. The Arts & Crafts movement was about doing things by hand, rather than using newfangled machines. We also loved the inglenook in the corner. This window seat was round and cozy, with a curved rail around it, and curved wooden window framing complete with curved glass. This house is open for tours, so if you find yourself in the Bay State, stop and take a look.

Converting from Oil

Unfortunately, life can’t be all hand-carved mantel surrounds and inglenooks. The last segment of this week’s episode dealt with getting rid of the project house’s old heating oil tank.

Richard Trethewey, HVAC expert, asked environmental contractor Shawn Clarke to explain the sludge at the bottom of the old oil tank. This awful stuff is the solids left when the oil is removed — microorganisms, dirt and other toxic nasties. An assistant scooped this stuff into five-gallon buckets and took the old tank to a salvage yard. This whole process reminded us of how much we love our job – beautifying people’s homes with exquisite mantel surrounds and range hoods – rather than scraping toxic sludge out of an ancient oil tank.

Next Week

Will This Old House get to the fireplaces in episode four? You’ll just have to tune in next week and see. But if you can’t wait another week to get started on your fireplace upgrade, call us today.

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