unlacquered brass

Hey, it’s Doug, I hope everyone is doing well today.  Having grown up in the 80’s, I have to admit the idea of using brass in an interior doesn’t immediately appeal to me.  It seems that every renovation project I’ve completed for the past few years we’ve removed brass fixtures and fittings and replaced them with nickel or bronze.  Lately, brass is making a comeback, though thankfully in a modified form from the shininess that defined the finish 25 years ago.

Unlacquered brass lacks the slick top layer that keeps the brass finish of the 1980’s looking bright forever.  Instead, unlacquered brass weathers over time and takes on a beautiful and warm patina.  The first time I was exposed to this finish was at a client’s suggestion a couple of years ago.  When we were designing the architectural interiors for the 11 Bonita project, our client kept insisting on “living finishes” which I was all for — until he asked for brass!  After some convincing I came around to his vision of brass faucets and door hardware that would weather naturally over time — with more tarnish in the areas that were touched the most and bits of shininess left around the edges.

The potfiller above the Lacanche Sully range in the 11 Bonita kitchen is of unlacquered brass.  I had the rivets on the custom steel rangehood we designed made from unlacquered brass as well to accentuate the detail.  Our client ordered the range with unlacquered knobs and pulls as well to complete the look.

You can see more unlacquered brass in the Pantry this same home — this time on the bridge faucet at the sink.  [photos by Colleen Duffley]

I mentioned last week in our post about Hamilton Sinkler’s return air grill that I specified for a home here in Mountain Brook we’re helping to renovate, that we were also replacing door hardware throughout the home.  The original 1920’s hardware is unlacquered brass and thankfully we’re able to replicate this finish for the replacement knobs we’ve selected.  Sometimes when the finish can’t be readily acquired, our very talented friends at Brandino Brass will have standard brass fixtures ‘dipped’ to strip the top layer of the finish away.

Speaking of unlacquered brass door hardware, check out this beautiful interior set–the Coleman from Rejuvenation.  Imagine how good it would look after a couple of years’ worth of use.

Waterworks has recently debuted a new collection called Henry and there are some wonderful unlacquered brass fixtures available in it.

Isn’t that good looking?  Besides the finish, this collection is such a great blend of tradition and clean lines.

Construction is about to begin on a bar that we designed in Chattanooga…we’ve designed an unlacquered brass shelving system which will run along the back bar and hold bottles of liquor.  It fits perfectly with the warm vintage feel we’re creating for this project — we’ll be sure to share photos of this feature when it’s installed.

So what do you think?  Are you ready to embrace brass again–albeit in a different feel from the slick look of the 80’s–or is it too soon for you to go back to the look?  We always love hearing what you think.

story of a range hood

When you have a 7 foot long, handmade French Lacanche range; a standard range hood just won’t do. This signature appliance was the jumping off point for the entire kitchen we designed for foodie and internet personality JB Hopkins and his partner when we undertook the renovation of their 1920’s Spanish Revival residence in Homewood, Alabama. Working in conjunction with architect and principal of our sister company Dungan Nequette Architects (and original co-founder of Tracery), Louis Nequette, Doug helped designed a range hood worthy of such an amazing piece of cooking equipment–and of the room at large.

When JB and his partner first bought this house, it was obvious it needed a lot of reworking to become the home they wanted. The original kitchen in the home was about three miles away (slight exaggeration) from any living space and was dark and small–definitely designed for household help in the 1920’s; and not for homeowners who love to cook and entertain. Louis imagined an entirely new space housed in an addition to the original structure.

Louis’ first vision for the space (dated 4-07), illustrated in a very early conceptual space below, was for perhaps the entire room to have a gothic-arch vaulted ceiling, with a dramatic range hood made of rustic wood planks.

Doug took Louis’ early vision for the room and began to interpret it into drawings in AutoCAD. He prepared several options–two of which are reflected below. The first is very similar to Louis’s early sketch (although the gothic vault had already been replaced with the flat ceiling and skylight that exist today). The second reflects a totally different vision, a more traditional tapered hood resting on corbeled brackets–much more European and expected.

The design that Louis, Doug and the homeowners eventually agreed upon is based upon the scalloped gothic arch version Doug drew based on Louis’ sketch, but rather than be crafted from planks of wood it’s made from sheets of blackened steel.

You can see in this construction drawing that Doug prepared, the final design for the range hood coming into shape. Once this drawing was ready (complete with dimensions verified to the actual space), we charged the execution of everyone’s vision to the very talented artist and metal worker Darren Hardman. Darren took Doug’s drawing and constructed the amazing range hood that graces the space today.

Made from sheets of blackened and clear coated steel with brass rivets, the range hood is absolutely the centerpiece of this kitchen and the perfect companion to the Lacanche range. Early on, JB Paige and Doug toyed with the idea of making the range (and also the island) a color–pale greyish purple and light green were both discussed–but in the end we all decided the black was the most classic and distinctive choice. It’s perfect with the blackened steel isn’t it?

A few details to note in the above photograph: Louis Nequette likes to add an extra stud and frame a low wall behind ranges. Here you can see this technique displayed perfectly, with a handy ledge for utensils and spices within easy reach of the cooking surface. The entire inside of the range area is covered in terra cotta bricks, layed in a herringbone pattern and stained dark. Just above the point of the arch, two Broan commercial hood inserts are installed between stainless steel trim to properly vent the massive cooksurface. Halogen pin lights light the inside of the cavernous surround. A Rohl pot filler is always handy in the wall beyond–JB requested unlaquered brass for all of the faucets in the kitchen which over time are acquiring a wonderful patina.

Want to learn even more about this amazing kitchen? Check out JB’s blog where he’s documented nearly every square inch of 11 Bonita, and be sure to read this post which discusses the Lacanche range in even more detail.