GLASS SLAB WALLS

These glass slabs make a beautiful wall for a shower stall, one with one of the best views in Cambridge, across the Charles River to the Boston skyline. They were an exacting task to install, as they are massive, half an inch thick, weighing 150 to 200 pounds each, the attachment points fixed and all parts transparent. There was no room for error in this part of the project.

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GLASS SLAB WALLS

GRANITE STONE FIREPLACE

This tightly laid granite fieldstone veneer is a tasteful and simple natural finish for a fireplace. The small, squared off stone units lend a low key, but satisfying, focus to this dining area.  The word "focus", in fact, is Latin for fireplace. Note the finished granite lintel spanning the opening, in contrast to the rough split granite fieldstones.

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GRANITE STONE FIREPLACE

OLD HOUSE, NEW FLOOR PLAN

The appeal of Victorian era period detail is undeniable, but their floor plans are in conflict with modern tastes which prioritize light and access. We marvel at their lofty ceilings, small room footprints and locksets on every interior door. It was a different world, clearly - - so down come the walls.

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OLD HOUSE, NEW FLOOR PLAN

MODERN SCREEN PORCH SYSTEM

Before the advent of air conditioning, screened porches were provided as cool sleeping areas, as well as places to relax outdoors. Traditionally, it was considered healthful to sleep in the cold night air, even into the late fall. You need not agree with the medical value of this assertion to embrace the pleasures of a screened living area. Note the depth of this addition, more an outdoor living room than a shallow “sitting” porch. The design and trim detail is traditional, and fully in keeping with the Queen Anne style (Victorian) main house. What is not traditional is the screen system itself, which has become more flexible and adaptable, due to modern lightweight materials and functional design.

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MODERN SCREEN PORCH SYSTEM

DISORIENTED & DOUBLE HUNG WINDOW

Our carpenters’ ingenuity is constantly being challenged to produce real world construction solutions that charm, function and endure, but typically this ingenuity is hidden in the work. They are satisfied with that, as impeccable workmanship is their constant and ultimate aim. Generally, if the carpenter is seen in the work, then a mistake was made!

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DISORIENTED & DOUBLE HUNG WINDOW

BASEMENT LIVING SPACE

These dramatic images show a house jacking project in the Cambridgeport neighborhood of Cambridge. The intent here is to raise the house high enough to provide a liveable space in the basement area, one which complies with state and local codes for headroom, safe access, natural light, ventilation and drainage. All of these requirements are specifically addressed in the Code.

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BASEMENT LIVING SPACE

MODERN BATHROOM, HISTORIC HOUSE

An historic house is under constant pressure from changes in the culture, which require interventions to accommodate modern tastes and technology. Nowhere is this so evident as in the kitchen and bathroom, where the space required seems to expand decade by decade to provide room for more cabinetry, appliances and fixtures.

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MODERN BATHROOM, HISTORIC HOUSE

FOLLOW THE CURVE - - IN WOOD

Fabricating curved wood millwork is one of the most demanding tasks the carpenter faces, especially when the bent woodwork is to be exposed to the outside elements. Built in the late 1990s, the trim on this curved wooden fence did not stand the test of time. Furnishing privacy in a quiet Brattle Street neighborhood, it was rotted, infested with carpenter ants, and coming down on its own, with or without help.

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FOLLOW THE CURVE - - IN WOOD

URBAN BUILDING CONSTRUCTION PROBLEM SOLVER

Sometimes the master carpenter is like a musician, exhibiting the technical skill to make complex moldings turn a corner, leaving a perfect joint, one too tight to get a hair or a razor into. And sometimes they are there to solve deceptively simple but stubborn problems, like a basement access that is so awkward and inconvenient that it can’t be used from year to year.

 

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URBAN BUILDING CONSTRUCTION PROBLEM SOLVER

FLEXIBLE PROCESS CAN PRODUCE DEFINING DETAILS

Often it is the details that make the project, and sometimes these details only emerge in the process of construction, serendipitously. Such an example was this open plan apartment renovation, with a home office. As the work proceeded, the owner came to understand that he wanted more separation between his office and the adjacent dining room - - without having to give up the open feeling on other occasions. He preferred not to have the extra work done to make the opening smaller, to a size that could handle swinging doors, so Walter Mayne suggested barn doors because they can fit any size opening. They would also be different enough that they would work, even in an apartment where everything else matches. These barn type sliding doors were the perfect solution. The solution worked so well, that we returned to install  similar style doors to the opening from the office to the kitchen area.

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 FLEXIBLE PROCESS CAN PRODUCE DEFINING DETAILS

LESS CAN BE MORE WITH MINIMALIST DESIGN

Clean, uncluttered minimalist design is a modern look, appealing for what it leaves out, such as installation of door, floor and window trim. Certainly there will be a savings with such a design, since the carpenters get to skip this step and go home early?

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LESS CAN BE MORE WITH MINIMALIST DESIGN

MANAGING A HEARING BEFORE THE CAMBRIDGE HISTORICAL COMMISSION

The Cambridge Historical Commission is the official historic preservation authority for the City of Cambridge. If your property is in a formally designated historic or neighborhood conservation district, no permitted work can proceed without a Certificate from the Commission. 

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MANAGING A HEARING BEFORE THE CAMBRIDGE HISTORICAL COMMISSION

PRIDE AND THE MASTER CARPENTER

By Doug Hanna

Recently, the guy who does web marketing for our company, John Corbett, suggested that I write a blog post about the role of pride in producing top level craftsmen. Having worked at S + H maybe 20 years ago for a year or two, John recalled that every carpenter that he knew at S + H aspired to be the best, and had definite opinions on what constituted quality work. The carpenter’s trade requires vision, patience and total focus. Any lapses in attention are punished immediately as the work must be torn back and corrected. Intense pride in the result helps to keep the master carpenter’s head in the game.

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PRIDE AND THE MASTER CARPENTER

SALVAGE GIVES CONVICTION TO A MODERNIST ADDITION

When designing an addition to a 1949 bauhaus classic by noted Modernist Samuel Glaser, great care was taken to make the look and feel of the new work entirely consistent with the original. This meant that we were to reproduce existing millwork and trim details throughout the addition.

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SALVAGE GIVES CONVICTION TO A MODERNIST ADDITION

FINDING THE CARPENTER IN THE CRAFTSMAN STYLE

The Craftsman style is familiar to us all, and is still with us in a way that the Victorian is not. We are often called upon to apply Craftsman style detail in very un-Craftsman buildings. The Craftsman sensibility endures because it has a humane feel to it, as it retains the visible presence of the hand of the craftsperson (carpenter, mason, metalworker, etc.) that made it.    

 

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 FINDING THE CARPENTER IN THE CRAFTSMAN STYLE

LISTENING TO A BUILDING TO RESTORE PERIOD DETAIL

History is a funny thing. Sometimes, it gets erased. In construction, we call that a “gut job”, meaning that the existing finishes have been demolished, from the framing studs out. Times change, tastes change, but the spirit of a building remains the same, and calls out for restoration of its original purpose and intention.

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LISTENING TO A BUILDING TO RESTORE PERIOD DETAIL

THE OLD IS NEW - - WALNUT LIBRARY

The interior of this elaborate Victorian in Harvard Square had been gutted in the early 60’s. The new owners had a vision to create a room, a paneled library, which would feel as if it had been entirely original to the building itself. Their designers procured a couple of period architectural objects which provided focal points for the design of the room.

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THE OLD IS NEW - - WALNUT LIBRARY

Design Collaborations Between Contractor and Architect

One could argue that the best, and most organic design solutions involve input from the bottom up. S+H's skill set allows them to collaborate with architects to conceptualize designs that will not only delight the client, but provide functionality.

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Design Collaborations Between Contractor and Architect

WHY NOT STUCCO FOR EXTERIOR FINISH?

Use of stucco as an exterior finish is traditional in Florida and California, and is growing slowly in New England, as lumber of a suitable grade and species for exterior finish becomes harder to find. Historically, even in New England, some designers specified stucco as appropriate for the building style they had chosen. Though it is associated with dry or tropical climates, we can see it performing well here, over time, in historic buildings, especially early 20th century residences in towns like Belmont and Newton. This historic work is generally 3 coat stucco over wire mesh.

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WHY NOT STUCCO FOR EXTERIOR FINISH?

The Benefit of a Good Architect or Designer

By Doug Hanna

The residential construction industry is on the rise, which is great news. But lately we've noticed a tendency of owners trying to build or renovate without good, solid design plans. This is not anything new, but seems to be more prevalent these days. Perhaps it's a side effect of the recession, or, as one architect recently said to me "the commoditizing of our industry." I'm not quite sure the reason, but what I do know is that undertaking a home building or home remodeling project without a complete set of architectural plans is penny-wise and pound-foolish.

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The Benefit of a Good Architect or Designer

Urban Living Revisited

By Doug Hanna

After four years of self-imposed exile in the far suburbs I recently moved back to the city. There is nothing better than being out in nature with the blue herons, owls, hawks and flocks of turkeys you call your neighbors, but in time the solitude and beauty of living out in the woods can be offset by long and frustrating commute and the occasional feeling of isolation. Fun fact: In the past four years, I've driven approximately 40,000 miles for my daily commute alone, taking up upwards of 1,500 hours of time or around two months of my life. 

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Urban Living Revisited