Winning Together: Restoration Celebration 2017

Friday, Nov. 10th, 2017

On a rainy evening in downtown Portland, more than 250 people came together to celebrate Oregon’s historical structures and preservation at Restore Oregon’s most important fundraiser of the year, The Restoration Celebration. This year it was held at the beautiful Sentinel Hotel which—speaking of history—was built in 1909 and designed by William Christmas Knighton, Oregon’s first architect known to use Viennese-influenced Early Modern and modified Arts and Crafts styles in his designs.

Versatile was proud to be the presenting sponsor at this event and welcomed the guests with a toast by Anne De Wolf and Snow Blackwood (below).

So many people make an impact on Oregon’s historic preservation. This became obvious as the DeMuro Awards were given out to the leaders in preservation who are designing our historical structures in a way that makes sense for Oregon’s future.

Below are some photos of the night, courtesy of Side Angle Photography. We hope to see you there next year!

Restore Oregon’s marketing director, Jeannette Shupp and executive director, Peggy Moretti hold up this year’s DeMuro Award which was a beautifully crafted plate designed by Lonesomeville Pottery.
The Jantzen Beach carousel was built by renowned carver, C.W. Parker in 1904. Thanks to Restore Oregon it has been saved from demolition and now just needs a home so we can return this beloved family attraction and golden piece of our history to the greater Portland community. Read more
Gorgeous details of the Sentinel Hotel show us why preserving historical architecture is so important.
Karen Johnson (right) of Apollo Design and Rooter Service stands with friend.
From left: Maya Foty and Matthew Davis of Architectural Resources Group, Anne De Wolf of Arciform, Snow Blackwood of Snow B Designs and Jeff Dood of Reforma LLC.
Proud winners of a DeMuro Award for their work on the Overland Warehouse, Melody and Brian Emerick (left) stand with friends.
Let the show begin! MC and auctioneer, Restore Oregon’s board president, Roy Fox, entertained the crowd and developed the excitement throughout the night helping to raise more than $90K on this evening in support of restoration.
Bill Hart and Anthony Belluschi
Roy Fox, Restore Oregon’s board president, briefs me for my time on stage while Erica stands by
Peggy Moretti honors Karla Pearlstein for her many achievements in historical restoration, most recently the Delaney House.

Natural Wood Delivers Timeless Beauty

More than 100,000 species of natural wood grace this planet. Like Michelangelo, a gifted woodworker sculpts color, grain, strength, weight and purpose to bring out the best in a building. Where flexibility is called for, bendable oak or elm is a better choice than highly dense mahogany. Exceptionally strong Douglas fir can weather abrasive elements. Cedar makes much better outdoor deck material than beautiful maple, which tends toward natural decay.

Popular Natural Wood Species

Following are samples that show color and texture variations in just some of the natural wood species. In addition, the Minwax website shows a chart of popular wood species, their characteristics and uses. We also like the Wood Database, where you can find additional technical details on wood species.

Natural Wood Species Samples

It was hard to choose among so many lovely options, but here are some of our favorite natural woods. Half of them have photos illustrating real Versatile Wood Products projects. Click a photo to learn more about each project.

Douglas Fir

Natural Wood Species Historic Douglas Fir

This natural wood is from one of the largest evergreen trees in the world. The timbers are very large in dimension and are also of good quality. Most commonly, Douglas fir is used for structural purposes where wear and abrasion are a factor. The wood is exceptionally strong for its weight, and is one of the heaviest softwoods available in North America.

Birch

Birch is fine-grained, medium hard and heavy. Pale in color, it often has a satin-like sheen and sometimes a rippled texture. Birch is also naturally waxy, which makes it resistant to water. It makes high-quality plywood and is valuable for furniture-making.

White Oak

Natural Wood Species Historic Oak

Oak has an especially beautiful grain pattern and is strong, heavy and of medium hardness. Colors range from creamy white and light brown to reddish hues. Oak is equally at home in historic and contemporary settings.

Cherry

The cherry wood specie ranges in color from a tan blond to reddish brown. Despite small mineral flecks and pitch and sapwood pockets its close and uniform-grained surface is satiny smooth. Over time, cherry forms a patina and the color becomes deeper and richer. Cherry can also become lighter in color when exposed to natural sunlight.

Sapele

Natural Wood Species Modern Mahogany Doors

Sapele is a common stand-in for true Mahogany that is highly dense and moderately hard and heavy. When first cut, it ranges from yellow to salmon. As the wood ages, the color deepens to a rich red or brown.

 

Maple

Natural Wood Species Modern Honey Maple Doors

Maple is strong, hard and has a very smooth texture and fine grain. It is naturally resistant to scratches and cracks.  Colors range from creamy white to light reddish brown. Maple is commonly used for flooring, fine woodworking and furniture.

Poplar

Poplar is a favorite choice for paint grade interior projects such as cabinetry face frame. Its combination of economy and workability make it a popular utility wood. It is also used in veneers, where it can be stained or dyed to mimic other species.

Eastern Black Walnut

Natural Wood Species Modern Walnut Cabinetry

Walnut is known for its especially beautiful grain patterns, which range from straight to varied. A stable wood, walnut’s natural color varies from dark brown to purplish black. Sometimes walnut also contains light brown streaks, known as sapwood.

Alder

Alder has a very even wood grain and is very straight. Coloring ranges from light brown to a reddish caramel. Over time, alder turns a shade lighter through sun exposure. It has numerous wormholes and tight, open, and split knots. This makes it ideal for a rustic style home decor.

Erica Witbeck, Versatile Operations Manager

At Swedish restaurant Broder Nord, right up the road from Versatile headquarters, Erica Witbeck took some time out of her busy day managing schedules to share her story with me. Learning about Erica and what it means to be an “operations manager” was not only interesting, but complex.

Erica started with Arciform — Versatile’s sister company — 4 years ago as their purchasing manager and 2.5 years ago she transitioned into the operations manager position for Versatile.

Erica Describes the Difference Between Two Roles

“As purchasing manager, I tracked inventory, scheduled delivery drivers and managed usage of the paint booth facility. Now I manage people more than product.”

Erica has a unique background, having studied sculpture and printmaking at PNCA in addition to art history and chemistry at PSU.

Her father’s doctoral studies and subsequent university assignments lead the family throughout the Midwest. Erica grew up in a variety of towns from Nebraska to Indiana

Erica’s father is a botanist, and currently works in environmental risk assessment. Her mother recently retired from respiratory care, having previously worked and studied in phlebotomy and emergency response.

It’s clear that Erica’s parents have passed on a level of education that plays out in Erica’s career today. She remembers illustrating cell structures of plants for her father’s textbook as an adolescent and realizes, spontaneously, how this is at work in her career today.

“My father had my brother and me do illustrations for his journals. I learned the vascular systems of plants at a young age,” she remembers and then realizes, “I now understand why wood makes sense to me.”

Erica Witbeck has always loved materials. She talks of the different ways wood behaves when it is kiln dried vs. air dried and how different wood treatments or product applications can behave in a variety of scenarios. Her chemistry studies have helped her out more than once in this arena.

A Typical Day at Versatile Wood Products

I ask her about a typical day at Versatile and she says, “It all starts with the schedule. This can last from around 2 hours to the good part of my day, depending on how many hiccups there are.”

She must check-in with the shop, the drafting and design teams and with the sales people. Each department plays an important role in the production of a job. The life cycle of a job can complete in a matter of weeks, or be years in the making. This wide gamut of timelines and people involved is why “the schedule”—or more commonly know in the construction industry as The Gantt Chart—tends to be the driving force in Erica’s day.

Erica must have her finger on the pulse of each job so that she knows when it is time to call a production meeting, facilitate each department’s needs, or help lay out next steps. It is up to her to determine when it is time to call in more carpenters, or to notice if there is an equipment limitation that may hamper capacity; for example, “Do we need to buy more glass cups to take on that huge window job? How many jobs can start milling simultaneously, and how does that affect pacing?”

“It’s not just hours and bodies, it’s activities,” Erica says when she describes how she thinks about each job. “I don’t want to send anyone home and I also don’t want there to be more work than the shop can handle at one time. It’s like playing chess with the people and pieces on the board.”

I can sense the pride and confidence in Erica’s voice when she talks about the historical aspect to Versatile’s work.

Versatile, A Trusted Go-To That Is Fluent in Custom Historic Buildings

“As a custom wood manufacturing shop, we’re not always going to be the first choice for every job. But with our expertise in historical projects, we’re known as a trusted go-to that is fluent in custom historic buildings.”

When I ask what her favorite part of her job is, she says,

“It’s the pride in making. The thought and intention that goes into creating the products that we do is exciting. I like making something tangible and enduring. We have had doors come to us for restoration or reproduction that have lasted 100 years and now we’re making them to last 100 more. There’s something very satisfying about that.”

Erica tells me a bit about her home life with her two children, ages 6 and 9. She compares them to bear cubs and the garden she’s created from a yard that used to be nothing but dirt. “Gardening brings me peace. I don’t listen to music or podcasts when I garden. That’s my time to hear my surroundings. To connect with my neighbors and to feel the dirt.”

Before we wrap up our “Fika” (coffee-time as the Swedish would call it), Erica says, “There’s a 3rd aspect to my job that’s pretty interesting. It’s a surprising part, that I didn’t realize would be so fun for me.”

It’s Data

“What is it?” I’m curious.

“It’s data.”

Using Versatile’s internal project management program, FMYI, QuickBooks and Excel, Erica works to organize statistics from each job into charts that can be used to analyze and provide meaningful insights.

“We may have jobs that feel incredibly challenging. The emotional story may be that the job was terrible, but if we make room for that challenge, the analysis may reveal something different.”

Erica Witbeck recalls the whale watching center in Depoe Bay Versatile worked on last summer and how it was their first time working with salvaged redwood. “We had our concerns, but it ended up coming out really well. It left us with a high-traffic, historic project to put in our portfolio. Through the data I could see by every metric that the job was a success.”

Finding trends and patterns that lead to solutions brings Erica’s analytical mind to the table. I’m left with the thought that analytical thinking may actually be more prominent in artists than we realize.