Just in Time for the New Year – Bricks, Pavers, Hexes and Beams
Happy New Year! Welcome to our first blog post of 2024, with apologies for our absence these past few months. Here at our Golden Gate jobsite, we’ve had weekly challenges with rainy, stormy, icky weather saturating our steeply graded property. Fortunately, the hardscape elements we built on our precipitous hillside have successfully protected us from serious mudslides.
Adding to our weather woes, we had a Marin Municipal Water District failure in our cul-de-sac that caused flooding and thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to the property. Yes, it has been a wet, drizzly, surprised-filled fall and winter for us here in Northern California!
Artful Masons, Tile Setters and Carpenters
But there is sunlight in this saga as well. Our team of skillful masons, gifted tile setters and masterly carpenters now has a roof over their head as they install the historic architectural elements you’ll soon see on the upper two floors of the house. The rugged architectural bricks, pavers, hexes and beams not only support the framing, but also embellish the floors, walls and ceilings in truly magical ways.
Brick is Back
The image above is of a crusty, smoke-tinged pile of 100-year-old American bricks and rubble that we saved from the original 1927 turret. Although the reclaimed bricks are primarily rusty red, we found a source for distressed vintage bricks in black, white, yellow, orange, pink and cream. We interspersed the original battered blocks of red clay with multi-colored vintage bricks, creating a distinctive new structure that emulates the earlier turret’s presence in a new way.
On a recent afternoon at the jobsite, our mason, Jon Smith, announced that “brick is back” as he described the new homes his company is working on in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. And while I don’t follow trends, my heart skipped a beat when Jon spoke the words “traditional architecture.” I was thrilled to hear homeowners in Napa and Sonoma were actually building classical homes again with authentic brick facades.
Jon’s crew has just resurrected our 25’-tall, old-world turret. It had cracked during excavation, requiring the whimsically unique fairy tale structure to be torn down and lovingly rebuilt.
Antique French Pavers
We were fortunate in our search for historic architectural materials to discover antique French pavers at the San Francisco Design Center. The century-old 9”x 14” terra cotta pavers in colors of butter-yellow and creamy-peach had shipped from France and were perfect for the two main floors of our home. They beautifully re-created the look of old Spanish flooring that I have admired for years in my collection of books on Spanish Revival architecture.
Antique French Hexes
We were also lucky to locate crates of dusty, dirty, multi-colored antique French terra cotta hexes at Country Floors in San Francisco. They came in 6”x 6” sizes, varying in thickness from ½” to 2”. However, unlike the pavers, these ancient hexagonal gems dazzled when their dull beauty was washed and the myriad sumptuous colors emerged – red, pink, orange, yellow, black, white and cream.
Antique Belgium Bricks
A trove of 3” x 7” antique bricks from Belgium has been individually sliced in half by our consummate tile setters. The raw and unpolished rectangular blocks will be installed in the three bathrooms on the upper two floors. They are truly beautiful in any light, but will look positively resplendent when lit by the wall sconces and ceiling fixtures we’ve chosen for the bathrooms.
Structural Architectural Elements
On a day trip to Sonoma County last year, Marshall and I auspiciously discovered a lumber yard where we met the owner, Steve Turner. Steve’s penchant and business is searching for unwanted trees from all over the Bay Area. When the old San Francisco Transbay Terminal was rebuilt in 2011, Steve was contacted to remove a bounty of Douglas fir trees that had been excavated from the Bay under the terminal. According to Steve, the cold water of the San Francisco Bay had miraculously preserved the integrity of the submerged wood.
Steve not only hunts for unusual trees, he also mills the wood, and offered to mill the stunning Doug fir to our specifications of 6”x 6”and 8”x 8” beams, in addition to creating lintels, posts and pilasters in sizes needed for many other design and architectural applications.
Some of the ceiling beams are structural, as are the ridge beams and lintels. However, most of the beams on the upper two floors are decorative and present a beautiful caramel color we love.
A portion of the Doug fir beams arrived on the job site with a yellow color rather than the caramel color. To our delight, they were perfect on the darker lower level as their brilliant straw color provides a bright, glowing presence that will harmonize beautifully with other elements.
Have a Happy and Healthy 2024
Once again, thanks for your patience with our arduously challenging completion of Golden Gate! We have rounded the proverbial corner and hope to move in this spring. Although we said that last fall, our lives have been full of twists and turns. But fingers crossed, barring any atmospheric rivers, giant waves destroying the West Coast or failed water mains, we promise to keep our word this time!
We so appreciate you following our progress and hope you stay tuned for our next blog revealing kitchen cabinetry, slabs and fanciful finishes. Have a healthy and joyous 2024 and pray for peace on the planet!