Modern Design: Multi-Slide Doors

When Patrick O’Neill of Greenline Fine Woodworking was called to do a historically sensitive update to one of Pietro Belluschi’s last projects, it came with a very cool addition: a meditation room designed collaboratively with Michael McCulloch, a noted Portland architect who is the current owner of the home.

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Project Goals

The intention of the design was to create a space that would blur the lines between indoors and out, minimizing visual interruptions and allowing the space to open completely to the exterior as much as possible.

Challenges

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Large, sliding full-lite doors can have challenges related to weight, stability and smooth operability. An additional challenge was to figure out how to allow the doors to meet at a corner with a only a narrow post to camouflage and complete the seal when closed.

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Uniquely Versatile Solutions

A tricky mitred corner for the track system allowed the two layers of doors to meet seamlessly in the corner. Very tight tolerances were needed to ensure a weather-tight fit when the panels were closed.

The Versatile Product Design team worked closely with the installing contractor to ensure measurements were accurate and the design parameters could be met.

Bringing multiple tracks together in the corners presented alignment challenges for both the upper and lower panel tracks. The low profile sill makes for a near-flush transition to the interior flooring. Metal tracks were inlaid into solid wood sills to create an elegantly integrated system.

The result: a glowing oasis of thoughtful Mid-Century design that feels like an organic part of this architecturally-significant Oregon home.

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Restoring: First Congregational Church

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Constructed in 1895, the First Congregational Church of Portland is a dominant Venetian Gothic icon along the city’s South Park Blocks. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Portland Landmark, this historic structure towers above its neighbors, quite literally, with its 175′ bell tower at the southwest corner. This tower was once accompanied by two others on adjacent corners, which were removed in 1940 following significant storm damage. Existing conditions prior to the summer 2015 restoration included extreme deterioration of the wood Gothic tracery arches at the belfry. As the last remaining tower on the building, the restoration of these elements was a crucial component in retaining the architectural integrity of this historic church.

What was the scope of the project and what were the design goals?

With its severe level of deterioration, the restoration of the Gothic tracery was not only an aesthetic decision, but also a safety precaution after a loose piece fell onto the sidewalk below. The First Congregational Church turned to Versatile and Arciform to stabilize and restore the wood elements of this feature. As with any preservation project, the goal was to retain as much of the original fabric as possible and to maintain the character defining features of the original design. The four tower faces all required work, but the south elevation suffered the most significant damage due to exposure and UV damage. The tracery at this location was removed and restored in-house at Versatile. The other elevations were in fair enough condition to be restored on-site by the Arciform team.

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What challenges did the project face?

The location of the architectural details proved to be the biggest challenge. Nearly 175′ up in the air and surrounded by scaffolding, the south elevation tracery was cut into sections and lowered to the ground for transportation to Versatile’s shop.

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It quickly became apparent that not only were the face-applied details of the tracery loose and deteriorating, but the backerboard holding the element together was also unstable. It arrived to the shop in pieces, like an oversized puzzle of fragile history. Another challenge was in the design itself. What appeared to be repetitive details in the columns and tracery were in fact unique, prohibiting the efficiency of replicating one element to be reused as a template throughout the entire tracery at similar locations.

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What were the Uniquely Versatile solutions?

Once in the shop, each element was laid out and assessed to determine which pieces were salvageable and which required replacement. After meticulous documentation, all parts were mapped and translated into CAD files. Having these otherwise inaccessible components in-house provided the unique opportunity to prepare a custom library of details for First Congregational Church in anticipation of future restoration needs and part replacement.

Intact elements were cleaned and prepped for refinishing. Substantial details such as the monolithic Corinthian columns appeared unimpaired from the surface, but experienced wood rot at their core. With the use of consolidants, these items were also saved.  

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Other details were reproduced using templates created on our CNC machine. All new pieces were made of Western Red Cedar, the same wood species as the original elements to ensure historic accuracy and material performance. Replacement parts were then fit in place for sizing and routed with the cove detailing to ensure the tracery appeared seamless. Keeping the site conditions in mind, the final product was delivered in sections for ease of hoisting and installation by Arciform.

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The First Congregational Church restoration marked the final project of our former shop foreman, Eric Voss. The success of this project can be credited to his skilled craftsmanship and attention to detail.  Many thanks go out to him and his multiple years of service on Versatile’s team of talented woodworkers.

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This project was named one of Restore Oregon‘s Most Endangered Places in 2015. You can check out the whole list of Endangered Places here. The 2016 list will be announced at the Restoration Celebration (sponsored by Versatile Wood Products) on November 13th. Get the details and RSVP for that event here.

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Case Study: Mid-Century Custom Cabinetry

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This architect designed mid-century modern home featured existing hemlock cabinets that needed restoration, plus a client who wanted to expand square footage and increase the utility of the space for entertaining. Versatile refinished and modified the original kitchen cabinets to house new appliances and fabricated a new bank of cabinets that matched the existing style and hardware, concealed the new refrigerator and expanded the available storage.

Project Goals
To restore and expand the kitchen with as little impact to the original fixtures as possible while modernizing the appliances and integrating them into the existing architecture.

Challenges

  1. The unusual species of the wood in the existing architect-designed cabinets required a careful exact match of wood and hardware in order to blend the new elements seamlessly with the old.
  2. Integrating contemporary appliances into a space designed for the 1960s without distracting from the period style of the space required extremely precise fits on the surrounding cabinets.

Uniquely Versatile Solutions

  1. Research of the architect’s work and a deep understanding of the principals of the original architectural style helped identify creative but architecturally appropriate solutions to the integration challenges.
  2. Precise measurements and good communication with the contractor during the design of new cabinets ensured a seamless installation.

Client’s Reaction

We love our home and think often about the wonderful job you have done for us.

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Case Study: The Block House Café

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In the heart of historic Dayton Oregon, The Block House Café recently moved into the 1886 First Baptist Church on Main Street. Working alongside architect Paul Falsetto and Fackler Construction, Versatile created a large back bar with surrounding cabinetry, wait-station and tabletops from old floor joists in the building.

Goals:

To create a large, functional and aesthetically pleasing back bar that hides the seismic bracing, and re-purpose original floor joists to create tabletops and a bar top.

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Challenges:

The biggest challenge we faced with the back bar, which included 10’ high walnut pieces, was installation to conceal three alcoves that were created by updated seismic structuring. The tabletops and bar top proposed a few challenges as they were created from wood salvaged from the original floor joists from the building. We were concerned about the tabletops cupping or warping, and we needed to create a flat, smooth surface on the bar top as there were many wormholes in the wood.

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Uniquely Versatile Solutions:

We worked around installation problems of the bar by pre-building it in 3 separate pieces with some tolerances to allow for variations in the walls when it was installed on site. The three pieces overlapped once installed to look like one piece of furniture while hiding the bracing behind.

To address the tabletops potentially warping, we added a dovetail key underneath to tie the planks together. By attaching the key to the middle plank only, the planks could expand and contract naturally, but not warp or cup. And finally, to create a smooth, flat surface on the bar top, the wormholes were filled with clear epoxy rather than a colored putty. Since the natural color of fir changes over time, the clear epoxy will make a smooth surface without worry that the wood color would ultimately shift away from the color of the putty. Versatile’s experience and expertise allowed us to anticipate potential issues and create solutions before they became real problems on site.

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Case Study Update: Witherspoon Building

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What challenges did Versatile face during this project?

The age of the building combined with the amount of steel that was required to bring the building up to current seismic standards made our job very difficult.

Another challenge was incorporating electronics for a security system into a solid wood door.

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What were the Uniquely Versatile solutions?

We had to keep very close vertical and horizontal alignment throughout our storefront system and we built the rough openings around the steel beams.

To incorporate the electronics, we ran wiring through the lock rail of the door to get them from a special hinge to an electrified latch which was then linked to a card reader. This was an extremely difficult and laborious task that our shop pulled off.

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What was the result?

The vertical mullions at the lower and upper storefront windows align perfectly, as do all of the casings.

As for the door, the result was an end product that looks beautifully simple and historic but upon closer inspection, actually houses a tremendous amount of hardware and technology.

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Case Study: Evergreen Chapel

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(photo courtesy of Woofter Architecture)

Located at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville OR, the Evergreen Chapel opened it’s doors in September 2013.

Designed by architect Miles Woofter, the chapel was intended to resemble a 1930’s log cabin.

The chapel is over 5,500 square feet, was constructed with Douglas fir logs, and has cedar ceilings. Inside, on the west and east wings of the cruciform, there are two functioning wood burning, stone fireplaces.

Known to Hoffman Construction and architect Miles Woofter as a local supplier, Versatile Wood Products was chosen to produce the highest quality custom windows and doors for this job.

For this project, Versatile was the supplier for all exterior windows and doors. We produced a total of 28 units – over 1000 sq feet of glazing.

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What was the goal?

The goal for this project was to produce custom doors and casement windows​ using vertical grain fir, to compliment this traditional 1930’s log cabin design. All of the units were to be built within an eight week timeline.

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What were the challenges?

As some of the doors were especially tall (each 36” x 114” x 2 ¼” thick), incorporating commercial door hardware specifications was a challenge.

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What was the Uniquely Versatile solution?

Our solution was to combine a custom, craft-built traditional wood window with a high-level commercial sensibility. We also wanted to incorporate modern-day materials, such as insulated glass, while maintaining the look of the 1930’s design.

Working seamlessly with the largest general contractor in the state requires on-target communications, submittals, delivery and follow through. While this is not unusual for Versatile, it was emphasized when working in a commercial field.

 

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Case Study: Washington High School Sash Windows

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Washington High School opened in 1906, originally under the name of East Side High School, at SE 14th & Stark. In 1909 it was renamed as Washington High School.

The original building was destroyed by a fire in October of 1922. The replacement building was designed by Houghtaling & Dougan, and constructed on the same site. It was constructed of reinforced concrete with a brick surface.

Due to declining enrollment, the school closed in May of 1981.

After sitting vacant for decades, the building was purchased by Venerable Properties and is currently being converted to retail and office space. Art DeMuro, founder of Venerable Properties, was instrumental in the sale of the school. Art’s involvement in Portland’s historical redevelopment played a large role in deciding to keep the history alive in the Washington High School building.

 

What was the goal?

To construct double-hung sash windows that are aesthetically identical to the originals and operate with the historical and reliable system of weights and pulleys. The windows also needed to be more energy-efficient.

The windows are being primarily installed on the south side of the building.

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What challenges did you face?

When the Portland Public School system put in replacement aluminum windows 40 years ago, the original pulleys and latches were lost. Luckily, we were successful in finding accurate reproduction pieces that fit with the sashes we created.

Since double pane, insulated glass is heavier than the original single pane, we had to find a solution to create a perfectly balanced window.

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What was the Uniquely Versatile solution?

As the original window frames remain intact and the weights were preserved inside the walls, our new sashes are being installed into the original frames and reconnected to those original weights.

To balance the windows we have taken the weights from the top sash, which are now fixed in place, and added them to the weight for the bottom sash.

Once the frames and sashes are fully weather-stripped, these windows will have the same energy-efficiency as brand-new, manufactured windows.

 

We are excited to see the finished project…stay tuned!

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