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New products give your house an old look


Rehabbers who want to restore their property authentically to a period of its history may find resources scarce when it comes to advice and materials.

There are books on restoration, but they may not address a particular problem. Several good magazines for rehabbers and woodworkers are The Old House Journal, Fine Homebuilding and Fine Woodworking.

But for the latest word in design, techniques, safety, conservation, as well as a sampling of companies whose products are designed for restoration uses, nothing matches the Interiors Conference and Exposition for Historic Buildings. The first such conference was held in Philadelphia in 1988; the second was in Arlington, Va., last month.

Over the course of four days, conference participants could join seminars, lectures, workshops and tours on "Architecture, Furnishings, Fixtures and the Authentick Interior," "Saving Historic Mechanical Systems," "Lighting," "Flooring" and "Paints, Coatings and Conservation."

The latest conference was sponsored by the National Park Service, the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property, the American Society of Interior designers, and the General Services Administration, among others.

The conference is open to anyone with a professional or personal interest in restoration and conservation, from property owners to contractors to architects and interior designers.

One of the most useful parts of the conference was the Interiors Exposition, featuring more than 50 companies that supply products for restoration and preservation.

The range and quality of products were outstanding. We ran into some old friends, but we also got to see examples of products we've previously seen only in ads or catalogs. And we discovered some interesting local companies providing unique or unusual restoration products and services. One of the best things about the expo was getting a chance to talk to crafts workers and other specialists about their products and how and where to use them.

Here, divided by categories, are some of the companies that caught our eye.

Wall coverings:

*The Crown Corp. offers English Anaglypta and Lincrusta embossed wall coverings in Victorian, Art Nouveau and contemporary patterns. (Many Baltimore rowhouses used these papers as dadoes or wainscoting, in stairwells, for instance.) Like the originals, the reproductions can be painted or given a faux finish to match any decor.

Crown also offers the Victorian Collectibles' Brillion Collection of late 19th and early 20th century reproduction wallpapers in beautiful, brilliant colors and finishes -- including authentic and subtle flocks. Many have carpets to match.

Crown, based in Denver, has a toll-free number: (800) 422-2099.

*W. F. Norman Co. of Nevada, Mo., offers turn-of-the-century pressed-metal ceiling systems, plus decorative and architectural elements of metal (urns, garlands and molding), metal roof shingles and pressed-metal siding. The company uses original, 80-year-old dies to produce Victorian, rococo, Greek, Colonial, empire, Gothic, Romanesque, Oriental and art deco styles. Call toll-free at (800) 641-4038.

*Two old friends in this category were Bradbury & Bradbury Art Wallpapers of Benicia, Calif., which is adding some neoclassical papers to its line of hand-printed Victorian and Edwardian/Arts & Crafts designs, (707) 746-1900 (catalog, $10); and Valley Craftsmen of Baltimore, which specializes in hand-painted interior finishes, including faux finishes, trompe l'oeil and murals. Valley Craftsmen also works on furniture and restoration projects. Ask for Sam Robinson or Tom Hickey at (410) 366-7077.

Tile and floor coverings:

*Shep Brown Associates Inc. of Woburn, Mass., distributes two lines of English tile: authentic Victorian and art nouveau and art deco wall tile from the Art Tile Co. Ltd., and Welsh quarry floor tiles from Dennis Ruabon. (617) 935-8080.

*J. R. Burrows & Co. of Rockland, Mass., offers reproductions of 19th century Wilton and Brussels figured carpets, as well as Victorian lace curtains and wallpaper and Arts and Crafts wallpaper and fabric. (617) 982-1812.

Plaster products and repair:

*Hayles & Howe, a British firm whose only American operation is in Fells Point, offers all kinds of plaster trim and decorative pieces, as well as columns, statues, niches and urns. The ceiling medallions are particularly beautiful. Original medallions in old houses are often damaged beyond repair by brutal installation of electric fixtures. Hayles & Howe medallions may be fitted with an optional molding piece mounted onto a standard electrical cap. (410) 385-2400.

*Gianetti's Studio Inc. of Brentwood, offers interior plaster ornamentation and restoration of missing or damaged plasterwork. Previous projects have been at the First and Franklin Presbyterian Church and the Walters Art Gallery. (301) 927-0033.

Restoration products:

*Abatron Inc. of Gilberts, Ill., has two products that may be indispensable for anyone restoring an old house with structural parts that are missing or damaged. Mastermold is a flexible, brush-on mold-making paste that can be used to reproduce balusters, ornaments, even table legs. The mold can be cut apart and fastened back together with rubber bands for reuse. Abatron also offers a two-part epoxy product that replaces or repairs wood or other materials in structures, floors, walls, even furniture. To order Abatron Products, call (800) 445-1754.

*Peel-Away, made by Dumond Chemicals Inc. of New York, is an environmentally safe method of removing up to 32 coats of paint in one application. It's especially suited to lead-paint abatement. The paint becomes embedded in the chemical and fibrous laminated cloth, and it stays damp so there is no dust. Peel-Away will remove paint from any surface -- brick, metal, wood or stone. (212) 869-6350.

*And finally, people concerned about the historical appearance of their building are often reluctant to -- or not allowed to -- install modern storm windows. Thermo-Press of Richmond, Va., makes custom interior storm windows of acrylic that fasten onto the window frame with hook and loop tape. The panel edges can be painted to match the window. The company claims the panels will reduce heat and cold-air loss by 60 percent. (804) 231-2964. Maryland distributor is Tomkins Thermo-Press of Bethesda, (301) ) Next: Lessons in framing.

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