A Fantastic Entryway in Rancho Santa Fe, CA

This entry is in Rancho Santa Fe, CA, next to the original Rancho Santa Fe Golf Course, and it turned out really beautiful. The scene is of a large California live oak tree with four female quail carved into the wood at the base of the tree and a colorful male quail, done in my fused-glass technique, on the lookout in the branches above. There are also a couple of mourning doves in the fused glass in the uppermost branches.

Above: This is the best photo I could get of the transom above the door. 

Above: Three of the female quail

Above: The fourth female quail

Above: The male quail as a fused glass art piece, incorporated into the wood branch of the oak tree

This peaceful scene is not unusual to come across on golf courses with plentiful canyons nearby in Southern California. 

The heavily carved solid walnut door is about 10 feet wide and 12 feet tall including the transom, and it's over 3" thick with 1/2" carved, fused glass panels integrated into the doors, side lights and transom. This makes for a seamless design, with the door handles, inside and out, carved as part of the branches, assimilating the parts together to become one.

I have added more photos below, but pictures never do justice to let you feel the size and scope of the art piece.

Above: You can see the door handle that I carved to look like one of the tree branches, incorporating it into the design.

Above: Close up of the two mourning doves in the upper branches.



Neo-Classic Kitchen in Del Mar, CA (and a rant about MDF!)

For some reason most woodworking companies have a different standard for kitchen cabinets than for other furniture and built in furniture. This evolving construction has led designers and homeowners to believe they are getting high-end quality construction when in fact the opposite is true. MDF (medium-density fibreboard or particle board) whether with a melamine, painted or wood veneer surface is not quality construction. It has no integral strength and does very poor around water, and anything made out of it will not last. You will never see anything made of MDF as an antique in the future. Woodworkers started making products out of it because it is the least expensive material you can get. Wood core plywood and solid woods are many times more durable than anything else, not to mention the beauty of solid woods. Quality construction furniture and built-ins last many generations.

Above and below are photo's of such a kitchen, made for a client of mine who really cared about quality for her custom home in Del Mar, CA. She enjoyed the feeling of being in rooms full of quality workmanship. The Neo-Classic kitchen is made of solid cherry and detailed in ebony. The curved cherry doors, door panels, drawers, and glass add dimension. The custom-made matching door and drawer pulls were all made in my shop. The wine and plate racks add functionality.

I wanted to add a bit of a nature theme to the kitchen so I added my artistic touches to some of the glass. There is a display cabinet with glass shelves and lighting and a glass cabinet door with Torry pine branches carved into the glass. In the breakfast nook I designed and built a cozy booth, and a table with a 1-1/2" thick glass table top. I carved deeply into the bottom of the glass Torry pine branches. Nature is one of my favorite subject matters to incorporate into my work, and by simply adding some hand-carved glass with tree branches, I achieved the look and feel that my client and I were striving for.

This is a kitchen that will get more beautiful with age and become a future antique for the next lucky homeowner who moves into this house.


Country French Entryway

There are a lot of things I like about my work. To be able to express my creative abilities by designing, building, finishing, and installing a project are just a few of those things. But at the top of the list is getting to know the people I am designing and building things for. So many are so very nice to work with and that makes me feel lucky to be doing what I do. 

This entryway was for one of those families. I went on to design and build other doors, mantels, bathroom cabinets, book shelves, chandeliers and architectural details. My clients have a special love for Country French design and want to surround themselves in that rich tradition.

The entry is the first thing that greets you when you arrive at a home and I want that entry to express who the family is. This entry is made of beautiful warm solid walnut, it's very thick with heavy 18th century moulding and carved details. The matching side lites have fused glass that I made in my kiln. I leaned the technique by experimenting for over a year to replicate some 18th century antique glass panels that I saw in another client's home. We made the heavy ornamental tip hinges and the lock and handle set came from France. I made all the detailing the same, inside and out, so that you enjoy the entry from the moment you walk in the door to the times you walk through the home. From the kitchen to the living room to the bedrooms you pass the entryway and can enjoy it's beauty continuously.

Above: All the carving you see is done by me, by hand.  

Above:  More hand carving.

Above:  Fused glass design done in my kiln. 

Above: View from the inside. Just as beautiful as the outside.


In My Garden: Fall veggies!  

Above:  My basil crop. The leaves are as big as my tomatoes! Right now our freezer is full of pesto, made with raw pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts, and no cheese. Laura's vegan version is extremely flavorful and light. Without the cheese, the basil is the prominent flavor, the aroma alone fills the kitchen. 

It's fall and those people living in colder climates are putting away their gardening equipment. But not here in San Diego. In some ways, this is an even better time for gardening than summer. Here in Southern California we are lucky enough to be able to grow our crops all year long. You can be planting lettuce varieties, spinach, kale, cabbage and celery to start with. I like to plant cilantro and parsley for a chimichurri sauce that Laura makes. We toss the chimichurri with soba noodles, and add it to other dishes, especially Mexican food. I also plant a large bed of broccoli raab, a crop we look forward to every fall. See my February, 2014, blog for our pasta with broccoli raab recipe. 

No garden is complete without snow peas for stir-fry dishes. I have a large bed planted now and will plant one more large bed before spring, so that we will have an abundance of snow peas, one of our favorite garden vegetables. I have enough room in my garden to plant 100 or so garlic bulbs, and once harvested and dried, this garlic will last close to a year if stored in a cool, dark, dry place. I also planted a bed of scallions and carrots to grow over the winter for a spring harvest. Right now I have cucumbers, tomatoes, and basil that I planted in the late summer for our normal warm and dry Santa Ana weather in the winter, and the new starts will be planted in the greenhouse when ready. 

I have been experimenting with tomatoes, not the easiest crop to grow on the Southern California coast. Tomatoes and foggy beach weather do not mix. But I have found winter tomatoe varieties that are doing quite well this year, so that 2017 may be the year of the tomato for me. Only time will tell. Our weather is typically mid-60's at this time of year, but our temps are hovering into the mid-70's, and all that California sunshine is helping my garden to flourish.

Above: My lettuce crop this year.

Above:  Winter lettuce and spinach for big garden salads with dinner every night.

Above:  Scallions

Above: Good-for-you kale. Chopped up and sauted in olive oil with lots of garlic and red pepper flakes, it's one of the most flavorful side dishes on the menu. Toss it with rice pasta and white beans, and it becomes a delicious and healthy main course. 

Above:  Fresh cilantro and parsley from the garden for making chimichurri sauce to toss with soba noodles. The sauce is a lighter and thinner version of pesto, but packed with the vibrant flavors of parsley, cilantro, garlic, raw pumpkin seeds, salt, olive oil, red wine vinegar and red pepper flakes. Tossed with noodles or rice, topped on a baked potato or a bowl of black beans, it's a compliment to many grain and vegetable dishes. 

Above:  Winter tomatoes


Americana Style Entertainment Center 

My latest project, an entertainment center, was for a client of mine that I have worked with in the past. The last project we did for him and his wife, a number of years ago, was an underground wine cellar below their garage (see my October, 2013 blog, For The Love of Wine), and I knew from working with them in the past that this would be another fun project. They love fine workmanship and beautiful wood, and appreciate the attention to detail my shop provides. 

The project, a TV/Stereo/Display cabinet was to replace an existing one. They wanted to put in a large new TV that wouldn't fit into the current space, and they also wanted to add some upgrades to the cabinet. Their home is a New England colonial style, filled with 18th and 19th century American and English antiques and quality reproductions throughout. 

I have an extensive collection of reference books. In my collection is a book used by auction houses and antique dealers on Americana furniture. From that reference I was able to create the feeling and sense of design that would work with their home and how the furniture piece was to be used.

We decided to use mahogany. I went to one of my suppliers, who lets me go through the hundreds of boards he supplies so that I can match color and grain. I found some incredible matching boards with quilt, feather and ribbon grains, enough to build the whole piece. Since we make everything, including all mouldings and crown, even those were figured.

The finish is a aniline dye for most of the color, used for hundreds of years because it enhances the wood without covering it's natural beauty. I then applied a light glaze to highlight the details. We re-framed the opening for the larger cabinet and installed it. All the effort from design, construction, finishing and installation done in my shop was well worth it. It turned out to be a truly beautiful piece.