Pocket Doors – Dining Room

We opened up the wall between the kitchen and dining room to improve flow and light. The opening was matched to the entrance/living room pocket door opening at 9′ height and required some significant search work to find an appropriate set of pocket doors. After calling salvage yards all over the country including the Bay Area, Oregon, Detroit, Boston, NY, New Orleans, etc – common places to find salvaged Victorian items. We finally found two doors right in our backyard in Petaluma (Heritage Salvage) that fit the spec at 30″ wide x 9′ high. These were originally from a historic Victorian in San Francisco so made their way back a second time across the Golden Gate bridge. Each side is different, one a little more contemporary (for the kitchen side), the other more ornate (for the dining room/parlor side). Thick beveled glass sits in each door. They are about 3″ thick Redwood and heavy…each had 7 large hinges on it. Our GC Brendan O’Reilly is shown here cleaning up the edges, trying to avoid nails and screws with the Skilsaw.

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Once cleaned up, we had them stripped and then patched holes with wood filler, stained and added replica hardware. The pocket door pull hardware came from Van Dykes, an Eastlake “rice pattern” set

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We salvaged the ornate trim around some other door openings in the house that were reconfigured in order to recreate the same look as the set of pocket doors in the parlor.

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The doors were hung on barn door hardware from Rustica Hardware in Utah using their J Track and top mounted riveted wheels mounts, 2 wheels per door. Final product:

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Gas Chandeliers

We decided to restore the gas chandeliers on the main floor. We contacted the experts in this field, Quality Lighting’s Paul Ivazes. Paul does work all over the country. He had just been to the Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento and the UN building in San Francisco when he came over to work on ours.

Here is the dining room chandelier getting cleaned. Over time, deposits build up in the gas tubes and the valves need grease. While we had them down, he changed the electrical sockets and put in new electrical wiring as we suspected a short circuit was occurring somewhere. This one is a hybrid gas/electric made by Bradley & Hubbard and dates from the late 1890’s.

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We moved one that was in the family room into the parlor. It’s a McKenny combination 8-candle gas and 8-electric chandelier dating to 1893. The electric shades are deep acid etched.

There was already a gas pipe in the ceiling medallion and we plan to eventually fire up the gas lamps again. Some adjustment was needed to raise it higher which Paul took care of.

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The entrance chandelier is the most ornate of them all. It is a 6-arm Mitchell Vance jeweled aesthetic gas fixture with Moorish influences dating ~1882.

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A safety improvement we made while the walls were open – we tied the ceiling gas pipes together, removing sections that were no longer being used, and added a shut off valve to enable easy shut off in case of a problem. This is the same key shut off valve as for a fireplace.

New gas shutoff for chandeliers

Artifacts

Original wainscoting buried under some layers when we did demolition.

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Remnants of a built in “pneumatic speaking tube”. which was placed just outside the master bedroom to communicate with the kitchen. Each end of the tube was covered by a whistle valve into which you would blow and produce a sound like a whistling tea kettle. The person at the other end would know to open their valve and have a spoken conversation through the tube.

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Electrical wire tag circa 1908 found in the walls.

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Newspaper in renovated section of house circa 1963.

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Knob-and-tube wiring was the standardized method of electrical wiring in homes in North America from 1880 to the 1930s. It consisted of one copper wire run through a protective porcelain insulating tube drilled through a joist or stud, and the other wire separately wrapped around a knob. The knobs and tubes separated the wire from potentially combustible framework, facilitated changes in direction, and ensured that wires were not subject to excessive tension. Because the wires were suspended in air, they could dissipate heat well. Knob and tube wiring was eventually displaced because of the high cost of installation compared with use of power cables, which combined all wires including a ground in one run.

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Also found in the walls were wires that were part of an early electrical buzzer system between rooms.

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We mounted a collection of these artifacts in a shadowbox displayed in the entrance. History captured for all to see!

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Pocket Doors – Parlor

Another of the more difficult challenges was restoring and fixing the pocket doors that transition from the entrance to the parlor. When we bought the house, one of the doors had fallen off it’s rail and could not operate, stuck in the wall. First we removed the doors and refinished them – stripping down to Mahogany. There were 7 layers of paint and stain, including the faux wood paint you see on the top layer. We re-stained them with Bona stain in Rosewood color.

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The hardware pulley system was broken (see broken metal on the wheel below) and we had to find a new solution.

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We ended up going with barn door mounting hardware sold by Rustica Hardware – their J track with top mounted pulleys that are riveted, which would all sit inside the pocket opening. To install the track, we had to open the walls yet again, remove the old system, place the J track at just the right height for the doors to sit properly with the wheel mounts, then close it all up. Now it slides gracefully with ease.

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We kept the original Eastlake hardware on the door pulls and repaired the push button activated brass pulls.

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You can see the holes we had to make to insert the track including several in the intricate trim at the top that were hard to repair.

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Final product, 9′ high x 36″ wide each 7 panel Eastlake mahogany doors.

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Eastlake Interior Doors

One of the things that ended up taking the most time was restoring the interior Eastlake pattern doors. This door pattern is named after Charles Eastlake who was a British architect and furniture designer during the era when the Painted Lady was built. With the 5 or 7 panels embedded in the door with ornate lines and beveled curved edges, these really enhance the character of the house. There were 16 of these doors in the house and we needed another 7 for our floor plan which added closets, laundry room and an additional bath.

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At first we tried to see if we could find some new reproductions, which proved impossible. We then explored custom making them new, which would have cost $1600 each!

In the end we decided to re-use the doors and found an additional bunch on Craigslist and at salvage yards nearby. The Craigslist ones were the most abused since they came from a rental Victorian. In one case, once paint was removed we could see it was used to play darts with hundreds of holes in a circle around the board. In another, the panels were seriously cracked from slamming too hard or being kicked. And a third the bottom and side were all chewed up from a dog. Here are photos of a score at the salvage yard (Ohmega Salvage in Berkley) and me picking up a batch from a single Craigslist listing.

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Since they all had 122+ years of multiple coats of paint on them, stripping by hand was going to be a costly option. So we found a shop that specializes in antique furniture stripping with dunk tanks and heat applied removal called Superior Furniture in San Francisco. We tested one door, careful to ensure that the horse glue used back then would not dissolve in the tank chemicals and the doors fall apart or warp. Then we did all 23 including a few with glass in them. The results – much faster and more cost effective than by hand ($185 each) with the whole batch taking 10 days to turn around. Since some of the handles did not line up the same, we also had some plugs added allowing us to re-position the handlesets at roughly the same height. Here is Bruce the owner inspecting the first batch to come out. Notice the plug in the taller one which was a challenge during staining. We had to bleach it, then feather the stain to match with the other grain.

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Each door was a different size so custom jambs had to be built and as best we could we shuffled doors around to make heights and widths as close as possible for doors in the same vicinity. The doors were sanded to remove any remaining old paint down to original Douglas Fir, Redwood or Mahogany, repaired with filler, edges planed to remove damage and square them up, primed with an automotive spray gun and and then final coated with Benjamin Moore Regal Select Waterborne in Swiss Coffee pearl finish.

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We found most of the door hardware was worn beyond repair and also a jumbled mismatch of years of switching broken sets out. So while all this re-work was going on, we spent countless hours trying to find new Eastlake hardware. We would order samples and see if the brass and patterns matched up…learning along the way that there are significant differences in brass finishes that when placed together do not match up: antique, vintage, lacquered, polished, satin, satin brown and satin black brass! The best combination we found was: doorsets from Van Dykes (oriental pattern Eastlake mortise door sets, actually quite good quality and inexpensive made in India), Emtek thumbturn privacy bolts in polished brass from House of Antique Hardware (which also have emergency egress with screwdriver, essential for kids rooms), Copper Mountain Hardware Victorian hinges (brass, which are actually Eastlake pattern with round ball tips). The hinges flare out about an inch to highlight their Eastlake pattern, just like some of the original hardware in the house.

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These doors ended up being the item that we were most over budget on. But we think it was worth the extra cost than going with something standard off the shelf that would lack character. The  122 year old doors (and a few we salvaged) are ready for another century.