Welcome to the Architectural Observer!

The Architectural Observer rarely looks at “important” buildings; the focus is upon overlooked ones.  Some will be antique survivors which have come through time surprisingly intact.  Many will be old buildings which have been altered without regard to their stylistic integrity while others will be new construction which never had any stylistic integrity to begin with.

The decline of architectural integrity is just one more facet of the prolific and ongoing devolution of our culture.  The Architectural Observer calls it like it is!  Are there more important and pressing issues facing us now?  Yes, but everyone needs a distraction from those other issues once in a while.  And besides, this is relevant and much more fun!

There are 3 kinds of distractions here:

OBSERVATIONS  highlights the lowlights of our built environment – and observes occasional architecture details that might otherwise be overlooked.

DRAG QUEEN ARCHITECTURE showcases buildings built in one style but which are trying to pass themselves off as a different style.

TRANSFORMING A TRI-LEVEL is the continuing saga of my latest renovation project… a 1960’s house which was never completed.

Let’s face it; we built better buildings in the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries than we do now.  Let’s take a cue from the past and start to remember how buildings are supposed to look and function.  Thanks for joining me – please use the contact form for polite inquiry or to gripe at me.

Making Progress….

Making Progress….

Boxes are being unpacked as time allows.  The bookshelves are nearly full!  An acrylic swag lamp from the 1960’s now graces the Black Hole.  I had hoped to slip an antique desk into the niche, but it was about 1/8″ too wide for the opening and I’m not about to alter the desk top.  So,… Continue Reading

Moving Is Not Fun

Moving Is Not Fun

The past few days have been on the chaotic side.  Moving is never fun.  I’m really tired. But this move has been a learning experience.  I have learned that I have too much stuff.  Especially too much heavy stuff.  Below are photos of the newly renovated basement as it appeared this afternoon.  Somehow, all this stuff… Continue Reading

A Built-In Desk

A Built-In Desk

The room is now completely wired and the desk is installed… all that is left is an application of sanding sealer to all of the cabinetry followed up with varnish.  Fortunately, the bookshelves have already been varnished.             Continue Reading

More Storage; New Old Light Fixture

More Storage; New Old Light Fixture

The large storage unit is now almost finished.  It still needs a plywood panel where it connects to the desk and the entire thing needs varnishing.  Like its smaller mate on the other side of the room, this one has electrical receptacles in the base and on the top (to facilitate display of some vintage lamps).… Continue Reading

Storage Unit

Storage Unit

The first storage unit has now been built.  It still needs to be varnished, however.  The sliding doors are awaiting recessed round finger pulls… I am still trying to decide if I want to place the pulls in the exact center of each door or place them at opposite ends as is more conventional.   The… Continue Reading

Bookcases and Lighting

Bookcases and Lighting

The basement renovation is crawling along… the bookcases are now installed (complete with edgebanding) and the recently acquired 60’s ceiling light has been installed.  The first photo below shows the bookcases before the trim was installed on the face:                     Continue Reading

Making the Bookshelves

Making the Bookshelves

When renovating a house, it is always good to keep in mind that everything will take longer than you think.  It’s been a busy winter, but the last few days have been unseasonably warm so it was a great time to start ripping plywood for the bookshelves.  Once everything is cut and installed, there is… Continue Reading

Let there be light!

Let there be light!

A very small mile-marker today, but still progress.  A new circuit with lighting along the east wall… the future location of a continuous desk/work surface.  Simple porcelain lamp holders (complete with pull chains!) are in place now – but after I find the perfect set of four mid-century modern pendant lights they will be replaced… Continue Reading

The Black Hole

The Black Hole

Back in October I posted images of the somewhat awkward built-in china cabinet.  It was encased in concrete block which served as the foundation to an upper level fireplace which was never built (in an upper level which was never built).  When the basement was gutted and walls were removed, the concrete block foundation took… Continue Reading

Paint!  It’s only temporary…

Paint! It’s only temporary…

This past fall I did something that I haven’t mentioned yet.  I painted the house.  I haven’t mentioned it yet because it’s not a REAL paint job – it is more of an emergency cosmetic maneuver.  The large expanse of bright white siding paired with orange concrete blocks was beginning to get on my nerves.… Continue Reading

Primer!

Primer!

The basement walls have now been primed and are ready for painting.  The final paint color won’t be substantially different from the primer, so there won’t be a dramatic change after painting. After the paint goes on, I’ll start building storage units and bookshelves.           Continue Reading

Window Jambs

Window Jambs

The basement windows now have jambs!  I made them out of pine nailers salvaged from the roof of an old house which was being remodeled; they closely match the color and nail-riddled texture of the ceiling.  The best part is that they cover up much of the hideous white vinyl surround of the new windows.  I… Continue Reading

Detailing the Sheetrock/Joist Junction

Detailing the Sheetrock/Joist Junction

I knew I would regret this when I committed myself to the idea, and I was right.  It is a tedious process going around the room and filling the gaps between the sheetrock and wood joists where I fit around them.  Most likely I will still have to skim over some of these areas with… Continue Reading

Mud and Tape

Mud and Tape

The sheetrock is in place and the joints have received mud, tape and sanding (Thanks, Jim, for mudding, taping, and sanding… I hate that part).  Next project: wood jambs for the windows.       Continue Reading

A Painted Floor

A Painted Floor

Recently, I decided it was time to do something about the basement floor.  Not only was it ugly, but because of numerous irregularities and textures, it was awkward to sweep and keep clean.  Even though I’m still hanging sheetrock, I decided to go ahead and paint the floor so as to have a nicer work… Continue Reading

Waterproofing and Insulation

Waterproofing and Insulation

With the ceiling cleaned up and the new windows installed, it’s time to work on the walls.   The basement has had a history of dampness, and the problem spots became rather apparent once the wainscot was removed.  The lower part of the foundation wall is of poured concrete while the upper part was laid in… Continue Reading

Moral Dilemmas

Moral Dilemmas

I hate this part.  You know – the moral quandaries that are an inherent part of any renovation project.  This post will cover two recent dilemmas – one involving a built-in and one involving basement windows. Dilemma 1: The former living/dining area was originally equipped with a gas heater ensconced in a concrete block niche… Continue Reading

Removing the Insulation

Removing the Insulation

As you last remember, the basement had been gutted.  When the ceiling came down, batts of “Balsam-Wool” – a type of cellulose insulation – were revealed.  The product had a very handsome label:   There was a similar label in green, and I saved all that were in decent shape.  OK; let’s start start pulling down… Continue Reading

Demo Time!

Demo Time!

Before we get into the demolition, I would like to point out that I have been an ardent preservationist for my entire life (starting at age 5 when I retrieved from the trash barrel original hardware and lighting fixtures which my father had just discarded from our 1927 Dutch Colonial Revival).  So what you are… Continue Reading

A Peek Inside…

A Peek Inside…

And now for a quick tour of my new project.  It’s not pretty, but with a little elbow grease it will become comfortable.  We’ll start at the front door…                         And that concludes our brief tour of the hapless 1960’s tri-level which is soon… Continue Reading

In the Beginning…

In the Beginning…

Since childhood I’ve been obsessed with old (19th century and earlier) houses and was fairly certain that one day I would find the right one.  Imagine my internal anguish when, after buying, living in, renovating, and selling several Victorian-era houses, I found myself tackling a decrepit mid-1960’s tri-level utterly void of architectural distinction. Surprisingly, I’ve found that it’s just as much fun… Continue Reading